Ever since Microsoft secretly revealed its new wireless gaming headset in a trailer we've been eagerly awaiting a chance to check out the new Xbox Wireless Headset. It's now available for purchase, some four months after the Xbox Series X release.
With Microsoft's Game Pass letting gamers play Xbox titles on their PC, console, and even their smartphones, having a wireless gaming headset that plays nicely on all those platforms is a pretty ambitious goal. The Xbox Wireless Headset is a step up from the Xbox Stereo Headset of a couple of years ago. Microsoft ditched the previous design of that wired stereo headset with something it's now injected with a little more flair.
Its neatest trick is that the Xbox Wireless Headset handles media controls through rotating earcups with your master audio on the right and the game/chat balance on the left. A step up from the Stereo Headset's plug-in adapter that handles all your volume controls. It's an excellent design approach, and 'dialing in' your audio is a great feeling. Another small detail I noticed (but love) is that the ear cups are flat so that you can stand the headset on its side.
The only buttons on the headset are the microphone mute and sync buttons on the left earcup, and then the lone USB Type-C port which lives on the right. The trademark Xbox green trim along each of the rotating earcups gives the headset enough personality without being overly distracting. It is also a little heavier than its predecessor at 11 ounces, but still, nothing that'll strain your neck. The headset is comfortable thanks to its leather and foam ear cushions housing its 40mm drivers.
The headset handles customization through the Xbox Accessories app on Windows 10 PCs and Xbox Consoles. You've got five presets for your equalizer, along with the ability to customize it fully. It is a nice touch if you're obsessive about your game sound or like to tweak things, so it highlights game chat over anything else, for example. And, if that's more your thing, this headset supports Dolby Atmos, which provides surround sound to the stereo headset.
I loaded up my more bass and heavy synth playlists on Spotify, and the Xbox Wireless did a decent job. I had to mess with the equalizers a bit to get the sound where I wanted. The headset handles mids pretty well if you're into vocals. Lupe Fiasco's Superstar was a little lacking on the bass front, but vocals and higher frequencies sound great. John Legend's All of You is a good test for highs, and again, it seems like the headset is keen on delivering you vocals over anything else.
Driver-type: 40 mm neodymium
Frequency response: 20–20,000Hz
Speaker Impedance: 32 ohm
Design style: Over-ear
Microphone: bendable boom with dual mics
Connectivity: Bluetooth, Xbox Wireless Protocol
Battery Life: 15 hours
I recently have given Apex Legends another chance in my gaming rotation. Combined with Dolby Atmos (one-time cost of $15), the Xbox Wireless Headset makes up some ground on Sony's excellent surround sound in its Pulse 3D headset. I was more or less able to pinpoint the areas where Pathfinder was ziplining overhead with relative ease. The added cost for virtual surround sound is a bummer; I played some Resident Evil 7 in stereo for a mood change, and the creaks of the wood floors as I explore the spooky murder house were genuinely terrifying.
Xbox owners holding out in the hope of an official wireless headset, one that sounds great for gaming, will be relieved. Even if they have had to wait a bit.
The auto-mute settings are especially handy. It's a feature that will mute your mic when you're not speaking, which is nice if you live in a chaotically loud household. There's nothing more embarrassing than your teammates pleading with you to mute your mic because your chill beats are too loud or the sound of your wife watching Real Housewives of New Jersey is bleeding through comms.
The flexible boom mic can be indiscreetly bent around the front of the left earcup when not in use. You can hear from the voice sample that the mic's sound quality is serviceable and clear enough for competitive gaming.
The microphone itself is a little short, so I found myself speaking a lot louder than usual because I thought it was too far from the mouth, even though I didn't have to. It's waaaay better than the PS5 Pulse wireless headset's embedded microphones, but still, nothing to write home about compared to the best budget microphones.
The Xbox Wireless Headset using Bluetooth and Microsoft Wireless connections gives it some versatility, and means it plays nice with Windows 10 PCs, Xbox Consoles, and mobile devices.
For fun, I even tried to connect to my PS5 since the console does pick up Bluetooth devices. The PS5 recognized the headset but still refused to connect after about half a dozen attempts. So it looks like if you want one headset for everything, your best choice is still the Astro A20, and its two dongle solution for consoles, if you don't mind spending the extra cash. Then again, that headset isn't Bluetooth and is $20 more expensive.
The lack of decent Bluetooth controls, however, doesn't make the Xbox Wireless Headset ideal for commuters listening to music or podcasts. That just makes it a good headset for mobile gaming, like if you're streaming a Game Pass game on your tablet. If you're hoping for a good headset for your commute, you'll have to look elsewhere. While it does connect to your phone, there's no way to skip tracks, receive calls, or even pause music. Those specific media controls aren't there.
The headset takes advantage of Microsoft's existing proprietary Xbox wireless protocol, which means you can technically have your headset connected to your phone via Bluetooth and to your Xbox at the same time. This is great for folks who use Discord on their phones to talk with folks in cross-platform games like Destiny 2 or Call of Duty, though admittedly of less use on the PC.
The headset's battery life is on the lower end at about 15 hours, which is still a few hours more than the PS5 Pulse. You can get four hours of game time on a 30-minute charge; however, Microsoft claims you can fully charge the battery with only three hours of charging time.
The Xbox Wireless Headset being $100, while cramming in a bunch of nice quality nice features, is quite a steal. It's got a better microphone and greater battery life than its console rival's offering. If you're a PC and Xbox Series X/S owner, the Xbox Wireless Headset, much like the Xbox Wireless controller, is a well-made piece of kit worth investing in that won't let you down or hurt your wallet. It's an easy-to-use Bluetooth headset that works well on multiple devices, and that isn't an easy trick to pull off.