(Pocket-lint) - Microsoft has licensed its Xbox brand for many gaming headsets for donkey's years, including wireless models from the likes of LucidSound, but has never really gone all out with its own dedicated device before. Considering the quality and value for money presented by its own-brand Xbox Wireless Headset, you have to wonder why. Still, better late than never.
The Xbox Wireless Headset offers just about everything we'd want in a premium headset, but for half the price of similarly spec'ed equivalents. It is comfy, neat and - rather uniquely for a wireless gaming device for any console - doesn't require a dongle to work. Yes, you look like a Cyberman wearing it and the mic doesn't detach so you'll look a little odd if you use it with your smartphone when out and about, but for its main purpose it seems ideal.
- Ear-cups: Over-ear design with polyurethane leather and foam cushioning
- Headband: Inner steel metal band with foam cushioning
- Boom-style microphone
- Weight: 312g
As soon as you get the Xbox Wireless Headset out of the box you realise that, while it is light enough for long periods of wear, it is solidly built. It weighs just 312g, but the hard plastic exterior is chunky enough to stand a bashing.
We wouldn't want to throw it out of an aircraft or give it to toddlers to play with, but it feels as if you could chuck it to one side when not in use and there are unlikely to be any cracks or significant damage.
The large ear-cups are very soft, with foam covered by polyurethane leather. This is normal for a gaming headset and ensures your ears don't overheat during a particularly epic session.
The inner headband is similarly soft and, while we tend to prefer floating headband designs for gaming, we haven't had a single issue with comfort during our tests.
In terms of buttons and features, the external plate on each ear-cup serves as a rotating dial. On the right-hand side you get the volume dial, which sports reassuring clicks for top and bottom volumes. The left ear-cup gives you different options to balance game audio and chat.
The integrated lip microphone also has a button to mute it, although you can also choose to have an auto mute option activated in the Xbox Accessories app on your console. This will automatically mute the mic when you aren't speaking, which is neat.
The power button doubles as the pair button, both for Xbox connection and Bluetooth.
- Windows Sonic, Dolby Atmos, DTS Headphone:X supported
- Up to 15 hours playback, with fast charge
- USB-C charging
- Bluetooth 4.2
As well as easy pairing with no dongle required (you just pair it to your Xbox as you would a controller), the headset comes with a number of interesting bells and whistles that many in a much higher price range can lack.
To begin with, this headset can double as portable headphones, as well as work natively with Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S. Bluetooth 4.2 connectivity enables connection to a mobile phone or tablet, as well as a Windows 10 PC (through Bluetooth - although you may need an optional wireless adapter if you want the best). We've paired with an iPhone 12 Pro Max to great effect - even the mic can be used to take calls.
We've even paired with a Mac, although you won't get the same amount of features afforded through PC gaming. Still, it's cool that you can just pair with any of your devices and use both the headphones and mic wherever you fancy. And, it's even cooler that you can pair to many devices simultaneously, which means you can take a phone call while still playing a game.
You do get the best from this headset when it's hooked up to Xbox or Windows though. For a start, the headset not only supports Microsoft's own spatial audio format, Windows Sonic, it is compatible with Dolby Atmos and DTS Headphone:X. These latter formats are great for adding extra virtual spacing to encoded audio and, while you won't encounter that many Dolby Atmos or DTS:X games at present, they do add a certain extra something.
For example, when you switch the audio mode in settings to Dolby Atmos (Windows Sonic is default for headphones) you get a much better experience with supported Netflix content. Other streaming services support Dolby Armos content too, such as Disney+.
One word of caution though: both Dolby Atmos and DTS have third-party apps that must be active to get either surround sound format through the headset. And both charge a licence fee for the privilege. You will need to pay this or take out the initial free trials if you want this functionality.
Other features available through the Xbox Accessories app on the console include an equaliser with multiple audio signatures to choose from - including added bass, although the headset is pretty bassy enough, to be honest.
You can adjust the brightness of the mic's mute light, and you can change how much audio of yourself you hear in your headset when speaking, thanks to mic monitoring settings.
One thing we are disappointed with though is that there doesn't seem to be any way to automatically turn off your speakers when the headset is powered. In our case, we run the Xbox through a Denon AV receiver with Dolby Atmos and HDMI eARC and have to turn the volume down manually, otherwise we get audio from both. Apparently, this is something usual with Xbox headsets, although it might just be us being dumb - we cannot find any other settings anywhere.
Charging for the headset is through a USB-C port, with a claimed 15-hours worth of playback capable on a single charge. We'd have to test for a lot longer to judge whether that's fully accurate, but considering the amount of hours we've put in so far without any battery drop, we don't see any reason for that figure to be untrue.
There's also fast-charging on board anyway, which gives an additional four hours' worth of charge for just 30 minutes plugged in.
- 40mm neodymium drivers (paper composite diaphragm and neodymium magnet)
- Frequency response: 20Hz to 20kHz
Each ear is served by a 40mm neodymium driver which provides plenty of oomph, that's for sure.
In normal gaming situations, such as with the Xbox Series X/S upgrade of Forza Horizon 4, there is superb virtual spacing (using Windows Sonic mainly) and deep enough bass without it impairing clarity.
Mid and high frequencies are handled very well indeed - not just with games, but also music when connected to a phone. We're usually used to headsets and headphones priced at least twice as much as the Xbox Wireless Headset and it compares very favourably.
Especially impressive is the headset's performance during demo clips in the Dolby and DTS apps. There is excellent control over the whole front stage, including height. Virtual rear effects also place well, giving you an impression of sounds coming from over your shoulders.
Pro standard headsets will obviously present an even more rounded audiofield, but we're talking hundreds of pounds/dollars for those. The audio quality here certainly belies the cost.
The microphone boom exhibits noise cancellation technology and dual mics, which cleans speech - although don't expect to podcast standards. We found the end result a little bass-heavy when recording ourselves speaking through it. It wasn't distorted though, and did blot out the hum of a nearby fridge. But it's more than good enough for our gaming sessions, while streamers will likely want a pro mic nearby anyway.
We are genuinely surprised that Microsoft has taken so long to create its own, dedicated Xbox headset, especially considering the resulting product. The Xbox Wireless Headset is excellently made and, as well as great performance for the price, has a number of great features to make it well worth considering.
The ease of pairing is a major one. Being an own-brand device it can sport the company's proprietary wireless tech and therefore doesn't require a dongle. This is a big deal for us, considering the USB ports on our Xbox Series X console are completely filled with external hard drives and the like.
It also took just seconds to hook it up and get it up and running (albeit after a brief downloadable hardware update). The same was true for pairing it with our iPhone via Bluetooth.
If only the mic audio quality was a touch better and we didn't have the faff of having to turn down our AV receiver audio each time we pop the headset on, then Microsoft's headset be perfect.
As it stands though, it's an accessory that many on a budget should seriously consider for those Xbox gaming sessions.
Often touted as the best and most comfortable gaming headset that you can buy - admittedly it's three times the price and back-ordered for months, given its popularity - if you've got the extra cash and want best of best then Audeze is a serious option for serious gamers.