Microsoft's Xbox Wireless Headset feels like affordable Surface Headphones

Don't let the name fool you: The new Microsoft Xbox Wireless Headset can be used on your PC, Xbox, or even your phone.
  • Mark Hachman (PC World (US online))
  • 17 February, 2021 05:24

If you couldn’t quite open your wallet far enough to buy a pair of Microsoft’s pricey Surface Headphones, there’s an alternative: the new Xbox Wireless Headset, available for consoles and PCs alike. It has a nifty little feature that should be useful both when fragging friends and taking a Teams or Zoom call, too.

The $99 Xbox Wireless Headsetis far cheaper than the $250 Surface Headphones 2, with one key difference: The new Xbox Wireless Headset doesn’t support active noise cancelling, as the Surface Headphones do. Remember that while the new headset carries the Xbox name, Microsoft’s Xbox brand applies to both Windows PCs, the Xbox, and even other consoles. The new headset will work on all three platforms, and will be available March 16.

Both the Surface Headphones and the new Xbox Wireless Headsets share some design similarities, adding to the feel that this new Xbox Wireless Headset is a less expensive alternative to the Surface Headphones lineup. Both boast Microsoft’s earcup dials, which adjust various volume levels. On the Headphones, these adjust volume and Microsoft’s active noise cancellation, while on the Xbox Wireless Headset they’ll control the volume of the game versus the volume of your in-game chat. (Unfortunately, the new Xbox headset includes only passive noise cancellation.)

The new Xbox headset includes one feature that the Surface Headphones lack: auto-mute, which will turn your mic off automatically when it detects that you’re not talking. It’s unclear how well that will work in the real world—will it be able to detect background voices that aren’t yours, and prevent them from being heard?—but it’s a nifty feature that could certainly apply to Teams calls, too.

Microsoft also added a light indicator that turns on when the mic is active, so you’ll always know when your voice is being picked up and broadcast. That mic, like many other wireless headsets, can be tucked away when not in use.

When receiving in-game audio, the Xbox Headset includes support for spatial-sound technologies including Windows Sonic, Dolby Atmos, and DTS Headphone: X. You’ll need to control the headset by the Xbox Accessories app on your Windows 10 PC, however—it doesn’t appear that the general Windows 10 Settings menu will allow the custom controls of the equalizer settings, bass boost, auto-mute sensitivity, mic monitoring, and brightness of mic’s mute light. You’ll be able to connect to your PC via Bluetooth or via the Xbox Wireless connection found in some Surfaces, such as the Surface Book 3.

While we haven’t tried the new Xbox Headset itself, the design doesn’t look like it would be too out of place during a meeting. Microsoft’s Xbox Wireless Headset ships in black, with green accents, designed to mimic the look and feel of the latest Xbox Series X and S consoles. Microsoft says the lightweight, ultra-soft large earcups are made of synthetic (polyurethane) leather that distribute pressure evenly. Microsoft’s Surface Headphones are already designed to be worn for long periods, so it’s probably safe to say that these can be worn all day as well.

They should last all day, too: The Xbox Wireless Headset supports 15 hours of battery life after three hours of charging. A quick charge via the USB-C connection provides about four hours of battery life.