Gaming headsets on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One seem to be a dime a dozen, with first-party and third-party manufacturers offering their own take on what is essentially the same basic device. Even with so many similar options available, it can be difficult to find a high-quality headset that won’t set you back at least $100. PDP Gaming’s new LVL 50 headsets offer the features you need to game online without breaking the bank, if you’re willing to put up with a few annoyances.
Available in both wireless and wired configurations, the PDP LVL 50 headsets are designed almost exactly the same across the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions. The hard-plastic shell is split into five main pieces, with the two ear cups pivoting inward and outward, and the top strap using a sliding mechanism to adjust to the size for your head.
It works well enough and fits even my fairly large dome, and depending on which model you choose, the coiled wiring on the outside is colored either Xbox green or PlayStation blue. The major downside to this design is that the headsets can’t be folded for easier storage and transportation, and having designated headsets for each platform will quickly lead to a crowded entertainment center or storage space.
Power with comfort
Using a breathable mesh material for the ear cups, the PDP LVL 50 headsets are surprisingly cool despite their bulky appearance. Compared to a PlayStation Gold wireless headset, they can be worn for longer periods of time without feeling overheated, and their design is snug enough to avoid slipping off while you’re in the middle of a play session.
Rather than use any in-line controls for volume or the microphone, these features are blended into the design of the headset itself. On the right ear cup is a knob that can be adjusted left or right in order to raise and lower the volume, and the microphone is muted when its flipped into its vertical position.
When you’re ready to talk, all you have to do is flip it down and it’s automatically activated. On the wireless models, you also get the option for “pure audio” or “bass boost” with the tap of a button, though I found the bass boost function to be too fuzzy for most situations.
Across all four headsets we tested, the audio fidelity was essentially identical. Gunshots in Apex Legends resonated with satisfying “thud” sounds, and footsteps rustling through nearby bushes could be heard very clearly. The headsets all make use of 50mm neodymium drivers, and when both the in-game audio and the headset’s own dial are turned all the way up, it can crank out some serious power.
A clear winner
The wired models are functionally identical, but the LVL 50 wireless headsets do have a slight disparity that makes the Xbox One headset superior – it includes a game-and-chat mixer dial directly under the microphone, making it super easy to adjust the levels on the fly if you can no longer hear your teammates. The feature is nowhere to be found on the other wireless headset, despite the Xbox One model costing the same $80.
Both make use of proprietary dongles that must be plugged into your consoles in order to pair them, and we had little issue with connecting them . There isn’t a way to check your battery levels so you’ll have to estimate when to plan your next charging break. PDP estimates their headsets last up to 16 hours, and aside from a few points where the audio cut out for a split second, we had no issue with connectivity during our testing.
At $50, the wired models may seem like a downgrade but this is not the case. While they don’t include the bass boost and mixing options of their wireless siblings, they are all the better for it. They’re on par with the more expensive options in every way, and rival the sound quality of Sony’s own PlayStation Gold.
The microphone comes through clearly in online chat, and the short 3.5mm cable doesn’t get in the way of either the Xbox One or PlayStation 4 controllers. In the Xbox One’s case, it doesn’t play nice with the headset adapter that is needed to add a 3.5mm input to older controllers, so you may want to have a newer backup available.
The wired headsets also offer some degree of functionality with the opposite console. Though designed for use on the PlayStation 4 alone, we were able to get the PlayStation 4 model to work on the Xbox One with little issue, and the microphone registered when flipped into its unmuted position.
The same can’t be said for the Xbox One wired headset on the PlayStation 4, which suffered from crackly audio and a non-functional microphone. Because it does work at least one way, however, this means you could feasibly get away with purchasing only the wired PlayStation 4 headset and use it on both systems. It even works as stereo headphones with the Nintendo Switch.
Light on the frills but smartly designed, the PDP LVL 50 headsets offer everything an Xbox One or PlayStation 4 player will need, regardless of whether you choose to go for the wired or wireless models. If you’re able to shell out some extra cash, the likes of Astro and HyperX can still provide you with something superior, but the spendthrifty player will find the LVL 50 headsets are a solid option with the features you need to game at your best.