We’ve covered the headset situation for the Xbox One from the earliest days of the console’s life. We’ve already reviewed the Microsoft Stereo Headset and Turtle Beach’s Ear Force XO SEVEN. Both headsets had their strengths and weaknesses, but we were left wondering what the new player in town would bring. Polk Audio is that new player, and they are a company with a proven pedigree for high-end audio equipment. They’ve been in the business for over 40 years, but they only recently ventured into the market of gaming headsets. Can the new player challenge the reigning champion?
The first thing you’ll notice when looking at the Polk 4 Shot headset is that it doesn’t look like a traditional gaming headset. It uses an over-ear design, but the ear cups aren’t very big. The slim profile keeps the design from resembling a headset you might see an air traffic controller wearing, and that’s a good thing. They also don’t feature a big boom microphone extending from one of the ear cups. Instead they’ve created a microphone that simply pops down out of the left side. When it’s closed you would never be able to tell it’s even there, and when it’s open it’s still hardly visible. That leaves you with a gaming headset that doesn’t look at all like a gaming headset. Instead, it looks like a nicely styled, modern set of over-ear headphones. If you were to wear a traditional gaming headset out in public, even if it had a removable microphone, the bulkiness would stick out. You could wear the Polk 4 Shot out in public without attracting very much attention at all.
All that being said, the Polk 4 Shot is still a gaming headset. That means it needs to provide that two-way communication that you can’t get out of a regular pair of headphones. So how well does that creative retractable microphone work when it’s time to get into a gaming session? Unfortunately, it doesn’t work well at all. In fact, of the three headsets we’ve reviewed for the Xbox One, it performs the worst by far. It’s even worse than the cheap headset that comes bundled with Microsoft’s latest entertainment console. It just isn’t loud enough. You will need to speak considerably louder to be heard clearly while using the retractable microphone. If you’ve been following our coverage of the Xbox One headset market this isn’t news to you though. Polk has said that they are working with Microsoft to fix this issue. They say that it can be fixed via a software update to the headset adapter. No date has been announced as to when this update may be released. Not wanting to leave their customers with a bad experience, Polk quickly responded by releasing the Polk Chat Pro microphone. They started shipping them free to anyone who requested one after purchasing the 4 Shot. Now they are simply including the Polk Chat Pro microphone in the box with the 4 Shot.
The Polk Chat Pro microphone is a boom microphone that is integrated into a separate audio cable. It connects the headset to the controller’s headset adapter. It’s a pretty slick solution, and it works really well. In our testing we actually liked the sound from the Polk Chat Pro microphone more than any of the other headset microphones we tested! One of the key areas where it excelled over the competition was in bass reproduction. Compared to the boom microphone in the Ear Force XO SEVEN, much more bass came through the Polk Chat Pro. At the end of the day, the microphone really just needs to be “good enough”, but it was interesting to see the range in quality. The fact that Polk went from having the worst microphone available, the retractable one built in to the 4 Shot, to having the best (and in only a matter of weeks) is pretty remarkable. What really stands out to us though is that Polk quickly took action to improve the experience for their customers, and that they made it quick and free to solve.
Even more important than the microphone audio quality though is the experience you get from the headphones. This is the area we were most interested in given Polk’s vast experience in audio equipment. In short, Polk has hit an absolute homerun with the 4 Shot! The audio quality from these headphones is dramatically better than the rest of the competition. Audio across the entire spectrum comes through with exceptional clarity. The bass is clear and full without being muddy or overly punchy. The mid-range frequencies sound clear and warm, and the high-end is crisp without being harsh. One of the features that Polk advertises with this headset is that they have worked directly with Microsoft’s sound engineers to produce the most authentic experience when playing Forza Motorsport and Halo. We’re not sure that we heard anything that makes the Forza Motorsport experience specifically better. The headphones just produce a stunningly high quality experience while playing any games, or listening to any music.
So the Polk 4 Shot sounds great, and when being used to chat with others during a gaming session you’ll come through loud and clear. But how comfortable are they? We found them quite comfortable. Like the other headsets, it took a couple of sessions with the 4 Shot for it to really feel broken-in. Since then they’ve remained comfortable for hours at a time. The leatherette covering over the padded ear cups, and on the headband always felt nice to the touch. They do block out a lot of noise. In fact, we felt like they blocked out more noise from the surroundings than any of the other headsets we’ve reviewed. In addition to the cable that is integrated into the Polk Chat Pro microphone, the headset comes with two audio cables. One is just a standard cable that is intended to go between the headset and the included [amazon_link id=”B00IAVDOS6″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Xbox Headset Adapter[/amazon_link]. The other cable has a built-in button for receiving phone calls. The only downside to the cables is that they are a little on the short side at about 42″ long. The other small, but nice feature, is that the ear cups swivel to help the headset lay flat. Considering we’ve been taking them everywhere with us, this feature has been much appreciated because it helps the headset to fit into a bag easier.
We were hoping to be wowed by the Polk 4 Shot headset for the Xbox One, and Polk more than delivered! These headphones have ruined us. We have lots of pairs of headphones laying around, but the 4 Shot is the only set we want to use. Having fantastic audio quality built into a pair of headphones that we’re more than comfortable wearing in the work place or out in public is more than we could have hoped for. They are priced at the top of the market for Xbox One headsets at [amazon_link id=”B00E1L78N6″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]$159 on Amazon[/amazon_link], but we think they are absolutely worth it. If you’re looking for a high-end gaming headset that can pull double-duty for enjoying your favorite music and movies, you can’t go wrong with the Polk 4 Shot.
Thanks to Polk Audio for supplying the 4 Shot headset for our review.