When the Playstation 4 launched, its DualShock 4 controller featuring a built in 3.5mm headset jack, it ushered in a new era for users of high end headphones, able to simply plug in any set of headphones they chose and receive stereo audio directly from the controller without having to worry about pricey decoder boxes or stringing wires throughout their living rooms.
The Xbox One controller, however, features a proprietary port that’ll only work with Microsoft manufactured or approved hardware. Well recently, Microsoft finally released a stereo headset adapter and an accompanying stereo headset, called simply the Xbox One Stereo Headset, for an MSRP of $25 for the adapter alone and $80 for the adapter and official headset.
Being something of a headphone aficionado, it was really only a matter of time before I had the adapter in my possession and, since I was going to get the adapter, I figured I’d give the official headset a try as well.
The glossy and matte black with a touch of green inside the earcups aesthetic is simple and classy. They’re large but not bulky and are surprisingly light, given their size and the padded headband and soft fabric ear cushions rest comfortably on your head. There’s only mild clamping force at work here and results in less fatigue over time. The built in boom microphone swings down for chatting and folds back to sit flush with the headset’s frame when not in use.
The 4.5 foot flat cable is flexible and soft and the 4 pole 3.5mm jack means it can be used with just about any smartphone or music player. Using them for music playback or taking calls is an option but these ‘phones are best suited for games and movies in my opinion.
The Xbox One Stereo Headset is a solid sounding headset for the price. Its bass has nice punch and speed and never steps forward too much and muddying the details that are oh so critical in a gaming headset. Moving up to the midrange, things get a bit complicated. The midrange is clear and relatively open sounding but definitely somewhat hollow, which I suspect may be by design, as it helps increase the perception of openness and clarity. But this hollowness ultimately comes with a sense of artificiality that does the set no favors when it comes to the viability of this set for music listening. High end treble detail and extension is good, if a little dry, which, depending on your tastes, isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
The sound signature is neutral and the presentation is surprisingly open for a closed-back headphone. The presentation is fairly wide and spacious and the all-important positional cues are fairly easy to discern.
Xbox One Stereo Headset Adapter
The little puck device that comes with (and is necessary for use of) the stereo headset enables the use of headphones, including those with four pole 3.5mm jacks with microphones (like the stereo headset) to work with the Xbox One and receive game and chat audio direct from the controller itself and allows the volume for each to be adjusted independently.
If you’re like me and take audio far too seriously for your own good, the adapter is a must-have accessory. I played Titanfall with a set of Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro headphones and the experience was mind-blowing. That’s more of an endorsement for the DT 990 Pros themselves but of course, this wouldn’t have been possible without the adapter. While I think it’s lame such an adapter was needed in the first place (Microsoft and its proprietary ports…) such is life for Xbox One owners who want to use their own headphones.
But there’s one flaw, not of the headset or adapter themselves but the audio processing going on behind the scenes in that there’s no virtual surround sound like you’ll find in Dolby Headphone compatible audio devices like the Astro Mixamp Pro and Turtle Beach Earforce DSS. Microsoft says it’s looking into implementing some form of a virtual surround sound DSP at some point but no word has come yet on when it’ll arrive, if ever. If there was good virtual surround sound, the headset adapter alone would be a no brainer, so here’s hoping Microsoft is doing more than just “looking into it”.
At the $80 MSRP, the Xbox One Stereo Headset is a good deal for anyone looking for a solid gaming headset. If you’ve ever thought of using headphones, say, at night to avoid waking the neighbors or have your own high end headphones, drop the $25 for the stereo headset adapter. You won’t regret it.