While most headset manufacturers are weighing up the options between copying Bose and Sony or trying to imagine what an alien’s pair of headphones might look like, Thrustmaster are doing things a bit differently. Always keen to give you the most realistic experience while gaming, whether you’re flying a jumbo jet, or trying to keep a rally car on the twisty and narrow, that desire for realism now extends to what you put on your head.
After their Air Force flavoured T.Flight, the newest addition to their headset line-up is the revamped T.Racing Scuderia Ferrari Edition, with a vibrant red styling that lets you look like you’re taking a quick break from an F1 pit-lane. Whether you’re a racing fan, or you just like the colour red, the Thrustmaster T.Racing is as successfully styled as a Schumacher is good at racing.
The T.Racing isn’t a direct match to the current headsets used by the Ferrari F1 team, but they’re clearly influenced by them. Bright red plastic housing around each earpiece is topped off by the instantly recognisable Ferrari logo, and the proportions and curvature of those earpieces mimics what you can see down the pit lane on a race weekend. There’s also a chunky volume control knob at the top of the left earpiece which is gloriously easy to find in the midst of a hectic gaming session, and that’s all of the controls you’re going to find on the headset itself.
The other controls can be found on the inline controller a short way down the audio cable, which is also fitted with spring section that made me feel a little like I’d got the old home phone I grew up with attached to my head. The dinky little box includes the switch for muting the microphone and a mic volume dial for getting the mix just right. It’s as good for hearing your Forza 7 pit crew natter away as it is for hearing the screams as you let your fireteam down in Destiny 2.
Oddly, despite looking like the type of headphones that are going to protect your ears when you’ve put your head inside an internal combustion engine, they have virtually no passive noise cancellation. Without any audio running through them you can hear the outside world with very little trouble, which is pretty disappointing when you’re expecting the opposite. Listening to music with them on while writing this review, I can hear the clacking of the keys during quieter moments – they’re almost as open as a pair of open-back headphones.
Still, blocking everything out isn’t always what people are looking from in their headphones and the T.Racing benefits from a pleasingly wide soundstage that gives audio room to breathe. The overall audio response is very balanced. There’s no overwhelming bass, while the top end is clear and distinct without becoming too sharp. It’s a solid all-rounder, and while it lacks the magic you’ll experience with the top-end of the gaming spectrum, it’s a good companion for all of your content, particularly in its sub-£100 price bracket.
Gunship’s synthwave tuneage sounded excellent, while an evening of NFL action this past Sunday allowed me to pick out all of the details of the commentary alongside the crunching action. It was of course a prerequisite to test the T.Racing with a batch of racing games and from F1 2020 on Stadia to Forza Horizon 4 the engine sounds, and Horizon’s excellent soundtrack, were perfectly reproduced.
The refreshed T.Racing now includes a one year subscription to DTS Headphone X, giving Xbox and PC players another option on the 3D audio front. Given that you can already make use of either Windows Sonic as standard, or pick up Dolby Atmos access for a single payment, getting a one year unlock feels like a real nickel and dime job, but once you’ve hooked up the DTS Unbound app on your Xbox, it does at least do a good job of recreating a three dimensional audio space.
A few rounds of the excellent Gears 5 Horde mode became even more intense as you can pick out Locust rushing around on your periphery, and it certainly avoids the overly-airy effect some virtual surround offerings produce. Still, I’m not entirely convinced you’ll be renewing the sub after one year.
If you’re going to play a few rounds of whichever multiplayer poison you favour, you’ll be needing a decent microphone and the T.Racing has you covered. For one thing the mic arm is removable – a gold standard in my book – or you can angle it up out of the way. It’s also possibly the strongest flexible mic arm I’ve come across; once you have this thing set it’s not going anywhere. In use the uni-directional microphone picks up exactly what you want it to, providing clear audio for all of those important things you have to say about people’s mums.
It’s a real pleasure to wear the T.Racing thanks to the excellent level of comfort that Thrustmaster have built in. The huge ear cushions are filled with cooling gel – one of my favourite advances in headset technology – and they’re big enough that you won’t experience any unwanted ear pain or pressure. The headband itself is covered with soft leatherette, and while there isn’t a huge piece of foam beneath it, there’s more than enough to keep you playing for many hours.