Sony’s NEW Gold Wireless Headset Review: The Good, The Bad, The Mediocre Microphone
Sony revamped their Gold Headset and slapped a big NEW on the box.
When I finally got around to reviewing the original Gold headset back in 2016, I lamented that Microsoft didn’t have a competing surround sound product.
Now, the tables have turned dramatically.
Last year, Microsoft launched Windows Sonic for free, and Dolby Atmos for $15, allowing Xbox and Windows users to access high quality virtual headphone surround systems on any pair of headphones.
Suddenly, the $99 that Sony charged for the Gold Headset, and by extension access to their own virtual surround tech, seemed a little silly. And the $159 Platinum headset, while having a 3D surround system that competes quite well with Atmos, also still suffers from a lack of titles with full true 3D sound support. And yes, I know they also made the Silver headset for a while, and while the USB dongle that it came with was good…everything else was not up to the task.
Now, Sony has introduced a new headset into their lineup, and rather than come up with a new name for it, they’ve just gone the route of Nintendo and put “new” onto the front of the old name.
It is better than the old Gold headset in a number of key ways…but I still wish Sony would just go the route of Microsoft, and sell their virtualization software for use with any headphones plugged into your PS4 controller.
The New Gold Wireless headset retails for $99, and it’s a closed back headset with a USB dongle that works on PS4, Windows, and Mac OS. There’s also a standard 3.5mm jack and included 4 pole cable for connection to phones and any other device with a headphone port.
If you’re on a PS4, you can take advantage of Sony’s proprietary 7.1 channel virtual surround sound, which uses the raw 7.1 data from your games, or whatever the next highest number of channels is that the game can provide.
On PC and Mac, you’re limited to stereo.
The headset has a second position on its power switch that can be used to store a custom EQ. The default setting is a moderate bass boost, and you can use the headset companion app on a PS4 to store a variety of profiles there. These profiles will work on computer platforms when connected wirelessly…but again, you need a PS4 to change them out.
In short, don’t buy this headset unless you have a PS4.
Improved Build Quality/Design
I don’t think anyone thought the build of the original Gold Headset was better than “Adequate.” It had a largely plastic frame with minimal metal reinforcement, plastic hinges that were infamous for breaking on some people over time, and these weird plastic removable faceplates that they never really did anything with.
The new Gold Headset throws out the entire design of the original. The ear cups are much more like the cups from the Platinum headset, only with a matte finish on the back instead of the textured glossy one. The padding is still permanently attached to the cups, and is ever- so- slightly thicker.
The headband is completely new, and great. It’s thinner, and it’s now made of metal that’s covered in a nice leatherette. You can bend and twist the headband to your heart’s content, and it feels very good. It’s also lighter than the original model overall.
Unfortunately, the headset no longer collapses…but given the amount of crap Sony took over those plastic hinges before, this is probably a good thing.
Sound is improved over the original version of the headset. The original pair had a slightly hollow and boring sound on the default preset. The new headset has a little more oomph in the mid bass, and mids that are a bit more natural.
When used with the 3.5mm cable, the headset also sounds decent. I had to crank it a little higher than other headphones I own to get a solid listening level, but it still offered impressive bass performance and pleasant detail in the upper ranges.
It’s not quite an “audiophile-level” experience, but the sound quality is good enough that the really picky among you won’t be bummed out.
Virtual Surround Sound
Sony’s virtual surround tech is still exceptional. It presents a very natural, accurate sound field that seems to float in the air around your head. Transitions between channels are smooth, the way you’d want from a high end speaker system.
In spite of being a more expensive solution than Dolby Atmos or Windows Sonic, this can still proudly compete with those in terms of surround quality.
The stereo sound is less impressive, but imaging is still fine thanks in part to the angled drivers.
It’s great that Sony didn’t remove the 3.5mm jack from this new version of the headset. They also redesigned the dongle to make it smaller, and added in the ability to beam your EQ customizations to the headset wirelessly, just like you can with the Platinum headset.
In general, this feels like they took the Platinum design and scaled it down a touch to create the new Gold Headset.
It still has some problems though…
On the plus side, Sony increased the vertical adjustment range of the ear cups so these now fit with 4 extra clicks of adjustment on my large head.
On the minus side…it takes some break-in time before these reach peak comfort.
The metal headband has a higher clamping force than the original plastic one did. For the first few days I wore the headset, the ear cups felt pinchy after around 45 minutes, particularly just behind my ears.
Now, I wear glasses, and this was a contributing factor…and I only bring it up because I didn’t have this issue with the original Gold Headset or the Platinum Headset, either.
Today, after several days of use, this comfort issue no longer exists, so the headband must have stretched out a touch.
I was worried that the headband wasn’t padded enough, but the lightness of the headset meant that wasn’t an issue. Even so, comfort is merely average. It’s decent. It’s acceptable. It’s unremarkable
It no longer hurts me during an extended session, but it’s not brimming over with pillowy comfort.
In fact, there are numerous headsets on the market in this price range (and below it) that are more immediately comfortable than this one. The Astro A10, Steelseries Arctis, HyperX Cloud lineup, Turtle Beach Stealth 600, Plantronics RIG 400, Logitech G433, and Corsair HS50 all offer a fit that’s better.
If Sony had gone a little further in beefing up the ear pads, then this probably wouldn’t be an issue at all. If Plantronics and Astro can afford to use memory foam in their $50/$60 products, Sony can probably afford to use it in their $99 one.
Once you get past the initial break-in period, you won’t be disappointed. But I still think Sony could have done much better in the comfort department.
The battery life of the New Gold Headset is exactly the same as the old one. It lasts around 7 hours, in my tests. I use the headset at medium volume and with the 7.1 turned on.
That was fine when the Gold Headset first launched years ago, but now even budget wireless headsets boast batteries that can double that amount of playtime.
The Platinum headset had a battery that lasted longer, but this seems like it’s using the same battery as the original Golds.
I can’t help but be disappointed by that. Fortunately, you can still use the headset even when it’s plugged into a USB port to recharge.
These isolate less than I expected, in spite of using leatherette ear pads. The first model had that issue too. Each cup has a large port on the top of it, so I wonder if that’s impeding isolation performance.
They were still adequate for loud coffee shop use, but nowhere near a private cocoon of audio that you can get with some other closed back headsets.
The Microphone…more like *Bad*crophone!
The microphone has great background noise-cancelation when used wirelessly.
Everything else about it is sub-par, and more or less in line with the mic on the original version of the headset.
In wireless mode, sound is over-compressed with a hard digital edge, and a bit too quiet. It’s fine for voice chat, but nowhere near the quality most other mics in the price range. My voice comes through hollow and muddy, like I’m in a bad internet radio stream from 2003.
You can also use the mic with the wire, and it does sound better…but then you lose all the noise-cancelling and the processing, so if you’re in a loud room, forget it. And then you lose all the benefits of wireless use.
If you need great cancellation of background audio…this does that in wireless mode.
But a lot of wired mics sound better and still cancel out the background, like those on the Arctis, Astro A10, and RIG 400. And those are all cheaper headsets.
If you need access to Sony’s amazing 7.1 virtual surround sound in a sleek, durable wireless package for your PS4, this is the headset for you. It’s better- built than its predecessor, and sounds a little better too.
Unfortunately, the comfort is just below the level set by most other comparable headsets… and so are the microphone and battery performance.
The New Gold Headset is a better headset than the previous model for the same price…but not a clear cut “only choice” sort of product. If you can live with its shortcomings, you’ll really enjoy how it sounds. I’d feel a lot better about recommending it if they’d dropped the price to $79.