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Hearing is believing.
There are a handful of wireless headsets designed for the PlayStation 4, all varying in quality and features. Sony had already designed a set for their own console in the Gold wireless headset, but they’ve upped the ante with the Platinum iteration. The new headset offers virtual 7.1 surround sound, a redesigned frame, and customizable audio settings. Let’s break down the Platinum Wireless Headset’s design, features, and sound quality to see if it’s worthy of the $160 price tag
Design and Ergonomics
The sleek polished aluminum band along the top of the frame feels sturdy. The thick rubber headband just under the frame rests easy on your head, and the headset’s flexibility makes it easy to slip on and off. The rest of the housing is made of plastic. The earcups slide along the inside of the frame to adjust for fitment and elbows are situated just above the earcups that allow you to fold the headset inward. Though it doesn’t fold symmetrically, it becomes compact enough to store conveniently. A small travel pouch comes packaged and allows you to easily take the headset on the go. Overall, the minimalist design is aesthetically pleasing and solidly built.
The leather upholstery would indicate that the ear pads are thick, but the padding only goes in about half as deep. The firm padding provides adequate comfort, but it should be noted that the headset tends to clamp over your head fairly tight. Regardless, it was comfortable enough to wear during a two-hour session for testing. Leather slightly limits breathability, so it may get warm inside the headset, but the ear pads don’t create a perfect seal which helps alleviate this issue. The inner audio drivers have a slanted contour, which are supposed to align flush to the user’s ears. The problem is that everyone has different shaped and sized ears, and bigger ears may press up against the inner drivers. This can cause discomfort of varying degrees. As a consequence, the ergonomics of the Platinum headset will differ from user to user.
Volume control buttons reside under the left earcup, which work well when used with the PS4 but don’t work when used on other devices through a 3.5mm connection. A voice chat volume mixer also sits next to the volume control. Balancing in-game audio and voice chat volume on-the-fly becomes incredibly convenient when your team is speaking too softly or if you need to focus on a game’s audio cues.
The USB charging port is also on the left earcup, but the packaged cable is much too short to charge and use the headset on the PS4 simultaneously. The 3.5mm port allows the headset to be used wired with other devices, and a 3.5mm cable comes with the package. The Platinum headset connects wirelessly through the packaged USB dongle and seamlessly works with the PS4 and PC.
Sony has left the battery life of this headset undefined, simply saying it’s equipped with an “extended-life” battery. We charged the headset overnight and it lasted for the entire duration of our tests, which amounted to about 10 hours with the dashboard battery indicator still at two of three bars.
The integrated microphone hidden under the left earcup captures clear audio, but didn’t cancel outside noise as well as we hoped considering the dual microphone design is intended to do just that. It’s a great ergonomic design that cuts the cumbersome nature of inflexible boom mics.
Swapping between standard audio and virtual surround sound/3D audio can be done on-the-fly with a switch under the right earcup. The effectiveness of surround sound can vary between applications and games, which makes the feature more intuitive to use. Though limited in its application, 3D audio is a neat feature that’ll be incorporated in future games such as Days Gone, MLB: The Show ‘17, and Uncharted: The Lost Legacy. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is the only game currently out to support 3D audio.
Sony has the Headset Companion App available for download on PSN that allows users to tinker with equalization settings and enable game-specific presets. The built-in presets are somewhat lacking with limited options for music and movies but customization is welcome, regardless. Two presets can be programmed to the headset and swapping between the two is done with by moving headset’s power switch between “1” and “2.”
The Platinum wireless headset is equipped with virtual 7.1 surround sound. Audio feels more full as if it encompasses an entire room with virtual surround sound activated. The easiest way to describe the experience is that sound flows around you rather than being sent directly at you. While it’s a definite positive, voices tend to get drowned out during in-game dialogue without making up for it with distinct depth or directional sound. It’s important to know that virtual surround is only a simulation of the real thing, since these headphones only have two physical audio drivers.
As mentioned earlier, 3D audio is key feature of the Platinum headset. Developers must incorporate 3D audio into their games, so the library of games is limited for now. Since Uncharted 4 is the only release to currently have 3D audio, we played through about four hours of the game to get a feel for it. When enabled, gunfire and explosions had a noticeable sense of verticality. Enemies from above and below were accurately positioned sonically, which can add a layer of immersion for gaming. It can also provide an advantage for locating the source of a sound.
A few rounds of Overwatch on the PS4 proved that positional audio creates a slight advantage. Any good pair of headphones should have decent sound location and the Platinum wireless headset is no exception. If a battle was taking place at a capture point, it was clear not only how frantic it was but which characters were using what abilities, even from a distance.
When it comes to the quality of different audio frequencies, the Platinum headset makes a strong statement. High frequencies--such as soprano vocals, crashing cymbals, or high-pitched effects--come out clean. Medium frequencies--gunfire, speaking voices, rhythm guitar for example--sound great, but have very slight distortion at louder volumes. Lower frequencies that come from bass drums in music and deep explosions in games have some punch, but basslines and sub-bass lack presence.
The lack of sub-bass is evident at the 3:26 mark in Hans Zimmer’s “Why So Serious?” arrangement heard in The Dark Knight soundtrack. The unbalanced bass can also be heard with the bassline from Kendrick Lamar’s “King Kunta” and rattling undertones in A$AP Ferg’s “New Level.” Loud punk songs like “Satellite” from Rise Against and the multi-horn section in “The Three of Us” by Streetlight Manifesto showed us that the headset puts out detailed instrumentation and clarity, even if it's light on bass.
Sony’s Platinum Wireless Headset provides a great audio experience and solid design, but there are a few caveats. The product’s level comfort will vary between users due to the ergonomic choices Sony made--slanted inner drivers, slightly tight head clamp, and stiff earpads. Those features might be just right for one person, but may compromise its usability for another.
While some frequencies such as bass and sub-bass are lacking, positional audio and overall clarity make for exceptional sound. In-game sound effects and scores feel full and immersive, especially with virtual surround. Music has depth and detail, though bass-heavy tracks lack punch. 3D audio may not have wide support, but it’s a great feature to see used in future games.
The Platinum headset’s $160 price tag compares properly with other wireless headsets on the market. The kicker is the PS4-specific support like 3D audio and the companion app for options. However, you’ll need to find out if the headset itself is comfortable for you.