The Evolution of Console Audio Quality
The advancement of technology in the gaming industry has revolutionized the way we experience audio while playing video games. Gone are the days of relying on expensive surround sound systems or high-fidelity tuners. With the PlayStation 4 Pro and Xbox One X, gamers have been able to enjoy immersive audio using affordable and high-quality headphones. However, as we gear up for the next generation of consoles, many gamers are wondering if their audio investments will still hold up. We spoke to industry experts to shed some light on this matter.
Uncertainty Surrounds Compatibility
According to John Moore, head of marketing and sales for growth peripherals at Razer, manufacturers are still waiting for final confirmation from Microsoft and Sony regarding the compatibility of their products with the new consoles. The lack of access to console hardware has made it difficult for manufacturers to provide definitive answers. While Microsoft has been more forthcoming with information, things remain uncertain on the Sony side of the equation.
The Xbox Promise
One pleasant surprise for Xbox gamers is that their existing headphones will work seamlessly with the new Xbox consoles. Brian Fallon, senior product manager for audio at SteelSeries, shared that their products, as well as those from other manufacturers, have already been confirmed to be compatible with the next-generation Xbox. No firmware updates are needed; it’s simply plug and play.
The Sony Conundrum
Sony, on the other hand, presents a mixed bag of compatibility. While they are introducing a new set of wireless headphones specifically for the PlayStation 5, compatibility with older peripherals such as the Platinum and Gold wireless headsets has also been confirmed. Sony has also stated that third-party headsets connecting via USB or audio jack will work with the PS5. However, beyond these assurances, uncertainty remains.
The Missing Connection
One significant change with the new PS5 is the absence of an optical audio connection, commonly known as S/PDIF or Toslink. Manufacturers like Astro and SteelSeries relied on this connection to deliver separate audio streams for in-game audio and voice chat. It allowed gamers to experience digital surround sound while maintaining clear voice communication. Unfortunately, this feature will be unavailable on the PS5.
Adapting to Change
Brian Fallon explains that although the SteelSeries Pro Wireless headset will still function on the PS5, users will not be able to adjust the audio mix between game and chat as easily as before. While a menu within the PS5 dashboard might offer a solution, the convenience of a physical dial on the headset will be missed.
Astro, known for their high-quality physical interfaces, has stepped in to address this issue. For their wireless A50 headset, a firmware update will ensure compatibility with the next-generation Xbox consoles. Regarding the PS5, Astro will be releasing the Astro HDMI Adapter, available for purchase at $39.99. This dongle will enable game sound and voice chat mixing, while also providing lagless 4K HDMI video passthrough and an optical jack for those missing audio connections.
Both the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 controllers will feature a 3.5 mm audio connector, ensuring compatibility with a wide range of headphones from manufacturers like Astro, Kingston’s HyperX, Razer, and SteelSeries. These consoles have been designed with stereo interfaces in mind, catering to the majority of gaming headsets available.
Closing the Gap
In terms of audio capability, Sony is introducing its Tempest 3D AudioTech solution to the PS5, which promises positional audio similar to Microsoft’s Windows Sonic or Dolby Atmos. This brings audio parity between the two console brands, and manufacturers will need to differentiate themselves in other ways, such as sound quality, comfort, cross-platform compatibility, and price.
Invest with Confidence
While there may be some uncertainties surrounding audio compatibility on the next-generation consoles, gamers can rest assured that manufacturers are working hard to find solutions. Regardless of the console you choose, there will always be headsets available that cater to your audio needs. Invest wisely, and enjoy the immersive gaming experience that awaits you.
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