That being said, there have also been headsets that are relatively simplistic and as a result are very much easier to use without the need for any sighted assistance, but this does sometimes limit you as to what you are able to work with.
When I heard about the Xbox Wireless Headset designed to work with Xbox Series S and X consoles, I was certainly intrigued as Microsoft's accessibility track record has been solidly progressing positively in the past 5 or 6 years. Having now received my kindly supplied review unit though, just how accessible is this £90/$100 offering from the company?
With the box laying with the aforementioned hanger facing to your left and large flat square lid facing upwards, place a hand on the right-hand side of the box. Pulling upwards on the outer flat surface with one hand, much like opening a book, whilst also holding the left-hand side with the other reveals the inner packaging. This is not a smooth process, as the inner and outer sections are rather tightly packed, but after a little effort you can see the contents of the box itself.
Underneath this we see a mass of printed materials*, as well as the 14-inch USB C cable (which really isn't that long at all). This is sealed via an easily removed plastic wrap, which, if you gently place a hand round it, slides smoothly away from the cable.
These two well-formatted and accessible resources actually mean that I don't have to do much in the way of describing how to turn the headset on for instance, as there are even descriptions of what is expected to happen when you press the power button.
Following the instructions outlined above, though not having charged the headset first, I powered it on and was greeted by the pleasant start-up tone. The pairing sound, as well as other audio elements that I heard (including during the connection process), seemed to take cues either directly or indirectly from the Xbox Series hardware and software. This is something I definitely appreciate, as it doesn't just mean the visual esign of the unit melds well with the devices it's intended for use with.
Once connected, with yet another pleasing non-verbal audio notification, I turned on my controller and set about updating the headset. Unfortunately, prior to the update, the Xbox Accessories app on my Series S did not report the device as anything other than a blank prompt, just saying "update required". Updating the device was straightforward enough though as I pressed update, waiting a while and heard, a minute or two later, the headset power itself off and then back on. An on-console notification that the update was complete also appeared, so I knew I could start working with all the features the unit had to offer.
As with some other previous headset reviews, I won't go into detail about each game individually. However, I'll give a brief sentence or two to describe my experience.
Killer Instinct hits hard as ever, with the music and combat audio combining into a bass-heavy experience that definitely compliments the action on-screen. Boosting the bass gives it even more of an edge, though the distinct bass cue I've heard for shadow moves on some rigs isn't actually as audible as I'd have thought.
Cannon fire in Sea Of Thieves boomed out from all sides, the waves rocked our ship and the score backed everything up with accurate levels of atmosphere. Though I'd prefer to be able to play via a surround sound rig, This headset allowed me to easily communicate with my team, all the while being able to utilise the game's audio to the full.
Whilst titles like Halo 5 do not support Dolby Atmos, it must be said that the quality of the audio in this headset, including during use with party chat, was even better than I'd expected. Getting the balance right between party chat and game audio proved to be somewhat of a challenge, but ultimately it is straightforward with the provided controls.
If you're expecting this headset to underdeliver on the bass response, it will probably surprise you. There were times when playing the aforementioned titles where the amount of lower end frequencies being produced reminded me of one of the first wireless headsets I reviewed, the Afterglow AG7s which had an inbuilt frequency boost. Such an additional control isn't needed here and, as you'll see, the accessibility of this new product's audio customisation elevates it far beyond the heights of that previous unit.
Connecting to Bluetooth via a small relatively inexpensive adaptor I had was a little more complicated, only because I had to search by a device type in Windows 10. Fortunately, the device did show up as Xbox Wireless headset and, once paired, seemed relatively responsive.
The catch though is that there seem to be two devices for playback and recording, one labelled as "hands-free AG Audio" and the other being labelled as "stereo". The AG Audio output provided a mono signal with minimal latency, at the noticeable cost of quality. Whilst switching the output to the stereo alternative greatly increased the quality, the latency is not viable for playing titles like Killer Instinct as I attempted in my tests.
Pairing as easily as it did with the Xbox Series S the latency, though still noticeable, was at least a marked improvement over the Bluetooth connection, allowing me to more easily play and win a match in Killer Instinct. I reckon over time you could adjust to this lag, though it's still not ideal.
See the PC-specific section above for how I got on with Bluetooth connectivity, but suffice it to say other than a few small issues the majority of my experience was painless. My only real frustration came when the headset needed to be re-paired with the Series S without any clear reason as to why. Some stability issues are being looked into by firmware updates, so hopefully this will be resolved in the near future to make the process even more smooth.
I played Sea Of Thieves alongside a crew on Discord and, after the initial setup was over with, I had solid connections for the entire two-and-a-half-hour session, with the mic being clear according to my crew and easy to mute when needed as well.
Trying to use this setup later, I discovered that for some reason, audio from the Bluetooth side of things (like Discord notification sounds) would reduce the volume of the Xbox feed significantly, making it difficult to play as someone relying on the audio rather than the visuals. From what I understand this may also be resolved in a future firmware update, so here's hoping.
During even further testing, I realised that using a screen reader on my PC contributed to increases in my Xbox audio fading out, even with my screen reader's speech being off. This is presumably because the screen reader (NVDA in this case) is still running the audio through, even if you can't hear the speech at all. This is problematic, though hopefully if the firmware updates resolve Bluetooth audio cutting out the Xbox signal in future, this issue would also be resolved as well.
As a final note, whilst playing Gears 5 on the Xbox Series S and having to pair the headset with a PC Bluetooth connection, we discovered that, during pairing, the headset's mic is inaudible along with the Xbox audio feed. Mic and Xbox audio was restored on successful pairing with the PC.
With some previous headsets I've reviewed having partially or completely inaccessible adjustment software, it's a breath of fresh air to be able to tell exactly what you're adjusting and having it dynamically preview whilst you're moving through the options. Though there might not be as much in the way of fine details or adjustments at even lower bands, chances are that these can be added as the headset firmware evolves over time.
Whether you're just looking for a headset to start out, or you want to cut the cables and go wireless from an existing rig, this is a great place to begin as a gamer without sight.
Back to the main Reviews, Guides and Articles page