Overview: Sony PlayStation 3 Pulse Wireless Headset
By Paul Hunter
Sony's first attempt at a wireless PlayStation 3 headset was a great value for an entry-level audio device, however its flimsy design and low audio performance meant it was limited in its appeal. This year Sony is back with a successor headset, the Sony PlayStation 3 Pulse Wireless Headset, which improves upon everything that was good with the original, while also eliminating most of the bad. This is a quality headset clearly intended for hardcore gamers, and that's evident from the moment you peek inside the box.
The Pulse Wireless Headset has been redesigned from last year's model, and now sports a split headband for better breathability and more comfortable padding underneath for extended gameplay sessions. The sleek black matte finish has a metallic tinge to it, giving the headset a nice visual sense of quality. The silver support bands on either side of the headset give a firm grip that are nicely balanced between a tight fit and relaxed feel for maximum comfortability. Overall, this is definitely a headset you'll be proud to wear at home or on the go.
In terms of features, the Pulse Wireless Headset is loaded with an impressive list. Sony was smart to include bluetooth technology into the design the of the PlayStation 3, and the Pulse Wireless Headset takes full advantage of these capabilities. Inside the box is a Wireless Adapter that plugs into your PlayStation 3 and instantly transmits audio data on a 2.4GHz radio frequency. Using the headset with PlayStation 3 games allows you to take advantage of the built-in 7.1 virtual surround sound (VSS) capabilities, which have been optimized for gaming. While it's not true surround sound home theatres are capable of producing, the VSS sounds are quite convincing.
Pulse Wireless Headset features video
Interestingly, the headset includes a Mode button on the right ear cup which is used to select between six pre-determined audio configurations, depending on how you're using the headset. For example, there are Music and Movie modes, which optimize the sound for these experiences, and there are gaming options such as Shooter, which amplifies footsteps, gunfire and explosion sounds, Fighting, which alters the intensity of the bass depending the strength of punches and kicks, and Racing which lets you feel the rumble of competitors around you and augments the effects of acceleration, collisions and crashes.
There's also a noise-canceling mic for voice chat, which has been built-in to the unit, so there's no fumbling to position a boom mic, and no possibility of the mic snapping off.
Perhaps the best added features is Sony's new BassImpact technology, which independently lets you adjust the bass from the main volume control. What's more, BassImpact doesn't simply amplify bass, it converts low frequency sounds into "pulses" around the the earpads that results in an immersive rumble-effect to let you feel the action. The BassImpact has an adjustable slider behind the right ear cup, which you'll likely want to finetune before turning on the headset as the maximize BassImpact can literally shake you head. Easily the best feature of the headset, BassImpact truly has to be experienced to fully understand how great it adds to the audio experience.
The ear cups themselves have a lot of cushion, resting gently yet firmly on your head, and the angled transducer means even more comfort, along with improving the virtualization of the 7.1 audio sound.
Rounding out the features on the headphone, are an LED Power on/off switch (the unit also gives an audible "beep" sound when pressed), a mic mute button, a volume slider, a sound-to-voice adjuster which lets you strike your desired balance between game sound and voice chat, and slots for a 3.5mm audio cord and a USB charge cable. Disappointingly, similar to last year's PS3 headset, the Pulse Wireless Headset does not come packaged with a charge cable (you have to use the one that came with your PlayStation 3).
If you enjoy using headsets on multiple devices, you'll be happy to know that the Pulse Wireless Headset out of the box includes the ability to connect to other devices, such as your PC or MAC, TV, PS Vita, and devices such as an iPod Touch/iPhone which has a 3.5mm audio jack. While other devices may not support all the headset features (e.g. 7.1 VSS is only available when connected to a PS3), during my testing on the PS Vita and iPhone, the audio was crystal clear and sounded great. You will likely want to turn off the BassImpact during music play, as I found the rumble effect to be too heavy over prolonged listening sessions. If your TV has a 3.5mm headphone, you can transmit the audio data wirelessly to the headset since the wireless adapter includes a 3.5mm headphone jack.
It's worth noting that the integration of the headset with a PlayStation 3 is really good, but you must download system software version 4.20 or later. Once downloaded and installed, the headset will work with minimal set-up (literally just plugging in the wireless adapter), and on-screen you can see real-time status updates on your headset including the signal strength and battery power remaining.
The Pulse Wireless Headset is a quality headset with its much-improved audio quality, design and comfortability over last year's model. It does take a bit of time to get used to all the input buttons found around the perimeter of the ear cups, but after a few hours you'll get to know the location and function of each control intuitively. The range of connectivity adds quite a bit of value here, though don't expect that you can connect the headphones to an Xbox 360 controller (it won't work). Since the headset doesn't ship with a charge cable, it's strictly meant to be used by PlayStation 3 owners, so make sure you have an available cable. With so much competition in the gaming headset market (Turtle Beach, Astro Gaming, and others), it's great to see Sony stepping up the quality of their proprietary headset, and I am truly impressed with the results.
[This article originally appeared on the Future Shop Tech Blog]