Pinpoint Audio Accuracy
I mentioned in my Returnal Review that plugging in a set of standard headphones into the DualSense makes the “3D Audio” element of the PS5 kick in. Sony reached out after the review and offered to send over one of the Pulse headsets for review to check out, so here it is!
First up, the design. As with most of the accessories from Sony, there’s a simple black and white aesthetic to the headset, with a neat futuristic style, with the arms curling round to the point where the ear cups are suspended. The buttons for volume/mute etc are all located on the back of the left ear cup, along with the charging port and, handily, a 3.5mm jack that enables the headset to be used as a standard set of headphones. The headband support is a very nice quality thick rubber/silicone (think an Apple Watch strap, but more sturdy), and the ear cups themselves are firm enough to hold up over extended periods of gameplay, but soft enough to feel comfortable at the same time without things getting too heated or sweaty. Also included in the package are a 3.5mm cable, a USB-A to C cable for charging, and the USB dongle that’s required for the headset to function with the PS5. The price point of £89.99 is a good sweet spot, with more premium elements such as the metal band from the previous generation being eschewed in favour of packing the Pulse with more tech. Battery life is quoted at around 12 hours, which I found to be pretty accurate during my testing.
When in game, the Pulse 3D Headset absolutely shines. With Returnal, it genuinely feels like projectiles are coming at you from every single angle, enabling you to more accurately pinpoint where enemies are coming from. It’s a bizarre feeling, but it definitely improves your spatial awareness to the point where I felt my runs improving slightly. The bass feels suitably thumping, with shrill cries from enemies and twinkling effects coming from collectibles piercing the rest of the soundscape with incredible accuracy and clarity. It feels very attuned to gaming first and foremost, which is something you’d expect from, well, a gaming headset. Music sounds great through it, but the design may potentially put people off from using the Pulse headset as a wired set of cans on the train. Flicking across multiple games breathes a bit of new life into them, with spacious interiors suddenly feeling a bit bigger, and tight corridors getting much more claustrophobic.
I’ve only had limited testing with the mic itself, but thanks to the dual mics hidden away in the headset itself, my voice came through nice and clear, with my only slight niggle being that it does have a penchant for picking up some background noise more than some other headsets I’ve tried.
Of course, plugging in a good set of headphones to the DualSense gives a very comparable experience, so if you’re on a budget and want the best from it, this might be the course of action for you. However, if you want to get rid of any wires from your life, the Pulse 3D makes it incredibly easy. To my ears, even with a high end pair of headphones plugged into the DualSense, the Pulse 3D Headset provides a bigger sound stage, with effects being easier to pick up in the distance and off to the sides.
If I have any complaints with the headset, I think they may be quite niche. The official Xbox Series X headset has a very clear separation between chat and game audio (to the point where the entire sides are volume wheels), which makes the Pulse 3D headset feel a little cumbersome to quickly mute your mic instead of the game audio (you need to press the ‘chat’ button and then mute on the headset itself, as the controller’s chat mute function is disabled while using it. Holding down the mute button on the controller still cuts out all audio, however). The second is that there is extremely limited audio tuning on it. Coming from the PS4, where there were completely customisable profiles on a per-game basis for the Gold/Platinum headsets, it feels a little lacking. The only real tuning you can do with it is adjusting the height of the 3D audio effect, which is a little disappointing given the flexibility of its predecessor. However, this is purely software based, and I can probably foresee something coming down the line which brings it more in line with the functionality of the Gold/Platinum headsets. My final minor issue is where it gets very niche, and it’s a bit of a two-parter. The first one is that it still requires a dongle. A part of me would like to have seen the circuitry/functionality of the dongle built in to the console itself, as you may find your USB ports being taken up very quickly, particularly if you have a PSVR set up. With a headset dongle, PSVR and an external hard drive, you’re going to have to decide which one you want plugging into that front USB port on the PS5, which I’m sure will irritate the most aesthetically conscious of you out there. The second part of it is that when you use the Pulse headset, much like the Gold/Platinum versions on the PS4, it cuts out all other audio outputs. For the vast majority of people, this won’t even register as an issue, but for someone who captures a lot of footage with an external capture card, it means a lot of silent videos if I want to use it. It’s not a dealbreaker, but it would be nice if the PS5 could output multiple audio streams like the competition can.