Having a great pair of gaming headphones is a wonderful luxury, and it’s one you don’t fully appreciate until you try it. I’ve been gaming, listening to music, and taking calls on the Audeze Penrose headphones, and, with a few exceptions, its great sound and functionality make it a strong contender for anyone looking to step up from the abysmal sound of a pair of pack-in headphones.
I reviewed the Audeze’s Mobius headphones a while back, and the new Penrose model is the attempt to make a true gaming version for consoles. It doesn’t stray too far from the other design, and that’s mostly a good thing.
The design feels premium without any squeaks and creaks. The headband is firm with a light satin feel. The overall weight isn’t bad for wireless headphones, especially for rechargeable batteries rated for 15 hours of use. I am a frequent charger, but even when I decided to use them for extended periods, I never ran out of juice, and you can check the battery level in the app. The look is also similar to the Mobius. It’s a conservative black with gray highlights that I like. Since this is the PlayStation version, there is a blue accent ring around the earpads.
Despite being feature-rich, the controls are even more simplified than the Mobius. There is a wheel for volume control, a wheel for sidetone volume for the microphone, and a multi-function button to switch connection types. All of them are physical buttons, and I like that very much.
There are a few things that are neutral or negative on the design. It’s not uncomfortable once I’m using it, but I would still like a little more cushion at the top and maybe a firmer cushion around my ears. I still don’t like the off-center company name along the top of the headband. It’s not ugly, but the placement bothers me.
Life is not all about looks (says the guy with a face for radio), so let’s talk about the functionality. There are multiple ways to connect the Penrose, but the wireless dongle is best. It’s your only lossless connection. When plugging it into the PS5, I found the front connection introduced some noise, but using one of the rear USB ports was fine. Outside one situation I’ll mention later, the headphones connected quickly with zero drops.
The other two possible connections are through Bluetooth and a wired AUX connection into your remote. I used the Bluetooth connection with my phone, and it was fantastic. You can connect your headphones wirelessly to a console and connect with Bluetooth to your phone to chat.
The microphone is good as well. I used it to wirelessly connect for a call with everyone on Pure PlayStation over Skype, and everyone could easily hear me. The Penrose support pages show that you’ll get better microphone performance if you use the AUX connection, but I wouldn’t have any problem using these wirelessly for Zoom conference calls all day.
With form and function covered, let’s hit the sound. When listening to streaming music on my phone, the theme from Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater was my first stop, and it was lovely. I moved on to some Peter Gabriel and loved it so much that Genesis and Phil Collins received some listening time too. The treble response is fantastic, and the percussion is clear and precise with the 100mm planar magnetic drivers. I hit more 80s with the Eurythmics and some Annie Lennox solo work and received similarly fantastic results.
I didn’t stop there. Almost every genre shone while I was listening. Moving to rap in Dr. Dre’s “Nuthin’ But A “G” Thang” and some of Eminem’s classics to classic rock in Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams”, Santana’s “Black Magic Woman”, and getting lost in Tom Petty’s catalog. I hit some smooth Miles Davis tracks and rounded out the genre listening with a few old recordings of Brahms’ Hungarian Dances. The Penrose sounded great with everything.
If I had one nitpick here it’s that the volume wheel doesn’t make a change up or down until it clicks into the next position. If you are listening to music, it might be in a weird limbo that’s not loud enough to too loud. On a PlayStation, you can adjust the volume on the headset as well as the console, so I could always get my Goldilocks volume.
Since this is primarily made for gaming, I can tell you that the sound is great here as well. My backlog is high with games in varying states of completion. Wasteland 3 is great in headphones as is Sucker Punch’s Ghost of Tsushima. The headphones have an honest presentation. If the game audio was well produced and mixed, the Penrose will deliver that to you in minute detail. If it’s not so great, you’ll hear that too. I strongly recommend you give God of War a listen to hear a superb mix, and 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim is a smaller game that does a great job here too.
Any game I threw at it was very good, and, for the review, I listened to it with an out of the box, flat EQ. If you download the app and connect it to your computer, you can adjust the sound with a ten band EQ and save five different presets. The Audeze website also has five music presets and “reimaginings” of the Mobius preset modes you can download for free. The app also allows you to update the firmware for little improvements.
Despite being an excellent set of headphones, I did experience two problems. When I was playing a game, the sound suddenly cut out and the headphones wouldn’t turn off. I was able to easily force it to reset, and it worked fine. Another time I had some minor, intermittent audio dropouts that ended as quickly as it began. The manufacturer has a one year warranty if anything weird happens. I contacted them for general questions when I reviewed the Mobius, and the response was really quick and complete. I only mention this problem to be thorough and transparent about my experience.
I think the Audeze Penrose is another winner that builds on the Mobius while delivering a better gaming headphone for consoles. It has a stable, lossless connection for gaming, good looks, and full functionality for a great experience even beyond gaming. If you are in the market for a pair of gaming headphones, these deserve your consideration.
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