We’ve talked about the importance of headsets in gaming in the past. They are critical to having an enjoyable multiplayer experience. Microsoft shipped a headset with the Xbox One. It has one speaker, and a small boom-style microphone. It’s not the most comfortable headset, but it lacks another major feature. You can’t use it to listen to the game audio while chatting with the others that you’re gaming with. To get the full experience you’ll need a headset from another manufacturer.
While at CES we talked with representatives from Polk Audio and Turtle Beach. They are currently the only two companies producing headsets for the Xbox One. That sounds strange to say, because you might assume that there really isn’t anything new or different about making a headset for Microsoft’s latest entertainment console. However, they’ve made a pretty significant change to the architecture of how headsets are supported. Sure, they still plug directly into the game controller (a feature we’ve loved since they introduced it with the Xbox 360.) With the Xbox 360 if a headset wanted to include both game audio and chat audio it would require running a second audio cable back to the Xbox console. It was a clunky way of doing things, and Microsoft has improved it with the Xbox One. On the new system, you’ll be able to listen to game and chat audio by simply plugging the headset straight into the controller. This requires a new adapter to be created, a puck as one representative referred to it, to plug into the controller. It standardizes the controls for adjusting game and chat audio independently, and muting the audio.
The prototype puck that we saw at the Polk Audio booth looked very simple and convenient to use. It places all of the controls within quick reach of your thumbs. No longer will you be fumbling to find the headset’s controls on the wire, or built into the sides of the headphones. The potential downside to this approach is that Microsoft is requiring all headset manufacturers to license this audio puck. Microsoft also hasn’t finalized the design of it. That’s why none of the third-party headsets have launched yet. We were told that they are expecting to receive the final device in February or early March. Both Polk Audio and Turtle Beach have the rest of their headset design complete, so we ought to see release of final products very shortly after they receive the audio adapter from Microsoft.
Polk Audio was showing one headset for the Xbox One, the 4 Shot. As expected of a premium headset, the 4 Shot was beautiful. It’s being offered in an all black design, plus two more colorful variations. The headset doesn’t use a boom-style microphone. Instead it has a small near-field microphone that pops down out of the right ear cup. It is also compatible with PCs, Smartphones, and pretty much any other device that can accept a standard 3.5mm headset plug. Polk Audio is making their audio adapter for the Xbox One a stand-alone unit that you simply plug the headset into. It’s a nice design choice as it offers the buyer more potential use-cases. The company also worked directly with Microsoft to engineer the headset to sound perfect with Halo and Forza Motorsport 5. They have a soundboard that they are also offering that has specific modes for Halo, Forza, music, and movies, and the same technology is built into the 4 Shot. The 4 Shot headset will be available soon for an MSRP of $159.95.
Turtle Beach was displaying three different headsets for the Xbox One. The newest model in the lineup that was announced at CES is the EarForce Atlas. It’s a headset specifically designed for one of the most anticipated games of the year: Titanfall. It is a wireless headset that offers 5.1 audio and a very striking design. It should be available for around $200. The other two models offered are XOFOUR and XOSEVEN. Both models in the XO series are wired headphones. The XOSEVEN is the higher-end model. It was very comfortable, and offers a nice cable that should remain tangle-free. The boom microphone is also removable. When released you’ll be able to pick one up for $159.95. The XOFOUR is more of an entry-level headset. It doesn’t offer as much padding. It also doesn’t feature the premium cable or removable microphone of the XOSEVEN, but will be available for $99.95.
We can’t wait to get our hands on these headsets, and as soon as we do we’ll let you know what we think about them.