Audeze Penrose review: a joy to listen to, a pain to wear

The Audeze Penrose has nearly every part I need in a wi-fi gaming headset. Its high-end planar magnetic drivers ship wealthy, balanced sound high quality that’s simply superior to different fashions I’ve examined lately. It’s feature-packed, too, with particular person quantity and microphone ranges, USB-C charging, a few choices for wired connectivity (USB-C or 3.5mm), in addition to assist for simultaneous Bluetooth 5.0 audio connections. As a gaming headset, it’s stacked — which it ought to be for one thing that prices $299.

After reviewing a headset, I normally can’t wait to return to the acquainted, plushy, warm-sounding cans of my very own Sony WH-1000XM3, however the Penrose is a pleasure to hearken to. Recreation audio sounds punchy with out being over-delivered, I don’t must blast the quantity to listen to refined particulars, and regardless that this headset doesn’t have energetic noise cancellation, I used to be nearly satisfied it did on account of a mixed effort from its closed-back design and thick ear pads that yield better-than-average sound isolation.

Along with 2.4GHz and Bluetooth, you’ll be able to join through USB-C or 3.5mm.

The actual mannequin that Audeze despatched alongside for assessment is made to be appropriate with PS4 and PS5 consoles and with PCs through its 2.4GHz wi-fi receiver. (It additionally works with the Nintendo Swap, regardless that that isn’t marketed.) It’s clad in black with blue trim to suggest which household of consoles it was designed for. The corporate additionally makes an Xbox model referred to as the Penrose X that has inexperienced trim, and that mannequin’s distinctive receiver has a two-position toggle change that lets it work with Microsoft’s proprietary wi-fi tech in a single mode, then on PC within the different. In any other case, it’s the identical {hardware}.

There’s a caveat to all of this goodness: I didn’t discover the Penrose to be comfy to put on for even brief gaming classes. I by no means forgot that it was on my head as a result of I felt squeezed the entire time, and that’s a deal-breaker for me. I ought to notice that I’ve a considerably giant head, so it’s possible that individuals with smaller noggins received’t really feel as compressed. However I think about that its 320g weight would really feel heavy on nearly any noggin.

Verge Score

7.5 out of 10

Good Stuff

  • Fantastic sound quality
  • Flush with connectivity
  • Good sound isolation
  • It has volume and microphone volume dials

Bad Stuff

  • Falls heavy on the head with a tight squeeze
  • Expensive
  • Lackluster battery life

Other recent headsets I’ve liked, such as the HyperX Cloud II Wireless, are 320g as well, but its weight is distributed much better. I barely notice that model on my head even after some time has passed, and that’s what I’m personally looking for in a headset. Granted, HyperX Cloud II doesn’t have hefty 100mm magnetic drivers like the Penrose does, which amounts to better sound at the expense of heavier ear cups.

I’d give Audeze more of a pass if the Penrose was an original design, but it’s almost identical to the $399 Audeze Mobius released in 2018, which had enhanced 3D sound processing and head-tracking. (The Penrose lacks both features.) It also looks like the $299 HyperX Cloud Orbit released in 2019, which features Audeze’s planar magnetic drivers, and much of the Mobius’ design. The Penrose’s build quality is still exceptional, but I wish the company had put more focus on refining the design, particularly as it relates to comfort.

Audeze Penrose

The dials look easy to access, but they aren’t so simple to discern without looking.

As for the controls, the layout isn’t unintuitive, but some of the buttons don’t stand out enough when you’re feeling for them — specifically, the volume and mic level dials. Those are integrated into the backside of the left ear cup, and they’re raised, as opposed to being built flush into the ear cup, to make feeling for them easier (at least, that seems like the goal). Those raised hunks of plastic actually make the thin dials tough to discern and adjust.

Otherwise, it’s easy to take advantage of the Penrose’s main features, like being able to mute the mic with the switch on the left ear cup’s outer shell, or switching wireless modes with the multifunction button near where the detachable mic plugs in. The Penrose isn’t the only headset that lets you connect to a phone via Bluetooth while also being connected to your game console, but I think the execution here is great. If you get a call while you’re gaming, tapping the Penrose’s power button will pick up or hang up. (Careful, though: Audeze says your voice will be transmitted over both Bluetooth and wireless channels.)

Battery life is lackluster. I’ve gotten around 10 hours of use per charge, whereas some less expensive competing models in our headset buying guide offer 30 or more hours per charge. It’s not great considering the price, but it’s not a huge issue for me since I usually leave my headset at my PC or PS5 charging overnight anyway (made easier by the reversible USB-C port).

Audeze Penrose

The wireless receiver is shaped like a thumb drive.

It’s easy for me to recommend the Penrose based on its features and sound quality alone, but comfort plays an equally large role for me — and that’s where this headset is lacking the most. It’s a shame that the fit is so fatiguing because it’s really the only deal-breaker. Otherwise, the Penrose could be an ideal addition to any gamer’s life, especially those who want a headset that can connect to multiple devices simultaneously. Just heed the warning that, for certain head shapes and for people sensitive to wearing hefty headphones, it might not fit your head very well.

Photography by Cameron Faulkner / The Verge

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