Xbox Wireless Headset review
- Clear, well-balanced sound
- Comfortable and smart design
- Easy to set up and use
- Max volume and resulting bass a bit underwhelming
- Dolby Atmos behind paywall
- Charging cable is a joke
The Xbox Wireless Headset is great value for money at $149.95. It offers a truly wireless audio solution for Xbox gamers that delivers an experience that borders on premium, but at a price point that's very much mid-tier. Yes, there are better headsets out there in terms of raw power and features, but not everyone is a pro gamer who needs to make such a significant investment.
For most gamers, the Xbox Wireless Headset not only meets your audio needs at an affordable price point, it exceeds them. Its great design, ease of use and beautifully balanced soundscape provide the immersive next-generation audio experience your console deserves, and the flexibility to use it with mobile devices and your PC ensures it can become your daily companion in business as much as play.
But while I'm happy to recommend the Xbox Wireless Headset, it's not perfect.
- 15 hours of battery
- Easy, truly wireless setup
- Broad compatibility
- 40mm drivers a bit small
The headset houses a dual-mic boom, 15 hours of battery life (which quick charges to 4 hours in 30 minutes) and sound delivered by 40mm drivers. I'll talk more about those 40mm drivers in a moment, but this is one of the more obvious features that point to it being a mid-tier headset. The premium offerings generally start at 50mm.
A steel band is encased by thick pleather cushioning and the cans themselves are large enough to easily cover one's ears comfortably. The overall weight is just 312 grams, which barely makes itself felt as it sits on your head.
The only significant feature that's absent for a headset in this price range is a headphone jack. As a wireless headset, it's not necessary, but there are times when using Bluetooth isn't an option and it would have been a nice inclusion. Premium features like active noise cancelling and a detachable boom would have been nice luxuries too, but at this price, their omission is acceptable.
Flexible use and easy to set up
As mentioned, the Xbox Wireless Headset is compatible with the Xbox family of consoles – so Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S and the Xbox One – as well as PCs and mobile devices. It's compatible with the Xbox Wireless protocol as well as Bluetooth 4.2 too, and can do both simultaneously. So, you can have the headset connected to an Xbox and a Bluetooth device (such as your mobile) without having to worry about pairing issues.
Indeed, connecting this headset is one of the more painless experiences I've ever had. There's no dongle to worry about, you just press a green button on the back of the headset and within a handful of seconds you're good to go. This is exactly how an official headset should behave; you don't need to be tech savvy. It's effectively plug and play.
It's disappointing, although not surprising, that the headset doesn't work with PlayStation or Nintendo consoles. I wonder if that is Microsoft's choice?
The Xbox Wireless Headset supports Windows Sonic, DTS Headphones: X and Dolby Atmos standards, although – as I will talk about later in this review – the latter isn't straightforward.
- Richly detailed soundscape that's perfectly synced
- Picks up voice well
- Max volume limited
- Dolby Atmos costs extra
Sound quality with the Xbox Wireless Headset is great – excellent even at this price range – but I wouldn't go as far as to call it exceptional. The three most important things for me are low latency, audio that's well-balanced across all ranges and that is distortion free. With all three of these challenges the Xbox Wireless Headset gets a big green tick.
I tested the Xbox Wireless Headset with Gears 5, Dirt 5 and Assassin's Creed Valhalla. I also ran it through some Dolby Atmos test content, as well as listening to some of my favourite tunes via my mobile device. The audio sync was perfect throughout; I never caught any noticeable delay at all. I also never encountered any distortion, even on max volume during fierce Gears 5 firefights.
And the sound is full of space and clarity, creating a richly detailed landscape. Low, mid and high range audio is distinct and sharp, and you get a good sense of surrounding sound activity. I didn't notice too much in the way of sound verticality. I could tell a sound was over my right shoulder, for example, but not whether it was high or low behind me. But the headset can only go so far and it's at the mercy of the developer in terms of how detailed the audio is delivered in the first place.
Where the sound does let itself down is in its depth. I found myself playing on or close to max volume for most of the time. I longed for a bit more range in this regard, but mostly I think I was chasing extra punch in the bass. This is where we start to see some limitation in the 40mm drivers and that's just something you're going to have to accept unless you add $100 or so to your budget.
You can fiddle around with the equaliser in the Xbox Accessories app on the console itself, but I noticed no significant difference from my changes. Selecting Heavy Bass, for example, didn't seem to make grenade explosions in Gears 5 any more spectacular. Many gamers will likely not notice the limitations of the 40mm drivers in this regard, but it was a slight frustration for me. I like my bass. But, to be fair, a good low end can't come at the cost of the rest of the audio scape. I'd rather have the clarity offer here, than good bass and a muddy top end.
A small note about the mic itself. It's not overly long so it doesn't position itself in front of your mouth well; however, it does a great job of picking up the sound of your voice anyway. That's lucky, as it doesn't drown out ambient noise too well. There is an auto-mute feature that tries its best to dampen sounds that occur when you're not talking, but it's not on a level with the top mics out there.
It's serviceable for most people's needs, but if you're trying to game in your lounge room while your partner is cooking or making a fuss in the background, it's probably going to annoy your squad.
Dolby Atmos paywall
If there is one aspect of the Xbox Wireless Headset's performance that did frustrate me, it's the reliance on the Dolby Atmos app as a third-party middleman between gamers and their audio experience. For the app to facilitate Dolby Atmos support on your Xbox Wireless Headset, you need to have Dolby Premium. Until 30 September 2021, Dolby Premium is free, but after that time the feature disappears behind a paywall of $15.
I don't think you should have to pay extra money, as small as that sum may be, to be able to use your Xbox Wireless Headset for the purpose for which it exists. It's a joke. At the very least it should be included in Game Pass.
- Minimal look is gorgeous
- Easy to control
- Very comfortable
- Charging cable is cheap and nasty
The Xbox Series X and the Series S both have striking, if militant, designs. In particular, the XSX stands out for not trying to stand out, just marinating in its sense of power. The Xbox Wireless Headset follows a similar mindset with its design.
Outside of a barely visible Xbox logo and some green lines around the cans, it's all a striking black-grey matte colour. There's no flashy LED light colour scheme either, only a little something on the subtle mic boom that you can make out in the dark. I really like it.
Despite the measly 312 grams of weight, there's a sense of strength and durability in the feel of the headset. Adjusting the height of the cans requires a serious tug, which gives you security in the knowledge that it's not going to start dropping on you mid-game. The volume controls are also strong and mechanical, while the boom mic itself moves easily and holds itself in position assuredly.
I'm a big fan of the volume controls. Simply reaching up and dialling the right cup will change your volume. It's easy to grab mid-game with no fiddling around trying to find small buttons. The left-side can has a similar volume dial that defines your mic volume. Other than that, you've just got your USB type-C charging port, the sync button and a mute toggle.
Comfortable fit but charging a challenge
Most importantly, it's very comfortable. The pleather cushioning in the headband and in the earcups is thick yet supple. There's no pinching or pressure on the temples, and even a generously sized human such as myself had no dramas getting my ears into the cups. It really is a wonderfully designed headset.
If you wanted to get fussy, you could lament the fact the mic isn't detachable, although it's so small I never found it distracting. More annoying is the pathetic charging cable that comes in the box. Barely 30cm long and cheap, it's anything but user-friendly. It's at odds with the premium feel of the rest of the headset.
I also wish there was some sort of dock included that the headset could rest in when not in use. It would have been an amazing gesture to have it in the box, but I suspect it will emerge at a later data as an additional accessory for those who have pride in their lounge-room layout.
Pricing and availability
The Xbox Wireless Headset is available now for $149.95 in Australia. On my searches I haven't seen it discounted anywhere really. You can get it for $148 via Amazon Australia with a free delivery if you're a Prime member, which is probably your best bet.
It's a good price, too. When we look at the premium headsets from the likes of SteelSeries, Astro, Turtle Beach, Audeze and Razer, you're looking at around the $250 mark. And you can find some budget headsets that are sub-$100. But the Xbox Wireless Headset is much closer to the premium experience than it is the budget experience. Plus, it speaks the native tongue of the Xbox consoles, where the others do not.
This is why I consider the Xbox Wireless Headset a great value-for-money option.
Should you buy Microsoft's Xbox Wireless Headset?
- Buy it if You want a good value-for-money gaming headset that offers great sound, comfort and ease of use.
- Don't buy it if You are a pro gamer after the very best in audio and mic quality, and all the features.
The Xbox Wireless Headset is a great option for gamers looking for a flexible, mid-budget headset to use while playing Xbox and going about their daily multimedia lives. While the audio and mic experience doesn't quite reach the heights of the premium headsets, it's still more than enough for most gamers. Plus, it trumps many of its more expensive peers for ease of use, comfort and design.
The Xbox Wireless Headset puts the immersive, next-generation audio experience offered by the Xbox Series X within affordable reach of the average gamer. In doing so it gives the premium headsets a run for their money, without stretching your own wallet.
Images: Chris Stead
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