High-end audio company Audeze broke new ground when it released the Mobius, the first mass-market gaming headset to use planar magnetic audio drivers. The Mobius was the gold standard for PC gaming headsets, with better surround sound than anything released since, fantastic audio, and Bluetooth compatibility. The Audeze Penrose is the company’s follow-up to the Mobius, jettisoning the Waves Nx surround sound in favor of wireless audio—an easier trade-off to make now that consoles have their own spatial sound systems.
Is the promise of fantastic sound worth such a high price without the bells and whistles?
Editor’s note: This review was updated on February 11, 2021 to include a comparison between the Audeze Penrose and other planar magnetic gaming headsets in the alternative recommendations.
Who is the Audeze Penrose for?
- Gamers who want something they can use for anything.
- At-home workers looking to splurge on that sounds great and includes a more substantial microphone.
What is using the Audeze Penrose like?
If you’re one of the wealthier gamers who had the good fortune to use the Audeze Mobius, or even the HyperX Cloud Orbit S, the Audeze Penrose will seem pretty familiar, as it’s almost identical to those headsets. Just like aforementioned, the Penrose sports an all-plastic build, with a memory foam headband cushion and memory foam ear pads. Its headband is light and flexible, which helps with the overall weight, compensating for the heavy planar magnetic headphones. While there’s no metal here, nothing feels cheap—the hinges are firm and sturdy, and nothing creaks as you make adjustments.
The Audeze Penrose is a very comfortable headset. The headphones feel pretty weighty, but not so much that they cause fatigue, even after a few hours. The headband offers just the right amount of tension to feel secure without getting too tight, and paired with the memory foam ear pads, make achieving a decent seal pretty easy.
Actually using this gaming headset is pretty straightforward, but there are still a few things to keep track of. All of the Audeze Penrose’s onboard controls are located on the left headphone, and generally they’re spaced out well enough to make finding what you’re looking for easy. On the left side of the headphone, there’s a mute switch for the mic and the headset’s power button. Along the bottom edge, there are volume dials for mic monitoring and headphone, a button for toggling between headset’s three connection modes, and a USB-C port for charging, as well as 3.5mm ports for audio and connecting the removable microphone.
Additionally, the Audeze Penrose supports Audeze HQ, the desktop companion app previously reserved exclusively for the the Audeze Mobius. Audeze HQ is a little less cluttered with the Penrose, as there’s no Waves Nx 3D audio feature this time—all it offers is EQ customization, game and chat mix adjustments, and a monitoring toggle.
Oddly enough, the headset can’t connect to the app wirelessly through its included dongle. You have to plug the headset into your PC to use the app. Wired USB audio isn’t supported, which this means actually using the headset (at least on PC) while you use the app requires two ports at all times. Audeze HQ also now comes as a mobile app, so you can change all the same settings over Bluetooth as well.
How does the Audeze Penrose connect?
The Audeze Penrose supports three main connectivity options. For gaming, the headset is primarily meant to connect wirelessly using its 2.4GHz wireless USB RF dongle. This connection method is compatible with PlayStation 4 and 5, Nintendo Switch, and PC (Xbox gamers will need to get the Xbox version of the Penrose for wireless audio). The headset can also connect via Bluetooth 5.0, though it only supports the SBC codec. That’s not a really huge problem in 2021, but it can be a drag if you’re looking for the highest bitrate possible. The headset also supports 3.5mm connections to everywhere that supports it, including platforms like the Xbox Series X/S and Xbox One.
How is the battery life?
Audeze claims the Penrose can last up to 15 hours on a single charge, but in our testing we found it fell short of that. At a consistent output of ~75dB, the Audeze Penrose lasts just over 13 hours, 7 minutes on a single charge. This is quite a bit lower than many of the best wireless gaming headsets on the market, but planar magnetic drivers generally require more power than dynamic ones, so it’s not totally surprising—the Audeze Mobius fared similarly.
There’s no way to check battery status on the headset or in Audeze HQ, but we charged the headset for around 6 hours before starting the test, and given that Audeze says a full charge only takes three hours, it’s safe to say we started at a full charge.
How is gaming with the Audeze Penrose?
Gaming with the Audeze Penrose is expectedly a very solid experience. It’s a very comfortable gaming headset, even after hours straight spent wearing it. It requires charging a little more often than many of the best wireless gaming headsets on the market, but otherwise I didn’t find any issues. This is aimed at least in part as a PlayStation 5 gaming headset, but since those are still very difficult to get ahold of, most of our testing was done on PC.
Playing games like Sea of Thieves and Risk of Rain 2 on PC, the Audeze Penrose handled the often chaotic mix of music and in-game audio very well. I never felt like I was losing important cues or having trouble hearing dialog amidst a crush of other sound effects in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, either.
Because of the PlayStation 5’s spatial audio system, there’s no built-in surround sound with this headset, but that’s not that big of a deal if you don’t play games like Fortnite or Apex Legends. Even if you do play those games, stereo sound still provides a decent amount directionality. You can always turn on Windows Sonic on PC if need be.
How does the Audeze Penrose sound?
The Audeze Penrose offers very accurate audio pretty much across the audible spectrum. There’s a slight bump in output in bass range until around 200Hz, but not so much that you’d notice it. Same goes for the slight increase in the mid range around 1500Hz.
This section is about to change after we get our new buddy measuring headphones. We stand by everything we’ve said, but the scoring and charts will almost certainly change. Be on the lookout for an update in the near future!
Music of all genres sounds great coming through the Audeze Penrose. If you’re after really intense bass emphasis like you’d find in Beats headphones, you’ll need to adjust the EQ settings in the app, but otherwise you shouldn’t run into any situation where music sounds quieter or different than it’s supposed to. In the classic LCD Soundsystem song I Can Change, all the high-pitched bleeps and bloops come through loud clear, without getting lost in the low bassy whirring that underpins most of the song.
Music of all genres sounds great coming through the Audeze Penrose.
In game, frequency response like this shouldn’t cause any problems. The minimal bass boost means you shouldn’t have any more trouble than intended picking out the sounds of footsteps amid a hail of gunfire in Fortnite.
The Audeze Penrose offers pretty average isolation for a gaming headset. You shouldn’t have any trouble with someone watching TV in another room, the whirr of a fridge, or other typical noises of the home, but don’t expect much if you’re planning to take this out and about as a regular pair of Bluetooth headphones.
How is the microphone?
From a frequency response standpoint, the Audeze Penrose has a pretty accurate microphone for a gaming headset. There’s still the typical drop in the bass range, but it’s not nearly as severe in the low end compared to other gaming headsets. This means people with deeper voices won’t have to worry as much about coming through more quietly than they should. However, this isn’t the clearest microphone, with a noticeably fuzziness over just about everything you say. While it’s possible this is the proximity effect, we doubt it. You might get better results moving the mic away from your mouth a bit, but you’ll definitely want to tinker with it over Discord. Even if everything comes through as loud as it should, it doesn’t sound incredible—it’s more severe over Bluetooth, too. Listen for yourself.
Audeze Penrose microphone sample:
Audeze Penrose Bluetooth microphone sample:
Should you buy the Audeze Penrose?
If you’re not concerned with saving money, and you need the best pair of headphones you can find to game with, you should definitely consider the Audeze Penrose.
Without a doubt, the Audeze Penrose is a good gaming headset. It sounds fantastic, it’s comfortable, and adding Bluetooth to its connection options means you can use the headset with just about anything in one way or another.
At $300 USD, it’s a lot more expensive than most gaming headsets, but not to the same degree as the Audeze Mobius. In fact, this is an “affordable” planar magnetic gaming headset all things considered—plenty of headsets that don’t sound nearly as good cost just as much. If you’re in the market for a more expensive gaming headset, I’d certainly recommend this over something like the EPOS Sennheiser GSP 670 or the Bose QC 35 II Gaming Headset.
The Audeze Penrose isn’t a waste of money, but unless having the absolute best sound is a must for you, you can get a lot more from headsets that cost a lot less.
What are good alternatives to the Audeze Penrose?
However, for as good as it sounds, the Audeze Penrose is pretty light on features. If surround sound or a better microphone experience are things you want, far cheaper gaming headsets will probably suit you better. The Razer BlackShark V2 and Logitech G Pro X are both excellent in these regards, and they have wireless versions (more expensive, but still cheaper than the Penrose). If battery performance is something you really want, headsets like the HyperX Cloud Flight S and Turtle Beach Stealth 700 Gen 2 will get you more than double the battery life for half the price. Even a high-end headset like the Corsair Virtuoso Wireless SE—which offers more features, a better microphone, longer battery life, and comparable audio—comes in at almost $100 cheaper than the Audeze Penrose.
Which planar magnetic gaming headset should I get?
The Audeze Penrose marks the third gaming headset to come out using the Audeze Mobius base design. The HyperX Cloud Orbit S, Audeze Mobius, and Audeze Penrose are virtually identical in their physical construction, save for their different color schemes and logos. They all also sound equally great—after all, all three feature the same 100mm planar magnetic audio drivers, and seeming the same detachable microphones. That all makes picking between them pretty difficult (price notwithstanding), but none of them are the perfect option for every gaming setup.
If you’re a console gamer, you should pick the Audeze Penrose. All three of these headsets support wired connections via 3.5mm, so you can plug them into a controller, but only the Penrose offers wireless audio, and a console setup in a living room or den is a prime example of where that’s useful. The Penrose’s (and PenroseX) lack of the WavesNx surround sound is also a non-issue on console, as current-gen consoles all offer their own surround sound standards (and WavesNx doesn’t work on consoles anyway).
If you’re a PC gamer, having a wireless gaming headset is just less important, so you should probably get the HyperX Cloud Orbit S over the Penrose or the Mobius. The Orbit S brings all the premium gaming features of the Audeze Mobius at a significant discount, and the lack of Bluetooth just doesn’t matter much here.
All this isn’t to say the Audeze Mobius is a waste of money—anyone comfortable with spending that amount of money on a gaming headset will enjoy it quite a bit. However, these days, you can get the meaningful aspects of its design in other cheaper gaming headsets.
Frequently Asked Questions
As far as we can tell, the firmware this was reviewed and tested on is still the most current firmware (version 0.1.5) for the Audeze Penrose. Audeze HQ has received updates since then, but nothing has come around that improved mic performance yet.