A next-gen console needs a next-gen headset. Designed to complement the PlayStation 5 and its Tempest positional audio system, the Pulse 3D wireless headset does incredible things with PS5 games made to take advantage of the console’s new audio-centric powers. Not only do your games sound clean and clear, they have a sense of space and place that most other systems do not have, even with surround sound.
Sony Pulse 3D Wireless Headset Review
Sony Pulse 3D – Design and Features
In both form and function, the Pulse 3D feels like an extension of the PS5. Its white plastic top band and black ear cups create the same contrast as the black tower and white wings of the PS5 hardware. The top band’s simple but elegant curves imbue it with a minimalist mystique that’s especially noticeable when you look at it on a hook or a headphone stand.
The top band features two connected but separate parts: the aforementioned outer frame, made of white plastic, and a black rubber support band that “pads” the headset by minimizing how much of the weight falls directly on your head. (It also makes the headset adjustable, even though the frame has no movable parts). Despite not having any real padding on top, the headset is comfortable on my head: At just 295 grams, I can barely feel its weight. On a purely cosmetic level, the two-band design makes it look a little dopey, at least on me. There’s a big gap between the support band and the frame, which undermines the headset’s generally impressive aesthetic.
The perfectly round earcups – uncommon for a gaming headset – are well-padded with thick open-cell foam covered by smooth leatherette. The cups feel surprisingly cavernous on the inside, which is always a good sign. Inside, the Pulse 3D sports 40mm neodymium drivers. They’re smaller than what you’ll find in many premium third-party headsets, but that doesn’t detract from the precision or the power of its sound.
All of the ports and inputs on the Pulse 3D are stacked along the back of the left can. From top to bottom, you have a dual rocker to balance game-versus-chat audio mixing, a microphone monitoring switch, a dual rocker for volume, a mic mute button, a USB-C port for charging, a 3.5mm headphone jack in case you’d prefer to set up a wired connection, and, lastly, a power switch.
There’s an oddly obscured indicator light near the power button, on the side of the ear cup just under the end of the frame. The light is only visible from certain angles, which means you’ll have to think carefully about the headset’s resting/charging position if you plan to rely on it.
Like some of Sony’s high-end headphones, the Pulse 3D uses a pair of built-in noise-cancelling microphones to pick up your voice. One’s near the top of the left can, the other is in front, near your mouth. In theory, the dual-mic noise-cancelling system should mitigate ambient noise while making your voice come through clearly; in practice, the mics offer incredible clarity – for your voice, yes, but also anything else nearby. While testing using the mic monitoring feature, the Pulse’s mics clearly picked up the low hum of my home’s heating system in the basement below. I could tell there was some noise-cancelling going on, but it sounded more like the ambient noise was being mixed down, rather than cancelled out. It works well enough that game audio will likely drown out any extraneous noise coming through – and my teammates reported as much when I tested the Pulse in online multiplayer. Still, it doesn’t deliver the same isolation as the unidirectional wire mics found on many gaming headsets.
The Pulse 3D uses a USB dongle for its 2.4GHz wireless connection. It’s a simple plug-and-play system, with no pairing required on any platform. After more than 25 hours of testing in a room full of potentially interfering wireless signals, it delivered an unwavering connection. You can also plug the headset into the DualSense, DualShock 4, or any other 3.5mm port. Wired mode is a tradeoff: On the one hand, the headset draws power from your controller, so it will work even when it’s out of juice (though the DualSense’s battery drains quickly enough on its own as it is). On the other, surround sound isn’t active over a wired connection, so you don’t get the full effect.
Sony Pulse 3D – Gaming
The Pulse 3D looks good, but it sounds absolutely fantastic when playing on PS5. The sound of gameplay is not only clear and vibrant, it fills up the cans to create an incredible sense of space. Across its range, the Pulse rings true, with full-bodied highs, mids, and lows. I was particularly impressed with its bass tones – like explosions in Spider-Man: Miles Morales, which deliver that “booming “oomph” effect – without over-prioritizing bass in its audio mix.
The Pulse 3D is made to take special advantage of the PlayStation 5’s new Tempest 3D Audio, a proprietary virtual surround sound technology designed specifically for generating positional audio for games. Though I’ve only tested it in a couple of games so far – Spider Man: Miles Morales and Astro’s Playroom – the Pulse makes excellent use of Tempest, delivering nuanced positional audio that goes beyond what I’ve come to expect from Virtual 7.1 surround sound in headsets.
In Spider-Man: Miles Morales, the ambient sounds of New York feel like they’re coming from all around you. Standing in virtual Times Square, you can hear cars and people coming and going from every angle and every distance. To simply describe it as “immersive” sells it short: The nuanced, accurate layers of sound gives the game world a volume that you cannot achieve by simply generating a 3D space. It makes the city feel more alive.
Similarly, there are parts of Astro’s Playroom where you are surrounded by Astro’s fellow bots, creating a sense of life in the world. That feeling is only enhanced by the fact that you can hear what they’re doing, and can track their position by ear.
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Even without Tempest, the Pulse 3D sounds great on PS4 and PC. Replaying the opening of God of War (2018), the sound of Kratos lumbering through the woods came through clean and clear. Though I have to admit, jumping to it directly from a Tempest-augmented game made it much easier to detect that the audio was coming from a limited number of directions.
The one place where the Pulse 3D feels a little underpowered is… well, power. According to Sony, the headset should last up to 12 hours on a single charge. Anecdotally, I found it lasted between nine and 10 hours of play across two days. That’s enough juice that the headset should last through any single session, so long as you keep it charged, but substantially less than what I’ve come to expect from modern headsets for PlayStation or PC.
The Sony Pulse 3D wireless gaming headset is available now for $99.99 at from Sony and other retailers, including Amazon, Best Buy, and Target. Unlucky when trying to preorder a PS5? Find out where to get a PS5 on launch day with our buyer’s guide.