Everybody's trying to get a piece of the Nintendo Wii. More and more new products are trying to become Wii-centric, framing themselves as vital accessories for Nintendo's system. Even if the product's relation to video games is tenuous at best, companies still want the Wii name on the package. Take the Turtle Beach Ear Force W3 wireless headphones. The company touts how they're "designed specifically for your active movements while playing Nintendo's new flagship console." But they'll actually work with any stereo audio source that offers standard red and white RCA jacks.
The Ear Force W3 consists of the headphones themselves and a transmitter. About the size of a VHS tape, the transmitter base station connects to the audio source--Wii or otherwise--with passthrough plugs. That means you can connect it to anything without breaking your existing connections--the source device can remain linked to your TV or AV receiver speakers. Once the transmitter is set up, just put the AAA battery into the headphones, and you're ready to go. Audio signals are sent from the transmitter to the headphones via infrared beams, so you'll want to maintain a line of sight with the transmitter--it can't be hidden away in a cabinet or set too low in your AV rack. Otherwise, the sound will turn to static and then go silent.
We were concerned that the headphones' infrared transmission might interfere with the Wii's own wireless remote and sensor bar, which also uses IR beams. Fortunately, we didn't encounter any problems, and as long as you keep the transmitter and the Wii's sensor bar a respectable distance from each other, you probably won't, either.
As indicated, while the Ear Force W3 headphones are marketed as a Wii accessory, they can be used with any device that uses a stereo audio output. Instead of just listening to your Wii games, you can watch television, DVDs, or even Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 games with the headphones, or go for audio-only CD or radio listening. (Xbox 360 users will probably want to consider instead Turtle Beach's own Ear Force X3 headphones, which are still wireless, but include a boom microphone for communicating on Xbox Live.)
The headphones themselves utilize the "street style" around the back of the head look, and they're designed to stay put while you're gesticulating wildly during any one of the Wii's more physically oriented games. While they stay put, they're not the most comfortable 'phones in the world, however--you might not want to wear them for longer than a couple of hours at a time.
The Ear Force W3s sound surprisingly good--when you consider that they're available for under $60. Music and movies both came through clear on the headphones, which can be cranked up to a decent (but not excessive) volume. They're not for audiophiles, though; discriminating listeners will want to invest in one of the many impressive luxury models available, such as the Pioneer SE-DIR800C--just be prepared to pay a corresponding premium for the improved quality. And don't expect the Pioneers and their ilk to stay planted on your noggin while you're gaming on the Wii.
There's really just one big mystery about these headphones: Who's really playing the Wii in an environment where they can't have the TV volume turned up? Not only do we pity the poor kid (or adult) who's being forced to play the Wii without making a peep, we wonder what they're playing--since the most fun games on the Nintendo console tend to be group-oriented titles (Wii Sports). That said, if you're looking for a serviceable pair of wireless headphones for the Wii--or anything else--the Turtle Beach Ear Force W3s fit the bill nicely.