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The Xbox Wireless Headset is a great deal — when it works

The Xbox Wireless Headset has the key features I want from gaming headphones: I can pair it with my Xbox Series X and my laptop (via Bluetooth) at the same time. I can easily adjust the mix of voice chat and game audio with a twist of an ear cup. It looks nice, and at $99.99, it’s cheaper than most of the competition. If only its quality matched its promise.

When the Xbox Wireless Headset works, it provides a comfortable experience with serviceable sound. In games, the headset creates a 360-degree soundscape that favors dialogue. The seal of the headphones did an OK job blocking outside noise, but it can’t compare to the active noise-canceling technology of its more expensive counterparts from companies like Sony and Bose — understandably so!

No, it can’t compete with high-end headphones, but compared to so many midrange video game headsets, the Xbox Wireless Headset is a strong option — when it works. For many reviewers, it seems to work well most of the time. For me, not so much.

Across two weeks of testing, I experienced many issues. Both gameplay and chat audio regularly cut in and out. Sometimes I could hear myself talking on a one-second delay. Other times, the game audio would come from the TV, despite my Xbox settings directing the sound to the headset.

Image: Microsoft

I used the headphones for a full playthrough of It Takes Two with my colleague Russ Frushtick. He joked that we needed to bake time into the beginning of each play session for me to fuss with the headset so that it would reliably work. If you’re an adult with limited game time, it’s maddening to lose even five minutes to IT support on headphones when you can just plug in earbuds and turn on Discord.

The headset fared better in other use cases. It was ideal for bingeing chatty television like reruns of The Simpsons, but sounded off when it came to more cinematic content. While watching both Malcolm X and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, I noticed that background crowd lines were nearly as loud and clear as the main character’s dialogue. It was disorienting.

Perhaps there’s something unusual about my office setup, that something continues to interfere with the headset. Or perhaps the headset needs a few software updates before it’s ready for prime time — like most games do these days. Whatever the case, I hope it works better eventually.

The design is by far the best in the space: a simple, sleek, and comfortable over-ear option. The mic is flexible and unobtrusive, its LED tip lighting up to show whether it’s been muted. But for now, the look isn’t enough to keep the Xbox Wireless Headset in my rotation. I’ll give it another shot when Halo Infinite appears — hopefully then I can finish the fight with its fussy connectivity and other sporadic frustrations.

The Xbox Wireless Headset is available now and compatible with Xbox One, Xbox Series X, Windows 10 devices, and Bluetooth devices. This review was conducted using a unit provided by Microsoft, and is based on testing with an Xbox Series X, a Windows 10 PC, and an iPad Pro. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. You can find additional information about Polygon’s ethics policy here.

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