Sony PULSE 3D Wireless Headset Hands-on
Hearing the pin drop
Alongside the launch of the new PlayStation 5 console, Sony also released some new accessories to entice fans. The most obvious of course is the new DualSense wireless controller, which we have already extensively covered in our PS5 review. But there are other officially tied peripherals as well, namely the PS5 HD Camera, PS5 Media Remote, and the Sony PULSE 3D Wireless Headset. Together with the new console and the launch game lineup, we had a chance to try out the new wireless headset.
The PULSE 3D Wireless Headset retails for $100 USD / $130 CAD. It comes in a clean package that is very much in style with the PS5's box. Inside the retail pack you will find the headset itself, the wireless adapter, a USB cable, and an analog audio cable. It's a pretty standard retail package, and the price is competitive with other mid to high-end gaming oriented headsets on the market.
The headset again does a good job of looking slick and matching the PS5 console design, with a black and white color scheme, and smooth design curves. Sony was smart to ensure that the shape of the headset allows it to fit very well overtop of the PS VR headset. The design features no movable parts, and instead there's just an elastic headband strap that allows for some flexibility and automatic fit adjustment based on your head. This approach is quite reminiscent of the design that the Steelseries Arctis headsets use, though in those products the headbands are adjustable. The ear cups are made of a sort of leather-like material, and time will tell how much longevity it has against wear and tear. The dimensions are fairly typical, at 190 x 213 x 91 mm, and the headset doesn’t feel very heavy, at 0.3kg.
When it comes to comfort, any item that must be worn – such as a headset or earbuds – will have varying degrees of comfort depending on the user, your body features, and personal preferences. So while we can say that the PULSE 3D Headset is decently comfortable, that may not be the case for others. One thing we can agree on is that because there are no adjustable features, it will be a clear answer whether you find it comfortable or not. This also means that initially, there will be a break-in period for the headset to stretch out and adjust to the shape of your head, so the first few hours and days it may feel tight. On the other hand, less adjustable parts means less movable components that can break overtime - though it is still all made of plastic. Because of the leather-like material and on-ear design, some fans may find it to be hot after extended use. The length of your gaming sessions will be determined by the battery life, and in our testing the promised 12 hour life was pretty close to the truth, after fully charging it via the USB Type-C port.
Even after using the headset for a number of days or weeks, it will take time to learn its controls. Everything is positioned on the back of your left ear cup, and grouped tightly together, which leads to some required memorization of which button does what by muscle memory. There's the microphone mute button, which pops out slightly so you can feel when it's engaged as it sits flush to the headphone. Also back there is a master volume rocker, and the mixer between in-game audio and party chat. There's even the useful mic monitoring button so you can hear yourself if preferred. All of these are good functions to have, but it's a lot to remember and recognize by the tips of your fingers. At least putting some of these controls on the other ear cup would have been helpful.
The headset comes with a pair of built-in microphones that promise noise-cancelling features. Through our testing, we found the quality of the conversational audio to be a mixed bag – sometimes the friends in the party chat reported fairly muffled sound and certainly not very clear. The issue also seems to occur more frequently on PC, and so while serviceable, don't expect the audio to be great when there is no dedicated mic arm/boom that goes in front of your mouth.
We're by no means audiophiles, so just like the comfort levels, our impressions of the quality of the audio that the headset produces may not match everyone's. As the name implies, this is a 3D headset, meaning it is capable of producing great surround sound landscapes and helping you pinpoint exactly where the action is happening. In our testing with officially-endorsed games, such as Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Astro's Playroom, the headset did a very good job of creating those effects and helping identify the positional source of the sound. In shooters, where such benefits are most likely to be critical, the headset again performed well, like hearing and approximating the enemy position in Call of Duty Warzone. The PS5 does the 3D production inside the console itself, with its Tempest 3D AudioTech, so exclusive games are the most likely to take advantage of it.
Because the console does the audio processing, the PULSE 3D headset isn’t really required. Any 3D capable headset that works with the PS5 console via a dongle or the 3.5mm jack will be able to take advantage of the audio features. Conversely, the PULSE 3D headset is also compatible with the PS4 and PC/Mac, making it a flexible offering if you find it comfortable and want to use it elsewhere.
The Sony PULSE 3D Wireless Headset is a decent offering. Its slick style and appearance makes it an obvious companion to the PS5, and the easy PS VR fit also helps. As with any wearable and audio tech, the comfort levels and satisfaction with the quality of sound will vary from person to person. The 3D audio does seem to work well, and the added choice to also use this headset with PC/Mac/PS4 helps extend its usefulness. The mic quality can be hit and miss, and time will tell how well this unit holds up against wear and tear – the non-adjustable design should help avoid minor issues, but the leather-like ear cups can be warm, and possibly easy to rip. The controls also take time getting used to, but they work well. Overall, the headset offers good value and is feature competitive with other 3D headsets on the market, so the choice will likely come down to your personal preferences.
Disclaimer: Sony has provided a headset review unit to New Game Network for coverage purposes.