Gaming audiophiles have their pick of the litter in 2011 when it comes to finding a gaming headset that’s right for them. I was at Fry’s Electronics the other day and saw no fewer than 10 kinds of Turtle Beach audio pheripherals specifically designed for gamers. So it’s a bit of a surprise the Sony themselves haven’t come out with more 1st party options, considering their long history in audio hardware.
That aside, Sony takes a step in the right direction with their wireless stereo headset, designed specifically for the PlayStation 3. Any well-designed audio gear is worth admiring for a few seconds out of the box, but with Sony’s headset, I found myself holding and staring at it a bit longer than I normally would.. It feels like a stylistic continuation from their upgraded PS3 Bluetooth headset from earlier this year, and more importantly, it feels like a stylistic complement to the PlayStation 3 console itself, both the original and the slim versions. The top band features brushed dark silver metal while the side has the same thick textured plastic feel of the PS3 slim and the PlayStation 2 shells. Overall, it’s a slick, borderline futuristic design with some minimalist touches that even made it amusingly hard for me to find the power button; oddly enough, I was more impressed than frustrated when I found it. The features that are more obvious include the volume slider, the game/voice ratio slider and the retractable mic.
Having had my share of experiences in plugging various headsets and their respective accessories into my consoles, the process of connecting the Sony PlayStation 3 Wireless Stereo Headset was surprisingly simple. I suppose I shouldn’t have been that surprised with a first party accessory; all I had to do was plug the wireless dongle (included) into any of the PS3 USB slots, power on the headset and it’s ready to go. The console even shuts off all other outgoing signals so you don’t have to turn down your TV volume or your stereo receiver volume.
Performance-wise, it features the same sound quality you’d expect from a sub-$100 pair of handphones. This of course assumes that you enable the Virtual Surround Sound feature. I tested this device over a spectrum of games including Payday: The Heist, Final Fantasy XIII, House of the Dead: Overkill and Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One. In that entire time, I couldn’t detect any sound deficiencies and there were a few instances where the surround sound feature certainly enhanced the sense of immersion.
In 2011, it also seems like a must that one’s gaming headset should be wireless and there’s most certainly a pleasing one-motion ease of taking Sony’s device off your head without worrying about getting caught in wires. And it should surprise very few PlayStation 3 users that the headset charges via USB just like the traditional controller and the Move controller.
The “Sony name” mark-up of $99.99 is unsurprising especially when you consider that you can get the same kind of sound quality from other competing headsets at $20 to $30 less. Where the PlayStation 3 Wireless Stereo Headset makes up for that price is both in its convenience in connectivity and the level of comfort. And if you are the image conscious type, one can make a good argument that this is the one of the prettiest pieces of audio gear you can find this year.
(Note: A Sony PlayStation 3 Wireless Stereo Headset was provided by Sony for review purposes.)