The name might lack imagination, but the Xbox Wireless Headset from Microsoft packs real flair as it enters a field so far dominated by the likes of SteelSeries, Corsair, and Razer in the fight for the best Xbox Series X headset. Out of nowhere, it has emerged as a headset all players will want to consider on the new generation of Xboxes.
Microsoft has been happy to let its third-party partners lead the way in the best gaming headsets for the Xbox consoles for a while now, with just a modest $60/£40 wired effort with the Xbox Stereo Headset a while back (a mid-table entry on our best Xbox One headset guide). But the new Xbox Wireless Headset is packed with features to make it a real contender on Series X|S though and at a very attractive price of $99.99/£89.99.
Design & Features
The Xbox Wireless Headset’s aesthetic subtly matches the Series X console with just a hint of green lining on the otherwise all-black design and a discrete Xbox logo on the right cup.
Three hours of charge from flat gets you around 15 hours of play and if you’re thinking that’s not quite enough for a dedicated gaming weekend, then you’ll appreciate that a mere 30-minute charge while you grab a bite to eat will get you four hours of juice.
Instead of the usual sliders or awkward buttons, Microsoft has gone for large rotating dials on the outside of the headset (the whole area with the grim trim) for adjusting the volume on the right and the game/chat balance on the left. Before getting my hands on them, I was concerned that these controls would be oversensitive and subject to unwanted turning whenever I adjusted or removed the headset as this is where I’d grab them. There’s no such issue here though as the controls have just enough resistance to avoid accidental spins and there’s a very satisfying soft click in the middle for the chat/game dial.
Large L/R patterns on the inside of the cups make it easy to see at a glance which side is which and you can even tell in the dark, or if you’re visually-impaired, thanks to the brail-like dot on the left-side arm which is a nice accessibility touch from Microsoft that I’ve never seen on other gaming headsets or headphones.
A large, easy to find power button sticks out on the left side and only requires a simple press to turn on or off (seriously some headsets require super long presses and it needs to stop).
The mic on the left is not removable but does bend and tuck away nicely when you don’t need it – with only a mild drop in performance too, it has to be said, if you want to keep it out of sight but still use it. The mute button is easy to find without looking too as it sits neatly on the mic cable’s housing curved around the earcup. Annoyingly, the white ‘mute light’ actually turns on when the mic is on and while you can adjust the brightness, it is a little distracting in the corner of your eye.
There’s no 3.5mm connection on the Xbox Wireless Headset, so if you want to use it on PC you’ll need to use a USB-C to USB-C cable or fork out for the Windows adapter for Xbox devices. Essentially there’s no wireless performance straight out of the box for other platforms, so we’d only buy this for Xbox.
Microsoft’s Xbox Wireless Headset is surprisingly small and light at just 11oz (312g). I’m used to using most headsets on their smallest setting, but I had to open it up a few notches just to get the earcups to line up with my ears. So if you have a larger head and find yourself using some of the fully-extended options on other headsets then this one might be too small for you, so I’d perhaps wait to see what the community says post-release or pick one up from a store with a decent returns policy.
The headband has soft foam padding, but it’s a little light and I did notice a little bit of telltale crown pinching after a few hours, so I put the size settings up another notch to get around it (I am very much needing a hair cut whenever lockdown ends to be fair).
Another feature I was surprised to see given the very acceptable price was being able to use the headset on a phone simultaneously if you want to talk to friends on a call/WhatsApp/Discord/listen to music and the like. Considering this is one of the main reasons the Razer Kaira Pro ($150) costs $50 more than the regular Kaira, you’re getting it for a steal here.
Microsoft’s Xbox Wireless Headset is packed with adjustable settings via your Xbox’s accessories menu, most notably an equalizer so you can choose from a range of presets, or adjust frequencies manually. Usually, you’d have to fork out for the Dolby Atmos app to get a feature like this on Xbox.
You can also adjust how much sidetone/mic monitoring you get (how much you can hear your own voice via the mic) and adjust the wider bass boost settings. And you should really get in there with the bass boost feature as it starts seriously low. After whacking that up though I was blown away by the bass performance of considering the headset only has 40mm drivers. Step into a Reever’s shoes during a possession scene in Doom Eternal and unleash a devastating eruption of rockets or casually search for hidden upgrades to the dark demonic chanting of the Mongolian throat singers and you’ll really appreciate the full scale and depth of the bass notes.
Aside from needing to pump up the bass boost, the default game setting is great for most titles we tested. The full range is handled well in games like Red Dead Redemption 2 where you’ll be able to enjoy the rich soundscape of a typical scene like a nearby river trickling past, the wind breezing through the pines and the surround sound is useful enough to give you a good sense of where the nearby elk calls are coming from so you can set off on the hunt without resorting to the tracking mode before unleashing a well-aimed Lancaster blast that tears through the serenity with a violent crack.
If you’re wondering how the headset stands up for online gaming, you might find the positional surround sound capabilities slightly lacking compared to the likes of the SteelSeries Arctis 7X or the Corsair HS75 XB Wireless.
The mic is one of the best we’ve tested on Series X headsets though, comfortably beating the likes of the Razer Kaira Pro and SteelSeries Arctis 7X, but the Corsair HS75 is just a little clearer. But when you look at the price of this headset, it’s an excellent deal for an online gaming headset.
An optional auto-mute feature is fantastic for anyone playing with background noise as it kills the mic when you’re not talking and in our group testing, we found it does a great job of drowning out music or noisy AC/extraction fans. The mic resumes straight away when you start talking too, so don’t worry about it cutting off the first word or two. You can hear a little of that noise creep back in while you’re talking, but generally, the mic isolation is pretty decent. The mic monitoring is a little on the weak side if you like to hear yourself in the headset to avoid that underwater feeling when you talk sometimes, but your mileage will vary on how much that bothers you.
Overall – should you buy it?
The new Microsoft Xbox Wireless Headset is one of the best gaming headsets on Xbox Series X and Series S right now. It has all the features you’d want from a high-end gaming headset at a price that suddenly makes headsets that are only slightly better but almost double the price look like a much harder sell.
The build quality is excellent, but this is quite a small headset and that’s certainly something to be aware of if you have a larger head and are used to using some of the biggest size settings on other headsets both in terms of where the earcups line up to your ears and concerning general pinching after extended play sessions.
On the whole, you won’t find a more rounded gaming headset on Xbox Series X for such a low price. The detailed soundscape and almost obscenely good bass boost options have something for all game types and the directional surround sound and mic are exceptional at this price point for online gaming.