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Sony PS3 Wireless Headset – Judged to be very good

January 5, 2012

Sony PS3 Wireless Headsets ($80 street price)

My bottom line:

Put these on and get ready to be fully immersed in your favorite videogame or blu-ray movie.  Thoughtful design features, noise cancelling-technology and comfortable earcups make this the best headphone option for extended play sessions.  The sound is crystal clear with no annoying background hiss or buzz common with other wireless headsets.  Plug-and-play functionality will have you enjoying these right out of the box.  And, be wary of the light (read further to find out more…).

Full review:

You have been there.  It is late at night and the house/apartment is quiet.  You want to watch a movie or are settling in for an all-nighter with your favorite game but you do not want to disturb your spouse, significant other, kids, pets or even your mother-in-law visiting for a long weekend (you are a thoughtful person).

You reach for your corded headphones but they are not comfortable. The cord gets in the way of your controller and beverage of choice. The overall experience is frustrating and quickly makes you wish you had a sound proof basement.

Enter Sony’s PS3 wireless headset.  Sony has done an excellent job of thinking about how this headset will be used.  The design features read like a laundry list for late night and marathon gamers:

1. The sound is crystal clear without annoying background noises.

2. The surround mode does an excellent job at creating an accurate sound field that helps you identify off-screen foes sonically, and satisfyingly recreates movie surround soundtracks.

3. Design features abound to make quick one-handed changes to the volume, surround, and even turn the unit on/off.  These are reflected on-screen for a few seconds along with a battery life indicator.

4. PS3 system menu options (under Accessories), allow you to adjust the pick-up volume on the mic or turn it off completely.

5. The mic boom can be pushed in antenna-like into the headset housing, hiding the blue light indicator at its tip.  This gets it out of the way and prevents the blue light from becoming an annoyance.

My critical features for rating wireless headsets are sound, comfort, battery life and voice-chat clarity, in that order.  The Sony scores high on all.

Sound

The sound is excellent and the surround mode performs similarly to corded headphones plugged into a latest-generation receiver.  You no longer have to turn on your receiver to listen to surround sound tracks! The soundfield is broad, clear and realistic (you are enveloped with sound from all directions and not just the usual left and right of stereo).  Trebles and mids are very good but bases are a touch thin.  There is no hint of background noise or buzzing.  The headset noise cancels extraneous room noises, but not to the point where you cannot hear your cell phone ringing.  Additionally, you can fine tune the mic pick-up to prevent echoes when voice-chatting, or turn it off completely for offline use.  As a result, you become fully immersed into your game or movie, enhancing your listening and playing experience.  The resultant soundfield facilitates gaming by creating an accurate sonic field.  By accurate, I mean that items and enemies are where they should be based on the projected sound.  If you hear a noise behind you, up and to the right, that is where you will find your off-screen foe.  Thanks to the Bluetooth technology, the unit does not care if you are prone on a couch, bean bag, chair, or excitedly moving about all over the room.

Comfort and ease-of-use

The medium-sized earcups are very comfortable.  I “forgot” I was wearing them sometime during my trial 4-hour review period.  The head band is large and slides easily for quick adjustment no matter how small- or big- headed you are (tested on multiple human craniums).  Your head will not feel like it is in a vise but the headset stays securely on your preferred position.

The volume control has a large gain range, so that a small adjustment will not jump the volume up or down.  You can adjust the volume precisely with one hand.  The maximum volume could be louder and there is no way to increase it via the menu.  However, after a break, I actually turned the volume down from its original ~85% setting.  I deem the max volume setting loud enough but want the option to “make my eardrums bleed”, just like my receiver headphones.

The unit can be turned on/off by pushing on the left earcup, which results in a pleasing sound notification. The surround sound control is on the right and you have to push it for 30 seconds to register.  You will hear an immediate improvement from surround mode and will likely never touch this button again.

As with other official accessories, ease-of-use and integration with the PS3 is what you expect: outstanding.  The headset options can be tweaked via the system menu, and the unit is immediately recognized once it is plugged-in and powered.  Volume and surround adjustments are displayed via a small row of icons on the top right corner of the screen.  The display smartly includes a battery life indicator, and disappears after a few seconds.  The unit will also prompt you for charging when almost out of juice, using the same notice as the wireless PS3 controllers.

Battery Life

After an initial charge of 1 hr, my out-of-the-box unit let me play for about 4 hours.  I did turn the unit off during a long break.  Based on my experience, the rated 6 hour lifetime is about right.  Assuming the unit uses the same batteries as the PS3 controller, I expect these headsets to last many years and suffer from minimum degradation to the battery.  The unit does not include the USB cable for charging. For the $90-100 price, the cable should have been included.

Voice Chat

The unit does what it is supposed when it comes to voice chat.  Voices are clear and not too tinny, without echoing.  Again, the option to increase the volume would be a plus.  The mic is plastic and easy to clean (I will not elaborate further).  When extended to its full length, the small blue light indicator at the mic’s tip is just visible.  Some might find it an annoying distraction.  For offline use, the mic boom can be pushed into the headset antenna-like.  This hides the tip from view.  However, there is no way to turn off the light when the mic is fully deployed for online voice chatting.  Unfortunately, Sony has not included a menu option for turning off the light.  Low tech options include a strategically placed piece of electrical tape, a usable but unsatisfying solution.

Build quality is good.  Although made of plastic, the headset does not have a cheap, “plasticky” feeling.  It is easy to clean and should survive normal wear and tear.  There is no pouch, cover or case included, again a disappointment based on the price range.  The design is modern and contemporary.  Retro stylists are not welcomed.  These headphones are not “can” style and strictly for use with the PS3.

I encourage all users to log onto the Sony website and demand a software update to increase the volume and turn-off the mic light, which are the unit’s main minor flaws.

In the end…

These are the best headphones for the PS3.  The combination of impressive surround sound and easy to access controls enhances both movies and games.  Get these if your PS3 sees a heavy dose of blu-ray movies and media streaming, along with games.  Some online users may have an issue with the distracting mic light.  However, the unit represents an excellent value and worthy accessory to your PS3 system.

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