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With the Striker Pro Zx, Polk has its sights set on the gamer with a discerning ear. This "audiophile grade" headset features custom drivers built to deliver rich, engrossing sound, all packed into a stylish, premium design that could be mistaken for a dedicated pair of headphones. Polk even throws in separate cables for your console, PC and mobile needs. The highly versatile Striker Pro Zx offers impressively immersive sound, though its booming bass and somewhat snug fit might not be for everyone.
Polk's high-end audio expertise spills over every inch of the Striker Pro Zx, which is easily one of the most attractive gaming headsets I've used. The Pro's slick charcoal design is offset by pleasant streaks of emerald green, which run through the headset's inner headband, inner ear cups and audio cables. If you opt for the PlayStation-minded P1 model, you'll get red highlights instead.
The headset's rectangular ear cups can be adjusted about an inch up or down, and can swivel 90 degrees for when you need to lay them flat. Holding the cups together is a sturdy metal band, which makes the Pro feel particularly premium.
The Striker Pro's rubber microphone is highly flexible and fully removable — with the mic detached, the Pro morphs into an elegant pair of headphones I'd be happy to flaunt on the subway.
I found the original Striker to be uncomfortably tight — a criticism that Polk seems to have taken head-on with the Pro model. The headset's once-shallow ear cups are now far more spacious, complete with a thick layer of pleather padding that felt nice around my head. Adding to the comfort is the Pro's faux-leather headband cover, which kept the top of my dome from getting sore.
Despite the Pro's vastly improved level of comfort, I still found the headset to be a little snug. I got used to the cans over time, but I found myself adjusting the cups and taking breaks to give my admittedly big ears some air — especially early on. The $129 Plantronics Rig Flex LX was far easier on my ears, but it also let much more outside noise in.
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This difference in comfort could be partly due to the fact that the 11.2-ounce Pro is moderately heavy for a gaming headset. The original Striker is just 8.3 ounces, while the Rig Flex LX is a fairly light 9.6 ounces.
Gaming Audio Performance
The Striker Pro is billed as an "audiophile grade" gaming headset, and while I'm not sure if its audio quality crushes that of other headsets in its price range, it certainly sounds great.
The Pro's impressive clarity and directionality proved to be especially crucial when I was playing Rainbow Six: Siege, a tactical shooter in which not properly hearing the enemy can lead to instant death. I was consistently able to get the jump on my adversaries by hearing where they were walking, talking and shooting from, and the sounds of rattling assault rifles and exploding bombs were thoroughly satisfying.
The Pro also held up well for the up-close brawls of Mortal Kombat X as well as the moody action-adventuring of Batman: Arkham Knight. Mortal Kombat's punches and kicks sounded appropriately meaty, and I heard an unsettling level of squishy detail as I shot an arrow through my opponent's brain. Arkham Knight's combat sounded similarly impactful, and every atmospheric detail, from the ruffling of Batman's cape to the police sirens ringing in the background, came through clearly.
Polk's gaming headset doubles as a dependable pair of music headphones — if you love gobs of bass. While the bass in rock tracks from bands like Fall Out Boy and The Wonder Years sounded thick and full, it sometimes overpowered the other instruments. The Striker Pro fared far better for thumping hip-hop tracks such as Kendrick Lamar's "King Kunta," in which bouncy bass is the main driving force of the song.
Overall, I found that the Rig Flex LX offers a better mix of highs, mids and lows than the Striker Pro. However, the Pro's deep bass and noise-isolating design were better for immersing me in my game, whereas the Flex LX's more breathable ear cups prioritized comfort for long sessions.
Compatibility and Microphone
The Striker Pro includes three separate audio cables that you can swap out at will, ensuring you can use the headset with just about any device. There's a console connection cable for Xbox One and PlayStation 4 controllers, a mobile cable with an inline microphone and a PC connection cable with dedicated headphone and microphone jacks. I was particularly impressed by the inclusion of the latter, as dual-jack connections are usually found only on dedicated PC headsets.
The Striker Pro Zx includes an Xbox One audio adapter, which connects to the bottom of your controller and lets you adjust master volume, balance game and chat volume, and mute the mic. While the adapter that came with my particular Pro felt a little stiff when I plugged it in and tried to remove it, I found it easier to attach the more I used it. The accessory's controls were easy to reach with my thumb, and were responsive in changing the volume and muting the mic.
I used the Striker Pro's detachable rubber mic to chat with a friend on PS4, and he said that I came through incredibly clear. When I switched on the optional inline mic boost, my friend noticed that I was louder, but only by a little.
The Polk Striker Pro starts at $129 for the P1 model, which packs all of the features I mentioned above except the Xbox One audio adapter. There's also a Contract Edition of this config that sports a white-and-black aesthetic inspired by the Hitman game franchise.
The $149 Striker Pro Zx model that we reviewed essentially adds the Xbox One audio adapter for an extra $20. (Microsoft's own adapter costs $25.) However, if you already have an adapter or have a newer Xbox One game pad with a built-in audio jack, you can probably do without the extra accessory.
The $149 Polk Striker Pro Zx offers a premium experience for its premium price, providing clear, bass-heavy audio and comfy faux-leather ear cups within a stylish design. Its removable mic allows for crisp game chat, and its three swappable cables make it a cinch to use on your PC, mobile device or console controller of choice.
If you don't need an Xbox One audio adapter (or can live without the color green), you should check out the Striker Pro P1, which offers the same great sound for a cheaper $129. Alternatively, you could spend that $129 on the Plantronics Rig Flex LX, which offers superior audio controls, nicely balanced sound, and a lighter, cozier design better suited for marathon competitive gaming sessions. Still, if you prefer immersive sound and an attractive design to all-day comfort, the Striker Pro satisfies.
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Mike Andronico is Senior Writer at CNNUnderscored. He was formerly Managing Editor at Tom's Guide, where he wrote extensively on gaming, as well as running the show on the news front. When not at work, you can usually catch him playing Street Fighter, devouring Twitch streams and trying to convince people that Hawkeye is the best Avenger.