The Audeze Penrose gaming headset is the latest incursion by audiophile quality ear cans into a market more traditionally distracted by how much RGB your head can hold, and they might very well change the way you experience console gaming.
Far From Plain
The Audeze Penrose follows hot on the heels of the recent Auderze Mobius headset and can be considered as close as we’re going to get to a mass-market console headphone that Audeze will ever build. Avaiable in two forms, the Penrose is a PlayStation focused variant of the Xbox variant Penrose X and represents something more than the everyday plug and play for PC and console owners. Regularly crafting headphones that are backed by some seriously praiseworthy planar drivers, Audeze brought an entirely different level of audio experience when they dropped the aforementioned Mobius back in 2019. Unfortunately, to get the sort of sound quality that is liable to make you cry you can expect to shell out thousands of dollars, and the Mobius even weighs in at $399. With the release of the Audeze Penrose, it seems that this Californian company are looking to balance a truly enthusiast-level experience with a price point that is well within the reach of anybody that considers the audio landscape to be just as crucial as RTX.
- Style: Over-ear, closed-circumaural
- Transducer type: Planar Magnetic
- Magnetic structure: Fluxor™ magnet array
- Phase management: Fazor
- Magnet type: Neodymium N50
- Diaphragm type: Ultra-thin Uniforce™
- Transducer size: 100 mm
- Maximum SPL: >120dB
- Frequency response: 10Hz – 50kHz
- THD: <0.1% (1 kHz, 1mW)
- Microphone: Detachable broadcast quality mic
- Battery type: Lithium-polymer (15hr battery life, 3hr charge time)
- Wireless Connection:2.4 GHz Wireless (16bit/48kHz) + Bluetooth
- Wired Connection: 3.5mm analog audio, USB-A-to-C charging
- Weight: 320g (including battery)
Look & Feel
Before plugging in and diving into this audio experience, the Audeze Penrose has to come out of the box. It is abundantly clear that this particular device doesn’t exactly follow the same muted branding of alternative high-end options, such as the LCD-GX. Like the Audeze Penrose X, the Audeze Penrose that I tried out has some definite swagger to its appearance. It comes bundled with a detachable microphone, a wireless dongle, and plenty of additional cables for all eventualities. While there’s not much to look at in terms of RGB, the closed-back plastic earcups and detachable foam earpads are highlighted with a flash of color and a geometric pattern that might draw the occasional look if you get gaming on the go. This sporty look is finished off with matching Audeze logos and a soft-touch plastic headband, which features prominent Audeze branding along its length. There’s no denying that compared to more commuter centric devices this headset stands out, but that’s not exactly what you’re buying into with the Audeze Penrose.
Like many gaming headphones, the Audeze Penrose is clearly built to last the odd bout of ragequit. Overall there’s a rugged a feel to this entry in the Audeze arsenal, and the mainly plastic construction brings the headset in at just 320g. That might not sound feather-light but this compares to around 460g for the considerably more expensive LCD-GX headset. The addition of generous memory foam padding around the earcups and headband make all 320g feel surprisingly comfortable across all day gaming sessions, sitting on my head without issue for over 8 hours at a time, which is something of a surprise considering the force exerted between each of the ear cups.
The Audeze Penrose comes fully prepared for most gaming situations. This wireless headset features dual low latency 2.4Ghz wireless connectivity for PC and Playstation platforms and Bluetooth 5.0. This is a definitive step up form the more expensive Mobius that only came with Wired USB, AUX, and Wireless Bluetooth options and making the earlier model something of a hassle for Playstation owners. The addition of 2.4Ghz wireless now allows for plenty of simultaneous connectivity across PC, Playstation, and mobile platforms, and if you’re lucky enough to have a mobile phone that still has a 3.5mm jack then this is accommodated for too. controls for all of these options are packed into the left hand earcup and are accompanied by mic and headset volume controls, power ON/OFF, a mute slider, a mode button, room to plug in the detachable microphone, a USB C charging port. This can make navigating the volume and mic gain a little unintuitive at first, but I did get used to it given a few days of hit and miss.
The Defining Difference
While it’s easy to make comparisons with other options on price and potential feature set, the Penrose stands apart thanks to its planar drivers. Native to the entire Audeze line up, the drivers included in this gaming headset are the core of this product line and might need a little explaining for the uninitiated. While other similarly priced headsets commonly move a small diaphragm by connecting this film to an electrically charged coil, planar drivers use a larger set of magnets to move the entire diaphragm as a single unit. Audeze go into this in more detail in their own FAQ, but the result is obvious. From the moment the Audeze Penrose is powered on they scream for attention. The 100mm drivers are substantially bigger than most gaming headsets can offer, and the array of magnets situated in the headset provide volume that certainly shake away the cobwebs. The impressive power that pours out of this headset certainly isn’t the end of it, not by a long way. The Audeze Penrose certainly aren’t what I’d describe as a reference headset but these are for gaming, not for studio recording.
Jumping into first-person shooters and our recent Cyberpunk 2077 review, The Audeze Penrose initially seem to be tuned towards a natural tone, allowing players and on board processing to make the most out of the particular experience they want from their investment. While the included Audeze HQ software can be used to further tune a particular profile for multiple scenarios, the default settings benefit games like Cyberpunk 2077 most that thrust you into a melting pot of audio interactions and can turn on a dime. Try to sneak around a squad of enemies as traffic rumbles down the concourse of Night City and you’ll still easily pinpoint the sound of shuffling footsteps and street vendors outside with total clarity. When things get hectic, the impressive dynamic response of the Penrose keeps up easily and gives players real agency in a situation that might find lesser headsets blasting a muddy bassline into your lugs.
Across first-person shooters and a range of other action games, this precision and clarity continues. The approaching demon hordes in Doom seem foreboding, but the neutral tones sometimes mean that the Penrose doesn’t always present with the same gut-wrenching punch you might expect when the crunching baselines land and artillery crashes into view. Overall, precision and balance are the keywords here, rather than untamed power.
Normally I’d devote just a few lines to the introduction of an essentially throwaway add on for a gaming headset review. However, it seems that Audeze went to some extraordinary lengths with the Penrose’s plug in mic. Taking the form of a seemingly run of the mill removable boom arm, the included mic for the Audeze Penrose took some serious consideration when crafting. You can check out the story behind it on the Audeze blog. The result is a Shure assisted add on that provides some solid voice clarity without the cold metallic noise that we’ve come to expect from an often underdeveloped part of most gaming headsets. We’ve added some samples with and without background noise for you below. Getting the best out of this arm does require a bit of work to get the best position but the end result is very solid.
Where this gaming headset might raise a few eyebrows is in the bass response, which we already mentioned. While the Audeze Penrose definitely puts players at the heart of the action, the bass might be a little subdued for some. Whether it’s a trade-off to provide a better all-round experience for the mid-tones or just a design choice by Audeze, anybody used to pounding bass will need to adjust their expectations. As I’ve already mentioned, the Audeze Penrose headphones are fully compatible with the PC based Audeze HQ software and this provides some capability to drive up the bass using the included EQ. However, it also lacks many of the software features that the Mobius benefits from, drawing a definitive line between the Penrose and the more expensive model.
Damage Over Time
The USB C charging port situated on the Audeze Penrose is probably the best example of these compromises that Audeze has made to bring the Penrose, and the Penrose X, down to a $299 price point. While the Audeze Penrose managed all-day performance, it does not come with an option to play via USB. It’s a feature I’ve become accustomed to with other current gaming headsets, meaning once the headset is down and out, it needs to be plugged back into slow charge back to life. From what we’ve seen over on the Audeze forums, enhancing the USB port would have driven up the complexity and price of the device, and there’s no guarantee it would get away without adding extra grams too, and this detail makes this choice feel like a reasonable trade-off.
The Audeze Penrose is undoubtedly a fantastic sounding headset. The planar drivers that are now firmly fastened to my head, exceeded my expectations in almost every regard. The level of detail and clarity achieved in Audeze’s latest headset is just outstanding, even managing to cram in all the essential add ons for a gaming headset. Despite the potentially divisive aesthetic choices and the somewhat sparse software side of things, the Audeze Penrose deftly manages to weave a niche all its own and lands somewhere between high end gaming headsets and audiophile essentials. If you’re ready to take your ears into the next generation of gaming, then the Audeze Penrose is a great way to do it.