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Audeze Penrose Gaming Headphone Review

Audeze Penrose cover image with gaming controllers

Bringing Great Sound to the Masses


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The Penrose brings quality sound to gamers of all platforms. Typical open-back planar magnetic headphones have a softer bass response, albeit present but controlled, you certainly do not have the “punchy” low-end in most consumer-friendly or “fun” sound signature headphones. The Penrose meets in the middle with great low-end, without being bloated. If you’re a console gamer and looking for you next pair of headphones, then I would suggest that the Audeze Penrose is the headphone to beat. Using the same superb drivers as the Mobius, the Penrose sounds like a headphone twice its price. The fact that you can detach the mic, have individualized volume controls on the ear cup, and switch between wireless, auxiliary or Bluetooth audio transmission makes this headphone a proverbial Swiss-army knife for any situation.


Most of you know from our previous Audeze Mobius Headphone review that I’m a big fan of the Mobius headphones. It’s my “daily-driver” of gaming headphones. So, needless to say, I was pretty excited when Audeze announced they were coming out with a console variant of the Mobius that was going to be even cheap – er, uh – more accessible to a gamer's budget. My only question was, what are they taking out to account for the price difference and is it going to be worth it?

Well, I had another excuse to game for extended amounts of time without my wife getting mad at me. Let’s see how the Penrose compares to the Mobius and if it’s a worthy buy for the average gamer.

Audeze & Gaming

Audeze has been showing lots of love to the gaming community with some excellent headphones lately. The Mobius and the LCD-GX have been quite popular and perform at the top of not just the gaming class but audio too. And that’s the thing about Audeze gaming headphones, they great in many listening scenarios – not just for great sound while gaming.

man gaming at desktop computer with Penrose Headphones

Materials, Quality, & Comfort

Okay, so when we’re talking about the materials, this is the same thing as the Mobius, just with “Penrose” on the side. It’s the exact same casing – and that is not a bad thing. The Mobius is built extremely well, and the Penrose therefore is too.

The body of the headphone is mainly made of hard plastic with a silicone/rubberized material giving the Audeze Penrose a stealth or matte finish. Despite the body being plastic, in no way does this headphone feel cheap. The plastics used are dense, durable, and weighty. In one of Audeze’s promotional images for the Mobius, they show the headphones being twisted way past what I would consider to be the breaking point for most headphones on the market. It’s quite impressive so say the least, and the same goes for the Penrose. Due to the flexibility of the headband, the fit was never uncomfortably tight around the head.

The ear cups are the heaviest part of the headphone, due to the fact that they pack a lot of tech, but they never felt unwieldy on my head. The padding on the ear cups and headband are quite comfortable and didn’t cause me any physical discomfort for long music listening or gaming sessions. The ear cups are faux leather and the memory foam is great for making a good seal around the ear (the same material is used for headband padding also). Audeze is known for their ergonomic cup designs, as they should be, being a premiere audiophile headphone manufacturer. Your ears do not lay flat on your head, so why would the ear pads also be uniform in height? Audeze designs their ear pads to be thicker in the back, where your ears are furthest from your head. This allows the drivers to be angled appropriately also to aim down the canals of your ears, rather than pointing at your head or an angled part of the ear. This height of the pads also prevents the ears from coming into contact with the cups of the headphones themselves, allowing for a very comfortable listening experience.

I would consider these headphones a bit on the heavy side. Being a closed-back design and considering the amount of technology these things pack in the ear cups, it’s understandable. The padding does well to create a solid seal – there were moments where I had to ventilate during longer listening or gaming sessions, but I’ve had much worse experiences with more traditional “gaming” headphones. It can get a little warm at times, especially in warmer climates. I will mention that the headphones allow your ears to sit naturally and not be pushed to your head, due to the excellent design of the ear pads. This made longer listening and gaming sessions more frequent and enjoyable. Just like I said for the Mobius, the same applies here: I wouldn’t trade the comfort, fidelity, and weight of the Mobius or Penrose over any other gaming headsets on the market. It hits all the right buttons.

Good news. The Penrose uses the same planar magnetic driver design as the Mobius, so the audio quality is simply superb.

Sound Quality

Penrose driver cutaway


Good news. The Penrose uses the same planar magnetic driver design as the Mobius, so the audio quality is simply superb.

Audeze utilizes a fluxor magnet array which produces far more power than regular neodymium drivers. Combined with their proprietary voice coils and you have an incredibly accurate and resolute experience. The closed-back design of these headphones also helps to accentuate the bass response of your audio. Typical open-back planar magnetic headphones have a softer bass response, albeit present but controlled, you certainly do not have the “punchy” low-end in most consumer-friendly or “fun” sound signature headphones. The Penrose meets in the middle with great low-end, without being bloated.


Audeze is a high-end headphone company, so it would be understandable that creating a good headphone for music listening is well within their wheelhouse. The Penrose is engineered with the same care and consideration as Audeze’s other well-known planar magnetic headphones. Planar magnetic drivers are great at “spacializing” the audio and widening the soundstage in comparison to dynamic drivers. Think of it like watching a widescreen movie when compared to a full-screen version. You don’t realize until later how much other content is being missed in the full-screen version of the film. With a wider soundstage, the instruments are allowed space so that frequencies are less competitive with one another and elements or voicings can be more individually distinguished and recognized. We’ll see later how this plays out to the gamers benefit.

When it comes to music, the Penrose does not disappoint. Maybe it’s the weight of the ear cups, or the density, but they seal out ambient noise very well. The Penrose is clear. I tried to mix it up in my testing with various genres and these things are tuned to perfection. Classical and orchestral soundtracks sounded expansive, jazz was intimate and personal, rock music sounded punchy and powerful – this is to say that not only did everything sound the way it was supposed to, but the expressiveness and depth of the headphones helped to add an emotional component to my music listening.  

Okay, that might sound cliché, but I’m just impressed by the fidelity and performance for the price point here. I would expect this level of sound quality on a pair of $800+ headphones, but on a pair of gaming cans? I'm definitely impressed.

The sound quality all comes down to the engineering decisions from choosing the ear cup design, circuitry layout, drivers, tuning, power consumption and management – a lot of work goes into making a headphone sound great. If one thing is off, the entire "building" can come crashing down. Audeze has perfected the architecture of this headphone and its components. You simply can’t find better performance at this price.


Microphone Quality




Of course, the factor that really makes the Penrose a gaming headphone is the inclusion of a detachable boom microphone. Attached via a 3.5mm jack, the mic fits snugly inside the left ear cup. I might have been a little harsh on the Mobius microphone, but it was only V1 of the release. They have since corrected all the initial issues I had with the headphones. The Penrose touts a new microphone design from the Mobius, stating that it is a “broadcast quality” boom mic. The Penrose mic is clear, though the default settings might need some adjusting depending on your voice or ambient settings. My squad commented that my microphone seemed “boomy” and bass heavy. So after some EQ adjusting, all was well. It’s nothing game-breaking but it might be worth testing to get the best performance for your particular scenario.

Audeze Penrose with boom mic

There is an independent volume wheel on the underside of the ear cup specifically for the microphone level. This is amazing since most of the time I’m having to go into the individual chat applications and manually adjust levels to my liking. With the scroll wheel it’s just a matter of a couple notches here and there and you’re set. It’s these small features that really set the product apart from other competitors.

The main volume wheel is right beside the microphone wheel, and I found myself engaged in some trial and error at first to figure out which one controlled what, but after some adjustment time you get acquainted with the layout just fine. On the left ear cup which the microphone attaches to there is a mute switch on the upper part of the outer side of the cup itself. The small notch makes it easy enough to find when wearing the headset, though I found myself not using it that much. If I needed to mute the microphone for extended amounts of time, I found myself just disconnecting the mic altogether. Either way, it’s a very nice feature to have, as most other gaming headsets have either no mic control or the mute switch is on the cable itself, requiring you to fumble around the cable before eventually finding the switch. Audeze makes some great quality-of-life improvements here for the gamer with these headphones.


Console Exclusives

Audeze Penrose USB Wireless Adapters


So the Audeze Penrose comes in two variations: the Penrose and the Penrose X. The Penrose (not X) is designed to work with PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, PC, Mac, iOS, and Android. The Penrose X is designed to work exclusively with Xbox, Xbox Series X, PC, iOS, and Android. Since PlayStation and Xbox use different proprietary wireless audio, and do not utilize traditional Bluetooth audio connection (due to latency), two variants of the Penrose are required for each console manufacturer.

Both the Penrose and the Penrose X come with a USB Wireless Adapter – color-coordinated with the headphone for their respective console. Plugging this into the console’s USB port will offer wireless audio and voice transmission with little to no latency. The reason Bluetooth audio is not supported is because the way they are designed, serious audio lag or latency would occur, resulting in audio sync issues with the video and lag in multiplayer functionality. It ruins the entire experience. However, over wireless transmission, latency is dramatically reduced.


Wireless Versus Wired

The Penrose can also run double duty as either a wired or wireless headset, creating a headphone that is incredibly versatile for any situation. The term “Bluetooth” is often treated like a 4-letter word in the audiophile community. It carries the connotation of inferiority since there is a quality loss in the form of compression when transmitting audio wirelessly. From an audio quality perspective, a wired headphone will always sound infinitely better than a wireless one.

The Penrose departs from the Mobius here in a number of ways regarding wireless audio options. The Audeze Penrose dropped the LDAC Bluetooth codec, only using SBC or AAC. Both are fine, but are not capable of transmitting high-resolution audio the way the LDAC codec can. SBC and ACC are some of the most common codecs, so combined with the implementation of Bluetooth 5.0, the Penrose will work with the most up-to-date Bluetooth devices on the market.

Unlike the Mobius, the Penrose implements wireless audio for use with game consoles as mentioned previously. True wireless audio transmission will be capable of playing high-resolution audio, and the included USB wireless adapters are also compatible with USB-A devices like Mac and PC. (Note that only the Penrose – not the Penrose X – is compatible with Mac).

The Penrose also includes a 3.5mm jack for use with cables. You’ll need to power on the headphones in order to transmit audio however, due to the fact that a 3.5mm cable will not provide sufficient juice to power the device for passive use. This is to be expected, but it still ties you to making sure you have the headphones powered. If you run out of charge while gaming – well, too bad. Game over. One big reason I give the Mobius points over the Penrose in this case is because it can transmit audio via USB-C, giving you the option to charge while using the headphone during gaming sessions.

The Penrose has a button just above the microphone jack which toggles the audio mode for the headphone. You can select between Bluetooth, Auxiliary, and Wireless audio transmission by repeatedly pressing the button. Just keep this in mind if you change from wireless audio to Bluetooth – if the headphone is in wireless mode it will not broadcast a signal for Bluetooth pairing. The same goes for if you are wanting to connect a cable to listen via wired connection – the headphone will not produce audio until it is in the correct mode.

To pair your Penrose with a device via Bluetooth, make sure the headphone is in Bluetooth mode. Press the power button or the Mode button twice and the headphone will enter pairing mode. The headphone should show up on your device’s list and you can connect to the headphone.

Battery life is consistent with the Mobius – lasting about 10 hours on a single charge. More than enough for a couple of long gaming or listening sessions. Of course, keep in mind that battery life can be affected by the resolution of your audio, overall volume, etc.

Audeze Penrose X
Audeze Penrose
Audeze Penrose X
Audeze Penrose
Audeze Penrose X
Audeze Penrose

If you’re a gamer who really cares for the audio quality in your games, then it’s a fabulous time to be alive right now. Just the fact that 3 of the best gaming headphones on the market comes from the same industry-leading audiophile headphone manufacturer should say enough about the current state and importance of gaming.

Dragon Cables

If you are wanting to get the absolutely best sound out of the Penrose, then you are going to want to listen via a wired connection. The included 3.5mm cable that Audeze packages with the headphone is a standard stock cable that produces a very neutral and uncolorized sound.

But it’s quite unmistakable to notice the improvement in fidelity when pairing the Audeze Penrose with a Bronze or Silver Dragon cable. The materials used in the Dragon Cables are 99.99998% UP-OCC silver or copper strands, void of impurities. In both the Bronze and Silver Dragon I noticed a natural dB boost, which perceptively enhanced quite a bit of the overall fidelity. They increased the overall gain of the audio without raising the noise floor.

The Black Dragon Portable cable would be a good option for those who want a warmer and more music presentation to their music. The copper in the Black Dragon brings out those low end frequencies while maintaining clarity on the high end. A great choice for EDM and other sub-bass genres.

The best way I can express the improvement that the Dragon Cables make in gaming is clarity. When using the Audeze Penrose in auxiliary mode, the headphones still need to be powered on (active), but the signal from the computer/switch/DAP/phone is much clearer and dynamic than the wireless or Bluetooth audio signals. Don’t get me wrong, the Penrose sound amazing no matter what mode you’re listening to them in, but if I have the option of going wired, that’s what I’m going to choose to get the most reliable audio transmission possible. To learn more about Dragon Cables be sure to check out our guide on how to Hack Your Headphones:

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Hack Your Way to Better Perfomance

Looking to get dramatically better sound out of your old cans? Whether you go the DIY route or turn to one of our experts, hacking your headphones is a smart way to achieve the sound signature you desire.



Comparison - with the Audeze Mobius and LCD-GX

If you’re a gamer who really cares for the audio quality in your games, then it’s a fabulous time to be alive right now. Just the fact that 3 of the best gaming headphones on the market comes from the same industry-leading audiophile headphone manufacturer should say enough about the current state and importance of gaming.


The Audeze LCD-GX is the no-frills, pure-audiophile headset for those who don’t want a lot of features other than top-audio quality. The GX is designed like the other headphones in Audeze’s LCD lineup: large ear cups, planar magnetic drivers, open-back design, and substantial. There is no question about it: the Audeze LCD-GX is one of the best sounding gaming headphones out there.

The LCD-GX is a true audiophile headphone first and foremost: Audeze does not try to hide this fact. They include 2 separate cables – one with a microphone for chat sessions in gaming (the same microphone used on the Audeze Mobius) and one without a microphone. You can determine the scenarios in which each cable will be appropriate, and you have an incredible amount of versatility with this one product. The Audeze LCD-GX is a steal for the versatility and overall quality for what you get. As a gamer, they took my experience to the next level: allowing me to truly live in the gaming environments with a soundstage and audio depth I had not experienced before. Subtleties in details and definition amongst the different audio segments: voice, game effects, and the music/soundtrack were all distinguishable and didn’t compete with each other.

Audeze LCD-GX Headphones with mic

If you’re a true audiophile looking for a gaming headset that is more than up to the task, and you have the budget, then the Audeze LCD-GX is a no-brainer. Not only are you getting one of, if not THE best gaming headsets on the market, but you’re also getting an audiophile-grade open-back headphone that will be at home with any high-fidelity sound system too. It’s like a 2-for-1 deal. Check out our Audeze LCD-GX Gaming Headphone review for more information.

Audeze Mobius Headphone with Bronze Dragon portable cable


The Audeze Mobius is a different story. This headphone is specifically aimed at the gamer wanting to get the very most out of their experience. If the LCD-GX is aimed at the audiophile, the Mobius is geared towards the gamer or media junky wanting various functionality out of their headset while on the go. Like the LCD-GX, the Mobius utilizes planar magnetic drivers that sound great – in fact the same ones that the Audeze Penrose uses as well. Smooth highs, clarity in the mids and tight bass make these a true pleasure to use in any scenario, gaming or not. The soundstage is surprisingly wide for a pair of closed-back headphones. The Mobius has a detachable boom microphone like the Penrose, using the same design but borrowing the same microphone used on the LCD-GX (the Penrose uses a different “broadcast quality” microphone). Personally, I like the detachable design better from a mobile point of view, taking up less space in a bag than an entire extra cable would in the case of the of Audeze LCD-GX.

The versatility of the Audeze Mobius is a strong selling point of the headphone. Being able to use it connected to USB, auxiliary, or Bluetooth offers more options than most headphones on the market today. The wider soundstage on these headphones as mentioned previously really opens up the game world through details and dynamics. I mostly used them in high-quality stereo mode and was completely floored by the quality of the gaming effects that suddenly stood out to me and the definition it brought to the overall mix of the game, effects, music, and dialogue.

There are two main differences here apart from the price between the Mobius and the Penrose. The first of these is the lack of 3D Audio and head tracking on the Audeze Penrose. The Mobius is able to track your head using gyros built into the ear cup design as well as the ability to re-center your stereo audio by turning your head. This is a very neat feature that sets the Mobius apart from the competition, but it's not present on the Penrose. The Penrose omits this feature for one very good reason. Since they are targeting console gamers with the Penrose and Penrose X, it makes absolutely no sense to include head tracking on a headphone where you spend 100% percent of the time staring at a screen right in front of you. There’s just no need for it. So, wisely, they took it out. AND with that omission comes a lower price tag.

The second difference is the ability of the Penrose to transmit audio wirelessly with the included USB wireless adapter. The biggest reason for these is for console compatibility. Gaming consoles use proprietary wireless connections which render regular Bluetooth and wireless devices incompatible unless used with a 3rd party connection device. So in the case of the Penrose, connecting the USB wireless adapter to either a PlayStation or Xbox console will allow you to transmit audio and voice with little to no latency. Also note that the Penrose cannot transmit audio via USB like the Mobius.

In deciding which one might be for you, the Audeze LCD-GX is the most expensive one of the bunch, so if you are considering spending $900 on a gaming headphone then you likely understand the value of the investment. The typical gamer on the other hand probably doesn’t have the kind of disposable income to drop almost a thousand dollars on a pair of headphones, so in that case I’m going to direct them to the Mobius and Penrose. With only a difference of $100, the decision of which to choose is likely going to come down to platform. If you game primarily on consoles, then the obvious choice is the Audeze Penrose since it includes a USB wireless adapter for its specific model’s console (Penrose for the PlayStation and the Penrose X for the Xbox). For all other gaming on Nintendo, PC, Mac, iOS, and Android both Mobius and Penrose would be great choices.

The Mobius is able to track your head using gyros built into the ear cup design as well as the ability to re-center your stereo audio by turning your head. The Penrose omits this feature for one very good reason. Since they are targeting console gamers with the Penrose and Penrose X, it makes absolutely no sense to include head tracking on a headphone where you spend 100% percent of the time staring at a screen right in front of you.


Verdict

The Penrose takes the best things from the Audeze Mobius and makes it even more accessible for the gamers of the world. Yes, a $299 price tag can still be steep for a lot of gamers out there, but in the end it’s a small investment for a huge improvement in your overall gaming experience.

If you’re a console gamer and looking for you next pair of headphones, then I would suggest that the Audeze Penrose is the headphone to beat. Using the same superb drivers as the Mobius, the Penrose sounds like a headphone twice its price. The fact that you can detach the mic, have individualized volume controls on the ear cup, and switch between wireless, auxiliary or Bluetooth audio transmission makes this headphone a proverbial Swiss-army knife for any situation.

The build quality is great, battery life is sufficient, and the sound quality is second to none for a gaming headphone of this caliber. Audeze continues to provide the best sound on the market to gamers all over the world. “GG” Audeze.

GG*: denotes “Good Game” shorthand among gamer terminology. Usually said following a multiplayer match with others in the game. A sign of good sportsmanship.


What's in the Box


Apart from the box art, the packaging is almost identical to the Audeze Mobius. The contents of the box are similar enough as well. The internals are presented nicely with the headphone and USB-A wireless adapter featured prominently at the top. Under the foam lining you’ll find the paperwork and a cardboard box containing the remainder of the contents: detachable boom microphone, windscreen, 3.5mm-3.5mm audio cable, USB-A to USB-C cable, and USB-C to USB-C cable. Check out our unboxing video at the link below.



Package Includes

  • Penrose Wireless Planar Magnetic Headset
  • 2.4GHz Wireless Dongle
  • Detachable Broadcast Quality Microphone
  • USB-A to USB-C Cable
  • 3.5 mm to 3.5 mm Cable
  • Quick Start Guide
  • Warranty Card
  • one year limited warranty

Specifications

Technical Features
  • Style: Over-ear, closed-circumaural
  • Transducer type: Planar Magnetic
  • Magnetic structure: Fluxor™ magnet array
  • Phase management: Fazor
  • Magnet type: Neodymium N50
  • Diaphragm type: Ultra-thin Uniforce™
  • Transducer size: 100 mm
  • Maximum SPL: >120dB
 
  • Frequency response: 10Hz - 50kHz
  • THD: <0.1% (1 kHz, 1mW)
  • Earpads: Contoured memory foam: artificial leather
  • Microphone: Detachable broadcast quality mic
  • Battery type: Lithium-polymer (15hr battery life)
  • Wireless Connection: 2.4 GHz Wireless (16bit/48kHz) + Bluetooth (SBC, AAC)
  • Wired Connection: 3.5mm analog audio, USB-A-to-C charging
  • Weight: 320g (including battery)

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