So… you don’t have money for an Atmos Sound Setup. To add to the issue, you can’t play your games or your movies loud (thin walls, terrible neighbors). What’s a Casual Gamer to do? Allow, Adam, to introduce you to the $99 solution.
Honestly. This one is all kinds of great with a few caveats. Upfront wasn’t convinced about these Headsets. I’ve had a push and pull relationship with Sony’s headphones. I’ve had wireless and noise-canceling headphones from Sony before. Not impressed in any way. They always sounded a bit too “tin-y” for my tastes. I want warmth from headphones.
So, when I purchased these, I was curious about how they would line up. How would they sound with Game Play? How would they sound playing a film through them? What’s the battery life? Were they comfy? Were worth $99?
Short answers: Solid. Solid. Great. Exceptionally so. Yes and no.
The Games I played through them:
Spider-Man: Miles Morales (NextGen version)
Star Wars: Rogue Squadron (NextGen version)
The Films I watched through them:
Parasite (Blu-Ray, Criterion Collection)
Mad Max: Fury Road (4K UHD)
Mission Impossible: Fallout (4K UHD)
1917 (4K UHD)
Pitch Perfect (HBOMAX)
The Lion King – Animated (Disney+)
Impressed with Battery Life and Directional Sound. Truly lives up to the 3D labeling.
Sony has come up with their headphone game. The fit and design are made for comfort. I won’t lie… I’ve got a big ass head. So, headphones can be a problem. Don’t worry folks, these are definitely built with everyone in mind. The over-ear coverage is great giving you a solid seal. Additionally, I’ve worn them for a few hours at a time and never had issues with the weight or the way they feel on my head. They are definitely lighter than you expect them to be considering how bulky they are.
The sound … okay here’s where it gets tricky.
Like I said that the 3D/Directional sound is fabulous. We’re talking Atmos level here. The best example is when I was watching Parasite and its active Atmos soundtrack made these headsets come to life. I have seen the film projected twice, both on studio lots with perfectly tuned Atmos theatres, so I know what I’m hearing for. I can tell you that Parasite sounded accurately represented here. The soundtrack was beautifully presented here.
Playing video games with them is a nice uptick especially for those wanting to play videogames like COD or any other MMO game. Sony wisely designed these as a true gaming headset with an integrated mic on it that you can mute if you want. Playing all three games I was impressed with the directional sounds and how the headset gives you the illusion of a 3D soundscape.
Rogue Squadron benefits the most from the gameplay as sounds hit you from every direction and tests out the headset’s “3D”. The headset actually made a huge difference in a game I was ambivalent about for the first few missions. The headset puts you into the thick of combat.
Nice bonus, any of the ambient sounds that come from the control can be adjusted to be played in the headsets. A nice feature for anyone that’s played Spider-Man: Miles Morales and its active controller sounds. Those also familiar with that feature and its biggest criticism… wait a little down in this review.
Now… to the bad news. The volume and the sound field.
First the Volume. It’s low. I want to be able to blast from the headphones if I want to. Even at max, it’s about Mid where most of my other headphones are at. This headset… not so much.
On games, it’s not too much of an issue. This also could be two-fold; all games allow you to control your sound levels and secondly, games, have a tendency to be aggressive with their sound/music anyways. I would have liked to have kicked up the decibels a bit higher on Rogue Squadron to give me a real kick or to hear the randomness of the city in Cyberpunk 2077.
This becomes a concern if you plan to watch Movies/TV Series. A lot… and I mean a lot of content nowadays is “optimized” aka decibel lowered for home. So, if you’re planning on watching a Disney Film (e.g., Marvel, Pixar, Star Wars) or streaming (e.g., Netflix and Hulu are both known for this) get ready for that dreaded Sound/Music FX high and Dialog low issue that plagues those content providers. This was definitely a problem watching The Lion King on Disney+. Pitch Perfect on HBOMax was not as apparent.
The other issue is the sound field. It’s super tight. All of these games and movies I tested had the same issue. The sound field isn’t open enough. It feels like everything happens within a few feet of you. Yes, there’s direction you can tell “up”, “down”, “right”, “left” but it’s the spatial-ness of the sound that’s the issue. Which on a headset is vital. It would not be an issue if there was a way to adjust the sound field to a more open spacious option or have filter options. Those may be functions that can be fixed later with an update of software/firmware but currently… nothing. You’re stuck with the sound field that Sony has determined (which is a very Sony thing).
In Spider-Man: Miles Morales for instance, when swinging around the city every sound seems to be in front of you no distance. In Rogue Squadron (review soon) it’s the same issue when in dog fights everything is tightly around you. Cyberpunk 2077 (which I am also going to review) the cityscape always seems like it’s two feet around you in every direction though most objects are a fair amount of distance from you.
The biggest positive is the battery life. At present time, I’ve only had to charge it once a week. Timing it, that represented about 13-15 hours of life (which is better than advertised). That’s HUGE. Added they’ve given you the option to connect Aux with an included Male to Male 3.5mm Aux cable. Another added bonus is that these can also be used anywhere the USB Bluetooth fob (also included) can be connected.
Testing the fob on my MacBook Pro and it worked perfectly. Testing the Aux Cable with my TV and Phone also worked perfectly without issue.
I would definitely say if you’re looking to buy… check around and see if anyone has a pair to be the judge yourself. Sound can be a very arbitrary thing and with these, as they’re not a 100% knock-out must-buy I’d definitely give them a test drive. Even at the price point (considering I know someone who spent $3,000 for a pair of headphones recently) it’s a damn good deal.