I've been looking for a decent inexpensive gaming headset for a couple years now, and thought I'd share some thoughts on my latest find. I have a few requirements, nothing outrageous.
- Good Sound
- needs to work with PS3, XBOX, PC and Mac
- needs to have a microphone for online gaming on the PC and Mac
- Inexpensive, under a couple hundred bucks
I don't really do online gaming on my consoles, mostly that's on the computers as that's where most of my friends are. I do some online stuff occasionally on the PS3, but never on the XBOX as I don't pay for Gold membership.
So I've been through my share headsets, and while I won't list them all out here I'll note that I've been through all the usual suspects from companies like Turtle Beach as well as many of the lesser brands and even the original Sony Wireless headset that came out last year. I've not tried the more expensive models by Astra as they're out of my budget, but that's about all I haven't tried. Some are better than others, but all the models I tried had flaws that prevented them from meeting at least one of my criteria.
Enter the Sony Pulse headset. I did some initial research and this ticked all the boxes on paper, so I picked this up at Best Buy for $150 the other day. I've been testing it out and am very impressed with it. These are great for gaming, localization of sounds is very well done and impact is very good as well. These may not be as localized as some of the true 5.1 headsets that I've tried, but sound quality is much better and overall I get a much more immersive realistic sound.
It's not only great as a gaming headset, but respectable for music playback as well. Even as a pair of regular headphones with no other features or functionality, you could do alot worse for $150. This is not an audiophile grade headphone for music playback and isn't on par with my PSB 'portable' headphones and certainly nowhere near my Senns, but it performs quite well and really just as good as anything at the $150 price that I've heard. I have cans that are better suited for music playback, but if you're wanting a good all-rounder, this is a great choice.
It has dual functionality as both a wireless headset with a built in rechargeable battery AND has a regular 3.5mm jack and will work in passive mode when using that jack. For wireless mode it comes with a small USB stick that acts as the transmitter, you just plug that stick into your PS3, PC or Mac and it works with no driver install or anything of the sort.
Another really cool feature is that the USB stick also has a 3.5 jack and will wireless transmit whatever is being fed into that jack, and the great thing is it doesn't matter what you plug the USB stick into as long as it has power. So you can plug this into your iPod headphone jack, plug the USB into, say, a wall charger, and then wirelessly transmit your music to the headphone. Maybe I'm just an easy sell, but that's brilliant. Where it matters more to me is in using these with the XBOX 360. Since M$ uses a proprietary wireless tech instead of bluetooth on their console, these don't work with the USB stick on the XBOX, BUT I just run the headphone cable out of the audio port on the XBOX and plug it into the USB stick and BAM, wireless functionality even on the XBOX.
These also have a thing called BassImpact which is like a rumble pad on your ears, but I've not been able to get used to that yet and leave that turned off. They also have preset modes for music, movies and different types of games and I've not experimented with those yet either. They also have a virtual surround sound setting for movies that alot of people seem to like, but I won't be using these in that manner and have not tested this yet either. Apparently they get 7.1 support on BD movies with the latest PS3 firmware patch, again not tested on my end. All that 'stuff' are really the selling points for most people, and I'm not using a bit of it. The fact that I'm still thrilled with them at the $150 price point WITHOUT using those features should tell you something, if any of those features appeals to you then it's an even more impressive set.
All the stuff above is on the right ear. On the left ear is the volume control, on/off switch, mic on/off, a slider that adjusts between voice and game volumes, 3.5mm jack and finally the USB charging port. The Mic is built into the headset and works well, there is no boom mic like on the last set.
They are comfortable and are built very well, these are MUCH better designed and built than the previous version Sony released last year. If I had to nitpick, I'd prefer a headband with more padding. The one here is not bad at all, and my hair is very closely cut (almost shaved) so I'm worst case scenario, but I prefer a solid headband vs the split type that they used. Sony doesn't toss a USB charging cable in the box which is a bit curious. I realize that everyone has these cables laying around these days, including all the PS3 owners that these are primarily designed for, but I'd still argue that a cable should be in the box.
So there are my impressions. I'm very impressed and think this is a brilliant product for its intended purpose and price point.