Microsoft Xbox One Stereo Headset Review
Many of you, like us, have owned an Xbox One since the day the console launched in November. Up until now if you’ve wanted to talk to other people through the system, especially while playing games, you had two options. You could use the Kinect, but listening to other people talk over your game audio on TV speakers isn’t a very good solution. You could also use the headset that comes with the Xbox One. That headset has one speaker which plays the voice chat audio, and a microphone. Then you would still listen to the game audio via your TV speakers. Finally we have a few new options. The first such option made available is the Microsoft Stereo Headset.
Microsoft just released the latest accessory for the Xbox One. It’s the Stereo headset, and it solves a very specific problem for Xbox gamers: how do you listen to game audio, and chat with friends, all in one headset. The new headset looks like a fairly typical pair of large over-ear headphones. It has a boom mic that folds up into the band. It hides so well in the band that when we first opened the box we were left wondering if they forgot to include a microphone with our order! The headset then has a single cable that runs down to a new Stereo Headset adapter. The adapter is included with the headset, but if you’re not interested in this particular headset you can purchase the adapter for $24.99. This adapter then plugs directly into the Xbox One controller. This setup allows you to hear game and chat audio through one headset, and the only wire you need runs from the headset to the controller. You won’t have to worry about tripping over any cables running back to your Xbox or TV.
Before you get started with the headset you’ll be required to apply a firmware update to your controller. As ridiculous as that sounds we’re not sure that it’s even an accurate definition of what really needs to be done. The instructions say to connect the headset adapter and headset to the controller, then to plug the controller into the Xbox One via the included USB cable. This will automatically initiate a controller update. The odd thing is that we tested two different headsets, both of which came with their own headset adapters. We only used one controller for both of these tests, and upon attaching the controller/headset via USB it instructed us to update both times. This leads us to believe that it is the headset adapter that is actually receiving the update. Why else would it update the same controller twice?
Once the update has been applied you’re ready to start gaming with the Stereo Headset. The headphones are not of the noise-canceling variety, but they do block out more noise than most headphones we’ve ever used. Given that, you may not immediately notice that using a headset doesn’t mute your TV speakers. If you’re looking for completely silent game-play you’ll need to either mute your speakers, or disable the audio output entirely from the audio settings of the Xbox One. Headphones that are good at keeping noise out are also good at keeping noise in. The Microsoft Stereo Headset is no different. Even with the volume cranked very high it was inaudible from just a few feet away.
Of course there are two things that matter most when it comes to gaming headsets: comfort and audio quality. The Stereo Headset is very large, but it is also quite comfortable. I have a rather large head, and the headphones never seemed too tight. The best way to describe them is cozy. Your head definitely feels enveloped in the headset, but it doesn’t feel claustrophobic or tight.
When discussing audio quality you have to consider the quality of the microphone and the speakers within the headset. In our testing via an Xbox Live Party Chat we found the microphone to be of moderately higher quality than the headset that comes bundled with the Xbox One. In a quiet conversation it is noticeably better, but in the middle of a noisy gaming session your teammates and opponents probably won’t notice a difference. When testing the audio quality we started with listening to music via the Xbox Music app. The low-end bass sounds good without being overly bass-heavy. The higher frequency sounds came through clear without being too harsh either. Where the quality starts to drop is in the mid-range. In this area the audio starts to sound a little more hollow than we’d prefer. When used in gaming the drop in quality in the mid-range was less noticeable. One area where the headset does excel in gaming is a realistic recreation of a surround field of audio. When passing a car in Forza Motorsport 5 you could tell where the other cars were located. Perhaps some of that comes down to simply knowing where the cars were, but regardless the headset did an admirable job of reinforcing the position of other objects audibly.
The Microsoft Stereo Headset for the Xbox One was the first headset to be released for the new console. Of the other headsets released recently it’s also going to put the smallest dent in your bank account. The headset retails for $79.99. When you factor in that the included Headset Adapter sells for $24.99 on its own then the headset could be looked at as a $55 device. Keeping all of this in perspective it’s hard not to recommend the Microsoft Xbox One Stereo Headset. If you’re planning to use it for all of your headphones needs it might not live up to everything you need it for. If audio quality is really important to you then you’re not going to be using this headset to listen to music all day long. If you’re looking for a simple, and relatively inexpensive, solution for listening to game and chat audio through one headset then you should definitely consider picking this one up.