In mid-March, Microsoft launched a Xbox Wireless Headset for its new Xbox Series X and S consoles. This headset is interesting because it can simultaneously keep in touch with both the console and a Windows computer, or a smartphone, or a MacOS computer. This means that the gamer can hear both the sound from the game and the interlocutor via audio communication on a computer or smartphone.
Not all headsets are able to do this. And those that can do it at a fairly high price and with a number of nuances. Microsoft’s headset is cheaper than most competitors. The closest competitor, for example, the Razer Kaira Pro, also knows how to communicate with the console and Bluetooth transmitter, but costs $50 more. The Xbox Wireless Headset costs $100 excluding US tax.
Bluetooth + proprietary protocol
After buying a console, any gamer is forced to wonder what headphones to buy for it, so as not to interfere with home. Ideally, these headphones should be with a microphone so that you can stick in some kind of game with your friends over the network.
Console gaming newcomers will be surprised to learn that standard Bluetooth headsets cannot be directly connected to their new set-top box. Wireless peripherals and accessories can only be connected to the set-top box using a proprietary communication protocol. Which means: these will be specially designed headphones from well-known brands that are licensed by Microsoft itself. And there will be few of them.
Why is that? It’s not only about greed, but also the insufficient strength and reliability of the Bluetooth signal for the operation of a gamepad or headset with a set-top box. People play on a set-top box in living rooms, sit at a distance from the TV, and therefore, with a Bluetooth connection, the level of possible interference increases with the distance between the receiver and transmitter.
Yes, any wired headphones can be connected to these Microsoft consoles via the 3.5mm jack on the controller. The gamepad communicates with the set-top box wirelessly and can transmit sound from itself through the wire to the headphones. But when you want to keep less wires in the apartment, wireless headsets with a proprietary communication channel come to the rescue.
At the same time, the Microsoft branded Xbox Wireless Headset has a significant plus. It communicates simultaneously with the set-top box and with a smartphone or computer. And this is important for a modern gamer who wants to communicate by voice with friends via Discord, for example, if the capabilities of the built-in voice chat of the set-top box do not like it or if a stable community has already formed in Discord. In addition, you can answer calls from your phone without removing your headphones: you can hear both the game and the caller.
The delivery set of the headset is not rich. In addition to the headphones themselves, the box contains a simple connection instruction, some waste paper and a USB-C charging cable. The earbuds are powered by a built-in battery that lasts 15 hours depending on load and connections. From 50% to 100% charged in an hour and a half.
Connecting to the set-top box is simple: we hold down the power button for 4 seconds, the headphones go into synchronization mode, the light starts blinking. This means that the headphones are looking for something to connect to. Press the sync button on the front of the Xbox, and the logo on the console also starts blinking. After a couple of seconds, both devices pair. Headphones, like a gamepad, can launch the console after they are turned on.
After connecting, Dolby Atmos for headphones is automatically downloaded. This surround sound technology is paid, but for owners of headphones it can be used free of charge for about six months. The ears also support Windows Sonic and DTS Headphone: X spatial sound technologies.
Adjustment rings and software bugs
Both ear cups have mechanical sound control rings. On the right side, turn up the overall volume level. On the left, we change the balance between the volume of the game sound and voice chat or incoming Bluetooth signal.
When the headphones are connected not only to the set-top box, but also, for example, to a smartphone, using the ring on the left ear cup, we can balance the mixing of the sound of these two channels. This ring has three levels of fixation. One extreme position turns off the game sound and leaves only the sound from the smartphone. By twisting the ring, we deliver more sound from the console itself. It is very convenient to set up channel mixing in this way.
However, it is not complete without jambs. The Xbox Wireless Headset software seems to be rather damp and sometimes buggy. At some point, the left ring, in principle, stopped working as it should, and the prefix did not react to twisting. Then the sound disappeared altogether, while the headset was connected to the console, the console recognized it, a signal about successful synchronization played in the ears, a pairing notification popped up on the monitor, but nothing else happened. After restarting the console, everything worked as it should. The software has version 0.0.9, I have no doubt about the release of updates.
Another oddity of the software: in the settings you can set the brightness of the indicator light on the microphone. It says that “this parameter adjusts the brightness when the sound is muted.” But in fact, the indicator is on when the microphone is turned on, not turned off. Someone in the Russian Microsoft messed up with the translation. This indicator is visible only with peripheral vision, if you strain.
In addition to the brightness of the indicator, you can enable and configure the microphone listening function. That is, you will hear in the headphones what your microphone picks up. Including your voice. This can be useful for understanding how the ambient clipping and mute function works, and for making it more clearer.
You can also play around with the five-band equalizer. It has five preset modes: Game, Music, Speech, Movie, and Heavy Bass. To be honest, I am not a big music lover, rather even a “music lover”, and therefore my assessment of the sound quality of these headphones will help you little. Let me just say that they seemed a little bass to me. This can be tweaked in the equalizer.
As for the rest, playing the same Hellblade, sharpened for binaural enveloping sounds, is a pleasure. And in these headphones, the immersion is quite deep. Sometimes it even becomes a little scary.
Microphone mute and audio capture levels are realized with two short boom microphones with flexible section. One microphone is turned towards the mouth and catches everything that you say, the second on the back catches background noises and muffles them, preventing it from breaking into the air. This kind of noise reduction can be completely turned off or you can adjust three degrees of its sensitivity.
Design and convenience
Now about convenience. The headboard is soft, slightly springy. There’s a metal frame and shock-absorbing foam. He doesn’t press on his head, he didn’t feel any discomfort.
The reach is regulated quite widely, there are fixation steps, they sat on my head with a margin, there was no larger skull at hand.
Oval ear cushions, PU leather, shock-absorbing foam. The ears sink into them completely, they are not squeezed anywhere, they do not touch the inside. They fit well and insulate well from outside sounds. To hear someone, you need to take off your headphones.
Is it hot in them? After two hours, yes, indeed, the ears feel warm, they need a break and fresh air. But I have it with all the headphones. With both HyperX Gaming Clouds and Sony’s Wireless Working Headset. Miracles happen only in headphones with active cooling. These were announced by HP three years ago, but I have not tested them, I cannot assure you.
Ring adjusters are awesome! Connecting via Bluetooth to a laptop, smartphone or computer in parallel with the console – cool! Fitting on the head is comfortable!
Autonomy is not bad. During this time, they did not go to zero, but they were close to it.
Sound quality in games? Hellblade sounds great. And this game knows how to surprise with sound. Works well with music and films. But we cannot recommend a gaming headset with completely different tasks for listening to music.
Caught a joint is not cool! The software needs to be improved and get rid of the strange translation and confusion with the lit indicator.
In general, for the owner of the next generation console, Xbox Wireless Headset is a very interesting headset.
- This review is a translation of the original article from onliner.by