Microsoft’s new $100 Xbox Wireless Headset (£90, AU$150) sets a standard in elegant design to match the austere black tower of the Xbox Series X. It’s a nice-sounding headset, with a stable audio connection, good mic and a broad feature set for the money. In some ways, though, it feels like the design may be too clever for its own good.
The headset’s novelty lies in the rotating sides on the earcups which control volume and chat-mix balance. On one hand, there’s no fumbling along the sides to find small dials. But they tend to move too easily and there’s no way to quickly find a particular position again. The chat-mix dial gives a little tactile feedback at the midpoint, but the volume doesn’t.
The mic also has an unusual design. It’s short and, rather than retracting or detaching, the flexible stem wraps around the earcup. I like the idea, though I don’t know how durable it will be in the face of the constant bending. But the arm is a little too short. That makes it difficult to see the LED which indicates that the mic is active, hovering just beyond the edge of your (or at least my) peripheral vision.
It is pretty comfy, however, with a typical faux-leather padded headband and memory foam cushioned earcups. It’s a little harder and more awkward to adjust the extension while it’s on your head, though.
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It connects to the Xbox via the console’s own wireless protocol, plus it supports simultaneous Bluetooth with phones (to listen to music, for example) and PCs, or you can use it wired to a PC via USB-C. When connected, I found the console signal dead solid without lag, but it’s not the greatest at automatically reconnecting when the headset comes back into range and subsequently remains a bit glitchy. In contrast, the pricier SteelSeries Arctis 7X is a lot faster to reconnect and isn’t quite as glitchy on return (a problem I’m starting to think is the console’s fault).
I like the Arctis 7X‘s sound better as well — it’s just a bit fuller — though the Xbox Wireless supports Windows Sonic, Dolby Atmos and DTS Headphone: X, which allows for more customization. The mic is crisp and clear, with just a touch of the tinniness that indicates some sort of noise-cancellation processing. It’s optimized to pick up sound coming out of your mouth and to not pick up ambient noise, but that doesn’t seem to include noise coming from in front of it; in other words, you’ll still distinctly hear your keyboard and mouse when gaming on your PC. The mic can mute automatically when you’re not talking.
The battery life is rated at 15 hours, and supports quick charge to add four hours after just 30 minutes of charge time; it can also trickle charge if you use the headset while connected to power.
Even though it has some design and feature quirks, for $100, the Xbox Wireless Headset is a good deal — simultaneous wireless and Bluetooth and chat-mix balance tend to add to the price — with performance and sound quality that are worth the money.