The Xbox Series X|S have been out on the market for over half a year even though many of us still haven’t got our hands on them thanks to crippling shortages. If you did manage to snag one then you’ll probably want a great pair of wireless headsets to match and the new Xbox Wireless Headsets are clearly designed to be a match made in heaven.
The headset was designed in house by the Xbox team and it shows. From the matte black finish to the green highlights and the dot patterns that reference the exhaust grills on the Series X. And, as a first party accessory, it uses Xbox Wireless protocol to connect without any dongles or fiddly setup. Throw in multi-point Bluetooth, Dolby Atmos support at a very wallet friendly price of $150 and Microsoft has instant winner.
The closest competitors like the Razer Kairo Pro, Steelseries Arctis 9X and Corsair HS75 XB cost considerably more. So it’s the perfect headset right? No but it’s certainly a contender.
Xbox Wireless Headset Review
No doubt, the Xbox Wireless Headset is a sexy piece of kit. It sports the same matte black finish and green highlights synonymous with Xbox and matches perfectly with the Xbox Series X. It’s got a minimalist design with clean lines and eschewing all the typical buttons and dials common to gaming headsets.
The overall construction is plastic but it doesn’t feel or look cheap and doesn’t creek. The headband is metal with soft memory foam for comfort that never hurt the top of my head. The rails to the ear cups are chunky and will likely survive any rage quit throws. They slide into the headband to adjust the size and are fairly stiff so the headset won’t loosen out while you’re wearing them.
The ear cups are large, slightly oval shaped cushions which cover your ears for a sound seal that doesn’t completely block out ambient sounds. Thanks to polyurethane leather, they are deliciously soft and comfortable. The outside of each ear cup is a rotating dial that you use to adjust volume and side tone. It’s elegant and far more intuitive than trying to fiddle with tiny volume dials.
Each dial has a noticeable bump at the 50% mark so you can always tell how far you’ve gone either way. There are only two buttons on the headset; the hard to miss, bright green power/ pairing button and mic mute button which is found on the bendable microphone that wraps around the left ear cup. The mic is oddly short reaching about halfway your cheek behind your mouth. We’ll talk more about the mic later.
The biggest selling point of the Xbox Wireless Headset is the completely wireless connectivity that it offers. Primary connection is via Xbox Wireless protocol, the same that your controllers use. Pairing is really simple; just hold the power button for a few seconds to enter pairing mode. Do the same on the Xbox and et voila, you are good to go. An added bonus is that from this point on, turning on the headset automatically turns on the Xbox.
This hassle free connection is totally worth the asking price but Microsoft went one further and added Bluetooth. Which means you can use the headset with your phone or laptop while also connected to the Xbox. Sadly, it’s only Bluetooth 4.2 and doesn’t support hi-res codecs like aptX so audio sounds, well, not as good as via Xbox wireless connection. Lag is especially noticeable when connected to my MacBook or PC and watching video so you won’t want to use Bluetooth for fast paced gaming.
If you want to use this for PC gaming, it’s best that you get the Xbox wireless dongle to enjoy the benefits there as well. Alternatively, if you have a long enough USB-C cable, you can use the headset wired which also charges it at the same time. Strangely, this wired connection doesn’t work with the Xbox.
Speaking of charging, the headset has a quick charge feature that gives you 4 hours of battery life with just 30min of charge. A full battery lasts about 15 hours which isn’t much compared to the Arctis 9X’s 22 hours. But it’s still plenty to get you through a whole work day and some evening gaming though you’ll have to leave it charging overnight as it takes 3 hours to fill up. If you only use it for gaming then you should be able to get five days of 3 hour gaming sessions which is perfectly fine for busy working parents like myself.
Ultimately, what matters the most is how a headset sounds and this is where the Xbox Wireless Headset stumbles. Right out of the box, the expansive bass overpowers the other tonal ranges making music and video sound muddy. In games, that bass makes for some truly impressive explosions and gunfire in games. But it gets really fatiguing very quickly to the point of headache.
After just five minutes of playing Doom Eternal or Battlefield V where there’s plenty of explosions all the time, I was physically exhausted from the bass assault on my ears. If you love hip-hop, trap or techno, then you’ll love how these headsets make your head bob. But any other kind of music loses clarity in the highs which includes vocals.
But thankfully, you aren’t stuck with this sound signature. Microsoft has provided EQ customization via the Xbox Accessories App on console and Windows 10. You can choose from some EQ presets or customize your own. There’s also, ironically, a bass boost slider which I recommend keeping under level 3. The headset saves your settings so they’ll work even when connected to another device via Bluetooth.
The headset also supports spatial audio in the form of Dolby Atmos, Windows Sonic and Dolby Headphone:X. You’ll have to pay for Dolby Atmos but the headset comes with a free six month subscription so you can try. My experience with it was honestly underwhelming. Maybe I’m tone deaf or I’ve just used too many excellent headsets that the Xbox Wireless just didn’t do anything out of the ordinary in terms of spatial audio.
It doesn’t help that there are only a handful of games with proper Atmos support. I tested Gears 5 and Dirt 5 using stereo only and Atmos and the difference was slight improvement in fine detail clarity and positioning. If you were hoping for a night and day difference, then look elsewhere.
Being the antisocial gamer, I never got to test the microphone over Xbox party chat. However, I did use it extensively for all my work Zoom and Google Meet calls and I never once got any complaints from my colleagues. Overall, the quality is pretty good with great clarity and warmth to the voice. However, even with it’s dual-mic array, the short length places it too far back from my mouth makes it hard to pick up my voice. I had to speak much louder than I’m comfortable with.
The mic has an LED light to let you know when it’s on. Muting is done via the button on the ear cup or by using auto-mute which detects when you aren’t speaking and mutes automatically. It then resumes when you start speaking. You’ve also got sidetone so you can hear your own voice when chatting and you can adjust this using the left ear cup dial. Overall, not a bad mic but its placement makes it hard to get good volume.
The Xbox Wireless Headset is a great choice if you are looking for an Xbox specific wireless headset with Bluetooth. I’m not enamored with the audio quality outside of gaming but better sounding headsets either cost a hundred of dollars more or don’t have the connectivity options to match. At $150, Microsoft has essentially muscled out any competition as the value offered here is completely unmatched at this price. The design is great, it’s comfortable and has a customizable EQ to dial in the sound that you like. Add on Dolby Atmos and I think Microsoft has a true winner here.
Xbox Australia provided the Xbox Wireless Headset to PowerUp! for the purpose of this review.