If you set your expectations appropriately, you’ll likely find a lot to like about Microsoft’s recently released Xbox Wireless Headset.
The gaming headset features superb sound that surpasses even Razer’s Kaira Pro headphones and nearly every other pair of Xbox headphones I’ve ever used, offering stellar value for its $129 price tag.
It features Bluetooth connectivity coupled with Xbox’s proprietary wireless protocol, allowing you to game entirely wirelessly — including even with voice chat — as well as to listen to podcasts, music or take calls from your smartphone while gaming.
While I initially thought I wouldn’t care about either of these features, once you’ve used a fully wireless headset, it isn’t easy to go back to one that requires you to jack into the Xbox’s controller for voice chat. The same can be said about Bluetooth connectivity. Being able to listen to music or podcasts played from your smartphone is great and far more useful than some people might initially expect.
Virtual surround sound galore
Regarding sound quality, part of what’s so impressive about the Xbox Wireless Headset is that it supports Windows Sonic, Dolby Atmos and DTS Headphone: X. Despite each of these surround sound options being acoustically very similar, it’s still great that the Xbox Wireless Headsets supports all three and not just Microsoft’s Windows Sonic.
Sound quality is overall stellar and I find myself noticing certain audio cues in games I haven’t heard before with more expensive headsets. For example, in Apex Legends, I’m able to tell how close and what direction an enemy is in based solely on their footsteps instead of the fact that the footsteps just exist. That said, like a lot of gaming headphones, the Xbox Wireless Headset doesn’t feature a lot of bass, and the bass-focused balancing options in the Xbox Wireless Headset EQ app don’t improve this very much.
Keep in mind that when I say these headphones sound great, I’m taking their price into account. For example, while they sound better than Turtle Beach’s $199 Stealth 700 series headsets and Razer’s Kaira Pro $199 headphones, they’re not going to match a high-end gaming headset like Astro’s A50s or even the A40s. This means that Microsoft’s Xbox headset also doesn’t feature noise-cancelling or active noise-cancelling, so if that’s a feature you’re after, you’ll need to be ready to drop more cash on a higher-end gaming headset.
This value proposition also extends to the Xbox Wireless Headset’s build quality. The headphones’ telescopic design, polyurethane leather cups and suitably cushy headband all feel slightly above what you’d expect from a gaming headset in this price range. This is a sturdy, well-made headset that feels like it’s built to last.
They also look decidedly more mature than your typical RGB-covered gaming headset, a welcome choice that complements the Xbox Series X’s understated design wonderfully. Unfortunately, I found the Xbox Wireless headset uncomfortable for long gaming sessions because the earcups push on my head quite a bit and don’t offer much airflow. Even after just a half-hour of gaming, I often experienced sweaty ears.
Disappointing microphone quality
Beyond its lack of comfort, the most disappointing aspect of the Xbox Wireless Headset is its microphone. The bendable mic, unfortunately, doesn’t detach entirely and can’t extend at all. This means that depending on the shape of your head, the mic could end up rather far from your mouth, leading to what my friends on Xbox Live have described as very hollow sound quality.
Though this may have increased the Xbox Wireless Headset’s cost slightly, it would have been great if Microsoft opted for a telescoping mic that extends in and out, or at the very least, a microphone that’s longer. On the plus side, voice chat is entirely wireless and doesn’t require a connection to the Xbox One or Series X controller. Along with being too short, the mic also tends to be over-sensitive.
For example, I’ve had friends complain that they can hear my controller presses through the headset so clearly that it sounds like I’m in the room with them. The interesting auto-mute feature that mutes the mic automatically until you speak helps mitigate this issue a bit, but it doesn’t seem to always work. Plus, if you’re button mashing while talking, those annoying clicks will still come through loud and clear.
Speaking of voice chat, it’s effortless to balance game/voice chat levels adequately and the overall volume thanks to the headset’s spinning earcups being a straightforward way to shift volume subtly. Other headsets use tiny, usually difficult-to-locate spinning wheels, but with the Xbox Wireless Headset, all you need to do is reach up and turn a very accessible earcup slightly to get that perfect volume level/balance. Other buttons include a mute button on the mic and an on/off/syncing switch.
Battery life comes in at somewhere in the 15-hour range, backing up Microsoft’s estimates. This is pretty standard as far as headsets go and is more than enough time for me as long as I plug the headset in to charge once or twice a week.
A cost-effective option for Xbox gamers
Of course, it’s important to mention that similar to Razer’s Kaira Pro gaming headset, Microsoft’s Xbox Wireless Headset is only really designed with gaming on Xbox One or Xbox Series X/S in mind. If you want a multi-platform gaming headset, SteelSeries’ positively reviewed $189 Arctis 7x accomplishes the same wireless gameplay and voice chat on Xbox consoles via a USB-C adapter (you’ll also need a dongle USB-C-to-A-adapter), and also works well with other devices. That said, you can connect the Xbox Wireless Headset to a PC as long as you have the USB Xbox Wireless Adapter.
In the end, if you set your expectations appropriately, there’s a lot to like about Microsoft’s Xbox Wireless Headset. Despite my issues with how uncomfortable it is to wear for long gaming sessions and its poor mic quality, the headset feels well-made and sounds great, especially with Dolby Atmos virtual surround sound enabled. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the Xbox Wireless headset rivals far more expensive gaming headsets when it comes to sound quality.
Overall, Microsoft’s new Xbox Wireless Headset offers great performance for its $129 price tag. The Xbox Wireless Headset is available now at several retailers, including the Microsoft Store.