Xbox One headsets… surround sound, adapters, fact & fiction

The Xbox One Headset Adapter is finally shipping soon, and that means third party headsets are in tow. But what is this adapter nonsense, and why are all the manufactures using it instead of custom (optical audio) solutions? Read on to find out.

    Xbox One Headset Adapter

With the previous generation, the game controller only carried chat audio, so game sound had to come from your stereo, tv, or console itself. The most popular third party solutions tapped into the consoles optical audio port, which output a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio stream. A sound processor took this 5.1 stream, and created a stereo simulated surround track that got piped to the headset, either over wires or wirelessly.

These products were dubbed Surround Sound, and were adorn with the official Dolby Digital logo. After all, the sound processor did have to be Dolby Digital capable, certified, and licensed. But the headsets themselves had two speakers, a left and right channel, one in each ear cup.

Note that there are some TRUE Surround Sound headsets, which contain 4+ speakers in each ear cup. While this creates the best sound separation, sound quality is sacrificed. The tiny speakers pales in comparison to the 50mm+ drivers in stereo headsets. Trust me… all the “surround sound” headsets you know and love are in fact stereo headsets.

    Here is a true 5.1 headset (CM Storm Sirus)… note the tiny, crappy speakers. Just no.

Enter the Xbox One. Thanks to the wireless tech used in the controller, it has enough bandwidth to transmit both chat AND game sound. This removes the need for clunky sound processors that plug into the back of the console. Instead, the console itself takes the games multi-channel audio mix, and sends an ideal stereo mix to the controller, through the headset adapter, and up to your headset.

Thanks to the Headset Adapter using a standard 3.5mm TRRS headset jack, absolutely any analog stereo headphone with a standard jack are compatible. The Xbox One headsets coming from third party manufactures are nothing but standard headsets bundled with Microsoft’s headset adapter.

The best example of this is the Polk 4Shot for Xbox One, and the Polk Melee, its Xbox 360 counterpart. While the headsets themselves are identical, the Melee comes with a dedicated digital sound processor, and proprietary puck for the 360 controller. To accomplish the same exact feet, the Xbox One only requires the headset and the standard Xbox One Headset Adapter. There are less wires, less components, and most importantly: the Xbox One version is $40 cheaper because the functionality is baked into the console itself.

  • So is it Surround Sound, or not?
  • Yes and no, depends on the marketing department. Microsoft themselves is going the honest route, and dubbing their own headset bundled with the headset adapter the “Xbox One Stereo Headset”. Polk never mentions stereo in their marketing, but shys away from calling it surround sound. Turtle Beach, on the other hand, touts this XO Seven feature

    : “Be surrounded. Cinematic Surround Sound for your games and entertainment.” Note the XO Seven has stereo 50mm drivers, and uses the Xbox One Stereo Headset Adapter.

      Xbox One Stereo Headset
      Xbox One Stereo Headset

    The reality is only the console itself bears the Dolby Digital logo, and it’s the console that is doing the sound processing this generation. The end result is the same. For the consumer it means cheaper headsets. There is less hardware, and less licensing costs for manufactures and those savings are getting passed on to the consumer.

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    32 thoughts on “Xbox One headsets… surround sound, adapters, fact & fiction”

    1. What I want to know is if and when they are coming out with bluetooth chat only adapters. I have a pair of turtle beach black ops tangos that I recieved only 2 Christmases ago. All I need is the bluetooth chat adapter and I’m set. I better not be forced to buy a new pair of headphones just so I can use them with the xbox one and be able able to chat….

    2. @XForeverNinjaX Your bluetooth chat headset isn’t going to work on the Xbox One – the Xbox One uses Wifi Direct rather than bluetooth. That’s because Wifi Direct gives us 250Mbps throughput, allowing much better quality chat audio *and* game audio to be streamed simultaneously to the controller – not to mention whatever bandwidth-hungry accessories (such as AR/VR glasses) are in the pipe or as-yet-unthought-of.

      Bluetooth is only good for 25mbps, so they’ve left it behind because it doesn’t have much to offer.

    3. @XForeverNinjaX @XForeverNinjaX It’s still possible Microsoft or a third party releases a bluetooth puck that plugs into the controller, just like the Xbox 360. It could actually be an elegant/profitable first party product… Bluetooth dongle provides chat volume/mute controls and pairs with any bluetooth headset. I wouldn’t hold my breath, though.

      Of course, this would be for chat ONLY, given the bandwidth limitations you stated. But it could still be a great chat only option.

    4. This does nothing to solve the problem for users who own headsets like the TB X42 because the ONLY way it receives audio is from the sound processor which connects via optical audio. Currently Xbox One doesnt transmit 5.1 via optical cable meaning the headset can’t get simulated surround sound as the box is only receiving stereo audio.

    5. @Jordan Honestly, these wireless headsets are obselete. Considering you need to be wired to the controller for talk back either way, the wireless is redundant when you can go passive w/o the need for batteries.

    6. I have a pair of Studio Beats by Dre. It has a mic on the cable. Will they work with the headset adapter? And will the headset adapter be able to toggle whether or not the cabled mic is on or off?

    7. @Vincent yes your astros should work. i have the A50′s and i get game sound through the optical to the mix amp and have been waiting for this adapter for the chat.

    8. @Justin They may be obsolete in the future but they aren’t obsolete when a generation of gamers have spent hundreds of dollars on them and the current Xbox One firmware prevents them from working. We aren’t talking about the floppy drive on a 2007 iMac. These are headsets are still currently being sold. Microsoft can not continue to ignore a core piece of technology that is missing from their software.

    9. It seems there is no way to have digital surround sound through a headset on the Xbox One unless you are willing to drop some money down for a midfi or better receiver. Even then you won’t have the ability to chat. The Xbox One’s optical port is limited to stereo output only so unless you have a way to extract the audio from the HDMI output, your Mixamps, DSS, and Turtle Beachs won’t produce true digital surround. This seems like a simple problem to fix, but 4 months have passed with no update. The much anticipated headset adapter will only output stereo and is required to chat. Wires and stereo, really?? What’s next… game cartidges??

      Is this next gen? I think not. The XBox 360, despite being released over 8 years ago, is not limited to stereo output in the digital out. (I know this can be fixed on the Xbox One through a future software update, but I have not seen any confirmation that such an update was coming.) The 360 did this on day one mind you. As much as I love telling my Xbox to turn and off without using my controller, I am not sure there is much else about it that is superior to the 360. This just doesn’t feel like next-gen to me.

      I hope this myriad of problems is fixed before the 1TB PS4 comes out. Otherwise I might not be able to help myself.

    10. Last point, gripe, complaint, what-have-you. Astros and Turtle Beaches can get sound from the Xbox One, but not surround sound. Notice that neither Polk’s 4Shot nor Turtle Beach’s XO Seven ads mention surround sound. TB updated their webpage and removed the surround sound portion of the ad within the last 30 days.

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    12. So if i am reading this correct they are not planning on getting DD on the optical out which most of us bought the high end headsets either under the false promise it would of been added “soon” after launch yet hasn’t been, or have them from the 360 and don’t want to buy another set because MS dropped the ball and yet again are not in touch with the consumers…I guess i will never again get an MS console and will go back to PC gaming at this rate. They have a year to get DD to the optical out or I’m done with them.

    13. Woah, calm down. Have a sip of your zima and wipe that sand out of your vagina. The Dolby Digital support is in the update due next week. Those of us in the update beta are already playing with it.

      Go dust off those headsets. They’ll be working next week.

    14. What I’m wondering now is if it will make more sense to get a Polk Melee, so that I can use optical to get my virtual surround, and then dump the transmitter once Microsoft starts sending surround via the controller, or save the money and just get the 4Shot and hope Microsoft upgrades sooner than later.

      I have the Turtle Beach X41′s, but I want to upgrade because I get a lot of popping due to the frequency they use. I could make the same argument about the X42′s versus the XO7′s, but there is no price break for getting the XO7′s.

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