Monday, 17 March 2014

Xbox one official headset + adapter review

Microsoft has made a few mistakes with Xbox one but the reality of that finally seems to be sinking in somewhere within the Redmond company.
The latest mistake to be addressed is the curious decision to adopt a proprietary audio connection on the new controller. Of course originally Microsofts intention was to not ship with a headset at all. Instead they wanted gamers to use the new kinect sensor for chat. Er - no thanks Microsoft, we want proper headsets.
So Microsoft caved and issued a pack in headset of a similar ilk to the one you get with the 360. But that's not all. Along with the free headset came the promise of solution for those gamers who wanted to use 3rd party headsets they already owned, in the form of a stereo adapter for the controller.

One feature of Sony's Ps4 I really love is the ability to connect a multitude of chat devices directly to the controller. Myself I use a Steelseries set intended for mobile devices. Its a simple set but is surprisingly adept in the audio department and chat is second to none. With that in mind, I decided to buy the xbox one adapter as soon as possible so I could use my steelseries with that too. Now it was never my intention to buy the official headset too, but truth be told, when comparing the prices, £20 for just the adapter or £59.99 for both, the complete package was a no brainer.

As with all official Microsoft products the set came really well packaged, sporting the familiar lime green color of the xbox one branding.
The build quality of the headset was nothing to write home about. A little flimsy perhaps but it was okay and I really liked the design. Basically they match the style of the console perfectly with the usual matt black and glossy black plastic combo, then a splash of the lime green inside the earpiece.
Now the build quality of the adapter did surprise me. What I expected was a little cheap piece of plastic like the connector of the pack in set. Not an unfair assumption considering they are nearly identical in design but the new adapter carries a weightier and sturdier feel.
Functionality wise, the adapter has the standard master volume controls and obligatory mute button but also sports buttons for balancing game and chat. I must say too - having the buttons essentially form part of the controller itself is an inspired design and really handy in game too.

Before I talk about general sound quality, I just want to address a sound issue with the adapter first and that is the dreaded crackle and hiss I have heard a lot about recently. Now I heard, prior to get going the headset, that a controller update was needed to add headset adapter compatibility, so I did that last week. Now I went to use the headset when it arrived and the console demanded I update again. I don't know if this was a new fix for the crackle and hiss bug or simply a duplicate update but I can report no hissing or crackling with my 6 hours of Titanfall gameplay last night. There was a faint tapping noise just sometimes however in the lobbies. That could have been mic noise from other players but it did show up between various matches.

So on to actual sound quality. I will just point out my references for comparison here are the sets I have owned before. So were comparing this set to a turtle beach ear force bravo, a mid range set, Logitech g50, high end PC set and my trusty steel series cheapys ( which work with the adapter too I might add).
I have to admit this official headset, even being stereo only, stacks up really well against the Turtle beaches and trumps the steel series completely. The comparison with the Logitech g50's isn't favourable but, of course, it was never going to be. Having said that; on price to performance ratio I'd still go with the Microsoft set every time.
Bass is a surprise with these cans as I only really expect that from high end products but here to is clear and powerful without ever threatening to do damage to your hearing. Likewise, low range sounds I found very clear too and I was able to discern many subtle noises in the Titanfall soundtrack that I had missed completely over the speakers of my TV.

All in all I confess to really liking this headset. Its all the more satisfying for me when I consider that I only punted for these out of a stubborn unwillingness to stump up the 20 pounds for the adapter only.
Microsoft have hit a home run here in my estimation by making a headset that is well designed, if a little flimsy feeling, has great sound quality and represents great value for money when you factor in the free stereo adapter.
Well done Microsoft.

Build - 5
Design - 9
Sound - 8
Value - 10

Overall - 8.5