The last two console generations of Microsoft and Sony – from PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 all the way to PlayStation 4 Pro and Xbox One X – have been transformative in terms of audio quality. Consumers have been able to move away from high-fidelity tuners and have a surround sound speaker system for relatively inexpensive and high-quality headphones. This means that many consumers, myself included, have given some serious coinage to the new cans. But will your audio investment pay off with the next generation of consoles? We talked to four major manufacturers to get some answers.
Turns out, things are still slightly up in the air.
“We depend on [Microsoft and Sony] To tell us that [our] The products are further compatible, ”said John Moore, head of marketing and sales for Razor enhancement peripherals, in an interview with Polygon last week. This is because his company, like every other manufacturer we’ve spoken to, still hasn’t found the ultimate console hardware. SteelSeries Brian Falone, Senior Product Manager for Audio, tells a similar story.
“Clearly we are waiting with beated breath to ascertain all the final details of everything,” Falon told Polygon. He said that Microsoft is the most forthcoming ever.
“We learned a few months ago that everything we had [on the market] Just gonna work [with the new Xbox], “Falon continued. “It was amazing news for us and our customers. […] And it’s all just plug and play. No firmware update required, none of it. All this is only going to work. “
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of Sony and its PlayStation 5.
PlayStation has its own wireless headphones technology or curriculum. There is a new Sony-branded set of headphones on the way with the PS5. In addition, older peripherals such as the Platinum and Gold wireless headsets will also be compatible. Sony has also announced that “third-party headsets that connect via a USB port or audio jack” will be compatible with the PS5. Also, the third party manufacturers we talked to are still up in the air.
“On the PlayStation side,” Fallon said, “it’s a little bit of a mixed bag.”
The new PS5 will not feature an optical audio connection, commonly referred to as S / PDIF or TosLink. Manufacturers like Astro, SteelSeries and others use that optical connection to separate in-game audio from voice chat. It allows you to have digital surround sound and low-latency, high-fidelity voice chat. It also allows you to balance the level between those two separate streams.
“If we don’t have optical, obviously we have no way to do that,” Falon said. “We have only one audio source, which will be from USB. So SteelSeries Pro Wireless [Polygon’s top headphone choice for the PlayStation 4 in last year’s round-up] Will still work on PS5. Just plug in USB and you will be able to get all your audio from it. One thing you may not be able to do is adjust your mix between games and chat. “
Presumably a menu within the PS5 dashboard will let you do this, but no one can be sure until reviewers get a chance to boot the device for the first time. This is much less convenient than simply turning on a physical dial on your headset.
Astro has made a name for itself with such high-quality physical interfaces that allow users to fail with their level on the fly. Their wireless A50 headset – Polygon’s top performance for Xbox One in last year’s roundup – would only require a firmware update to be compatible with the next generation of Xbox consoles. It is likewise a different story for the PS5. Astro says that it is coming with a dongle called Astro HDMI adapter which will solve the problem. It will be available for $ 39.99 through the Astro website, as well as select retailers.
“This game enables sound + voice chat mixing and lagless 4K HDMI video poststrongs,” the company said in a news release, “registered owners of Astro products will be able to submit their serial numbers and Get $ 15 off online. “
The good news is that both next-generation console controllers still have a 3.5mm audio connector, which will enable you to connect most products from companies like Astro, Kingston’s HyperX brand, Razer and SteelSeries. In fact, both consoles are designed with that kind of stereo interface in mind.
“In the Xbox 360 days, the console wasn’t really decoded [digital] Audio for you, ”Thadus Cooper, head of the brand at Astro Gaming, told Polygon in an interview. “The reason is that MixAmp and A50 were very popular with people, because [the consoles] Will produce a signal over optical or HDMI, but you must have a device that does Dolby decoding. “
In the current generation, only Microsoft’s console was able to decode, which automatically produces sound as Windows Sonic or Dolby Atmos via digital audio and output sound output. Now, with PlayStation 5, Sony is bringing its own new technology. Its Tempest 3D AudioTech solution should be able to do similar work with positional audio. Manufacturers tell us that this means the actual real similarity between the two console brands.
It also means that the next generation of third generation headsets will need to differentiate themselves in a different way. They will no longer be dependent on bells and whistles, such as in-game audio levels and custom sound profiles to differentiate themselves. Instead, expect them to try to compete on such things as sound quality, comfort, cross-platform compatibility, and price.