Monday, June 11, 2012

Sony PS3 7.1 Stereo Wireless Headphone review

As I play games that often require me to be sneaky knowing if an enemy if on my left or right makes a large difference. Given that I've not set my television up with multiple speakers a pair of headphones seemed the logical choice; that and not wanting to disturb my neighbours.

Looking at all the headphones around that advertise themselves as working with the Playstation 3 was an education. So many required connecting wires. Me I don't like loose wires between me and expensive bits of equipment - too easy to forget about them, get up and pull things down. Restricting myself to wireless headsets narrowed the field considerably, even more so when I removed all the single mono headsets and ones without microphones. Pretty much came down to Sony and Turtle Beach.

Then I looked at the instructions for each offering. For Turtle Beach I have to plug the red and white audio wires from my unused standard PS3-TV lead into a wireless transmitter and then provide power to that. Sony's offering was - plug in this USB dongle.

Sure it highlights Sony's dumbness in stripping the original box from four USB sockets to two given that anyone who has a camera in one, and a Freeview antenna in the other is pretty much stuffed without a hub, preferably powered. Me I'm pretty bare at the moment so this seemed a good option despite some of the off-remarks made by other reviewers. I mean hey it's Sony, if they can't get it to work with their own hardware and software there's a problem.

Arrival

A standard top-opening blue box containing an egg-carton cardboard box holding the headphones wrapped in a plastic bag 'sheath'. Within the head space a small cardboard flap that holds the fold-out instructions and a plastic wrapped USB dongle that looks disconcertingly like a standard flash drive but without a cap or retractable connector. This is clearly meant to stay plugged in at all times.

Installation

As mentioned they're fold-out instructions which makes it difficult to look up just one bit without unfolding the lot. Nevertheless very simple - turn on the PS3, plug in the dongle, press and hold the left-earphone covering until a tone is heard through the headset and the dongle light becomes a steady blue.

The Dongle

As I said looks like a flash stick and certainly juts out from under the PS3 by a small distance when in place. Given Sony's bizarre distance to put all the slots, indicators etc. under a lip that makes them impossible to see unless the box is installed at eye-line (or vertically) this makes the longer stick amusingly preferable than a nano-adaptor. Saying that there is a light on the end that flashes blue or remains blue that could prove distracting if the PS3 is within your eyeline.

The Headset

I have mixed feelings about this. My impressions are that Sony has taken a good set of wired headphones and bolted on a microphone and charging point. A brushed steel effect plastic headband connects two squared off black plastic sheaths that in turn are connected to the large over-the-ear headphone so that the bottom half of the headphone extends below the coverings. Attached to the bottom of the left-hand sheath is an extendible microphone which screams hollow and flimsy; at the end of this is an indicator light. The micro-USB charging port is fitted to the rear of the left-hand sheath.

The Controls

They all sit on the left-hand side, despite this the headset is still both symmetrical in terms of looks and balanced in weight. The upper part of the sheath itself acts as a toggle switch. Press and hold to turn on and off, press to turn the microphone on and off and quickly press twice to show power levels. Very easy and nice clicky feedback when using. on the upper surface of the sheath's 'box' is a small button that controls the supposed surround sound switching between that and normal stereo. Down the side of the box front and rear are two volume controls. The rear control for overall volume the second as a sound/microphone mixer.

Volume

This takes some tweaking due to the combination of the volume control and the mixer. Set the volume to 100% and the mixer to 50% and it'll be half volume for each rather than 100% for each. I found my best option was to set the mixer halfway and then adjust the main volume; turning off the microphone if not in use. Bass and treble were fine, hitting the Surround Sound button seemed to 'spatialise' the bass notes more and made them richer making normal stereo seem a little tinny in comparison.

In terms of stereo - yes it worked. It was possible for me to distinguish sound from left to righ, nbut not back and forth as easily.

The Microphone

Far too flimsy a build compared to the rest of the headset. It telescopes straight out from it's own under-slung box on the left hand side and seems to sit too far from my mouth. Despite that it does work and picks me up without a problem.

The light on the end acts as a variable indicator. A blue light means connection, purple means the mic is off, red means it's charging.

The PS3 controls

Being Sony's own this integrates into the PS3 software and pops up its own control top right any time the volume is changed, the microphone is turned on or off, surround sound is enabled/disabled. It's a nice little bit of visual feedback. By default sound is output only to the speakers, but checking in the Accessory settings menu options allows sound from the television to also be heard; potentially useful for those with hearing difficulties who can adjust their own volume levels to suit. Microphone levels can also be changed here.

Comfort

Mixed feelings about this. Depending on your ear size you might have no problem. They're certainly light enough when worn, but I found the pressing against my ears to be a little wearing after an hour or so. I took to the habit of slinging them around my neck when engaged in activities that didn't require an aural awareness just to relieve the pressure. Oh or I could have just stopped playing and took a break... ha ha as if.

Concerns

A few. Software first:

A constant low white noise which, according to online commentors, is due to one of the software upgrades that linked the microphone to the headset. Even muting the headset doesn't seem to drop it though. Sony are aware of this so a fix should be upcoming.

While surround sound doesn't work with either movies or music (boo shame) at least they do work. The same cannot be said for the downloaded PS2 game I tried (Deus Ex). Despite a connection sound would only output from the television with no option to divert this. I have made Sony aware of this. They seemed surprised it didn't function. Do note that a PS1 disc game outputted correctly and I have been unable to try this with any other downloaded PS2 games so this may be a one-off for this title.

And a couple of hardware concerns.

Beyond the flimsy microphone my main bone of contention is charging with storage. The microphone juts from the front slightly, the charging socket is in the rear it is therefore impossible to lie the headphones down while charging without either resting them on the microphone of the charging cable. If you've something to hang them up with - fine, if not be careful that nothing is accidentally placed on top of them.


Likewise positioning means it's difficult to charge while in use, an extension cable has to stick out the back and then fall 'out' and downwards towards the front. While it may seem pointless connecting a wire to a wireless set of headphones, I'd like the option to be able to still use them if I've forgotten to charge them. While still possible it is uncomfortable.

Connection range also seemed bizarrely limited, whether this is due to interference I can't say but the headphones would disconnect if I stepped outside the room. Not a problem obviously as I'm not playing at that point in time, but the disconnection itself was an odd squealing noise.

My final concern is a double for both the microphone and charging. When charging the light at the end of the microphone is red... even when in use. So no indication of muting or connection.


Caveats

As mentioned no surround sound with movies or music.
With a USB dongle this means it cannot be fitted to a normal TV or other form of output. Not even my Sony Bravia TV understood it when plugged in.
Potential interference and range issues.
Oh and don't lose the dongle; best to keep it plugged in.

Conclusions

Minor concerns aside these are a great pair of headphones and certainly at a decent price point compared to others. Being Sony's own also means that extras can be built into the software and changes made which should improve the service.

8 comments:

Smith Mosan said...

Hey my friends I tell you some tips about Comfort is very important and your headphones should be noise cancelling so that you can enjoy your film or TV show without distraction.A cushioned ear piece is also very useful because you may appreciate this feature more than anything else after viewing a movie for a few hours.
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Marry Chen said...

Oh, same to me, but I use wireless headphone for TV, not for game. I want to both watch TV and do housework. I have choice of Sennheiser wireless headphones for high quality

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