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Turtle Beach's Xbox 360 Bluetooth Chat Adapter hands-on (or: One of the best things I saw at E3)

Over five years ago, I wrote a post on this very website about one enterprising Xbox 360 owner who velcroed a Jabra A210 Bluetooth adapter to the back of his controller, thereby freeing him from the tyranny of a wired headset. Back then, in the early days of the Xbox 360, some months before Microsoft introduced its own (terrible) wireless headset and before the PS3 was released with built-in Bluetooth headset support, this hack seemed all but guaranteed to make it mainstream. Of course, it hasn't.

Now, over five years later, when the people at Turtle Beach tell me they have something they're pretty sure I'm going to like, I make my way to their E3 booth in the very last hours of the last day of the show and they hand over one of eight prototype Xbox 360 Bluetooth Chat Adapters.

Included as part of its new XP500 headset – an Xbox-ification of last year's excellent PS3-flavored PX5s – this Chat Adapter aims to keep the XP500s totally wireless. If you wanted to use the PX5's microphone with an Xbox 360, it meant tethering it to a controller with a cable. If you wanted to go completely wireless, it meant picking up one of Microsoft's notoriously shoddy wireless headsets, which use a proprietary radio connection, similar to the console's controllers, to connect to the Xbox.

Gallery: Turtle Beach Xbox 360 Bluetooth Chat Adapter | 6 Photos

If you're interested in the Xbox Chat Adapter, which Turtle Beach awkwardly abbreviates as XBA, you won't have to buy a $270 pair of XP500s; instead, Turtle Beach will be selling it separately, ostensibly so PX5 owners can have the same wireless luxury on their Xbox 360s an they have on their PS3s. [Update: Turtle Beach has confirmed that the XBA will be $30 and is available for order right here!]

While it's too early to give you any final feedback on the adapter – remember, it's a prototype and it's likely to change – I can tell you about my experience with it. The adapter requires no batteries, gathering all its energy directly from the controller itself. There is only one button on the bottom of the unit, which not only turns the device on and off, but also mutes and pairs your Bluetooth headset. I tested the XBA with Sony's original PS3 Bluetooth headset, and found the audio quality to be excellent, far exceeding Microsoft's headset. People in my Xbox Live Party reported excellent audio quality from the mic as well, again exceeding Microsoft's own offering.

My only real complaint was the button on the bottom of the adapter. In the process of using the adapter, I discovered that I habitually rest the controller on my lap while playing games. That action, as you no doubt have pieced together by now, would cause me to mute or turn off the adapter. After the infinitieth time doing this, I realized I have a problem that you may not share but, nonetheless, it's a problem.

Turtle Beach welcomed my feedback and, who knows, maybe that button will be stiffer or more recessed next time I see it. Until then, I'll keep testing this unit out, willing myself to change, while waiting for release details on the final piece of hardware. Using any old Bluetooth adapter with my Xbox 360? It's been a long time coming.

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