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Above that button is a wheel for adjusting listening level. This is tied to the Windows output level, so when you twirl it, you’ll get an indication on the screen of the Windows volume level changing.

Above that is the “Microphone Mix” level control mentioned above. But for finer control, you’ll use the Turtle Beach Control Studio.

This gives you very full control over the Turtle Beach Elite Atlas Aero headset. You can adjust the sound using a ten-band graphic equaliser, save your settings, and employ quite a few presets that may suit your purposes.

One the main page are settings to allow you to boost dialogue level, balance the microphone and all sorts of other things. The control facilities cover pretty much anything you could want to do.

Volume level

For a while there I was quite disappointed. I put on the Michael Murray rendition of Bach’s Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor, played on a monstrous pipe organ, in which the main repeated motif ends on a C with a fundamental frequency of 16 hertz. The bass sounded satisfying indeed with these Elite Atlas Aero headset. 16 hertz or the more dominant 32 hertz? Hard to say. But engaging.

Except that the whole thing was too quiet. I suppose one shouldn’t say this about four century old music, but Bach rocks. If you can play him loud enough. I had the volume turned up to the max, and it was still disappointingly quiet. I was going to whinge about that. But then I remembered the second, more prominent, control button on the headset: Superhuman Hearing. It boosts the level, but does it tailor the sound? Well, on the Audio Settings tab in the control app, there’s a “Superhuman Hearing Volume” slider control. So I figured I ought to test it out.

I pressed the button and the level instantly went up to something satisfying loud. The “Superhuman Hearing Volume” control was at 50%.

But was it doing anything to the sound apart from boosting the level? I dragged the level down to zero and then switched it on and off several times. Nope, no difference. So “Superhuman Hearing”  is essentially a level boost.

Now, to be clear, that Bach recording is at a quite low level of modulation. I didn’t need “Superhuman Hearing” on for satisfying levels from The Marshal Mathers LP. Well, maybe just a little.

Turtle Beach Elite Atlas Aero

So why?

Anyway, I blame Europe. The European Union has very silly rules about the maximum output of personal audio devices. I haven’t examined the rules for gaming headsets, but those for portable audio players are simply ludicrous.

My theory is that Turtle Beach has to limit the amount of gain on its headphones to comply with similarly idiotic rules for gaming headsets. And “Superhuman Hearing” is a legal workaround to those rules.

The problem isn’t really with stuff from Eminem. That is recorded at a high average modulation level. As are games. But if you’re listening to a Telarc digital recording from the 1970s or 1980s, plus plenty of other early classical digital recordings, they are at low average modulation level, and the limitations on maximum output with loud stuff mean way-too-low output with soft stuff.

So, Turtle Beach, thank you for the workaround.

Playback sound quality

That Bach came through with powerful, impressive bass. But as the Passacaglia section progresses, it increases in complexity, with layers on layers of pipes over the top of each other. It all became a bit messy listening with the Turtle Beach Elite Atlas Aero headset, a bit confused.

To make sure I wasn’t mis-remembering, I went back to my current favourite reference headphones, plugged them into an Oppo portable headphone amp which was in turn plugged into my computer and played back the offending section. Yep, that was how it was supposed to sound. It’s funny how often gear that sounds good with modern music has its wheels fall off a bit with classical at high levels.