One of the best features of the Sony PlayStation 5 is its support for 3D audio. Sony’s so-called Tempest Engine does all of the hard work so that any standard pair of wired headphones can deliver immersive 3D sound when plugged into the DualSense controller.
But what if you want to go fully wireless? Currently, the only wireless headset compatible with the PS5’s 3D audio feature is this, the official PlayStation Pulse 3D Wireless Headset.
Having just one option is rarely a good thing, but the Pulse 3D headset comes from good stock – its predecessor on the PS4 combined excellent core sound quality, excellent comfort and (limited) 3D audio to the tune of a five-star rating.
Sony has decided to visually tie the Pulse 3D headset to the controversial design of the PS5, opting for the same white finish for the headband as on the faceplates of the console. It is instantly clear that the two products are related, but the headset’s design may be too attention-grabbing to consider using it as a standard pair of headphones when out of the house.
The plastic band also feels a bit cheaper than the brushed metal of the Platinum Wireless Headset, but that can be forgiven because the Pulse 3D headset genuinely is cheaper by some margin. Besides, having now used the headset for several months, there’s no sign of the slightly cheap feel translating into flimsiness. We have no reason to believe that the headset won’t last for many years.
It feels comfortable, too. The earcups are firmer than some headphones, but they create a good seal around the ears and the headband provides just the right amount of pressure. There’s no obvious heat generated around the ears in use, either.
The Pulse 3D headset’s controls are located around the edge of the left cup. They include a rocker to adjust the balance between game audio and chat, a switch for turning monitor mode on or off (useful for ensuring you don’t speak too loudly), volume, mute and power on/off. Most button presses are accompanied by an on-screen notification, something you won’t get from third-party headsets.
Sony PS5 Pulse 3D Wireless Headset tech specs
Compatibility PS5, PS4 and PC (wireless), Xbox One, Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S (wired)
Surround sound Yes
Battery life 12 hours
There’s no button to enable or disable the 3D audio feature as there was with the Platinum Wireless Headset, but that’s because the tech is built in more at a system level.
Using the headset wirelessly involves plugging a dongle-like USB transmitter into your PS5 (you can use the socket on the front or rear) and from that point, the console will automatically output sound to the headset whenever you switch it on. Battery life is 12 hours, which isn’t huge by Bluetooth headphone standards but should cover even the longest of gaming sessions. Charging is via USB-C.
As well as the PS5, you can also use the Pulse 3D headset wirelessly with a PC or PS4, and there’s also an included 3.5mm cable for when you run out of batteries or want to use the headset with an Xbox, phone or tablet. The microphone works in wired mode, too, but you only get 3D audio when wirelessly connected to a PS5 or PS4.
The microphone picks up and projects your voice clearly, but it’s also prone to picking up background noise more than most, which will be of concern to anyone who plays online while there are others in the room. We understand why Sony would opt for a slick and minimalist appearance, but an optional stalk mic would be a nice touch.
While you probably won’t be using the Pulse 3D headset primarily as a standard pair of wired stereo headphones, there’s value in benchmarking against models in this class to get a sense of the core sound quality of the headset.
Surprisingly, despite all of the additional tech on board, the Pulse 3D headset more than stands its ground against sub-£100 wired headphones in most areas. There’s energy, enthusiasm and a crispness to the delivery that’s foot-tappingly enjoyable. While some go deeper, there’s still more than enough bass here and it’s punchy and tuneful.
The treble, meanwhile, has a sparkle and zing that never veers into brightness, and the midrange is textured and clear, with vocals delivered directly. Dynamics are decent, too, with the headset able to convey subtle shifts as well as epic crescendos, and there’s more than enough detail for a pair of headphones costing this much.
But they fall down slightly on timing. When music tracks become particularly busy, the Pulse 3D headset struggles to maintain a complete grip on each strand, and that can make these sections a little hard to follow. Luckily, though, this timing issue isn’t apparent when gaming and the generally strong core sound quality translates well when you use the Pulse 3D headset for its intended purpose.
Of course, the quality of the 3D effect depends on the way it has been implemented into the game, but opt for Spider-Man: Miles Morales or even PS4 game Ghost Of Tsushima and you get not only a sense of the direction that each sound is coming from, but also how far away it is. The sonic presentation becomes all-enveloping and it’s easy to audibly pinpoint effects.
Switch to Call Of Duty: Black Ops Cold War and the 3D audio gives a real sense of the cavernous nature of the CIA safehouse, the distance of each character as they speak and the echo as their voices hit the interior walls of the warehouse. You get none of this when listening in standard stereo.
Though you can get 3D audio by plugging a pair of standard wired headphones into the DualSense controller, the crispness and precision of the Pulse 3D headset makes for a more engaging and exciting experience than is offered by most similarly-priced wired headphones. It feels as though the 3D audio delivery has been tailored for the official headset – there’s every chance that in some cases it has been – which is a benefit of having just one product on the market.
That’s not to say that the Pulse 3D headset is an adequate replacement for your surround sound speaker package. The Pulse headset is surprisingly accomplished at creating a 3D soundfield, but the placement of effects is even better with a properly calibrated home cinema system. Effects placed directly in front of or behind the listening position are a particular struggle for 3D audio via headphones, which is no issue with physical speakers in those positions.
The Pulse 3D Wireless Headset is really the only option here, but it’s also particularly good at what it does. Those slight timing issues aside, it boasts an accomplished core audio performance that can take your gaming to new levels when combined with the PS5’s 3D audio processing.
If you don’t have the money, space or circumstances for a home cinema system, this is pretty much the next best thing as far as PS5 gaming is concerned, and that makes it a great buy.
Read our guide to the best gaming headsets
Read our Sony PlayStation Platinum Wireless Headset review