Value for Money
Solid, with minimal fuss and great audio
Summary : A decent entry-level Xbox One gaming headset that should have most audiophiles happy with its performance.
Polk Audio isn’t the biggest name in gaming audio yet, but they’re trying their hardest to make the big time. Their latest crusade is being led by the Polk Audio Striker Zx, an entry-level gaming headset for the Xbox One that sits squarely at the bottom of their food chain, superceded only by Polk’s more expensive offering, the 4 Shot. Decked with bright coloured plastic, the Striker Zx looks every part the basic gamer’s headset, but is there more than meets the eye? Let’s check it out.
What’s in the box
In the box, you’ll find the headset itself, a micro-USB which can be used to help update your controller when you first plug in your headset, and the Xbox One headset adapter which will enable stereo sound and headset capabilities for your Striker Zx. It’s pretty bare bones, and for $89.95 USD, it probably should be.
To set up the Striker Zx is relatively simple. If you have never owned a headset for the Xbox One before, you’ll need to plug in your Xbox One controller to your console using the micro-USB provided (or any other micro-USB cable), and follow the prompts that will be on your screen. If this does not happen, you can always manually initiate this from the System Settings menu.
As I mentioned in the introduction, the Striker Zx is made of many plastic parts, though in my honest opinion, this doesn’t stop it from actually looking pretty sleek. On this orange version in particular, the orange highlights really appeal to my more brash tendancies, and the cushioning subtly adds to that highlighting. While the Striker Zx is quite thin and can easily be mangled out of shape, you never really get the sense that it’s about to break in your hands or if little people of younger dispositions decide to treat it a little rougher.
On that topic, however, I would caution parents considering getting the Striker Zx for their little gamers for one reason and that reason relates to the sharp points that are created by all the angular plastic that form the headset arms – swing this a little too zealously, and you could be in for some pain. Sure, most headsets have sharp points somewhere, but the combination of plastic and the angular design appear to have created an unintended inconvenience here.
The cable appears to be sturdy enough and up to the job of weathering potentially abusive owners and the adapter is also quite solid and features much bigger and descriptive buttons than on other headset adapters I have seen. The adapter, however still does feel a bit plastic-y, and not the same plastic that is used in the Xbox One controller, but it seems like it’s up to the task.
The last remaining part of the Striker Zx’s construction to discuss is the mic, which is a retractable arrangement, sitting inside the left headset when not in use and extending out with a flexible cable boom when in use. I did notice that it doesn’t extend out very far – when I wear it, the boom only extends out till about my cheek, probably about 1 cm away from the edge of my mouth. This doesn’t exactly seem far enough, but we’ll touch on that a bit later.
I’d like the mention first of all that the Striker Zx’s are LOUD. By default, it seems like they are turned up quite a bit louder than most headsets are, but that’s not really an issue, just a shock to the system when you first use them. The volume can still be turned as low as any other headset, and just as loud too.
You may not have heard to much about Polk Audio before now, but Polk have actually been in the business of premium audio products for some time now (since 1972). As a result of this, despite them fielding one of the cheapest Xbox One headsets on the market, the Strike Zx audio is actually fantastic. Its range is extremely impressive in all situations: explosions sound positively thunderous and dialogue sounds crisp, if ever-so-slightly muffled – ultimately, I feel like the audio quality of the Striker Zx is betrayed by the Xbox One firmware itself and the fact only stereo audio can be streamed to the controller. However, as it has a 3.5mm audio jack, the Striker Zx is just as happy being plugged into your phone or audio player where its audio really has the chance to shine.
he same, however, can’t be said of the microphone. While there’s nothing wrong with the microphone quality per se – it happily picks up ambient noise thanks to the feedback feature that Polk Audio has packaged with the Striker Zx – you will remember that I mentioned that the microphone boom doesn’t exactly extend all the way to your mouth and therein lies the Striker Zx’s biggest weakness, in my book. I play Xbox quite a lot in parties and communication is paramount, as many of you will know – unfortunately due to its position, the microphone just doesn’t pick up enough spoken sound unless I am practically shouting, and as I do most of my gaming at night, this is unacceptable (mostly to my neighbours, but I want to be able to talk the next day).
The Striker Zx’s are actually quite a loose fitting set of headphones, but the padding does a good job of creating quite a good seal. Polk Audio has done a good job of being minimal with its padding while still being comfortable – the little padding in the headband actually does a good job of creating a comfortable fit for the headset and coupled with the earcups, which essentially just lightly sit on the ears, you have yourself quite a comfortable set of headphones for a very long gaming session.
In terms of noise cancellation, as they are still quite loose, the Striker Zx isn’t the best headset in that category and outside noise will inevitably get it, but turn it up and just about anything is cancelled out anyway.
Value for Money
At $89.95 USD, the Striker Zx sits firmly at the entry-level for Xbox One headsets and shares the low end with names like the Turtle Beach Ear Force XO One and Microsoft’s own first party offering, the Stereo Headset. For the purpose of this discussion, I’m going to ignore Microsoft’s offering and let the third party devices duke it out. The XO One is $10 cheaper and its microphone extends all the way to your mouth which I would say are the biggest arguments against the Striker Zx. The Striker Zx is also priced perilously close to Turtle Beach’s mid-range offering, the $99.95 USD XO FOUR, which offers slightly more than its basic brethren.
Where I feel the Striker Zx’s primary selling point is its audio fidelity, something which I believe not even the $159.99 Turtle Beach XO SEVEN I reviewed over at AndroidSPIN
can match. If you can deal with a bit of shouting to get your friends to hear you, I think the audio quality of the Striker Zx is well worth the money, even for non-Xbox One use.
of the Polk Audio Striker Zx Xbox One gaming headset has somewhat surprised me – I came in expecting to review a Xbox One headset and I feel like I’m going to end up recommending a premium set of headphones instead, which is exactly what is happening. The audio of the Strike Zx is by far its standout feature and its comfort is a welcome compliment too. However, it struggles to fully meet my requirements for a complete gaming headset package due to its ineffective microphone arrangement, so I’d recommend that if you intend to pick up this headset that you have plenty of other uses for it to make sure you get the most from its premium audio.
To find out more about the Polk Audio Striker Zx Xbox One gaming headset, you can visit its product page here. To find out more about Polk Audio the company, you can find its homepage through here.