While a great many of us are more than happy to experience game audio through a gigantic set of speakers that tickle your intestines every time a bass line drops, the reality for most players is that they can’t be keeping the neighbours up all night with their entertainment pursuits. Some kind of headphone-based alternative is a must for those who tend to play in the wee hours or have young families in the house, and that’s why we were keen to get our hands on the Sony Pulse Wireless Headset.
At first, the Pulse Headset appears to be a subtle upgrade of the pre-existing Sony PlayStation 3 Wireless Stereo Headset. However, this time around we have a more attractive design, and the abandonment of the obtrusive boom mic which made you look like you’re selling insurance rather than playing a game.
First things first, the Pulse Headset offers fantastic audio quality, with 7.1 sound and impressive range. The bass is stunning, but it never impacts any other element of the experience. High notes are distinct and clear, even when your head is being rumbled by a bass line that sounds like Satan passing wind. With several pre-defined settings you can tinker with the output so it suits the type of game you’re currently playing - after all, the type of sound you want to experience during a racing game is different from that in a first-person shooter. These settings are easily configurable by using the buttons and sliders located on the headset itself.
The chunky design might lead you to assume that this thing is going to crush your cranium after a few hours, but the Pulse Headset is actually incredibly comfortable to use for prolonged periods. The soft material which surrounds each speaker not only provides a cushion, but also traps the sound and prevents audio leakage. Of course, the drawback here is that you can’t hear anything around you - a prime consideration if you have a wife upstairs who needs you to help change a baby’s nappy halfway through the night.
The Pulse Headsets communicates with the PS3 system via the bundled USB adapter, and once linked is treated like a dedicated peripheral. On-screen information appears relating to battery life and whether or not the headset’s mic is activated - all of which means you don’t have to keep taking the unit off your head to inspect its settings.
Although this is being sold as a headset for your PS3, Sony has gone to some lengths to ensure that you’re aware it can be used with other systems, too. Connecting to your PS Vita, for example, requires the use of a standard 3.5mm headphone lead, which is thoughtfully included. It’s a little disappointing that Sony couldn’t find some way of keeping the functionality wireless for the Vita - it would have been great to use the console as an MP3 player and simply put it in your bag, pop on your headphones and venture out into the world without having to worry about wires getting tangled up. Another mild disappointment is the lack of a USB cable for changing the internal battery, although the fact that it uses the same lead as the PS3 controller means that you should already have one in the house.
Although the price tag (which, according to an online search, can be as high as £129.99) might seem excessive - especially when compared to some of the low-end cans you acquire these days - it’s actually a very decent price for a headset of this quality. We’ve used a wide range of headphones in our quest to locate the ultimate personal audio experience for our gaming sessions, and the Pulse Headset beats all challengers hands-down. The quality is fantastic, the mic works very well (and is mercifully hidden) and the way in which the unit integrates with the PS3 itself - including on-screen messages - is how this kind of thing really should be done. If you’re one of those PS3 owners who wants to get the full audio experience but can’t wake the dead with an expensive, wall-shaking surround sound system, then this is your best option.