When I first got wind of the so-called “3D audio” capability of the PS5, I was stoked. Despite being a video editor, I’ve never been much of a framerate or ultra high def nerd. I love a beautiful picture, especially when I’m playing a gorgeously designed game like Ghost of Tsushima or The Pathless, but, so long as I can see what’s going on, I couldn’t really care less if the game is displayed in HDR, 4K, 8K, 60 fps, etc. Audio, on the other hand, is a different story. Video editors and anyone who has worked in post-production will tell you how significant audio is to the process of visual storytelling. It’s the most powerful tool a filmmaker or game developer has at their disposal. And the best visual stories take full advantage of the way sound immerses us in a narrative.
3D audio, the term Sony has coined to describe the proprietary tech in the PS5 that simulates sound coming from all directions, is kind of complicated to explain, but is by no means a novel invention. You know when a movie is about to start, and that no cellphones message where you can hear chatter all around plays, as if you’re sitting in a room of a thousand phone calls at once? That’s what Sony is trying to achieve with its new Tempest Engine, which is a processing chip in the PS5 tower solely devoted to maximizing your audio experience. As I said, this sort of “3D” technology exists already. Dolby Atmos, for example, has provided “surround sound” to televisions and home theaters and even smartphones for years now. 3D audio is merely Sony’s take on it. And though the tech is not quite available on TVs yet (Sony confirmed that’s in the works), there are a number of headsets that let you enjoy this 360-degree experience right now.
The thing is, Sony has been a bit coy about which headsets, exactly, are compatible with this tech. Here’s the (confusing) FAQ: “Players can…experience 3D audio on PS5 with a PS5-compatible headset that you may already own, either through the console’s USB connection, or by plugging an analog headset into the DualSense wireless controller’s 3.5mm headset jack.” Hmm. So, taking into consideration the fact that the Tempest Engine inside the PS5 is doing all the work, does that mean all headsets, headphones, or even earbuds will output those juicy immersive sounds? I wish I could confirm that for you. From what I understand after speaking to Sony and headset company reps, as long as it’s a relatively new headset, you should be good to go—and the better the headset, the clearer the 3D audio sounds.
Should your headset be old or crappy or nonexistent, though, I locked down six trusty models that are definitely compatible with PlayStation’s 3D audio. This list, which includes the extremely competitive Sony Pulse headset that a lot of PS5 owners likely already purchased, rounds up wireless and wired headphones from budget-friendly to mighty expensive. Since Sony does not like making headset pairing easy, all of the wireless cans on this list connect to your PS5 via an included USB dongle, except for the Astro A50 set, which hooks up via its shiny charging port (and $40 HDMI adapter; I’ll get into that later). Even if you’re more obsessed with pretty pictures than superior audio, I’d still recommend picking up one of these. It’s a game changer. You really have to hear it to believe it.
Pulse 3D Wireless Headset
Since Sony has been pitching the Pulse 3D along with its fancy new audio setup, I had to give this headset the top spot. That’s not to say it’s the best, but if you’re looking for a fairly priced pair of headphones to dive into the world of 3D audio, I’d honestly start here. Aesthetically, it matches the console. It’s lightweight (some of these headsets really smoosh your noggin), the audio comes in loud and clear (and from all directions!), and the onboard controls allow you to balance the microphone audio with the game audio.
A50 Wireless Headset + Base Station
This headset is for advanced gamers only. Just kidding. But it is expensive as hell. If, like me, you’re very opinionated and needy about your sound design in video games, I’d have to recommend you go with this premium offering from Astro—which, by the way, only works on the PS5 if you purchase this annoyingly complicated HDMI adapter for $40. What you’re getting in the A50 is a stylish, ergonomic, expensive piece of hardware that, for whatever reason, smells like a new car. As I’m sure you can expect, these customizable cans have become my new personal favorite. (The more budget-wise Astro A20s earned a spot on our Gadget Awards list as well.) It’s hard not to love them, especially since they come packaged with a charging station; none of the others on this list do that. If you’ve got the cash, I’d say treat yourself. You deserve it.
Sennheiser GSP 300 Gaming Headset
$75.00 (25% off)
The GSP 300 is a wired headset. It’s the only offering here that forces you to plug in. I don’t think that’s a big letdown though, especially since you’ll be running the cord to your DualSense controller, not all the way across the room to your console. For that reason, I really, really love the GSP 300. Now, you can plug any wired headset into your PS5 controller, but the GSP has a killer mic setup (not all tethered headphones give you microphone support), and it’s comfortable as hell. And it’s only $75. Not bad, particularly right now, when expensive tech is the last thing on many of our minds.
Quantum 800 Wireless Gaming Headset
Along with companies like Razer, Astro, and SteelSeries, JBL is another trusty headset brand for gamers. The Quantum 800, which puts fat, pillowy, memory foam cushions on a frame that lights up, delivers crystal-clear active noise cancellation, if you’re stuck in a little apartment and need some form of escape. Like most of the offerings on the list, it also sports handy dials for balancing out the audio between chat and game soundtrack. I like these dials best, though; unlike the Pulse headset, which has toggle buttons, these controls are smooth and easy to fine-tune. Besides that, this guy features something called “JBL Quantum surround sound,” and I don’t know exactly how JBL’s tech runs alongside Sony’s Tempest Engine, but whatever’s going on sounds very immersive. At $180, this headset is a little steep, but that memory foam…so comfy.
Nari Ultimate Wireless Gaming Headset
$156.20 (22% off)
I’m so excited to write about this insane headset! Not just because the THX audio feels positively gigantic in your ears (in a good way), but because it has haptic technology. Yes, that same thing everyone’s been talking about on the DualSense controller—physical feedback that responds to in-game action—only with this headset, you’re getting it on your face. So, when you cut through a rival Ronin in Tsushima, these puppies actually shake on your ears. It reminds me of those novelty 4D movie theater experiences, where the chairs shook during action scenes. I’ll be the first to admit, even with the “soft cloth cushions with cooling gel,” the Nari Ultimate is not super comfortable for long sessions. But can any other headset simulate an explosion by rattling right on your head? No way. I think that totally merits the price tag here, which is double the amount of the PlayStation Pulse 3D headset.
Arctis 7P Wireless Gaming Headset
I’ve not had the opportunity to test out this headset myself just yet, but coming from a brand like SteelSeries, I think this $150 offering—explicitly designed for the PS5—is a no-brainer. You’ve got a Discord-certified microphone, ultra-low latency 2.5 GHz wireless, and battery life that lasts 24 hours, which is about 23.5 more hours than you’ll probably last on the Fortnite map (sorry!). And what I really like about the look of these headphones is, well, that they match up with the PS5. They come in white and black with a blue accent, or all black. Just because the PS5 looks utterly bizarre in its early-2000s-era-Nintendo-Wii color scheme doesn’t mean you shouldn’t accessorize it.
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