Xbox One Stereo Headset
When Xbox One launched last November, early adopters were justifiably miffed when they came to realize that due to Microsoft’s decision to use a proprietary format for their headset and chat connections, they’re existing gaming headsets were rendered mute. For the past few months, Xbox One owners have had to make due with the console’s chat headset or purchase a makeshift adapter to get their favorite headset to work…that is until now. Microsoft has relieved much of that discontent with the release of a pair of new accessories: the Xbox One Stereo Headset and the Stereo Headset Adapter.
Let’s start with the Xbox One Stereo Headset. Retailing for $79.99, the Xbox One Stereo Headset includes a Stereo Headset, a Stereo Headset Adapter, and a USB cable. The USB cable is present because the Xbox One Wireless Controller needs a firmware update to work with the Stereo Headset or Stereo Headset Adapter. The process of updating the controller is simple and takes but a minute, and the instructions to do so are included with the product along with a quick start guide and manual.
From an aesthetic standpoint, the Stereo Headset fits right at home with the sleek matte and glossy blacks of the Xbox One, with subtle branding etched into the exterior of the left cup. A hint of the iconic Xbox green is present on the mesh of the inner cups, but isn’t visible when you’re wearing the headset. The highlight of the design is easily the retractable microphone, which folds up discretely into the band so you can use the headset to listen to music or watch a movie without looking or feeling like an air traffic controller. When extended, the microphone doesn’t project over the lips or nose, which should eliminate some of the mouth breathers out there on Xbox Live, but the downside is the unidirectional microphone does have a tendency to pick up extraneous noise in the room.
For me, the two factors that matter most when it comes to buying a new gaming headset are comfort and sound quality. Although fairly large, the Xbox One Stereo Headset is a little flimsier than it looks, but it’s also very lightweight and that’s an important quality when it comes to a comfortable gaming experience. I put the Stereo Headset through a handful of Titanfall marathons and even after four or five hours of gameplay, the headset never felt uncomfortable. One of the main reasons for that is the ample amount of foam in each ear cushion. They’re insulated so well, in fact, you’ll experience minimal sound leakage, but that padding is a double-edged sword as it can disconnect you from the sounds of the outside world. You may even find it hard to hear yourself talk, which can lead to raising the volume of your voice to compensate.
As far as sound quality is concerned, I was impressed with the Xbox One Stereo Headset…for the most part. The headset isn’t proprietary – you can use it for listening to audio on any device with a 3.5mm jack. Having said that, the Stereo Headset sounds best in its native environment on the Xbox One, and was clearly designed with gaming in mind (there are no EQ settings for movies and music). The low-end sounds are deep without being overly bass-heavy and the high-end sounds are crisp without being too harsh. The Stereo Headset plugs into the Stereo Headset Adapter, which in turn plugs into the Xbox One Wireless Controller. The Stereo Headset Adapter allows you to toggle volume, mute/unmute the microphone, and adjust game and chat audio levels.
There is one issue with the audio quality of the Xbox One Stereo Headset. A crackling noise can be heard particularly when navigating the pins of the Xbox One dashboard, or any menu system for that matter (it occasionally pops up during gameplay as well, but it’s not as noticeable). It’s not a deal breaker by any stretch, but it’s a little disappointing that Microsoft either didn’t test the headset out enough, or rushed it to market knowing the problem existed. As I said earlier, a firmware update is required before you can use the Stereo Headset or Stereo Headset Adapter, so it’s quite conceivable that Microsoft will be able to fix this issue at some point.
While a Stereo Headset Adapter comes bundled with the Xbox One Stereo Headset, you can also purchase the adapter separately for $29.99. On its own, the Stereo Headset Adapter comes with the adapter, a USB cable, and a 2.5mm to 3.5mm audio jack adapter for those with existing headsets that use a 2.5mm jack. Just to be clear, the audio jack adapter only comes with the Stereo Headset Adapter sold separately. It’s also important to note that the Stereo Headset Adapter is intended to enable wired stereo gaming headsets to work with Xbox One. I tested a pair of third-party headsets with the Stereo Headset Adapter – the first a 3.5mm wired headset that produced excellent results, the second a 2.5mm wireless headset that produced mixed results (the low-end sounds were unbearable for the most part). If you’re looking to enable a wireless headset using the Stereo Headset Adapter, I recommend doing some research and checking with the headset manufacturer to ensure compatibility.
Overall, I was impressed with the Xbox One Stereo Headset. It’s affordable, thoughtfully designed, very comfortable, and delivers great sound quality for its class (minus the crackling). The inclusion of the Stereo Headset Adapter just makes the package that much more attractive. If you’re in the market for an audio solution in the sub-$100 range, the Xbox One Stereo Headset is a great choice. And if you already own a high-end gaming headset that you’d like to start using with Xbox One, the Stereo Headset Adapter on its own is simply a must-buy.
Reviewed By: Stephen Riach
This review is based on the Xbox One Stereo Headset and Xbox One Stereo Headset Adapter provided by Microsoft.