When the PlayStation 5 launched, I reviewed the Pulse 3D Headset and followed up with a second review a few years later. I found the headset to be the perfect accessory, thanks to the Tempest Engine delivering 3D audio to the user. Even now, I stand by my words and see its commitment to making the PlayStation 5’s accessories the must-have device every owner should include in their library.
I feel almost the same way now that I’ve spent a few weeks with the PlayStation Pulse Explore earbuds. PlayStation’s unwavering commitment to top-notch audio experiences takes another leap forward with the PlayStation Pulse Explore wireless earbuds, designed to complement the PlayStation 5 and the recently launched PlayStation Portal handheld.
Serving as an evolution in PlayStation’s audio offerings prompts an exploration of the added benefits these earbuds bring to the table. As with any audio solution, the burning question is whether these $269 earbuds are worth adding to your home. The results paint a promising picture of Sony’s capabilities, especially with the impending arrival of the Pulse 3D Elite. While excelling in delivering pristine audio and a stellar microphone for PlayStation 5, PC, and Mac, the PlayStation Pulse Explore acknowledges a few areas for improvement. In the grand scheme, these earbuds deliver a premium experience but fall short of being the absolute must-have audio solution.
What’s In The PlayStation Pulse Explore Box
The PlayStation Pulse Explore uses technology from Audeze, a company Sony acquired recently to help push their earbuds to the market. Using planar magnetic drivers, Sony’s new technology moves crisp sound with a ton of detail through your ears, allowing you to enjoy “soundscapes with ultra-low distortion to deliver rich details and deep clear bass so you can hear exactly what the game developers intended.”
Diving into the world of Sony’s audio magic, I was genuinely intrigued by their ingenious approach to connectivity – enter the sleek USB dynamo, the PlayStation Link USB Adapter. This USB dongle works with any available USB-A port on your console, orchestrating a seamless symphony when the earbuds meet the sync button on their case. Initially, I raised an eyebrow at the need for an adapter in the PS5 mix, but it didn’t take long for the light bulb to flicker on; you need something to channel the low-latency connection.
I’ve used them via the official docks on a few additional devices, including the Steam Deck and Nintendo Switch. The PC connection via the dongle works flawlessly. You can also sync via Bluetooth; holding the sync button for 8 seconds turned the earbuds into a viable solution. You’ll need a USB-A to USB-C adapter if you plan on using them on the Switch or Steam Deck to get the best experience, so be aware.
Every device released since 2020 adheres to a consistent design philosophy, and the PlayStation Pulse Explore is no exception. Housed in a sleek white charging case that unfolds to reveal slots for the left and right earbuds, this isn’t a case you’d casually slip into your pocket on the go. Yet, its premium design ensures it makes a bold statement wherever you bring them. The earbuds have a volume notch on the side and a PlayStation Link button with four silicone ear tips included for various ears, with the tips fitting in a range of ear sizes.
I spent a week using the Pulse Explore earbuds as daily drivers and using them for music, YouTube, and a few holiday calls. I like them for what they do, but they don’t compare to a dedicated set made for everyday use like Sony’s WF-1000XM5 or AirPods Pro. The noise cancelling is good, and it was difficult to pick up noises around me thanks to the internal mics sensing the environment to block out unnecessary noise. The biggest letdown is voices don’t come through as clearly as I’d like, but it isn’t the worst pair of earbuds I’ve owned, far from it.
Sony’s Pulse Explore earbuds boast a battery life of five hours — which is on par with most competitors. The included charging case holds an additional ten hours, so you’ll have a bit of leeway before the included USB-C charging cable is needed. I’ve had no setbacks using the device these last few weeks and have had several gaming sessions until the end.
One of the biggest selling points the Pulse Explore earbuds offer is that they were made for the PlayStation Portal, a streaming-only device Sony launched late last year. One of my biggest criticisms was the lack of Bluetooth support, leaving many people disappointed that they couldn’t pair their favourite headset with the Portal. Instead, it uses the PlayStation Link technology for lossless and low-latency audio, and after spending a few days with Alan Wake 2, I can see why this decision was made. The technology is a solution a streaming device like the Portal has and works without a hitch.
Using the Pulse Explore as standard Bluetooth earbuds is also worthwhile. They use Multipoint, meaning you can connect them to multiple devices without unpairing them each time you want to use them on another device. So, if you’re on your iPhone, you can continue using them on a Macbook Pro or iPad.
Additionally, you can use both Multipoint and Link simultaneously, play a game on your PlayStation 5 online, and still be able to send and receive phone calls. So, if you’re into all that noise coming through your headset, you can get the best of both worlds here.
The Pulse Explore earbuds lack any EQ software to customize the sound coming out of them. Most manufacturers these days have a dedicated app you can pair with your headset to finetune the sound of the device you purchased, but in this case, there isn’t anything available.
The PlayStation Pulse Explore earbuds are great for gaming and work out of the box with your PlayStation 5 and Portal. Whether you use them in Bluetooth mode or via the PlayStation Link is up to you, but both modes make it easy to play games and take phone calls. I even enjoy the design aesthetic fitting at home with every other peripheral launched since 2020, making the ecosystem feel like it follows the same design principles.
If you enjoy the current PlayStation aesthetic and the ecosystem, the Pulse Explore earbuds complement your decisions and look good. The PlayStation Link technology offering lossless support and low latency is a nice touch, but the proprietary decision to make it feel obtuse in the bigger picture.
[Sony provided a pre-launch final retail unit for this review].
Review: PlayStation Pulse Explore Earbuds
The PlayStation Pulse Explore earbuds are great for gaming and work out of the box with your PlayStation 5 and Portal. But the device lacks features similar headsets at the same price.
Great sound thanks to planar magnetic drivers
Low latency, lossless audio
Multipoint allows multiple devices to connect simultaneously