Review: Xbox One Stereo Headset
For the past few months, Xbox gamers who are used to premium chat headsets have been out of luck. Microsoft went with proprietary technology for the Xbox One, and headsets that worked with the Xbox 360, such as those from Turtle Beach and Tritton, weren’t compatible.
To the relief of many, Microsoft released a headset adapter for third-party headsets earlier this month. But the company didn’t stop there; it also released its own premium headset, which retails at $79.99. And despite being cheaper than some of the higher-tier products from third parties, Microsoft’s product is actually quite good.
Microsoft’s Xbox One Stereo Headset is sleek. Both the top of the headband and the outsides of each can use a matte covering. The plastic in between rocks a shiny coat. The entire product is black, save for the speakers, which are covered in a green mesh material. It makes sense; the Xbox One is black, as is the controller. So the Stereo Headset fits right in with the rest of the family.
I’m not what you’d call a “hardcore” gamer, so I balk at dropping a ton of dough on a headset I can only use for gaming. If you’re like me, the Xbox One headset is right up your alley. The microphone on the headset was designed so that it can disappear into the side, making your Xbox One Stereo Headset look like a normal pair of headphones. You can put these on in a public setting and not feel like an air traffic control officer, which is pretty great design if you ask me.
The Xbox One Stereo Headset is extremely comfortable. The set adjusts to fit just about any head, and there is plenty of padding in between you and the plastic parts. No complaints in this department at all.
Setting up the headset might be new for someone who is coming from an Xbox 360. The Xbox One has a lot more technology behind the scenes, and the system’s controller is no exception. Before being able to use the headset, you’ll actually need to connect your controller to your Xbox One and perform a firmware update so that it’s compatible with the Stereo Headset.
Why does Microsoft need updated firmware for a headset? My guess: it has to do with the Stereo Headset’s ability to mix game and chat audio wirelessly. Third-party headsets need to run separate audio cables to your TV in order to have in-game audio, but Microsoft’s headset cuts that step out. It’s is a pretty fantastic feature; if you want, you can mute your television and have game and chat audio coming exclusively through the headset. It works for apps like Netflix, too, in case you want to get some quiet movie time in.
(By the way — I haven’t spent enough time with the headset to kill my controller’s battery, but I’d be willing to bet that using the Stereo Headset drains it a lot more quickly. Just a heads up.)
In terms of sound quality, the Xbox One Stereo Headset performs fairly well. This isn’t a premium pair of headphones, mind you, so you have to temper your expectations. But I was pretty pleased overall with my experience. I did hear some crackling from time to time, and the occasional moment of audio “jitter,” but I was also listening for these issues. When I settled into a game and focused on playing more than reviewing, no audio issues were noticeable enough to pull me out of the zone. For an $80 wireless headset, that’s not bad.
There is one major peeve I have with the product in its current form, and that is the lack of monitoring. The headset is of the noise-canceling variety, which means you can’t hear a whole lot around you when you’re wearing it. This includes your own voice. The experience of talking without being able to hear your own voice is majorly awkward — seriously, try it. I’m hoping this is something Microsoft can fix with a software update.
All in all, I’d say I’m impressed with the product Microsoft put together, and even more impressed with the price it’s being offered at. The Xbox One Stereo Headset isn’t top-of-the-line as far as sound quality goes, but the looks and overall experience of using the set make it worthwhile. The wireless in-game audio is something that similarly priced products aren’t doing, and because it’s a first-party product from Microsoft, it could potentially get better through firmware updates as time goes on.
If you’re not looking to spend over $100 on a headset for your Xbox One, this should be your choice.