Written by Chrono
Review unit provided by Audeze
Recently I had the opportunity to spend some time with Audeze’s premium gaming headset, the Mobius. As a multimedia headphone, I really enjoyed the Mobius, as it had great multi-platform compatibility, an enjoyable tuning and remarkably good technical performance for a gaming headset--even in Bluetooth wireless mode! However, as a gaming headset--which was its intended use--it personally fell a bit flat for me.
This is not to say that I did not appreciate the features that the Mobius offered, however, the Mobius ultimately left me wanting for a headset experience that was more focused and streamlined for the application of gaming--and that’s where the Penrose steps in.
The Penrose, which retails for $299 ($100 less than the Mobius), is the latest addition to Audeze’s line-up of gaming headsets. At a glance, the Penrose may look a lot like the Mobius, and that’s because it essentially is. After all, both headsets use the same chassis, and are utilizing an 100mm planar transducer with Audeze’s Fazor magnet waveguide technology.
The difference between them? Well, let’s find out together as we take a look at the Penrose and draw some comparisons to the Mobius!
The Penrose comes packaged alongside a nice array of accessories, the first of which are three different cables. There is a USB-C to USB-A charging, a USB-C to USB-C charging cable, and a 3.5mm to 3.5mm aux cable for use with laptops, tablets, and other mobile devices. Then, there is the USB dongle for 2.4GHz wireless, which is meant for use with game consoles, PCs, as well as MacOS systems. Lastly, there is of course the Penrose’s microphone, which is attachable via a 3.5mm port on the front side of the headset.
The microphone included with the Penrose seems to be different than the one included with the Mobius. The microphone isn’t actually as nasally as the one on the Mobius, and it has some decent low-end to make the user’s voice more natural. However, overall the Mobius’ microphone sounds significantly clearer, which I believe is a result of it using less compression, and due to the fact that it’s wired. Nonetheless, the Microphone on the Penrose is perfectly serviceable for most applications and is on the better side for wireless headset mics; I just wouldn’t recommend using it as a primary microphone in, for example, streaming or broadcasting.
Build and Comfort
As mentioned earlier, the Penrose’s build is nearly identical to that of the Mobius, with the only difference being the Penrose’s color scheme; which is black and blue for PlayStation 4|5, and green for Xbox One/Xbox Series X|S. Like the Mobius, though, the chassis on the Penrose feels robust despite the almost entirely plastic construction, and it remains lightweight at only 320g (which is actually 30g lighter than the Mobius!).
As for comfort--and this should come as no surprise--the Penrose is pretty similar to the Mobius, so my comments will remain fairly unchanged. The build is lightweight and shouldn’t be fatiguing most listeners, whilst the angled pads provide a good amount of room for the user’s ears. One difference I did notice, though (and this could be specific to the two units I have with me), is that the Penrose has a slightly softer clamp force, which made them more comfortable to wear for me in prolonged listening sessions.
I still wish the headband used a split pad design to more adequately distribute the weight and pressure up-top, but this isn’t really a major concern, and for the most part the Penrose is an all-around comfortable wear.
One of my criticisms of the Mobius was that it had maybe too many features, with some of them overlapping and making others redundant (such as the 7.1 surround sound vs. 3D Audio), whilst also making onboard controls feel cluttered. What Audeze has done with the Penrose, then, is that they’ve stripped back the features that were not as relevant for gaming and have added new ones that make them more beneficial and easier to use for that application.
On the left ear cup controls have been greatly simplified, with most buttons and wheels no longer having more than two commands tied to them. On the rear side of the cup there are two volume wheels, with the top one controlling master volume, and the second controlling mic sidetone volume as well as Game Chat mix adjustment for PlayStation and Xbox Consoles. On the front side of the cup, the Mobius’s 3D button has been replaced by a multi-function button on the Penrose that cycles through the different sources (wireless/bluetooth/aux) and the wireless dongle pairing. Lastly, there is a mic-mute toggle switch and the power button, which doubles up as a bluetooth pairing button, and a pause/play button.
Then there’s what’s undoubtedly the Penrose's primary feature, which is its 2.4GHz wireless functionality in addition to its bluetooth support. This is a significant change from the Mobius, which relied solely on Bluetooth for usage in wireless mode. The Penrose’s use of a 2.4GHz band overcomes the latency issues that the mobius had when used in its Bluetooth mode, and now allows the Penrose to be suitable for usage even in online competitive games without the need for a wired connection. During my time with the Penrose, I had zero communication issues between the headset and the dongle; there were no audio dropouts, and no latency that I could sincerely notice. I should also note that the Penrose can play Bluetooth and wireless audio at the same time, which was not possible on the Mobius. So, for example, you could play music from your phone whilst listening to game audio streamed from your PC or console.
Lastly, for power the Penrose has a pretty healthy 15-hour battery life, and it’s Audeze HQ enabled, which allows you to edit and save the headset’s EQ when connected via USB to a PC or Mac, or on a mobile device.
Despite coming in at a lower price point, I find that the Penrose delivers better performance for gaming than the Mobius, and I believe that this is due to the Penrose’s tuning, which is quite different from that of the mobius. Whilst the Mobius is a very warm-sounding headphone, the Penrose instead has a slightly counter clockwise tilt to its tonality. It leans more towards the brighter side, and I think that this makes for one of the best default tunings I’ve heard for games like Call of Duty, PUBG, and CSGO.
Whilst I usually associate Audeze headphones with weighty and deep bass responses, the Penrose’s bass region is surprisingly subdued, which I think is very helpful for keeping the bass from becoming distracting and it helps in keeping the mix clean. It does have some slight swelling in the upper bass around 200-250hz, but it doesn’t really feel all that intrusive and I find that it just helps in still giving the low tones of sound cues like explosions and gunshots more presence.
As for the mids, the Penrose has some interesting quirks as it moves into the upper midrange that I found helped in propelling forward sound cues like weapon reloads and footsteps to the forefront of the mix. To me there seemed to be a noticeable emphasis at around 1KHz and 3-4KHz, which really heightened the presence region’s energy and put the upper midrange as the focus of the Penrose’s frequency response.
Lastly there is the treble range, which whilst mostly even, does have a pretty distinct boost at around 8KHz. This boost, I think, is great for FPS games because by highlighting the overtones and mid-treble bite of the various game sounds, the Penrose really brings out the sounds cues that are crucial for online competitive game players to detect.
Soundstage and Imaging
Unlike the Mobius, the Penrose is a strictly-stereo headset with no DSP surround sound, or 3D audio technology. Still, I found that the Penrose delivered decent performance when it came it came to its spatial qualities.
The lack of a 3D mode made the Penrose’s soundstage feel drastically narrower and more intimate than that of the Mobius. However, when comparing both headsets in stereo mode I felt as though (perhaps due to its FR) the Penrose felt just slightly less confined than the Mobius. Its imaging also seemed a tad bit cleaner, and surprisingly precise for a closed-back, planar magnetic headphone. For its left-right localization I found the Penrose to perform better than other wireless gaming headsets like the Astro A50 and Steelseries Arctis Pro, and better than some wired counterparts like the HiFiMan Sundara, or Sennheiser HD 600-series headphones. So, determining the location from which sound originated was very easy on the Penrose, and made them suitable for FPS games, where the directionality of sound plays an important part in the user’s awareness.
It’s not as important for gaming, but I do think that it’s worth mentioning that the Penrose possesses that distinct planar advantage in its instrument separation and layering, creating more depth than what you’d find on most dynamic-driver headphones--especially in this price range.
Overall Music Listening Performance
When I reviewed the Mobius, one of the things I found ironic was that it didn’t actually perform all that great for gaming, but it was outstanding for music listening, as it competed squarely both in tonality and technical performance with many of the high-end, wired headphones in this price range.
For technical performance, I believe that this remains true for the Penrose as well. It delivers a remarkably good sense of clarity and detail retrieval that matches that of the Mobius and headphones like the Sundara; which is very impressive for a wireless headset. As I mentioned in the section above, its soundstage--despite not conveying the greatest sense of space--has precise imaging, with very good depth and image distinction. Additionally, the Penrose (and Mobius) has good dynamics, which add a satisfying sense of punch and slam in the lows as well as some tactility up-top that keep the listening experience engaging.
Now, there are two different aspects of the Penrose that I think could use some improvement for music listening, and the first one is actually in its tonality. I love the Penrose’s tuning for gaming, and it’s still good for music, but it does have some unevenness throughout the range, particularly in the mid and treble regions.
Looking again at the midrange, when listening to music it comes across for me as being maybe a bit too forward as a result of that 3-4KHz emphasis in the presence region, and it did tend to make vocals as well as instruments like electric guitars just a bit harsh or shouty. Then there is also the 1KHz rise I mentioned earlier, which although fairly subtle, does have a slight impact on the Penrose’s timbre, making it sound a little boxy or nasally. Moving on to the treble range again, there is the boost 8KHz region which places a stress on consonant sounds and results in some mid-treble sibilance, which could be slightly fatiguing in longer music-listening sessions. Of course this can be adjusted via EQ, which is available on the Audeze HQ software, but for those who aren’t comfortable with making their own EQ profiles I thought it was worth mentioning.
The second thing I wanted to mention was the Penrose’s white noise. This was something that bothered me on the Mobius, and the background hiss on the Penrose is actually more present. This proved to be quite distracting when listening to music with very quiet passages, such as solo piano or solo classical guitar performances, or when I was simply talking to friends on Discord. I don’t really know if it’s possible, but I hope that this is something that can be remedied via a future firmware update (latest firmware version that I could find was 0.1.5).
Chrono’s Audeze HQ EQ Profile
- 250Hz filter, -1dB
- 1KHz filter, -2dB
- 4KHz filter, -2dB
- 8KHz filter, -3dB
As a gaming headset, I think that the Penrose is truly outstanding. In both its features and tuning, Audeze really did a fantastic job in reworking the great headset that they had in the Mobius, and further optimizing it for gaming. Now, I acknowledge that $300 is a lot to ask for a gaming headset, but honestly in terms of sound quality it’s leaps ahead of any of the other wireless gaming headset I’ve heard from Astro, Turtlebeach, Steelseries, or HyperX. As a multimedia headphone, then, it still has the great cross-platform compatibility that the Mobius had, solid technical performance, and with just a touch of EQ the Penrose is--like the Mobius--the best wireless, high-end audio headphone I’ve heard; I just really hope that Audeze finds a way to fix the white noise issues present in the headset.
Where does this leave the Mobius? Well, at least for me personally, the Penrose is every bit as good in its performance as the Mobius, and as someone who is enthusiastic about using EQ, the Penrose’s tonality was not really a big concern. Additionally, with the Penrose you get the option of gaming wirelessly with no perceivable latency, and slightly better comfort thanks to the reduced weight and softer clamp force. The only reasons I can think of for going to the Mobius over the Penrose are if you don’t like using EQ (the Mobius has multiple good EQ profiles built-in), if you want 3D audio for more immersive open-world or movie-watching experiences, or if you really can’t stand the more gamer aesthetic that comes with the Penrose. Either way, I don't think you can really go wrong as these are both amazing headsets, and I look forward to checking out what future wireless-goodness Audeze is cooking up!
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