(Pocket-lint) – Gaming headsets have become ever more popular in recent times, with big brands scoring big wins with their pro standard devices. Few can match Sony for audio heritage though, so its own-brand headsets are always eagerly anticipated.
That applies to the Pulse 3D Wireless Headset – dedicated headphones designed for the PlayStation 5. Indeed, like the console itself, they sell out quickly each time stock becomes available.
So, is it worth popping them on your wishlist for the next time they appear? Or, are they more aspirational than inspirational? We tested them to find out.
- Earcups: Foam and artificial leather, over ear
- Headband: Plastic with rubberised band
- Hidden mics
The first thing to note about the Pulse 3D headset is that it looks perfectly matched to the PS5. It follows similar design cues, with curved white elements and contrasting black details.
The band is made entirely from durable plastic, with the same matte finish as a DualSense controller. It wraps around as one piece, curving forward around the ear cups to give it an elegant flow.
For added comfort, a separate rubberised band floats under the main headband for support. We generally prefer this kind of design for long periods of usage and the Sony headset certainly feels comfortable enough.
Indeed, you can barely feel it sitting on the top of your head. The strap also has give on either side, so will adjust depending on head size.
The earcups themselves are also made of plastic – black this time. They are over-ear and closed back, with foam and artificial leather ensuring a decent amount of noise isolation (there is no ANC on this model). They could be a little softer, but are par for the course in this price bracket.
The left-hand earpiece features buttons for all of the controls, including volume, audio selections, power and mic on or off. There are no touch controls on the Pulse 3D.
- Supports 3D Audio
- USB dongle for PS5 and PC support
- 3.5mm cable socket
The headline feature for this particular headset is in the name itself. It is designed to work best when a game supports PlayStation’s 3D Audio tech.
Many PS5 games support the new standard and, when active, these headphones make the most of it. Tempest 3D AudioTech enables virtual surround sound that doesn’t just seem to be coming from front, left, right and rear, but above and below too. It spaces effects brilliantly around the entire soundscape, which add something to gaming that headphones usually miss out on.
In our tests, we were perhaps most impressed by Demon’s Souls, which is eerie at the best of times. The game is partly defined by its use of sound for ambience – even to warn you of enemy directions – and the Pulse 3D seems more than capable to keep you immersed.
Sony’s 3D Audio functionality – which can be switched on or off in the PS5 system settings – will work with other headphones, but few manage to space the experience so effectively.
Perhaps mildly less impressive is the lack of a boom microphone. You get two “hidden” mics instead, represented by a couple of pin pricks on the left-hand ear. While that makes the headset look cleaner and more lifestyle, it also suffers from similar performance issues to using, say, non-gaming wireless headphones.
We recorded speech on an iMac, which we connected the Pulse 3D to via the included USB dongle, and the end result was a bit robotic and tinny. It’ll be absolutely fine for a session of FIFA or CoD, when you’re screaming orders at teammates. You’ll even be okay, making passable conversation on a Zoom call, for example. However, streamers and podcasters will find it too resonant and thin for their use.
Still, this is a sub-£100 headset and if voice quality is important to you, you’ll likely to have to look further up the chain anyway.
The last big feature is the aforementioned dongle. Sadly, this is required to connect the headset to your PS5 – there is no direct connection. Not only does this mean you will be required to use up one of your three USB ports on the console, it’s a big signifier that there is no Bluetooth support at all.
The dongle does work with PC and Mac, as well as PlayStation, but not mobile. That means the only way you can use the Sony headset on your travels – for music listening, etc – is via cable through the 3.5mm headphone port.
One last thing, battery life is claimed to last up to 12 hours. In our tests that seems to be the case, give or take. It charges through USB-C.
The Pulse 3D Wireless Headset makes up for its few caveats with exemplary audio performance for the price.
There is plenty of punchy bass, with just enough of a handle over mid and high frequencies to ensure voices and sharper imaging can be heard above explosions. Musicality is a little lacking – but nothing to really worry about.
That’s possibly because these headphones are tuned exactly for their given purpose. Indeed, the lack of Bluetooth makes them less suitable for pairing with a smartphone or music player anyway. And, it must be said, they are good with movie playback too – 4K Blu-ray or through a streaming service, such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video or Disney+.
But, it really comes back to the excellent compatibility with 3D Audio to prove why these stand above similarly priced rivals. While full game support for the standard is relatively small at present, it will grow exponentially and this headset is primarily suited. Even at low volumes, we felt engrossed in the action – especially on Demon’s Souls – and ANC or not, it would’ve taken a stampede of elephants to disturb us.
There are better, even more comfortable gaming headphones out there for sure, but none are as perfectly matched to the PS5 in design and tech as the Pulse 3D Wireless Headset. You are also unlikely to find any PlayStation-compatible peers as good at this price.
We are a little disappointed by vocal clarity, especially as the lack of a boom mic seems odd considering the absence of Bluetooth means you’re clearly not meant to wear this outside the home anyway. However, it is passable for its intended purpose and at least you won’t look like an air traffic controller when you just want to watch a film.
Sony’s audio heritage has certainly come into play with this first-party device, and it seems almost unfair how good the 3D Audio performance is. We think that’ll be more than enough for PlayStation 5 purists, while they will also welcome a price that won’t break the bank.
Alternatives to consider
Steelseries Arctis 7P
The Steelseries Arctis 7P also looks great, matching the PS5 in terms of design. There’s a small USB-C dongle for wireless play.
Logitech Pro X
Exactly how Logitech produces a headset that’s this good – but this affordable – is beyond us. It’s a great performer, has a detachable mic, choice of earcups and a storage bag. It’s a great choice.
Writing by Rik Henderson.