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The new official headset for Xbox Series X|S, and other Microsoft platforms, is a no-frills, high-quality audio device.
Xbox hardware has been leaning into the sleek, minimalist look for quite some time, but, importantly, its devices always pack some top-performing hardware in them. For example, the Xbox One X, the Xbox Series X, and (to some extent) the Elite Series 2 controller are slick in form and very capable in function. That same design philosophy extends to the Xbox Wireless Headset, the platform's new flagship first-party audio device.
This $100 headset delivers strong all-around sound quality and some useful features like Dolby Atmos, simultaneous Bluetooth connectivity, and impressive build quality. And although its fit comes with some conditions, it provides solid comfort for long sessions. At its price range, the headset is one of the best options for Xbox platforms.
Build and comfort
You can get a sense of overall build quality the moment you take the headset out of the box--the steel inner frame and plastic casing make for a very flexible headband that can stretch and contort (within reason) without audible creaking or feeling like it's cracking. It also helps that there isn't any fancy design work on this headset, just plain black plastic, subtle neon green trim, and the Xbox logo on the right earcup. It's straightforward without many moving parts or over-the-top branding.
In terms of comfort, the pleather and foam ear pads provide top-notch cushioning for long sessions, but as with any pleather-based upholstery, it can get sweaty after a few hours. One thing to note is that the headset does clamp a bit tight. For me, it wasn't much of a problem since the form-fitting cushion alleviated most of the pressure, but folks with bigger heads may have issues with the fitment. I had to extend the adjustable headband to its maximum for the headset to properly fit me. So, again, if you have a larger head or voluminous hair, the fullest extension may not be enough for the ear cups to sit just right over your ears.
Features and battery life
The Xbox Wireless Headset has all the essential technical features you'd want out of a mid-to-high-end audio device. As with any wireless Xbox-designed device, this headset uses Microsoft's proprietary wireless tech that lets you sync directly to a console without a dongle or cable--just press hold the power button on the headset and press the pairing button on the Xbox. This thing also rocks Bluetooth 4.2, and you can simultaneously pair it to another device in addition to your console. For example, I was on Discord chatting and listening to a group of friends through my phone while gaming on my Xbox Series X.
The leading audio technologies are also available when using the Xbox Wireless Headset. Both Dolby Atmos and DTS Headphone:X can be enabled in the console's settings, although you do need to install and get separate paid access to the respective applications to utilize those features. Alternatively, Windows Sonic is available for free and provides improved spatial audio in addition to giving you the proper audio experience for the headset. Tinkering with settings and sound equalization must be done in the console's accessories menu.
On the headset, the right ear cup itself actually works as the volume dial--it's a rather clever design choice that makes it easy to adjust volume. The left ear cup works as the chat and in-game volume mixer, and there's subtle tactile feedback for when it's balanced at 50-50. The microphone folds in and out with a flexible rubber casing, and since it's rather short, it doesn't sit in front of your mouth and get in the way if you're eating or drinking.
As for battery life, I was impressed with how it was able to hold up after a full charge. Microsoft states that a 30-minute charge should provide around four hours of use and a three-hour charge will allow the headset to last about 15 hours. I charged it overnight and after using it for about eight hours in a day, the Xbox UI indicated that the battery remained well above half full.
I wouldn't claim to be an audiophile, but I do value sound quality in my gaming experiences--on PC, I drive the Sennheiser HD 598 headphones through a DAC to get richer audio for the great soundtracks of my favorite games, if not for better soundstage in competitive games. The Xbox Wireless Headset isn't going to replace that type of setup (as it's not intended to). But for those who are plugging in earbuds into the controller or working with budget-level headsets, I'm willing to bet you'll notice a significant difference with the Xbox Wireless Headset.
You'll hear solid bass coming through on default settings, which is great for games with bombastic moments and impactful audio design. Music will also sound bolder without the bass drowning out the other frequencies. Even as you kick up the volume, there isn't much distortion that comes through in the mids and highs, so the audio isn't abrasive if you want it to get louder. At near-max volume, you may notice that the audio details may get lost or muddled and highs can be a bit harsh.
I tested the sound quality with Forza Horizon 4, Doom Eternal, and Tetris Effect Connected, all of which feature emphatic audio design but in different styles. I also used Spotify to listen to a wide range of music genres--the progressive-rock and punk sounds of RX Bandits, the groovy jazz-rock of the Persona soundtracks, the funk and soul of Silk Sonic, and the bass-heavy trap of Gucci Mane. Overall, everything sounded great and had me excited to turn up volume on my favorite games and tunes.
Positional audio is very distinct, so competitive gamers should be satisfied with the advantage they can get out of the Xbox Wireless Headset. Audio cues were easy to pick up when playing Gears 5 multiplayer, which allowed me to better anticipate enemies approaching from specific locations. Directional sound makes the audio experience in non-competitive games more full as well. While playing Ori And The Will of the Wisps, for example, I noticed the direction of Ori's attacks was represented sonically, which was subtle but effective--it's also nice when the whimsical soundtrack comes through with great clarity at the same time. I had a similar experience in an older game like Lost Odyssey, where the high quality audio gave a new edge to the cutscenes and made Nobuo Uematsu's incredible compositions shine brighter.
As for the microphone, the quality of your voice will come through for others to hear you well enough, but if crystal clear communication is a top priority, you may want to look into other headsets. The mic is certainly functional and the sound isolation tech ensures outside noise doesn't spill into voice chat, so if simple in-game comms is all you require, then it'll be sufficient.
The bottom line
I personally enjoy Xbox's sleek hardware designs, and the Xbox Wireless Headset is a prime example. More importantly, it delivers high-quality sound, a durable build, and a solid feature set. While comfort and fit turned out fine for me, it's something you may want to look into a bit more for yourself, especially if you've had issues with the size of headsets in the past.
To put my experience in simple terms, if you're willing to drop $100 on a headset for your Xbox console, you won't go wrong with Microsoft's official offering in the Xbox Wireless Headset.
- Great sound quality with bold bass and audio clarity at high volumes
- Comfortable ear cushions are suitable for long sessions
- Sturdy build lets you flex and contort the headset easily
- Great feature set with Bluetooth, Dolby Atmos, and smart volume dial design
- Microphone quality is subpar
- Full extension of the headband might not be enough for those with bigger heads or voluminous hair
About the author: Michael has been covering tech on and off at GameSpot over the past four and a half years. He loves him a great pair of headphones that lets his favorite music and game soundtracks sound the best they can, so he has an ear for good audio. He used the Xbox Wireless Headset over the course of a few days with an Xbox Series X. Microsoft provided the Xbox Wireless Headset for review.