The last two console generations from Microsoft and Sony – ranging from PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 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 large surround speaker systems to relatively cheap, high-quality headphones. This means that many consumers, myself included, have prepared a serious coin for new cans. But will your audio investment pay off with the next generation of consoles? We spoke to four major manufacturers to get some answers.
It turns out that things are still a little suspended.
“We depend on [Microsoft and Sony] to tell us [our] the products are compatible with the future, “said John Moore, marketing and sales manager for growth peripherals at Razer, in an interview with Polygon last week. That̵
“Obviously we were waiting with bated breath to figure out all the final details of everything,” Fallon told Polygon. He said Microsoft has been the most helpful so far.
“We found out a couple of months ago that all we had [on the market] he was just going to work [with the new Xbox]”Continued Fallon.” This has been tremendous news for us and for our customers. […] And it’s all just plug and play. No firmware update needed, none of that. It will all work out. “
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of Sony and its PlayStation 5.
PlayStation has its own wireless headphone technology, or of course. There is a new set of Sony-branded headphones coming with the PS5. In addition, older peripherals such as Platinum and Gold wireless headphones will also be compatible. Sony also announced that “third party headsets that connect via USB port or audio jack” will be compatible with the PS5. Beyond that, all the third-party manufacturers we’ve spoken to have said things are still in the air.
“On the PlayStation side,” Fallon said, “it’s a bit of a mixed bag.”
The new PS5 will not be equipped with an optical audio connection, commonly referred to as S / PDIF or TosLink. Manufacturers like Astro, SteelSeries, and others use this optical connection to separate game audio from voice chat. This allows you to have low latency, high fidelity digital surround sound and voice chat coming from the same speakers. It is also what allows you to balance the levels between these two different streams.
“If we don’t have optics, obviously we don’t have a way to do it,” Fallon said. “We only have a single audio source, which will be USB. So SteelSeries Pro Wireless [Polygon’s top headphone choice for the PlayStation 4 in last year’s round-up] it will still work on PS5. Just plug in the USB and you will be able to get your full audio from that. The only thing you won’t be able to do is change your mix of game and chat. “
Presumably a menu within the PS5’s dashboard would allow you to do this, but no one can be sure until reviewers have a chance to boot the device for the first time. It’s also much less convenient than simply rotating a physical dial on the headphones.
Astro has made a name for itself with these kinds of high-quality physics interfaces that allow users to fiddle with their levels on the fly. Their A50 wireless headphones – Polygon’s best performance for Xbox One in last year’s roundup – will only require a firmware update to be compatible with next-generation Xbox consoles. Likewise it’s a different story for the PS5. Astro says it is coming out with a dongle called the Astro HDMI Adapter which will fix the problem. It will be available for $ 39.99 through Astro’s website, as well as at select retailers.
“It enables the mix of game audio + voice chat and offers lag-free 4K HDMI video passthrough by adding a TosLink optical jack,” the company said in a press release dated September 1. “Registered owners of Astro products will be able to submit their serial number and receive a $ 15 discount online.”
The good news is that both next-generation console controllers still feature a 3.5mm audio connector, which will allow you to connect the vast majority of products from companies like Astro, Kingston’s HyperX brand, Razer and SteelSeries. In fact, both consoles were designed with that kind of stereo interface in mind.
“In the days of Xbox 360, consoles really weren’t decoded [digital] audio for you, “Thadeus Cooper, head of the Astro Gaming brand, told Polygon in an interview.” The reason the MixAmp and A50 were so popular with people is because [the consoles] it would have output that signal through optics or HDMI, but it was necessary to have a device that did Dolby decoding. “
In the current generation, only Microsoft’s console was able to decode that digital audio and output surround sound via stereo output on its own, in the form of Windows Sonic or Dolby Atmos. Now, with the PlayStation 5, Sony is bringing its new technology. Its Tempest 3D AudioTech solution should be able to do similar things with positional audio. Manufacturers tell us that it effectively means audio parity between the two console brands.
It also means that the next generation of third-party earbuds will have to differentiate themselves in a completely different way. They will no longer be able to depend on bells and whistles as adjustable game sound levels and custom sound profiles to stand out. Instead, expect them to try to compete on things like sound quality, comfort, cross-platform compatibility, and price.