Concentration is key to a satisfying multiplayer gaming experience. One small distraction can mean the difference between winning and losing. The team at Able Planet is well aware of this issue, and their answer is the Extreme XG300NC with active noise canceling. The XG300NC also comes with Able Planet's LINX Audio microphone, turning this device into a fully functioning headset. Still, $189 is a pretty hefty price tag for better gaming audio quality. Is this pair of cans worth the premium?
Design and Comfort
What makes the XG300NC stand out the most is its style. The cups sport a Burberry-style plaid pattern and are available in green, red, pink, or white. It's definitely the kind of design that attracts attention, and as a result it probably won't fit everyone's tastes. We weren't quite sure what to make of it at first, but after a few days of wearing the XG300NC we found it to be flashy without crossing the line into obnoxious.
Unfortunately, these headphones weren't very comfortable. Instead of using a soft cloth to cover the ear cups, the XG300NC has a leather-like material that doesn't cushion the ears well. In addition, the oval shape of the cups ends up barely covering the ears. We started to feel a large degree of discomfort after only a half hour of use.
A unique feature of the XG300NC is that it's actually collapsible by folding the headband in half. While the headphones certainly aren't small enough to fit in a pocket, this smart foldable design easily makes it the second most portable headset we've tested, next to the NOX Specialist. At only 7.2 ounces, the XG300NC is also on the lighter side for a headset with relatively large cups; the Turtle Beach EarForce Z2, for example, weighs 11.5 ounces. However, the Specialist weighed just 4.9 ounces.
While the XG300NC doesn't come with a built-in microphone, Able Planet bundles it with a detachable noise-canceling mic that plugs into the right ear cup. While some may like the option of going without the mic, the combination is ultimately a bit awkward, and the mic lacks the pattern on the cups, so it clashes with the design.
Sound and Mic Quality
When playing Half Life 2 and Modern Warfare 2, we found that the XG300NC delivers great highs and lows and provides rich bass without overwhelming the rest of the sound. It's worth noting that the XG300NC provides the most balanced sound compared to the other headsets, making it great for music and videos in addition to games. We found the XG300NC to be a significant improvement over the so-so sound on the NOX Specialist. If you really want booming bass, though, you're better off getting the Gamecom 777.
The main appeal of the XG300NC is the active noise-canceling technology, and we were pleased with the results. The difference between listening normally and listening with the noise canceling on was night and day. Once we turned it on (via a switch on the back of the right cup), background noise was greatly reduced, and we could hear the sound from the headset with considerably more clarity than before. As a result, we did not need to turn up the volume nearly as much to get the best sound as we did with other headsets, including the EarForce Z2.
Sadly, the detachable microphone wasn't as good as we'd hoped. When we played a match of Street Fighter IV online, the player on the other end said he could hear us fine, but it picked up a lot of background noise, including our breathing. In addition, this microphone, which is bulkier than those on other gaming headsets (such as the Gamecom and the Specialist), required a lot of adjusting before we found a comfortable position.
There's no question that the XG300NC has some great things going for it, including the active noise canceling and foldable headband. However, this $189 headset just wasn't very comfortable, and the mic was supar compared to the others we tested. If you live with a bunch of noisy roommates who always end up distracting you from your game time, the XG300NC may be worth a look. But there are better bargains out there.