The PlayStation Pulse Elite Is the Most Average PS5 Headset I’ve Ever Used

You’re a real gamer now.

Inverse Deputy Gaming Editor Shannon Liao wearing the Sony PlayStation Pulse Elite wireless headset ...
Lais Borges/Inverse; Photograph by Raymond Wong
Gear Reviews

Hours into using the PlayStation Pulse Elite wireless headset, I realize I’d rather not game with these on. Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth is a full blast of noise, an orchestral symphony of boss battles and power moves, and the 3D Audio just makes it sound rowdier. Maybe if I had roommates or needed a bit more privacy, I’d consign myself to wearing these, but for the most part, I mainly use the Pulse Elite to listen to music.

At a glance, the Pulse Elite fits in with the sleek aesthetic of the PlayStation 5, the Portal “handheld,” and an assortment of other Sony accessories. You’ll look like a real gamer while brandishing the PS5’s sleek aesthetic on your head. It’s kind of like being a walking and talking PS5 mannequin.

Assuming you’re okay with that, why not embrace looking like a cyborg of the future? Wearing the headset on the streets, you’ll probably get some very weird looks, but pay them no mind. What does the average passersby know about fashion, anyway?

Going Cerebral

The Pulse Elite feels like a warm hug around the ears.

Photograph by Raymond Wong

The cups provide passive noise isolation but no noise cancellation.

Photograph by Raymond Wong

The microphone extends and is bendable but doesn’t go beyond a certain length.

Photograph by Raymond Wong

A USB-C port is available for charging.

Photograph by Raymond Wong
1 / 4

At $150, the Pulse Elite is a mid-tier set of headphones (with a microphone) that reminds me of the pair I got with my first paycheck at my first job out of college. It’s just barely a splurge and should last you several years. In fact, I still have the headphones I bought back in 2017, the Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro 250 Ohm over-ear headphones recommended by DJs. They’re with me right now, and they’re still completely functional. That’s probably because I never take these anywhere, since again, it prompts weird stares.

As a baseline, the audio on the DT 770 Pro is just way crisper and cleaner. It’s a bit unfair to compare the two, as the Pulse Elite is for gaming and it’s a wireless connection, not wired. But when considering the similar price point, you can argue that you’ve only got so many stacks of $150 to drop on headphones. Would you rather hear every synth and bass drop? Or do you need the mic to shout at foes in your Call of Duty games? If speaking to your teammates and stanning PlayStation over other consoles is your top priority, then getting this headset would make more sense.

Here’s the side view of the Pulse Elite headset.

Photograph by Raymond Wong

Testing this out with German electronic artist Boys Noize’s “Cerebral,” I found the Pulse Elite’s audio is serviceable, but by no means the best. It’s just muddier in the mids and lows than what I prefer. And when gaming is already a cacophony of sound, it can get pretty intense. Like when I’m throwing grenades in Rebirth, the explosions just blast through the ears, which really take a beating.

With the much-touted 3D Audio feature on the PS5, you can hear water running closer to you and get a sense of mental geography while listening to sound effects. I was excited to try this out with the headset. You’re supposed to hear immersive surround sound and actually hear the direction of enemies’ footsteps.

In practice, I found this not to be of much use while gaming, as it increased the mental load of trying to figure out what was going on. My brain normally considers all sounds from my TV to be coming from one direction, so to suddenly have everything coming in from different directions meant automatic confusion. It was rather disorienting so I turned it off.

Quality of Life Issues

After hours of wearing these headphones, it feels like a warm hug.

Photograph by Raymond Wong

It may not be immediately clear, but the top headband is adjustable, although it rests underneath a piece of plastic. Be sure to adjust the headband, otherwise the default sizing may squeeze both sides of your head uncomfortably, depending on the size of your noggin. This makes for a much snugger fit than some over-the-ear headphones. After hours of wearing these headphones, it feels like a warm hug. That can be good or bad, based on whether you like hugs.

I prefer the comfort level of a gaming headset like the HyperX Cloud II, which I once picked up at GameStop. It slings easily over the ears and costs just $60 for similar audio and mic quality. It’s also more comfortable and brainlessly easy to set up.

As part of the review, I also brought the Pulse Elite to the office and have to report back that there’s no noise cancellation. The headset does have passive noise isolation, and the tight hugging of your ears helps block out some external audio, too. I could still hear all of my colleagues chatting in the background, but the sounds were dulled, and I couldn’t make out the words. If you’re looking for total noise cancellation, however, the Pulse Elite won’t do that.

With the accompanying PlayStation Link dongle, connecting the headset to a device of choice (PS5, PC, phone) is extremely easy. You press a hidden button on the side of the dongle and the headset pairs instantly to the PS5 or other device wirelessly. Where things get trickier is if you happen to leave that dongle elsewhere.

If you’re looking for total noise cancellation, however, the Pulse Elite won’t do that.

If you don’t take out the PlayStation Link dongle, the PS5 Pulse Elite won’t immediately connect to your device, as Reddit users have also noted. Instead, it may frustratingly appear in your settings menu briefly, like a ghost, only to disappear again. If, like me, you somehow miss this dongle and its significance when unboxing the headset, you may go through arduous grueling hours of trying to pair the headset to your device. Hopefully, you’ll learn from my mistake.

If you somehow have left the dongle elsewhere, there’s still hope yet. A USB-C to USB-C cable will do the trick, as well. On its own though, with just the headset, you’re out of luck.

As for battery life, the Pulse Elite does pretty well. PlayStation claims to offer up to 30 hours of battery life, and I was able to go about a week without charging it, using it every time I played Rebirth and listened to music. The only caveat is that sometimes the headset would go to sleep on its own and disconnect from the PS5 while still having enough juice. When that happened, I’d have to tap the power button, which is also the Bluetooth pairing button. It’s got the cute sound effects of the PS5 when it wakes back up so that you can’t get too mad about the weird nap it just took.

Can You Hear Me Now?

As a nice touch, there’s a little button on the microphone with PlayStation’s triangle, circle, cross, and square icons.

Photograph by Raymond Wong

Finally, let’s talk about the microphone. The mic retracts cleanly back into the headset and snaps back into place. The microphone quality is usable, but it’s not the best. You’ll be audible, but words you speak won’t sound very crisp. If you get into a competitive multiplayer game and start shouting, the audio will sound distorted and hard to parse. Then again, that’s generally par for the course for any shouting over any headset. Even my Blue Yeti microphone can’t handle full-blown screaming. Maybe one day, technology can catch up with angry gamers.

Assuming tempers are calm during a game of Call of Duty, let’s consider normal volume talking. The Pulse Elite’s audio quality is simply worse than most modern microphones on iPhone or Android devices, and worse than a standard Blue Yeti microphone. The words I’m saying can be made out, but there’s a weird muffled quality to them that almost sounds like I’ve been wrapped in fabric or that I’m speaking from a closet. Be prepared to have to repeat yourself.

There’s a little button on the microphone with PlayStation’s triangle, circle, cross, and square icons, as a nice design touch, while the volume controls and Bluetooth pairing button are on the right side of the headset. It’s not the easiest to figure out by touch alone, so you’ll have to be careful not to press the wrong button and accidentally blast noise at top volume.

Overall, PlayStation diehard fans will need this headset to complete their collection. As for everyone else, your mileage may vary. To be fair, I was annoyed to start because of my initial, self-inflicted setup issues. But once I figured things out, I still wasn’t impressed by the audio or microphone quality, especially at the $150 price point. The biggest pros to getting the Pulse Elite are the comfort and ease of wearing them, the convenience of tapping once to connect, and the interesting look it adds to your wardrobe. It’s a definite showstopper, and a great conversation starter, too.

Photographs by Raymond Wong.

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