There’s no concrete set of rules that define what a gaming headset should adhere to. You typically have choices of obnoxiously flashy to considerably posh, and most of them cater to the sensationalism of loudness. For Polk Audio and their Striker Pro Zx Headset though, the idea of unspoiled sound for gaming is equally aspiring, as it is unconventional.
The idea of audiophile-focused gaming is often confused with “more is better”; and if your earpads don’t come saddled with bass boosting, oversized drivers, and virtualized surround sound they’re not with it. Ironically for the uninitiated, this makes the Pro Zx an ‘alt’ choice of premium headsets, and doesn’t entirely conform to the exterior brash that lures in the rabid masses. If you ignore the emerald green hue that make up the stitching and headband highlights the ZX looks rather tame, almost uncharacteristic in its gun metal body. It’s a tidy aluminum frame that’s complimented by light foam padded headband and leatherette earcups for an unusually snug fit, and a nice rubber omnidirectional microphone which is separate and detachable from the main unit.
Either by intended design or constraints the Striker Pro Zx is not wireless. This could be something to whine about if you expect your potential headsets to match your game controller in convenience, but a general rule about good audio is that direct connections contribute to clearer and more accurate sound. Fortunately, you shouldn’t go wanting thanks to included cables from Apple mobile MFi, dual-jack console (Xbox One/PlayStation 4), and a long dual-jack PC cable. Granted, if you can keep yourself from misplacing everything you’re guaranteed compatibility across the board.
This is especially true for the Xbox One, which as many of you know has made the subtle but very welcome switch to a 3.5mm jack for universal headphones and earbuds from the previous proprietary com-link. This should be a problem but they throw in a corresponding adapter for first-generation controllers, we were fortunate enough to test it out and found it works as advertised while keeping your existing gear relevant.
Technically, the default 20Hz-20kHz frequency response, 32 Ohms impedance, and maximum sensitivity of 98 dB @ 126mV will easily handle music. It’ll sound great for classic rock in direct and straightforward fashion, traits that audiophiles widely deem acceptable for very casual listening. These are stereo headphones in the most traditional sense and you suspect that as the Zx is more open towards studio instrumentals rather than bombastic gameplay.
Because they’re billed as gaming headsets though, I did try them on the desktop and all current consoles. And the sound delivery is generally controlled; but enhancements such as surround sound and heightened element of bass aren’t entirely on the short list of niceties. In the well-intentioned pursuit of audiophile quality and believable acoustics, the characteristics exhibit a very balanced midrange with forward treble acting as a buffer to lessen unfavorable harshness.
The flipside to the diminished “drama” of grit and explosions heard is that the microphone is extraordinarily clean for chatting in team-speak, RTS games, and titles with more ambiance, reception is spot-on and in livelier portions of Halo 5: Guardians and Need for Speed it was easier to interpret where the action was coming from.
For $150, the Polk Striker Pro Zx Headset focuses on clarity by not succumbing to neon-lit flamboyancy, and offers sound that’s mature in nature. These aren’t the most theatrical gaming headphones out there, but we respect the effort in bringing sophisticated quality to more distinguished gamers.