Video games are an inherently visual medium – the clue, after all, is in the name. And yet sound can make or break an experience: when it’s good, like in The Last of Us: Part II, it sucks you into your surroundings, providing a sense of presence – but when it’s bad, like in the tinny Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, it only serves to irritate. Of course, great audio deserves a premium pair of cans, but balancing budget against sound quality can be a predicament for many players. That’s where, in our opinion, Sony’s line of officially branded Pulse headsets come into play – and its latest option, the PlayStation 5-focused Pulse 3D Wireless Headset, is no exception.
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Pulse 3D Wireless Headset Review: What Do You Get?
Retailing for £89.99/$99.99, the Pulse 3D Wireless Headset finds itself on the lower end of the price spectrum when it comes to dedicated wireless gaming headsets. While it’s more expensive than the discontinued – and, honestly, extremely rudimentary – Gold Wireless Headset from the previous generation, it’s cheaper than the Platinum Wireless Headset, which Sony promoted as 3D capable cans during the PS4 era.
And yet it shares a lot in common with that headset: the complicated button layout, situated around the exterior of the left cup, is almost identical – and it has the same set of core features, including simulated 3D sound, which works in conjunction with the PS5’s heavily marketed Tempest Engine technology. The cups are slightly more compact, making for a snugger overall fit – which we personally appreciate – although this does mean that battery life is on the lower end of what you’d expect for a wireless headset; Sony advertises about 12 hours, but our testing pegs the reality closer to ten.
It’s worth noting that, despite the PS5 centric marketing, this accessory can be used pretty much anywhere. The included USB dongle can be plugged into a PS4, PC, or even a Nintendo Switch for wireless audio, while there’s a standard 3.5mm audio cable included for everything else – such as the PSVR headset, for example. Obviously, the controls on the cans don’t interface with every device, but the integration with the PS5 and PS4’s user interface is one of the main selling points here, as you’re given visual feedback when you adjust the volume or mute the microphone.
Charging is conducted using an included USB-C cable, which is the same as the DualSense controller, and is relatively fast – although we did notice some very minor electrical static in the left channel when we played while plugged in. The aforementioned USB dongle is much more discreet than the one included with the Platinum Wireless Headset, but provides roughly the same range; it flawlessly covers a couple of average sized rooms, but don’t expect to still hear your audio outside of that.
Pulse 3D Wireless Review: How Does It Sound?
Given its price point, the Pulse 3D Wireless Headset is unlikely to be on the radar of audiophiles – and it’s not trying to be. At the end of the day you get what you pay for, and so you won’t find studio quality sound here. However, the performance is a tick above average, with rounded bass and an overall good sense of space.
The audio in games designed around the Tempest Engine – like Demon’s Souls, for example – feels big with these cans, allowing you to appreciate the sense of presence that PlayStation has hooked its marketing cart to. Games with traditional stereo soundscapes, like Yakuza: Like a Dragon, can feel much thinner by comparison – and subsequently the mix is a bit more jumbled. Obviously your mileage will vary depending on the game, but the 3D audio does feel much more optimised on these compared to, say, a traditional pair of earbuds – as you’d expect.
Compared to the Platinum Wireless Headset, we found the volume to be a little lower overall, although there’s still more than enough oomph to the speakers – you’ll just need to turn the volume up a notch higher than maybe you’d expect. Unfortunately, the built-in microphones, while serviceable, are of a pretty low quality, and while they’ll get the job done for traditional in-game chat, you’re not going to want to use them for anything other than that.
It’s also worth mentioning that there’s no companion app for the Pulse 3D Wireless Headset, which was an option with previous products in the line. While not a deal-breaker – we always found the PS4-based software fairly unintuitive to use – some may lament the lack of control over their sound profile, as you’re pretty much at the mercy of your chosen game’s mix here.
Pulse 3D Wireless Headset Review: Is It Comfortable?
Sony’s official headsets have come in for some criticism due to their build quality, but we’ve never experienced the horror stories we’ve read about the Gold Wireless Headset or Platinum Wireless Headset – perhaps we just got lucky. Either way, presumably in response to the robust feedback pointed at its predecessors, PlayStation has done away with the problematic hinges from its previous peripherals in favour of a flexible plastic band.
This change means that the cans are less portable overall, but should hopefully result in fewer breakages. After a few weeks use, we haven’t had any issues: there’s certainly a cheap feel to the plastic headband – which utilises the same colour scheme as the DualSense controller, and is adorned with a familiar textured pattern – but we’re confident that it’ll withstand typical wear and tear.
The cans fit snugly around our ears, although we daresay the smaller cups could provide issues for larger lugs. The headset has no adjustability options whatsoever, so while we’ve had little issue wearing it ourselves, your mileage may vary – and there’s no way to adapt it if you end up with a poor fit. The faux leather texture around the cups is comfortable enough, although the material can tickle your skin after long sessions; this is all pretty standard stuff for a headset on the lower end of the price spectrum, of course, and not exclusive to the Pulse 3D Wireless Headset.
Our biggest criticism is reserved for the controls, which have few distinguishing features and can be difficult to tell apart. While the mute button has a nice spring to it, we’ve found ourselves squinting in the glow of our television trying to find the power button – and while the volume controls are in the most prominent position, one wrong move can see you adjusting the microphone mix rather than bumping up the volume like you intended. A wheel perhaps could have solved this issue.
Pulse 3D Wireless Headset Review: Should You Buy It?
The best thing about the Pulse 3D Wireless Headset is its integration with the PS5 and PS4’s user interface, providing you with hassle-free control over your in-game audio. The sound quality, for the price, is above average – although audiophiles will want to look elsewhere for a richer overall experience. The integration with the PS5’s new Tempest Engine technology seems pretty good so far, although there are a limited number of titles to test this with at the moment; Demon’s Souls sounds exquisite with these cans.
The headset is versatile, and can be used with a number of different devices – including a PC and Nintendo Switch – although the battery life is a little on the shorter side than we’d like. The controls can be cumbersome, and the build quality has a somewhat cheap feel to it, although we’re confident it’ll withstand typical wear and tear. All in all, if you’re looking for a significant upgrade on a standard pair of earbuds, and you’re willing to pay for the flexibility enabled by a wireless headset, this is a good all-rounded for the price.
Do you own the Pulse 3D Wireless Headset? What are your thoughts on it, and do they align with our own? For transparency, PlayStation provided us with this product for review.