Sony’s first pair of true wireless earbuds designed for the PlayStation 5 will hit shelves early next month, and I’ve been testing them out for the past couple of days. The $199.99 Pulse Explore earbuds deliver lossless audio and ultra-low latency when using the company’s new PlayStation Link wireless protocol. With most devices like PS5, PC, or Mac, this will require connecting the included USB dongle. But Sony has introduced support for PlayStation Link directly into its new portable streaming tool, PlayStation Portal.
The Pulse Explore headphones also support legacy Bluetooth technology, and in a very convenient way, you can listen to audio via PS Link and Bluetooth simultaneously. So, it’s easy to make phone calls or listen to music on your phone in the middle of a long session Spider-Man 2 a class.
Sony has equipped its Pulse Explore buds with it Planar magnetic motors, which are much less common than the dynamic drivers found in the vast majority of earphones. It’s not surprising to see: Audeze, the headphone maker acquired by Sony earlier this year, specializes in planar magnetic driver technology. In the case of these earbuds, Sony says the Pulse Explore can “reproduce audio clips with extremely low distortion to deliver rich detail and deep, clear bass so you can hear exactly what the game developers intended.”
And in my relatively short experience with these buds so far, clarity and separation are the biggest strengths I’ve noticed. Small details and individual sound effects are easy to distinguish, even during chaotic moments of action Robocop: Rogue CityAnd the Pulse Explore earbuds did a great job of making me feel like I was halfway there Alan Wake 2Scary world. Sony’s 3D audio technology is well represented, giving gaming environments a real sense of depth and immersion. If you occasionally use it for music, it’s more of a mixed bag, as the tuning used here can be light on deep bass for any purposes outside of gaming. These won’t replace the Sony 1000XM5 in anyone’s bag.
And the PlayStation division’s first earbuds certainly make a statement while doing all these things. Each earbud features an identical design with a volume rocker on one side and a PlayStation Link button on the other. They’re not at all what I would describe as small, but Sony includes four full sets of silicone ear tips in the box to cover a wide range of ear sizes. The Pulse Explore buds fit my large ears without any problem and proved surprisingly comfortable despite their large dimensions.
The rock position took some getting used to, but I got there after a few hours of play. It should be noted that the physical volume control only adjusts the gaming/PS Link audio and has no effect on the Bluetooth device if you have one connected at the same time.
For the asking price of $200, it’s surprising that Sony doesn’t include any kind of active noise cancellation. The company is just advertising hype rejection It has two built-in microphones, which allegedly use artificial intelligence to eliminate the noise around you during multiplayer rounds.
Battery life is rated at five hours of continuous playback, with an additional 10 hours from the sliding-door charging case. That’s less than Sony’s recently announced InZone gaming earbuds electronicsbut those lack the same two sources that you get from Pulse Explore.
Sony says the Pulse Explore earbuds are compatible with PS5, PC, Mac, and mobile devices, but it doesn’t say anything about the Nintendo Switch. I was curious, and it turns out they work pretty much flawlessly. I plugged the PlayStation Link dongle into the USB-C adapter, and the adapter instantly converted to USB audio. Just like on the PS5, there was no latency to speak of, and the detailed sound from the Pulse Explore headphones came through during Super Mario Bros Wonder. I’m sure you can just plug the dongle into the Switch dock when you’re at home too. (You can also pair the adapter via standard Bluetooth, but that would introduce more latency.)
I’ll be spending more time with PlayStation’s first wireless earbuds before I reach a final verdict closer to release, but so far, I’m impressed with the rich gaming sound and how reliable the PlayStation Link works across different platforms. There’s a whole sea of gaming headsets to choose from nowadays, but if you’re looking for a smaller, lighter form factor with native PlayStation 5 integration, the Pulse Explore is worth a look.
Photography by Chris Welch/The Verge
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