There are two wolves inside of you. One loves listening to high quality sound that won't distract others while playing videogames. The other has sore ears, a sensitive scalp and needs a rest from wearing headsets. I think we've just found a solution that might satiate both.
Panasonic is releasing a neck-worn surround sound speaker especially aimed at gamers. This curved 4-channel speaker setup sits around the neck, like a slim, not very comfortable looking travel pillow. This keeps the gamer's ears and head free from hardware. It looks like a great midway step between speakers everyone can hear, and a headset that closes you off from the world.
Dubbed the SoundSlayer Gaming Speaker, it connects via USB or 3.5 headphone jack and should in theory act as a typical set of speakers once connected. This also means it should be compatible with just about everything. The website lists Windows 10, PS5, Xbox Series S/X, Nintendo Switch, as well as some older consoles.
This SoundSlayer has dual microphones for game chat that should cancel out echo, and what looks like easy to access controls. Overall, it looks like an easy to use piece of kit without too much fiddling about.
That being said, there are 3 different gaming modes to optimise for different experiences. RolePlaying mode is designed to work with immersive RPGs, like Final Fantasy XIV Online which is partnered with the brand. An FPS mode, which is set to focus on sounds like footsteps to help locate enemy players, as well as a voice mode that will make dialogue clearer when needed.
The downside to this speaker setup is it's really not cheap. It's listed at $299 AUD on the Panasonic site, and is also available on Amazon for $198 USD or $260 AUD. It's also $247 USD or $339 for the limited edition Final Fantasy version, so if that's your jam you might want to get in quick.
If you want something a bit more versatile, and aren't married to this new neckwear idea you can get some seriously nice gaming headsets for the same price or cheaper. Our favourite set of PC gaming speakers, the Logitech G560 are also at this price point. Though none of those options will quite fit this in between niche, which my wolves are both howling for.
Whether or not this style of neck sitting speaker will see mass adoption is yet to be seen, but these are the first I've seen specifically designed with gamers in mind. If they deliver on comfort, sound quality, and convenience this could be the answer for many gamers stuck between audio options.