Laptop Mag Verdict
The Xbox Wireless Headset offer 3D audio, solid battery life and easy-to-use controls for less than $100
Rich, balanced audio
Some games support spatial audio
Good battery life
Mixed mic performance
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Remember that chintzy headset Microsoft used to ship with every new console? You know that thing that looked like it was more at home in a call center than in a heated PvP battle? Yeah, these ain’t those. These are the Xbox Wireless Headset and, at $99, you’re getting quite a few features for such an entry-level price.
For starters, you have great audio quality that offers rich, balanced sound. And depending on the game, the audio can get an extra boost of immersion by way of spatial audio technology. The controls are easy to navigate and if you’re so inclined, there’s an equalizer for you to experiment with. Plus, it’s got solid battery life. However, the mic quality is a little spotty, but if you’re a die-hard Xbox fan, this headset is hard to pass up.
Xbox Wireless Headset pricing and availability
Currently, there’s only one model of the Xbox Wireless Headset available, which is priced at $99. That’s on a par with the Sony Pulse 3D Wireless Headset and $30 more than the HyperX Cloud Stinger Core Wireless ($69).
Xbox Wireless Headset design
Xbox definitely stayed true to the Series X’s design aesthetic. Where the console is a black plastic box with neon green accents, so too is the Wireless Headset, a black plastic headset with neon green accents. It makes perfect sense. However, I’d love to see this in white a la the Xbox Series S.
Still, you’ll have to forgive me for wishing for something a bit more dramatic, such as what Sony is serving up with the bold white headband against the black earcups on the Pulse 3D. But the Xbox Wireless Headset still looks better than the Stinger Core, which seems to be hewn from a single block of plastic.
As previously mentioned, the Xbox Wireless Headset is made of black plastic. It’s entirely matte with the exception of the glossy Xbox logo on the right earcap. A thin strip of neon green lines the earcap to break up that monochrome look. The power/pairing button along the back of the left earcup is also bright green. Directly below it, curling around the earcup, is the bendable boom mic. And if you look along the top of the mic, you’ll discover a small mute button. On the back of the right earcup sits the USB Type-C port.
Both the earcups and the underside of the headband are made of foam wrapped in polyurethane leather. If you look inside the earcups, you’ll see either a large “R” or “L” to help you determine the correct orientation. The plastic extenders are hiding a metal frame and have a pleasant ratcheting sound when pushed or pulled.
Xbox Wireless Headset comfort
Out the box, the Xbox Wireless Headset needs a little breaking in before they’re comfortable. Initially, I felt pressure in the area around the upper portion of my relatively small ears. The pressure receded after a couple of wears, allowing me to use the headset comfortably over long gaming sessions. Overall, the large oval earcups easily fit over my ears, creating a tight seal, which helps to keep the outside world at bay.
Xbox Wireless Headset setup
Connecting the Xbox Wireless headset to compatible devices is a quick, painless process. In order to connect it to an Xbox console, you simply hold the green pairing button down for 4 seconds on the headset along with the pairing button on the console. The headset needed an update during the initial pairing with the Xbox Accessory app. But from there, it was ready to go.
To pair the headset with my Samsung Galaxy Note Ultra, I held down the pairing button again and selected the option in the phone’s Bluetooth menu. For Windows 10 machines like my Dell XPS 17, I simply held down the pairing button and selected the headset. You can also connect the headset to a MacBook in case you were wondering. If you want to go wired, you can connect the Xbox Wireless Headset to a Windows 10 device with a USB Type-C cable.
Xbox has designed the Wireless Headset with the ability to connect to multiple devices simultaneously. That allowed me to listen to Anderson .Paak and Busta Rhymes’ “YUUUU” while making my way to New Hope in Gears 5. Surprisingly, my chosen music didn’t drown out the in-game dialogue, but it did interfere with some of the background sound effects.
If you’ve connected the headset to too many devices and want to get a clean start, you have to hold down the mute and pairing button for 8 seconds.
Xbox Wireless Headset controls
Operating the Xbox Wireless Headset is an exercise in simplicity. Quickly pressing the power/pairing button turns on the headset, while holding the button down for 4 seconds enables connection mode. The mute button is pretty self-explanatory: press once to mute the mic, hit again to unmute. The headset has two volume control dials, each built into one of the earcaps as rotating dials. The right cap controls game and music volume while the left manages chat volume.
Xbox Wireless Headset app
When you first pair the Xbox Wireless Headset to either your Xbox Series X or S, you’ll want to launch the pre-installed Xbox Accessories app and make sure the headset has all its updates. From there, if you’re so inclined, you can check out some of the tweakable settings. There’s an equalizer with five presets (Game, Heavy bass, Movie, Music and Speech) or you can play sound engineer and create your own custom sound. The app also offers a Bass boost option.
Other settings include Auto-mute, Mute light (adjust the brightness of the light when the mic is muted) and Mic monitoring which allows you to control just how much of your mic audio is actually being heard in the headset. You can also remap the volume and game/chat balance controls.
If you want to wipe the slate clean, the app also has a Restore to default option.
Xbox Wireless Headset audio performance
After playing through a few games of different genres and listening to some of my favorite music, it’s hard to believe this headset costs only $99. It definitely has the chops of something at least twice its price. The 40mm drivers in the Xbox Wireless Headset consistently delivered warm, balanced audio with crisp dialogue and sharp detail.
As I played Yakuza: Rise of the Dragon, I was really impressed with how clear the NPC’s footsteps were as they walked upon their programmed routes. And as the protagonist, Ichiban, ran to his next objective, I could hear the sound of his suit’s fabric rubbing. I’m really impressed at the rich timbre in the dialogue, particularly in the male voices. I could hear the pain and anguish in Ichiban’s voice as he learned the truth about his beloved clan.
When I switched over to Nier: Automata, the orchestra drums set a frantic pace against a bevy of synthed out strings. Despite the powerful instrumentals, 2B’s battle cries were still at the top of the soundscape as was the sound of metal striking metal as her swords made contact with enemy machines.
To test out the bass, I queued up Megan Thee Stallion’s “Big Ole’ Freak,” and was pleasantly surprised by how well the cans handled those dank 808s without submerging the electric wind instrument (EWI) or the staccato of the drum machine. On the contrary, the EWI had a nice airy quality that played well against Meg’s throaty, sultry delivery.
For my final test, I played Diane Krall’s “Fly Me To The Moon - Live” and got lost in the crisp percussion and rich piano accompanied by Krall’s playful alto. The soundstage was spacious enough that the drums, cymbals, the piano had plenty of room to breathe. And in some instances, I could almost hear the hammer striking the strings
Xbox Wireless Headset spatial audio
Typically, I swear by a headset with 7.1 surround sound. They do an excellent job of creating that virtual sound sphere that makes you feel like you're immersed in your gaming environment. However, spatial audio technology takes this idea even further, providing greater accuracy in the virtual 360-degree sphere. The biggest difference between 7.1 and spatial audio is that the latter offers extra channels to simulate them above and below the listener.
That means when I played Ori and the Will of the Wisps with the Dolby Access app, the game and its already beautiful soundscape sounded that much more alive. I heard the rustle of every blade of grass Ori ran through, as well as the springy creaking of wood planks spread throughout the level. The narrator’s deep baritone boomed, filling the soundscape against a litany of flutes and strings. And when Ku and Ori encountered a great storm, the whipping winds, crashing thunder and pelting rain made me feel like I was in the elements with them.
And when I switched over to Gears 5 with the DTS Sound Unbound app, it sounded like I stepped into a Hollywood blockbuster. The falling chunks of ice met the earth in a thunderous crunch while a tree exploded, sending pieces of woody shrapnel everywhere. The explosions sounded appropriately massive, but finer sounds like the metal slats of the skiff scraping against the ice were nice and crisp as were the sharp pings of the bullets from the Tri-Gun hitting the Warden’s armor.
Unfortunately, you will have to fork out a little dough to enjoy that spatial audio goodness. The Dolby Access app costs $14.99 while DTS Sound Unbound is priced at $19.99. Thankfully, both apps are one-time purchases. However, unless you’re really excited about spatial audio, I’d hold off since Dolby only supports 35 games while DTS only works with 11 titles.
Xbox Wireless Headset microphone
The Xbox Wireless Headset does a solid job of conveying my frantic commands to my equally frantic teammates during Destiny 2. And once we picked up a few wins in Crucible, my party members reported that they heard me loud and clear sans gunfire and wild Stasis powers. For my part, there was a little bit of an echo, not enough to be bothersome, but just enough to be noticeable.
I also made a few phone calls and everyone’s voices had warmth and depth. But a few of the people I called recounted hearing a slight echo despite my voice sounding relatively clean. However, my mom said that I sounded a bit distant.
If I have one quibble with the headset, it’s that the mic should be longer. With its current length, it only reaches the middle of my cheek.
Xbox Wireless Headset battery life and Bluetooth
Xbox claims the Wireless Headset lasts 15 hours of battery life. That’s shorter than the Stinger Core’s estimated 17 hours, but longer than the Pulse 3D’s 12 hours. I managed to squeeze 14 hours and 5 minutes out of the headset before it was time to recharge. And when it’s finally time to recharge, it’ll take 30 minutes to get 4 hours of battery life. After 3 hours, the headset will be fully charged.
The Xbox Wireless Headset uses Bluetooth 4.2 which has about a 164-foot theoretical range. I had no problem wandering the top floor of my apartment while leaving my phone on the dining room table. However, the music began to cut out when I went downstairs or outside into my backyard, making me wish Microsoft had used the newer Bluetooth 5 standard.
Color me impressed. I thought my ears were going to be assaulted with grating highs, distorted mids and barely-there lows –– all for the sake of cutting the cord. However, Xbox really did its homework with the Xbox Wireless Headset, creating a peripheral that delivers great audio for a wallet-friendly $99. It didn’t matter if I was facing off against the Swarm, beating down errant gangsters or listening to some of my favorite jams, the Xbox Wireless Headset showed up with warm, balanced audio. And having the ability to experience some of my games with 3D audio makes it even better.
Sure, I wish the headset wasn’t entirely made of plastic and the mic could use a little tweaking. But for the money, the Xbox Wireless Headset is a serious contender.
Sherri L. Smith has been cranking out product reviews for Laptopmag.com since 2011. In that time, she's reviewed more than her share of laptops, tablets, smartphones and everything in between. The resident gamer and audio junkie, Sherri was previously a managing editor for Black Web 2.0 and contributed to BET.Com and Popgadget.