Xbox One Special Edition Armed Forces Stereo Headset


New Head-Fier
Pros: Inexpensive (as far as gaming headsets go), very clear, wide soundstage, bass isn't bloated
Cons: Sound is more geared towards gaming environmentals so not ideal for some genres of music
Hey everyone, this is going to be my first review so go easy on me hehe...
First off I'd like to say that I am still in the early stages of being an audiophile, I don't have any lossless sources yet and I have yet to get a really nice pairs of cans but I'm working towards it. As such this review is going to be geared a bit more towards the casual listener and not the serious audiophile who doesn't shy away from dropping $400 on a pair of headphones. I hope this will be helpful to some people as they research and do comparison shopping. Everything I say is strictly my opinion and not law. I think Spotify Extreme quality is fairly representative of what the very large majority of music listeners will have in terms of quality...but of course Lossless is always the way to go if you can!
I am going to cover Build and Comfort first, then go into Gaming and Musical performance, and then summarize it all at the end.
Cans: Microsoft Xbox One Armed Forces Edition Stereo Headset, $60 at my local Wal-Mart
Source: Xbox One with various games, LG G3 with Spotify Premium (320k Ogg Vorbis, no EQ)
Build and Comfort:
So these are mostly plastic with decent quality foam earcups. The headband is adjustable and the ear cups pivot a little bit on their hinges but don't swivel or fold flat. These are also HUGE headphones! Forget about sleeping with them on though if I have my pillow just right I can lay down and listen to them comfortably. The foam is actually quite nice and doesn't heat up or get sweaty which is really great for long listening or gaming sessions. The boom microphone is on the left side and actually folds up into the headband so that you can have it out of the way when you don't need it. Overall they're fairly sturdy but I'm not gonna try to sit on them or anything like that hehe. They don't have a whole lot of clamping force (which I personally like) so if you shake your head around you can dislodge them. Being circumaural they completely cover your ears and the earcups are generous enough in size to where most people will be able to fit their ears inside without any pinching or folding.
Gaming Performance:
Any gamer knows (regardless of platform) that sound is important. Being able to not only communicate with your teammates but also hear what's going on around you can make the difference betweeen winning and losing. As both a US Marine veteran and a semi-serious gamer I know all to well how critical it is to be able to accurately determine where gunfire, voices, and other environmental effects are coming from. The Xbox One Stereo Headset does a pretty dang good job of this. While it isn't true surround sound (such headsets run around $250 USD or more) the "faux surround" is actually well done and extremely useful. The first time I heard a grenade fall next to me while playing Battlefield 4 I instantly knew exactly where it was. And when I hear gunfire I can very accurately tell if it's behind me, above me, below me, and about how far away it is. Audio chat is very clear and not harsh, explosions command authority without sounding painful (though they will make you jump!) and gunfire actually sounds realistic (which was one of the gripes I've had with Turtle Beach headsets...their audio accuracy is less than acceptable IMO). For those gamers who aren't willing or ready to drop the money on a true 5.1 or 7.1 headset these are definitely a nice option that will not disappoint.
Musical Performance:
Ok so now for the stuff we really care about: music! :-D Everything I listened to was downloaded from Spotify Premium in their "Extreme Quality", which is Ogg Vorbis 320k bit rate. Not a bad format but still a touch lossy so keep that in mind. That being said, with these cans I doubt you'll really notice a difference between a good lossy format and lossless unless you've got golden ears.
Some of the tracks I listened to:
Symphony No 5 - Beethoven
The Messiah, Halleujah Chorus - Handel
Terror In The House of Hubris - Lamb of God
Nippon - Lamb of God
Storm the Sorrow - Epica
Nemo - Nightwish
Dei Walkure - Richard Wagner
Tocotta & Fugue in D Minor - Bach
Bad (feat Vassy) - David Guetta/Showtek/Vassy
Someone Like You - Adelle
I Will Not Bow - Breaking Benjamin
Call A Marine  - Toby Keith
What was good: the sound was well balanced! Unlike my previous set of headphones (Sol Republic Tracks) and Beats headphones there is no disgusting mid-bass hump that suppresses the mids and drowns out the highs. Bass was appropriate to each track, instruments rendered pretty accurately, vocals were distinct (with a couple exceptions) and these headphones handled very fast, aggressive music excellently well given their price tag and intended use. I was pleased when the fast and brutal double bass pedals in Lamb of God's Nippon actually came through clearly and that Beethoven's 5th Symphony was rendered quite beautifully. Percussion instruments, cymbals, and stringed instruments weren't too bright or harsh and had a little texture to them which was also nice. Brutal dubstep and EDM bass lines were authoritative and distinct without being fatiguing or getting muddy. Crazy electric guitar shreds were clear and exciting, and acoustic instruments were lively and intimate.
What wasn't so good: While these headphones handle most music fairly well they aren't without their struggles. The choir on in Handel's Messiah suffered from a lot of reverberations and the soprano vocals kind of smushed together on really high notes. The alto's, tenor's, and basses rendered acceptably though. I also wouldn't choose these to listen to piano on for the most part (individual recordings may vary). Bass heads might like these if they're not looking for extremely pronounced sub-bass so keep that in mind as you read and listen. A notable example of this are the pipe organs in Toccata & Fugue in D Minor; while the organ notes were beautiful the low notes lacked the soul shaking authority they so demand. Also the wide soundstage might not be appealing to some people as most of the tracks I listened to either sounded like they were on a stage or concert hall, or in a club. I guess you could describe the imaging like a sphere with your head in the middle...some tracks will render as if they're inside your head while others will have a very "3D" or "surround" effect to them. If I had to explain why this is it would be because these are primarily meant to be gaming headphones, reproducing the sounds of a virtual world around you. But that doesn't mean the sound is bad or unenjoyable it's just your personal preference.
Summary:  All things considered these aren't a shabby pair of cans. They handle gaming environmentals extremely well, reproduce most music well, and are even fantastic for cell phone calls! I've spent hours on the phone with family and friends using these and everyone has said that the audio quality coming from me is perfect! I would go so far as to say that the sound staeg and musical qulaity of these are so close to the high end Beats headphones that you're better off buying these rather than Beats (if that's what you're considering). I'd also (personally) prefer these over the Bose TriPorts (which I used to own) although the TriPorts had a more intimate sound stage. All in all Microsoft put the attention in to the right areas when they designed these headphones and I'd heartily recommend them to anyone who wants a gaming head set as well as a pretty nice sounding pair of cans.