In front of our media centers, the hardest thing to get around is keeping the sound down. Why bother buying a great surround sound system if you can’t use it? Then again, other people in the house have this nasty habit of sleeping, especially when a good movie is on or a heavy gaming session is underway.

What do you do? Turn down the sound to inaudible levels, or get a headset with wires spreading across your living room, adding yet another gizmo to clutter your media center. It seems like a lose-lose. What to do.

That’s why Logitech’s F540 is an ingenious – and frankly very late – concept. Not only are the F540’s built for use with your TV, they also work with the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. Better yet, it can connect to all three simultaneously, without the need to switch cables.

In the past, all headsets were required to plug into a single audio source, like the Xbox 360, for instance. If you want to switch to an alternate console, or TV, you had to unplug the headset from the Xbox 360, plug back the speaker cables, unplug the same speaker cables for your TV or other console, and plug in your headset. Besides having way too much room for error, undergoing the entire process just doesn’t seem worth it. And having tested many wired headsets, I can safely say that it’s no fun, and even having the clutter of multiple headsets is more convenient than constantly switching all those cables.

The F540 does away with that in one artistic motion, thanks to a set-top box that connects to three separate devices simultaneously. On the back, Logitech labels all inputs, which shows what console each belongs to, so there’s no room for error. That set-top box has two sets of standard RCA inputs, and the Playstation 3 section includes a USB input for voice chat. An auxiliary input sits at the far end for use with a TV or any other device, like a Wii, media player, etc. One final USB port sits at the front of the box, for charging the wireless headset.

That’s right; the F540 is completely and entirely wireless. The sound streams from your console of choice, or TV, and sends the signal from the set-top box to the headset anywhere up to 30 feet (in testing, it went farther, like the G930s). And it works great, offering not only wireless sound coming in, but also communication going out.

Both the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 have restrictions when it comes to hardware, and Logitech has found a simple, non-intrusive way to ensure their headset works on both consoles, simultaneously, as well as any other device. The included instructions break down exactly how users can set their consoles to work perfectly without unhooking them from your current speaker system, which is just phenomenal. All the necessary wires and cables are included, so anyone who owns both an Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 will suddenly have the easiest solution to gaming with a headset.

However, this simplicity comes at a price. The F540s is only a stereo headset, meaning it does not support surround sound gaming. This is a hardware issue, one that Logitech could not get around without making the wiring more complicated. Still, it’s a shame that a headset that, for all intents and purposes, is identical to the lauded G930s, but lacks surround sound, one of the G930s best qualities.

Yet as the most convenient sound system I’ve ever seen, the F540s are certainly here to stay. Ten hour battery life has proven excellent. They are comfortable to wear for hours at a time. For Xbox 360 gamers, one wire is required, from the controller to the headset, and it’s small and possibly easy to lose. Since most peripherals today do not use 2.5mm audio cables, Logitech would have benefitted from imbedding the cable into the headset, though on the other hand, doing so could make audio quality suffer.

The headset itself is nearly identical to the G930. Instead of programmable buttons and one volume scroll wheel, a second scroll wheel has been added to adjust microphone volume. Both wheels are very insensitive, and it takes a lot of scrolling to make a significant change to the volume. The charging port sits next to the Xbox 360 microphone port on the left can, and an input button, which changes the device currently sending a signal to the F540s, sits below the power button.

As an over-the-ear headset, the F540s are by design noise cancelling. Turning the volume high on the headset, however, adds a lot of static, so it’s recommended for users to change the volume on their connected media centers/TVs first, and only then adjusting the headset volume. The adjustable microphone boom is also very convenient, automatically muting when pushed up.

That input button is surprisingly helpful, especially if you’re using the picture-in-picture setting on your TV. Switching between multiple devices is as simple as pushing the button. The set-top box automatically reads which devices are sending a signal, and switches between them instantly.

For simplicity and convenience, the F540 is the best media center solution available. Long battery life, great comfort and solid sound quality are almost secondary, yet Logitech has it all. All, except for surround sound, which may ultimately keep some gamers from buying it. That and the price point, at $150, just $10 shy of the G930s, which is surround. Still, there’s no better way to keep your media center clean, clear, and easy to use.

Logitech has it for $149.99



James Pikover

 
Spawned in the horrendous heat of a Los Angeles winter, James was born with an incessant need to press buttons. Whether it was the car radio, doorbells on Halloween or lights, James pushed, pressed and prodded every button. No elevator was left unscathed, no building intercom was left un-rung, and no person he’s known has been left un-annoyed.