Aside from the PlayStation Move Racing Wheel and Wonderbook, Sony has one more accessory to show off at E3 -- the Pulse Wireless Stereo Headset Elite Edition. Naturally, we hunted down this peripheral aimed at all-things audio to check it out for ourselves. The PWSHEE is the company's second full-on PS3 headset to date, expanding on what it offered with its Wireless Stereo Headset from last year. As we're told, the headset is also ushering in a new Pulse moniker for its PlayStation oriented ear-blasters, although there's no word on what we can expect down the line. For now, this unit packs a lot on paper for its $150 price, touting key features like 7.1 virtual surround sound, PS Vita and cellphone compatibility (thanks to a detachable cable with inline remote / mic), BassImpact technology for massive low-end pulse (get it?), audio profiles, higher-fidelity drivers than the WSH and hidden noise-cancelling microphones for chatting. Does it have the potential to live up to its hype and one-up its $80 predecessor? Join us past the break for our initial impressions.
Sony PlayStation Wireless Stereo Headset Pulse EditionSee all photos
Visually speaking, the PWSHEE is less futuristic looking than the Wireless Stereo headset and it's not a bad thing either -- we wouldn't feel dorky wearing it in public. The back of the earcups are finished in a deep glossy black with chrome circles on the yokes, while the rest of the headset has a textured matte finish like the PS3. Although the drivers are new, the the size, shape and even the cups, and even the fauxe-leather earpads felt exactly the same to our ears as what's on the WSH -- not surprising, as the PWSHEE uses that headset as its foundation. Those pads had our head sweating in the past, so it's shame that cloth versions are, again, not on offer. The headband and yokes are completely redesigned here, featuring two points of contact and more traditional adjustment rails, but the earcups still don't fold flat and padding is sparse under the headband. Despite these minor quirks, the headset fit our noggin very comfortably, and we don't feel as though it would be a burden to wear these during a gaming marathon.
So that's the design. Let's dig into those features. One major complaint we had the WSH was its retractable boom mic -- namely that it felt flimsy and put an annoying light in our line of vision. This time around the noise-cancelling microphones are hidden in the earcups, and although we had no means to test their quality, not having any glare in eyes is a welcome improvement. As far as controls go, you'll find sliders for voice, game and "pulse" conveniently placed along the edges (perfect for quick thumb access), along with a Mini-USB port for charging, a 3.5mm input for the detachable cable, a power switch and and a toggle for Virtual Surround Sound. The wireless connection is handled by an included USB dongle like the WSH, but this unit has its own 3.5mm input. Our Sony rep wasn't aware of what it's for, but we'd imagine it'll let you get wired into the console. About the only thing we couldn't view on the headset were its onscreen status popups, although it's likely similar to the what we experienced with the WSH.
The Sony booth was very loud, but the cans isolated noise well enough that we were able to gauge the sound quality a little bit. While we've generally placed vibrating earcups in the "gimmick" category, we actually came away quite impressed by the sound demo Sony had looping. The vibrations felt like a subwoofer on our head, rather than the buzzing of a cellphone. You can dial-in your preferred level of wub (or disable it) thanks to the volume control, and it'll get intense enough to please the most demanding bass heads. The surround sound emulation was also pleasing, with a good sense of directionality from the front to rear channels.
We'll be sure to give this headset a full run through our review gauntlet when it ships later this fall, but as it stands, $150 for this versatile, feature-packed headset is looking like a more-than-fair deal.