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Xbox Series Wireless Headset Review

Next to the Series X, it looks the part with a touch of glossy green detailing around the ear cup dials, covered in matte black plastic. The little holes in the recessed areas between the faux leather ear pads and the dials seem to be there just for cosmetic reasons, but it looks fantastic nevertheless. And while I wish this model had a bungee-style headband and swiveling ear cups like most SteelSeries headsets, not having these features didn’t equate to comfort issues here. In addition to how the headset looks, its functionality is similar to the Surface Headphones, with twistable dials on the outside of each ear cup for adjusting elements of the audio.

The left dial acts as a chat and game audio mixer, so you can tune your playmates down a bit during a dialogue-heavy cutscene or vice versa. Most gaming headsets require days of continued use to fully learn their respective button layouts, but this one’s dead simple.

During my tests, I listened to Spotify, and the music sounded good enough to stick with this headset instead of automatically reaching for my Sony 1000XM3s. The soundtrack and all of the various hellish sound effects have an adequate amount of crunch and punch, and I was head-banging to the music while I played.

When there’s a lot happening in the mid and high frequencies, the sound can lack clarity if you’re listening closely. Microsoft claims 15 hours per charge, and both times I ran the non-replaceable battery down during testing, it lasted for about that long. There are three levels (low, medium, and high), and Microsoft says each step up will increase how aggressively the mic mutes things that aren’t your voice. Two other small but cool features in the Xbox Accessories app let you tweak how bright the mute light is, making it easier to see in your peripheral vision.

Up until now, the $150 Razer Kaira Pro was the Xbox-specific headset I told people to get because it’s comfortable, and it supports Bluetooth in addition to the Xbox Wireless protocol. Microsoft’s new Xbox Wireless headset is well ahead of that model in terms of design, ease of use, and functionality — all in a more affordable package.

If Microsoft is to be judged compared to Sony on how well it designed a headset to accompany its latest consoles — as it inevitably will be — this one handily edges out the Pulse 3D even though they’re the same price. Sony’s model is comfortable and looks equally dashing next to the console it was made for, and it has a 3.5mm headphone jack and 3D Audio support in its court.

Microsoft Xbox Wireless Headset review

The ear pads are thick, and covered in soft leatherette, which makes for a decent seal, but the headband is very tight. After a few days of consistent use, it either loosened or my head got used to it, and the discomfort went away—regardless, expect a breaking-in period if you have a slightly larger noggin. You can use the app to switch between EQ presets, adjust mic monitoring volume, and even check the battery level. However, if you’re a PC gamer, and you’ve decided this is the headset for you, you’ll have to buy an Xbox Wireless Adapter, which runs for around $25 USD. This has been the status quo for a long time now, but it’s still ridiculous to need to spend that much more money just to let your headset work wirelessly on your computer. However, this Xbox gaming headset is a little less hamstrung by its connection method than most, offering a few alternative options if you don’t want to pay the dongle toll. For starters, the headset supports wired audio via its USB-C port, so you can plug it into your PC to charge and continue to use it. Once you’ve sufficiently broken in the headset, it’s comfortable enough for long gaming sessions, though still pretty tight.

The headset’s big volume knob makes adjusting your audio on the fly a cinch, which is great if you’re doing something you can’t pause. The headset handles the mix of orchestral music and hectic in-game sound of Final Fantasy XIV on PC without any issue, and everything comes through similarly clearly playing a shooter like Apex Legends. The headset doesn’t offer much in the way of bells and whistles, but it supports Windows Sonic surround sound, which as well here as anywhere else. The increased mid-range output means nobody’s voice will struggle to come through, but you may that high-range sounds are occasionally pretty hard to hear in bass-heavy moments.

This increased mid-range response should ensure dialogue or players over voice chat don’t get totally lost amid the din of battle. Basically, you shouldn’t have any issues most of the time, but you might find it a little hard to differentiate between sounds when things get really hectic. It still looks like a gaming headset, but avoids a lot of the gaudier design elements typical of the product category, which means with won’t stick out in a work Zoom call. Headsets like the Razer BlackShark V2 and HyperX Cloud Alpha work everywhere (including Xbox Series X/S) and are better in almost every way—you won’t even need to recharge these ones. The Razer Kaira Pro and SteelSeries Arctis 9 (there’s a specific Xbox version) both offer better audio, microphone, battery life, and Bluetooth experiences, and they’re both very comfortable.

Xbox Wireless Headset Review

As our unit came with a trial of this app that would expire, we marked Virtual Surround as ‘Windows Sonic Spatial Audio’ since this headset is compatible with it out-of-the-box, and it’s also free to use.

Xbox Wireless Headset Review

The earcups and headband are a bit stiff at first, but once the headphones are fitted to your head size, the Xbox Wireless Headset feels lightweight and comfortable. The big, flat circles on each earcup are large, smoothly spinning dials that act as the headset’s primary controls. The left earcup’s back edge houses a small, green button that functions as both power and pairing. Between the lower bitrate limiting the audio quality and the Bluetooth connection’s higher latency, you should purchase the $25 Xbox Wireless Adapter if you plan to use the headset with your PC. However, these adjustments only work with Xbox consoles or a USB-C connection to a Windows 10 computer; you can’t make tweaks over Bluetooth. Your voice will likely come through better over your Xbox than your PC with Bluetooth, which means the microphone isn’t exactly well-suited for recording or streaming.

It handled our bass test track, The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” at maximum (and unsafe) volume without any distortion. Switching to another preset, such as Movie or Music, through the Xbox Accessories app helped tone down the rumble and give the game a more pleasant balance. The Windows Sonic simulated surround processing on the console gives a good sense of directionality for higher frequency sound effects, with accurate left-right panning.

You won’t pinpoint the demons’ exact locations, especially if the bass overshadows the other sound effects, but you’ll get a good sense of their general directions. Fortnite also sounds good on the Xbox Wireless Headset, with even better directionality (thanks to a soundtrack that isn’t nearly as overwhelmingly thumpy as Doom Eternal’s). Weapon exchanges pack plenty of power, and the hum and whine of nearby loot boxes can be clearly distinguished from other sounds.

By default, the headset significantly boots the soundtrack’s low frequencies, which takes attention away from the beautiful melodies and atmospheric sounds. For just $99.99, it offers powerful sound and a lightweight, comfortable fit, with helpful audio customization options via the Xbox Accessories app. If you want to primarily use the headset with your PC, you should consider other options that don’t rely on Bluetooth and include their own wireless adapters, like the Astro Gaming A20 or Razer Nari Essential. Remembers multiple wireless signals View More Cons Bluetooth lacks high-end audio codecs

Xbox Wireless Headset Review

The Xbox Wireless Headset is a solid workhorse thanks to a couple of really smart design ideas and better-than-average sound. While it won’t scare any high-end home theater headset rivals, it’s a strong and versatile mid-level pick for day-to-day Xbox use. Fashioned in black molded plastic with just a splash of Xbox green on the cans, the blend of slim, sharp edges on the top band with the not-quite concentric circles of the outer earcups and ear padding create a striking look that’s simultaneously sleek and spacious.

Purchasing Guide The Xbox Wireless Headset will be available for $99.99 starting March 16, 2021, at the Microsoft digital store and other retailers, including Amazon.

Given their positions and shapes, you’d never mistake one control for another once you know where everything should be, which makes them infinitely more useful than the vast majority of onboard headset controls.The microphone, meanwhile, has some ups and downs. Though it mitigates some softer noises, it failed to keep out many of the incidental sounds that might accidentally disrupt playing, even on the highest of three settings.

These kinds of little touches make the headset feel like a more profound upgrade on console than on PC.Battery life is a bit of a weak spot, though. Clean and clearly laid out, the app allows you to adjust the headset’s levels, either using a series of presets or making your own, though you can’t save custom profiles.

You can also activate auto-mute and mic monitoring, or adjust the microphone indicator lighting.Depending on how you approach it, the app is either anemic or a breath of fresh air.

Even with a few blatant oversights – for example: if there’s an input test on my Elite: Series 2 controller, shouldn’t there be a microphone sound check for the headset? Like many budget and mid-range headsets, it delivers a bass-heavy soundscape that packs a real punch when the grenades go off and things get explosive in, say, Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War. In Call of Duty, I could discern the directionality of footsteps, and locate an enemy based on the sound of a bullet sailing past my head.

Xbox Wireless Headset review

We’d expect to pay triple the price to experience this sort of sound quality, particularly from a wireless headset, though there is a caveat you need to bear in mind. We found that to get the most out of these headphones, you’ll need to spend time tweaking the EQ in the Xbox Accessories app to dial in exactly how you want them to sound.

You’ll probably get a richer, slightly fuller tone from the boom mics found on competing headphones, but the Xbox Wireless Headset’s microphone sounds great, and has clever technology like auto-mute to eliminate background noise when you’re not speaking.

The all-black design is embellished with tasteful touches, such as the thin green rings that surround the outside of each earcup and the embossed Xbox logo on the right-hand side.

The inside of the earcups, which are handily marked with large ‘L’ and ‘R’ letters, also have a faint green hue that seeps through the mesh, as the driver’s are also coated in Xbox’s familiar brand color. Adjusting volume or balancing game and voice chat is nothing short of a pleasure on the Xbox Wireless Headset thanks to the rubberized dials that we’ve seen in another of Microsoft’s audio products, the Surface Headphones.

The Xbox Wireless Headset wasn’t prone to any creaking during our testing, and the overall clamping force was more than reasonable to ensure a comfortable fit. You can also comfortably crank up the volume with room to spare thanks to the headset’s 32 Ohm impedance, and the speaker response of 20Hz – 20kHz should mean no audio details you’ve come to expect in your go-to games are missed. But while that’s all well and good, having a purely bass-driven pair of headphones isn’t ideal when you’re playing competitive shooters or even more cinematic single-player experiences.

Too much bass can overpower and muddy the other frequencies that are equally as important, leaving you with a muffled sound that won’t do you any favors in online multiplayer games.

We’re used to a flatter soundstage overall, so headed to the Xbox Accessories app to dial back the bass to a point where it could still provide a satisfying thud, but not cannibalize every other frequency as a result. If you don’t own Dolby Atmos, simply connecting the Xbox Wireless Headset will give you six months access for free, so there’s no excuse not to experiment with the wonders of spatial audio.

Despite being a closed back pair of headphones with great noise isolation, we were pleased by how clear and detailed the best Dolby Atmos Xbox Series X games sounded. It’s astonishing to think that you can get this type of audio performance for less than $100, and Microsoft deserves a great deal of credit for including a pair of 40mm drivers that are so responsive to changes from the user. EQs aren’t new after all, but we’ve often found that some headsets can’t really be tweaked to produce positive results, no matter how much we fiddle with certain levels. Xbox, do more Microsoft’s wireless headset not only nails the audio quality and microphone, but it comes with some desirable features that are usually reserved for higher end headphones.

We found that on the high setting the Xbox Wireless Headset did a fine job at isolating the music we were playing off our phone once we stopped speaking.

Xbox Wireless Headset review: Great sound, but not without other issues

While the average gamer likely sticks to the first-party Xbox controllers, it’s equally likely that you’ll find those same gamers sporting headsets by Razer, LucidSound, Turtle Beach, Audeze, or other companies. Windows 10 use requires Bluetooth 4.2+, Xbox Wireless adapter or compatible USB-C cable. The headband is pretty standard, constructed from sturdy plastic with a nicely padded faux leather underside. The headset size is adjustable by pulling down on the earcups, which expands the connector arm from within the headband. The disc has a trademark Xbox green ring on the inside for a bit of colour. On the inside of the left disc is a line with a game controller and a person to indicate it is the game/chat balance dial.

The actual ear cups are oval with a hard plastic outer shell and soft, faux leather inside for comfort. Overall, the Xbox Wireless Headset is pretty comfortable, with decent padding on the headband and the ear cups.

When first taking the Xbox Wireless Headset out of the box, you’ll likely want to charge it with the included USB-A to USB-C cable. Once charged, press and hold the green button for about 4 seconds to enter pairing mode. The app will allow you to update the firmware and change your equalizer and mic monitoring settings. Launch it on your console or Windows 10 PC, then select the Xbox Wireless Headset once it has been detected.

The home page has buttons on the left side for Equalizer, Auto-mute (silences your mic when not speaking), Mute light (brightness), Mic monitoring (how much of your voice can be heard in your headset), and Restore to default options. Everything from Outriders to Forza Horizon 4 and Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice sounded excellent and immersive. It was an odd discovery, to be honest, as most headsets I’ve tested sound the same with or without glasses.

I could walk anywhere in my basement and get most of the way up the stairs to my main floor before it started cutting out when connected to the Xbox Series X.

Surprisingly, when in a party on the Xbox or Windows 10 PC, the other people said I sounded great. In fact, it didn’t work at all in my case, and I couldn’t hear myself speaking through the headset even with the game/chat balance set all the way to chat.

A quick search of the internet confirms this is a known issue, and there is supposedly a fix coming, but that was as of almost a month ago. Even though there is an upcoming fix for the non-existent mic monitoring, it should work at launch — especially if it’s an adjustable feature.

I game for a couple of hours a night, and the headset lasted about a week before needing to plug it in.

For the most part, it does offer decent value with the sound and microphone quality; however, if you wear glasses or depend on mic monitoring, you won’t find as much value here. The Xbox Wireless Headset has some of the best sound and microphone quality we’ve heard in its class for the price point. While a great choice, the lack of functional mic monitoring and the sound bleed, when worn with glasses, keeps this from being an excellent one.

The Xbox Wireless Headset is a great deal — when it works

The seal of the headphones did an OK job blocking outside noise, but it can’t compare to the active noise-canceling technology of its more expensive counterparts from companies like Sony and Bose — understandably so! He joked that we needed to bake time into the beginning of each play session for me to fuss with the headset so that it would reliably work. If you’re an adult with limited game time, it’s maddening to lose even five minutes to IT support on headphones when you can just plug in earbuds and turn on Discord. While watching both Malcolm X and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, I noticed that background crowd lines were nearly as loud and clear as the main character’s dialogue.

I’ll give it another shot when Halo Infinite appears — hopefully then I can finish the fight with its fussy connectivity and other sporadic frustrations.

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