A Year of Platinum Sound – Headset Review

Playstation Platinum Wireless Headset 12 Month Review

This time last year, I celebrated a milestone birthday as I turned 30 years old. I hardly consider that ‘elderly’, but I was asked if there was an extra special gift I might like to mark the occasion…

Earlier in 2018, I splashed out on PlayStation VR, a toy I’m still fairly obsessed with today. With Move Controllers, a great carry case, and a stack of quality titles, the one thing missing from my otherwise brilliant virtual reality was decent sound. I’d been making do with a pair of standard stereo Cowin E7 Headphones, but these were only a short term solution. Not only that, I knew the overall look of the VR Headset was incomplete. Sure, I can’t see myself playing while in VR, that doesn’t stop me from needing to be observed as the supreme oligarch of gaming I really am. How will anyone know how seriously I take my hobby unless I’m draped head to toe in matching branding and eye popping logos? This is just one of the reasons I chose to cash in my 30th for Sony PlayStation Platinum Wireless Headset (PPWH).

Having used this Headset for almost 12 months, I feel I’m in a good position to provide a ‘living’ review of all its features, and report to the world just how successful an accessory they are.

I can joke that the branding was the most important part of the product, but the genuine reason I wanted the quite obviously overpriced PlayStation licensed Headphones was so I can know for a fact that this is the complete experience: PlayStation 4, PSVR and the Platinum Headphones, is everything as SONY intended. In theory, there should be no better way to engage with the PS4 console. At £129.99, the PPWH does offer a nice range of features, though there is no point beating around the fact the price tag includes official licensing. But with 3D Audio capabilities, Virtual 7.1 Surround Sound, a compact folding design and a handful of tools to improve voice chat, there was still plenty to explore.

You get a nice little baggy to store your Headset in,
though I could argue £129.99 should include some more robust protection

From a VR perspective, I was hungry for the 3D Audio. Simply put, this enhances your immersion in a virtual space through the use of dynamic shifts in sound; Rather than the direction of a noise being estimated through two stereo speakers, 3D Audio can provide a much more convincing and distinguishable representation of a sound from it’s virtual point of origin. This tool is present in most 3D games these days, as the player’s proximity to audio in their environment changes in volume and resonance depending on position. That’s impressive, but in Virtual Reality, having sounds coming at you from their actual 3D sources has the potential to deeply improve any virtual play session. Sounds heard from the side now ‘shift to face you’ in real time as you turn your head. Now when sneaking through the dank, disgusting halls of Resident Evil 7 (this most terrifying moments of my life), 3D Audio helps achieve a heightened level of stealth. You now know for certain where that distant creak or whisper came from. Likewise, tracking down the last missing robots in Astro Bot Rescue Mission (with the best OST I’ve heard in a few years) becomes that much easier and enjoyable when the 3D Audio lets you know exactly where those cries for help of coming from.
Needless to say, the 3D Audio works seamlessly, and as its included in all PlayStation VR games by PlayStation mandate, every single title has been improved by these Headphones. Despite being Wireless, it must be connected by 3.5mm input with the PSVR Headset which does add another wire to the proceedings… but the same is true for all headphones (except the tinny earbuds Sony pack-in), so that’s a mark against the VR, not the PPWH.

Jobs a good’un then? Got my fancy PlayStation merch and running scared from the sticky horrors of RE7 has never been better. True, but as quickly as you put on the PPWH, you realise its most major flaw. These swanky earpieces, while providing the best audio I’ve ever heard from a Headset, are not luxuriously comfortable, far far from it. Unlike my trusty Cowin’s, which have an extremely plump padding and are used for all my non-gaming or outdoor music enjoyment, the Platinum Headset’s ear cushions are lacking an inviting quality, providing more of a rock solid head clamp than a trusty audio companion. I can only assume this is due to the speaker housings containing a vast amount of technology, but the problem is compounded by an overhead band made entirely of uncovered rubber. This rubber strip protects the connecting wires between ear cups, it’s also what keeps the device on your head. The stylish metal piece that straddles your bonce is merely for appearances, only the rubber has function, and let me tell you; rubber and hair do not mix.
While you may not notice right away, wearing the Platinum Headset for a while will begin revealing every subtle movement you make as the rubber tugs are your hair. An hour is about the maximum I could take before the gentle yanking became too much, and I would take them off. This complaint extrapolates itself for those who wear glasses, which I do. I already keep a neat, slim armed pair of spectacles handy specifically for use with headphones and VR, but the PPWH would surely be unbearable for people relying on any other style of glasses.

At this point, a lot of people would immediately give up and return them for a more comfortable option but I was willing to give the PPWH a chance, to see if they’d soften up over a few weeks use. However, unwilling to wait too long incase an agreeable level of comfort never came, I decided to fast track the breaking in phase and it made perfect sense to try out some of the other features along the way. As I listed above, Virtual 7.1 Surround Sound is also included, and while this is present in a lot of games, it isn’t possible to use 3D Audio at the same time. Of course, moving around and altering sound dynamically conflicts with the pre-produced nature of 7.1, so I went with some movies to experiment with it instead.

I began by watching The Avengers Infinity War (better than Endgame) with the PlayStation Platinum Headset, in 3D with the use of PlayStation VR’s Cinematic Mode. Instantly, I was blown away, as my senses were enveloped by the Virtual Reality Headset and Headphone combo. The 7.1, virtual or not, doesn’t disappoint. With all this tech strapped to my face, there was never an opportunity to get distracted by my phone or a passing cat, or indeed a sound outside my window. Being willingly forced to focus on the film rivalled my recent cinema experience at the BFI IMAX to the nth degree, a feeling I wouldn’t have previously thought possible.
The resolution of PSVR may not be the sharpest, but after a few minutes, most people start to ignore that, and I would like to say that no movie viewing in my life has been as enjoyable… Until about mid-way through. At the point Tony Stark and Doctor Strange begin arguing aboard the weird Doughnut spaceship, my eyes began screaming. It wasn’t caused by the Headphones of course, but watching such a visually dense movie in stereoscopic 3D, just a few centimetres from my eyeballs, started to disagree with me. The pain became unbearable, going from zero to a hundred in just a few minutes. Despite how much I was enjoying myself, I had no choice but the rip the PlayStation VR off and finish the movie the following night – where I also experienced a lessened but still disconcerting amount of iris irritation before the story concluded (or rather, before the most famous MCU cliffhanger). This is genuinely the only time I’ve had such an unpleasant time with the VR on, and it was just unfortunate for the Platinum Headset that I was so badly distracted.

Continuing my attack on the un-wearable-ness of the PPWH, I sat through all three Godfather movies over a couple of weeks – not a great series to go with for surround sound as it turns out. The quality of the Headphones is inescapable, you-hear-everything! And though I love the Godfather Trilogy, the 1970s sound editing of the better movies didn’t stand up to that much scrutiny, with a handful of notable imperfections which are surely only a product of the franchise’s age (I enjoy the movies, though Part III is always Part III). The Headphones were becoming gradually softer and easy to wear, though I still hadn’t fully enjoyed a movie with them.

During this time, another feature I was trying to make the most of was the ‘sidetone’ audio, for use during party chat. This is a self-mic option which feeds your own voice back to you, as it’d ordinarily be obscured by wearing the Headset itself. Kept at a fairly low register, this is really helpful for holding natural conversations and controlling the volume of your voice. More often than not, I’m wearing the PPWH late at night, so I certainly don’t want to start shouting unaware. Unfortunately, the sidetone seems to have a side effect which only impacts the people you’re talking to. With this feature active, my friends often hear my voice echoed, as the sound of it being played back to me creates slight feedback. This is pretty annoying for us all, I enjoy using the sidetone but doing so makes me feel a little selfish as it actively reduces the quality of their experience.

I appreciate the folding design, but there’s no way I’m taking these things on the go

As Christmas 2018 approached, my gaming became consumed with Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (a masterpiece but not the best Smash). Not wanting to risk my high priced PS4 gear out and about, I mostly played portable Smash with other headphones, if at all. Other than habitual PSVR use, the Platinums didn’t come back to centre stage until January, when Capcom released a special One-Shot Demo for the Resident Evil 2 remake. This rather strict and social media snaring marketing gimmick dictated player’s could try RE2 for one 30 minute play session only. Ceremoniously, I charged my PPWH and waited for nightfall to maximise the potential fear factor with awesome 3D sound! Sadly, my excitement was immediately laid to waste when I put the Headphones on and found only one ear piece working. After some fiddling, I concluded they were certainly broken and I’d need to apply for a replacement. Perhaps the folding nature of the design caused some unseen damage, or maybe it was a fault pair all a long… They were only 5 months old, and truthfully hadn’t been used for much more than 100 hours, the length of most modern games in my book.

I was pretty irritated, and my girlfriend who’d bought them too. With full warranty I could order a replacement, although getting approval for it was a drawn-out process, as proving to Sony that I actually owned the Headphones was strangely difficult. Resident Evil 2’s full release came and I completed it several times (game of the year) before the replacement arrived mid-February. Worst of all, the original pair which had been slowly gaining in wearability was gone, and I was back to square one, breaking in the second set.

I don’t think it’s uncommon to have a slight resentment towards products which have been replaced. I don’t want to seem ungrateful, but is gratitude deserved when an item so expensive has proved unreliable. These things happen, is all I can say, but I didn’t rush into using the Headphones again. PlayStation had a fairly lowkey year in 2019 anyway, typified by Sony skipping E3 and their only big first party game being another uninspired Zombie apocalypse, Days Gone. I shouldn’t criticise, having not given it a try, but who hasn’t walked that road before? The only time my PPWH saw some love was playing through Blood & Truth in VR (nothing special) .

However, I came back to my PS4 in a big way when I decided I should really clear out my backlog before my 31st birthday rolled around soon. Hey, I might get a new game or two!
I began ritualising an hour or so or Yakuza 0 (the best soap opera in gaming) each night for about two weeks, using my PPWH each time. Just as before, the rubber band made timing my play sessions easy, but my God that sound design is astonishing and I got to hear every detail of it thanks to this accessory. Walking the streets of Kamurocho with full 3D Audio was satisfyingly gritty and tactile. The wet paving beneath each footstep, the laughing and yelling of midnight party-goers, and the echoes of 1980s J-Pop from various nightclubs and businesses felt so real. Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio created a perfect urban playhouse here, and I don’t think I’d have enjoyed it so thoroughly with just regular speakers. Truly, once I’d battled my way to the end with Kiryu and Majima, the clench of the Platinum Headphones was barely noticeable. Only during my final (unintentional) four hour marathon to beat the final three chapters did I start to feel some agony around my brain bone, but that’s a pretty long play session.

Despite their faults, the Headset shows very little wear (if any)
after prolonged use since February

Overall, reflecting on my first 12 months with the PlayStation Platinum Wireless Headset really highlights the rough patches, but the reason I persisted with this accessory despite it’s glaring flaw is because the sound is that good. Wearability should be any headphone manufacturers’ top priority, doesn’t matter how good it sounds if no one can wear them! With a breaking in period of about 60-70 hours, PPWH scrapes in just under that threshold of acceptability, providing a sonic experience grand enough that you literally forget the pain. As far as sound is concerned, they’re the best I’ve ever owned. Of course I’ll continue using these for as long as I own a PS4 or as long as they’re functional, which ever comes first. I don’t regret having them as a gift, as every new game or film I try knocks me back with the sheer depth and quality of sound. After roughly 100 hours with pair #1 and then a further 80-120 hours with pair #2, I can safely say that they’re worth it for those willing to put in the grind – though I wouldn’t recommend them to anyone who wears anything but the slightest of eyewear.

For PlayStation or Audio Obsessives only, presuming you’ve got the will power to break them in!

Graeme
@fossilarcade

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