Sony Pulse 3D headset review

The Sony Pulse 3D headset’s design and features
Gaming headsets tend to identify themselves with gaudy, RGB-enhanced styling. Sony’s offering stands out by offering a sleek alternative. Like the PS5 itself, the Pulse 3D headset has a stylish, polished look. It’s simple, clean, and identifiable as a piece of modern PlayStation gear without the need for breathing LED lights. If you love the curves of the PS5 console, the headset looks and feels like part of a matching set.

The headset doesn’t feel as good as it looks, though. The Pulse 3D headset is far from the worst headset I’ve worn, but the ear cups are particularly uncomfortable. Many—if not most—headsets have oval-shaped earcups that will accommodate small ears while also allowing those of us with bigger ears to wear them comfortably. The round cups on the Pulse 3D headset, by contrast, feel cramped. Putting them on sometimes felt like stuffing my ears into too small a space to use them. If you have smaller ears, this admittedly might make for a great fit, but if you’ve had issues with headphone fit in the past, these may cause problems.

The Sony Pulse 3D headset’s design and features
Gaming headsets tend to identify themselves with gaudy, RGB-enhanced styling. Sony’s offering stands out by offering a sleek alternative. Like the PS5 itself, the Pulse 3D headset has a stylish, polished look. It’s simple, clean, and identifiable as a piece of modern PlayStation gear without the need for breathing LED lights. If you love the curves of the PS5 console, the headset looks and feels like part of a matching set.

The headset doesn’t feel as good as it looks, though. The Pulse 3D headset is far from the worst headset I’ve worn, but the ear cups are particularly uncomfortable. Many—if not most—headsets have oval-shaped earcups that will accommodate small ears while also allowing those of us with bigger ears to wear them comfortably. The round cups on the Pulse 3D headset, by contrast, feel cramped. Putting them on sometimes felt like stuffing my ears into too small a space to use them. If you have smaller ears, this admittedly might make for a great fit, but if you’ve had issues with headphone fit in the past, these may cause problems.

Though the Pulse 3D is marketed primarily for the PS5, you can also use it with a PC by plugging in the dongle or plugging in via a 3.5mm analog audio jack. That said, many of the Pulse’s features are compromised on PC (unlike a virtual-surround headset made for that platform, such as the Audeze Mobius). The onboard controls don’t work over a wired connection. Most work over a wireless connection, except for the chat mix control.

According to Sony, the Pulse 3D gets up to 12 hours of battery life on a single charge. After running down the battery a couple of times, that seems relatively accurate. That isn’t terrible, but it falls below the high bar we set for high-end gaming headsets.

The Sony Pulse 3D’s sound and mic quality
The Pulse 3D headset sounds good for the price but don’t expect anything out of this world. Playing games, the audio sounds crisp and you can hear all the little details going on around you, like the different walking sounds as you cruise around in Astro’s Playroom, or the passing of traffic in Spider-Man Remastered. As with many mid-tier headsets, it leans a bit heavily on bass, even without the bass boost feature turned on. Turning it on, which you can do through the PlayStation 5 audio settings, the low end is almost overpowering. I noticed some distortion while playing Spider-Man: Miles Morales at max volume, which is a bit odd only because they don’t get wildly loud.

The Pulse 3D headset is a single-use tool for playing PS5 games. Just as it doesn’t pair well with a PC, it isn’t the best fit for sitting and listening to music. A lot of that comes down to the poor seal; when I’m listening to music in a closed-back pair of headphones, isolation is key in getting proper bass response, among other things. Sound effects and music are clear and crisp and easy to discern. Jin Sakai’s sword strikes in Ghost of Tsushima and explosions in Spider-Man both sound equally good as long as you stay at least a bit below max volume, which is a bit odd only because they don’t get wildly loud.

The solid sound quality is hampered by the headset’s ability to keep ambient noise out. If you’re gaming around other people or trying to use the headphones in public via the 3.5mm jack, people around you will be able to hear you and you’ll be able to hear them.

The mic, as we mentioned before, is embedded in the headset itself. There’s no boom to adjust. This makes for an overall sleeker experience, but an embedded mic has limitations compared to an adjustable boom. You’re not going to come across crystal clear the way you would with an okay-to-good boom. In my experience, my friends had no trouble understanding me, but the sound is tinny and hollow compared to a good boom. If you play online a lot or play with people who are persnickety about mic quality, this mic may not be enough to get you by, but it’s certainly passable.

So, who should buy the Sony Pulse 3D headset?

Strictly speaking, the biggest crime the Pulse 3D headset commits is that it’s a perfectly acceptable headset for its $99 price tag. It offers fairly good sound and mic quality along with easy setup, but with the kind of compromises that often accompany making a wireless headset at the price point. Ultimately, we recommend it as one of the best PS5 headsets for its quality at that price point and its sleek aesthetic. Still, some people will find the comfort issues hard to ignore.

It also rankles me that there’s nothing special about the Sony Pulse 3D headset. This is Sony’s PS5 headset. The company knows more about the PlayStation 5 than anyone else, and I would expect a deeper level of integration than we see here—something that showcases the PlayStation 5. Sony smartly made its 3D Audio available to anyone who plugs in a pair of headphones, which means that the Pulse 3D’s most important feature is one that you can get from any headset. This headset can do everything you need it to do, but there’s no part of it that someone else isn’t doing better elsewhere.

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