Audeze Penrose Wireless Gaming Headset for Playstation 4 and 5, Mac, Windows, Switch, Skype, Zoom with Low-Latency Wireless & Bluetooth
After the success of Mobius, the hi-fi brand Audeze is making a comeback on the gaming headset market by launching its very first wireless headset. But are its sound performances worthy of the visual prowess of next-generation games?
Two years after the Mobius, it is very first headset dedicated to video games, the American brand Audeze is now going wireless gaming with the Penrose, Audeze Penrose. In addition to this ablation of the cord, the newborn shows an obvious bond of filiation with his elder, not only from a cosmetic point of view but also concerning his technological foundations. Audeze Penrose has the particularity, like the Mobius, of using planar magnetic transducers – a technology that Audeze has made one of the most eminent specialists in the world.
On the other hand, unlike the Mobius, Audeze Penrose does not embed any virtual surround sound technology. The headset having been designed to accompany the new generation game consoles, its manufacturer did not consider it useful to encumber it with such a solution which would have duplicated those already offered natively by the said consoles – that it s’ be it the Tempest 3D AudioTech of the PlayStation 5 or the Dolby Atmos for Headphones and DTS Headphone: X processing available on Xbox consoles (and on Windows 10).
The model we are testing here is the “classic” Penrose, whose USB wireless transceiver is compatible with PS4, PS5, Windows, macOS, and even Nintendo Switch. The headset is also available in a Penrose X variant, which is compatible with Xbox One, Xbox Series X / S, and Windows 10.
Audeze Penrose takes up to the letter the construction of the Mobius, on which it would be hard to find anything to complain about. Without impressing in any way, the helmet inspires confidence, with its excellent plastic. We particularly appreciate the great flexibility of the hoop, which consequently presents very little risk of breakage.
The assembly is on the whole solid; just would we have liked that the joints of the atria offer a little more fluid movement. We would also not have refused a small storage pouch, which the manufacturer does not provide.
As always with planar magnetic technology, Audeze Penrose is a heavy helmet, significantly more than the average helmet of its kind. Its 320 g does not allow it to be completely forgotten when worn. Fortunately, this weight is however rather well distributed over the width of the skull, and it is therefore largely possible to wear the helmet for long hours without feeling any real discomfort.
The atria, very wide and deep, will have no trouble encompassing the vast majority of ear flaps without any annoying contact with the cartilage.
Note that despite the thickness of the pads, the helmet provides only relatively low sound insulation. This observation is not taken into account in our rating since, depending on the uses of each person, it may just as well be perceived as a disadvantage as an advantage.
Audeze Penrose is supplied with a USB wireless transmitter/receiver, with which it communicates via a proprietary 2.4 GHz radio link. This transmitter uses the USB Audio Class 1 protocol, perfectly standard, which allows it to be used in the plug – & – play on all platforms with which it is compatible: PS4, PS5, Windows and macOS computers, and Nintendo Switch (via one of the USB-A ports on the dock). Only the Xbox consoles are resisting – for the latter, it will be necessary to turn to the Penrose X.
And that’s not all, since the headset also has Bluetooth connectivity for connecting to mobile devices, perfect for listening to music and watching a video. On the other hand, it is necessary to make a cross on the mobile game: the broadcasting latency of 249 ms is unfortunately far too high for that.
Finally, the headset is supplied with a mini-jack to mini-jack cable allowing an analog connection, and a USB-A to USB-C cable. Please note that the latter cannot be used for transmitting an audio signal: it is only used for recharging and for accessing the settings offered by the Audeze HQ control application.
Controls & Application
Audeze Penrose has very complete controls, which of course include the essential volume knobs, microphone open/close switch, and button to switch between the different sources (USB transmitter, Bluetooth, and mini-jack), but also a second knob allowing you to adjust the sensitivity of the microphone on the fly – enough to avoid a painful back and forth in the audio settings of your PC or console when our gaming partners complain about hearing us too much or not loud enough.
Only small frustration: neither the sensitivity adjustment of the microphone nor the sound volume adjustment of the headset can unify with those of the PC or the console. It is, therefore, better to leave them at the maximum level and only use the headset knobs.
The headphones work in tandem with the Audeze HQ app, available on Windows and macOS, as well as a mobile version on Android – but not on iOS as of this writing, alas. This application allows you to configure the inactivity time before the headset automatically switches off (1 h by default, adjustable between 5 min and 6 h, or even completely deactivate), activate the sidetone (return of the microphone to the earbuds) , and last but not least, to configure the 5 equalization profiles stored on the headphones.
Beautiful things, but not at all as easy to use as we would like. On a PC, the application has the very curious limitation of only working when the headset is connected directly by USB to the computer. However, there remains the possibility of using the mobile version of the application – provided that you are on Android, therefore! -, which however only works when the headset is connected via Bluetooth to your smartphone.
Does this mean that we no longer have the possibility of monitoring “live” the effect of the equalization on the sound signal emitted via the USB adapter? In fact, no: despite all intuition, when the headset is configured on the Bluetooth input, it does indeed continue to emit the signal received from the USB transmitter, superimposed on the signal received via Bluetooth. Understand who can …
All this to say that at the end of the day you do find a way to use all the features of the headset in just about every possible situation, but only after spending a few hours pulling your hair out to fully understand the operation of the machine, at times incredibly counter-intuitive. All of this deserves to be greatly simplified.
Audeze Penrose offers only modest battery life – unsurprisingly for a headset with planar magnetic speakers, a technology that uses a lot of energy. Promised at 3 p.m. by the manufacturer, the endurance of the helmet did not rise until 11 a.m. during our measurement. As always, this value may vary depending on the volume setting or, to a lesser extent, the distance between the headphones and the transmitter/receiver.
Be that as it may, the most determined players will therefore have to remember to recharge their headphones daily or almost, so as not to risk sinking into silence in the middle of the game. Note, moreover, that if ever the blackout were to occur, even the mini-jack cable would not be of any help, since the headphones cannot function in passive mode; it must be turned on to emit sound under any circumstance. Fortunately, however, it can be used while charging.
Due to the physical similarity between Audeze Penrose and the Mobius, one would have expected Audeze Penrose to be just a sound transfer of its brother – less integrated virtual spatialization. However, this is not the case: his sound performances do show significant changes… for some a little disconcerting.
Thus, while the Mobius was striking with its exemplary neutrality, Audeze Penrose presents a profile with sensitive colorations, and in particular this large hollow in the frequency response in the transition from medium to high (around 5 to 6 kHz), so common among gaming headsets.
This feature very strongly attenuates the sharpness of the audio message – which can be seen as an advantage by the followers of the “intense” game, since it reduces the auditory fatigue which one can feel during very long listening sessions. In absolute terms, however, it manifests itself above all as a slight lack of presence and transparency of the sound. This is all the more true as by contrast effect, auditory attention can shift to the treble,
Fortunately, all of this is correctable, at least in part, thanks to the equalization offered via the Audeze HQ app – it is all the more unfortunate that using the latter can be so tedious. The solution is certainly not perfect: appreciable irregularities in the treble then remaining present, which can, in particular, be designated as responsible for a somewhat narrow stereophonic scene. However, you get used to it very quickly.
Apart from this single reproach, we still find on Audeze Penrose the clarity and sound dynamics that we had so enthusiastic about with the Mobius. The lower half of the spectrum, in particular, is free from any reproach. We are particularly impressed by the breathtaking depth of the bass – which of course benefit from the very generous width of the membranes (10 cm), enabled by planar magnetic technology.
Despite the slight decrease in frequency response below 60Hz, the presence and physical impact of low frequencies is very dramatic. It is obviously very beneficial for the soundtracks of games and films with big spectacle, of which the LFE channel takes on a monumental scale, without ever crushing the rest of the spectrum. But listening to music also knows how to benefit from it,
The microphone is, unfortunately, the most disappointing element of Audeze Penrose, even to the point of being able to be considered as its Achilles heel. It offers a very narrow voice capture, without any heat and with an unnatural timbre. The intelligibility is at least correct, but hardly more.
What’s more, the low directivity of the microphone gives it an unfortunate tendency to catch external noise. So be careful not to play in a busy environment, or to activate push-to-talk, if you don’t want to be hated by your playing partners.
Audeze Penrose Strong Points
- Clear sound, extremely dynamic.
- Breathtaking bass depth.
- Quality of manufacture, comfort.
- Numerous connection possibilities (wireless via USB, Bluetooth, mini-jack).
- Full helmet controls.
Audeze Penrose Weak Points
- Fairly colorful sound reproduction, slight lack of transparency.
- Micro just passable.
- Very counterintuitive to operate the Audeze HQ control application.
- Modest autonomy (about ten hours).
The Audeze Penrose is a UFO in the gaming headset market with its sound performance which, although imperfect, shows flashes (the depth of bass!) That its competitors would not even dare to dream of. Its complexity of use, its limited autonomy, and its barely passable microphone make it a headset that will not suit everyone. But to those for whom it will suit, it should be very popular.