No matter what headset I’ve used, even on PC, strangers bark out distorted orders and the fluttering of their frustrated breath garble their profanities. Deafness and in-game voice communications have never mixed for me, and that’s why I have never bothered with a decent headset for consoles. However, I expected the Xbox Wireless Headset to give me some confidence and finally feel comfortable in voice chat.
The headset markets two things that interest me; crystal clear chat and the ability to tailor your audio controls. Currently, I have an EPOS GSP 601 wired headset ($219) that I primarily use on PC. It’s bulky and heavy but comes with great audio output and an equally great microphone. In addition, I have an EPOS external soundcard that has software to adjust the headsets equalisation. It’s a good quality headset, and something I can reference against the far cheaper Xbox headset.
Throughout this review, I’m going to look into how accessible the Xbox Wireless Headset is on an Xbox Series X|S for a Deaf user that wears hearing aids and glasses. I’ll look into the ease of use and how comfortable it feels, the tailored controls, the quality of both input and outputs, and if it delivers on its crystal clear chat.
Comfort and ease of use
The matte black headset with Xbox green accents feels wonderfully smooth and well designed. It’s also surprisingly light to pick up, light to wear, and fits my head snugly thanks to the adjustable band that ensures the headphones hug your ears.
As someone that wears hearing aids and glasses, the Xbox Wireless Headset covers my ears wonderfully and the soft padding of the cups makes prolonged sessions more comfortable. However, if your hearing aid moulds are out of shape, expect to get some feedback. I was able to reduce feedback by just pushing my only-just fitting moulds into my ear more! Additionally, some headset positions do wind up a bit uncomfortable and caused some aches around the helix area of the ear.
The headset itself can be used to adjust basic levels. On the right ear, you can turn the outer plate to increase or decrease the master volume. On the left ear, the outer plate can be turned to change the different Headset Chat Mixer volumes — from just game audio, both game audio and voice comms, and just voice comms.
The outer plates as dials are a nice feature that let you adjust levels quickly without having to revert to a screen of sliders. However, I think having a pop-up slider for whichever dial you’re interacting with at the time would act as a good visual representation of what your levels are rather than going by ear.
As for buttons, the headset has two on the left ear. One is located at the base of the microphone’s boom and mutes the microphone or activates it. The other button is just above and is the power button that doubles as the Bluetooth discoverability button. Both buttons activate unique chimes to confirm and detail the action depending on which button has been pressed and the duration.
My main issue with the design seemed to mostly focus on the presentation of the microphone itself. It’s incredibly small. With it appearing only ever so slightly into my peripheral vision, I struggled to see the LED light that indicates if my microphone is on or off.
Being restricted to a game’s default maximum volume is always frustrating — sometimes I need that extra umph. Thankfully, using the Xbox Accessories app let me adjust equaliser settings manually. And honestly, I’ve never heard my games in better quality than now because of this capability.
I’m able to ramp up the following: 125Hz, 250Hz, 1kHz, 4kHz, 8kHz. All of these can be changed from -12 through to +12 decibels and there’s the additional option to increase the bass. Although the bass on the Xbox Wireless Headset is phenomenal — with it on its lowest, the headset was vibrating at high volumes. If for whatever reason you want a punch in the head from bass, you can ramp that up to +12. While I like bass, after lengthy sessions my ears started to feel fatigued by the intensity at the lower levels.
It feels freeing to be offered an area to adjust the equalisation manually —or with the provided presets— but there’s one downside. There’s no way to really sample these changes unless you switch back to your chosen media. Being able to adjust these settings to some looped samples would really make all the difference and mean less switching back and forth.
Output and input quality
The audio output quality of the Xbox Wireless Headset, for me, felt incredible in different areas. For music, it picked up delicate notes and drums more prominently. For films, it was like a cinema experience. For games, the punch of a Destiny 2 weapon was stronger and the skills in Dishonored felt more intense.
The Spatial audio with Windows Sonic improves the directional audio quality, but sadly, not by much for my hearing. Apex Legends, for example, I’m able to differentiate surround sounds as simply left and right as well as their distance from my character. Instead of hearing my surroundings with 3D audio, the headset instead helped draw more attention to sounds I was previously unaware of; bullet ricochets details or a player’s footsteps crunching in the grass.
A lot of hearing these sounds so clearly can be noted down as the fact I’m listening at full volume —as I usually do— but the addition of an equaliser bumping sounds up even more certainly helps highlight the clarity. I did start getting warm ears that ached after a while of loud moments though.
Sure, I could have turned the audio down. But a good example of why I didn’t is using Xbox’s 3D spatial sound video of Steve Saylor’s Destiny 2 dream. I need the volume right up to hear quieter sounds — which still sound too quiet. But then louder sounds would come in way too overpowering that I jolted in pain when they suddenly happened. I’ve not tested the headset with Dolby Atmos or DTS Headphone:X.
The microphone is of good quality despite being so small and far away from the mouth. The fact it’s so far away does mean it has a larger pickup area, but there’s a voice isolation feature that tries to isolate your voice from the environmental sounds surrounding you. And when you aren’t speaking, the auto-mute feature comes into play and mutes your voice in a similar way to Discord’s Voice Activity setting.
I ran some tests on the microphone through Windows 10, and it did sound remarkably clear, picking up the usual clacking of keys and clicking of buttons. But the issue is that the two features conflict with my voice in their own ways. I found that it took a while for the auto-mute to unmute most times, and then my softer vocal tones would find my speech cutting out because of the voice isolation kicking in.
After doing some tests on the PC, at such high volumes that I listen to games at usually, the audio bleeds out and the microphone picks this audio up, and this was a big issue for me. While this shouldn’t be a concern for me, I feel self-conscious that the other players would be hearing either themselves echoing, or my game cutting in and out.
There was also another issue where I can’t seem to test my microphone levels directly on the Xbox Accessories app. There’s a setting in the app that is supposed to let you monitor your microphone, which I assume is meant to achieve this, but I haven’t been able to get it working. Having a visual indicator of the levels would have also been a win to help with better understanding my quality and the impact the available settings were having.
That brings me to the headsets overall quality with voice communication, which I think the Xbox Wireless Headset does well at when it comes to input. I really like the ability to turn the dial to hear more or less of the voice channels. But sadly, because other players online seem to have microphones that aren’t set up right, this headsets ability to isolate their voice channels only enhances how bad their equipment and settings are.
I’ve had a few rare occasions where someone’s microphone is clear enough for me to understand them to a degree, but it comes at the cost of practically muting the game itself. And that’s where I find third-party applications with friends to be the better option for me because I can amplify individual users by what Discord, as an example, says is “200%”.
Thankfully, I can connect the headset to my phone or PC, so I can still make use of third-party applications while still having the audio of the Xbox playing through the Xbox Wireless Headset. But from what I experienced it’s a bit more limiting. You can’t make use of the Headset Chat Mixer dial for example because it’s directly linked to the Xbox audio channels.
The marketing focusing on “crystal clear chat” specifically means that you will sound good to the other player. It sadly doesn’t mean that the other players will sound clearer to you, instead, you can just shift the audio focus to their terrible microphones. But if console manufacturers encouraged more users to take the time to set up a headset rather than plug-and-play, maybe then voice chat may become more bearable.
Overall, Xbox has an incredible headset here that excels wonderfully with audio quality and comfort. Whether you want to feel the power of music or hear the beauty of a game’s world, this headset will achieve that. The microphone works well and tries its best at isolating background noise, but its auto-mute feature needs to be more responsive.
The ability to control your focus audio using the headset’s dials is good for ease of use. But sadly, my hopes that I’d be able to use voice chat more confidently weren’t realised. However, this wasn’t a fault on the headset’s part, I’m sure those that aren’t Deaf or Hard of Hearing would benefit massively from the chat mixer dial. I also found some issues with getting microphone monitoring to work and the Xbox accessories app on Windows 10 doesn’t seem to work for me. But for the price, this headset is one of high-quality and I’ll enjoy listening to my media, but it won’t be with in-game voice communications.
Xbox Wireless Headset provided by Microsoft
A review copy of Xbox Wireless Headset was provided by the developer / publisher.