Hands on with the Mad Catz Kunai and Sony Pulse headsets

Hands on with the <i>Mad Catz Kunai and Sony Pulse headsets</i>

Credit: Mad Catz Interactive, Inc.

Hands on with the Mad Catz Kunai and Sony Pulse headsets


by TRACY-MARK GORGAS / Special contributor to NWCN.com


Posted on December 14, 2012 at 5:49 PM

Updated Tuesday, Nov 5 at 9:15 PM

The Sony PlayStation 3 is an impressive piece of hardware, providing some very good entertainment value with games, video, and music.  So when you want to listen to all that privately, without disturbing others, what are your choices?  Well actually there are quite a few, but I’m going to look at two headsets that fit into two different budget options; Sony Pulse Wireless Stereo Headset – Elite Edition and Tritton’s Kunai Stereo Headset for PlayStation 3 and PS Vita.

The Sony Pulse Wireless Stereo Headset – Elite Edition

At the high price end we have the Sony Pulse Wireless Stereo Headset – Elite Edition.  This headset was purposely built for the PlayStation 3 first, any other system second.  The Pulse Headset connects wirelessly to the Playstation 3 via a USB dongle that you plug in.  The PlayStation 3 will recognize them and will even show you battery level when you press the PS button on your controller.  The first note is that it is a wireless 7.1 surround sound headset.  Here is excels.  I played a few games with it, PlayStation All-Star Battle Royale, LittleBIGPlanet Karting, Need for Speed: Most Wanted, and The Unfinished Swan.  Each game sounded full and rich through the headset.  Need for Speed: Most Wanted sounded much better than my normal speaker set, giving the city and traffic a feel of space and room around me.  The 7.1 surround sound came in very helpful when playing The Unfinished Swan since a good part of the game lacks visual stimulus, reliance on audio cues needed a good representation so I could find which direction things were.

Sony didn’t stop there though.  They built in “BassImpact.”  BassImpact is basically a rumble pack for your headset.  The low end bass spectrum will cause mild vibration, the higher the bass setting, the more vibration.  There is a slider to control how sensitive it is so you can have as much or as little vibration as you want.  At first this sounded like it would be not only a distraction, but a potential headache creation machine.  I found that not to be the case.  After fiddling with the slider I found a nice level that gave me just enough to feel for bass and environment, but not enough that it took me out of the game or movie I was viewing.  In a way it became an extension of the rumble from controller.

While games were enhanced, watching movies became an experience.  I watched The Godfather trilogy on Blu-Ray with the Pulse Headset.  Impressive was an understatement.  I was hearing little minor sounds I never noticed before.  The headset has built in equalizer (EQ) settings for what you are using it for; Movie, Music, and Game.  Game is further broken down with EQ settings for Shooter, Fighting, and Racing.

While it is built specifically for the PlayStation 3, Sony has expanded the Pulse Wireless Stereo Headset – Elite Edition for use with PCs.  You can plug the USB dongle interface into your PC and get the same experience.  I used it a two different LAN parties and trust me when I say that surround sound will become your greatest ally when playing Battlefield 3.  With BassImpact the explosions and gunfire got their low end throatiness, with the added vibration effect.

Sony also included a mini-headphone cable which allows you to use the Pulse Wireless Stereo Headset – Elite Edition with your favorite handheld or portable media player, whether it is a PS Vita, iPod, Zune or other brand.  Here is where I ran into a stumbling block.  The EQ powered settings did not work well with wired handhelds.  In fact the Pulse Headset would work for about 30 minutes (or less) with the handhelds or portable media player and then cycle off.  When I switched back to the PlayStation 3 I would then have to reset them to get them power back on for use.  The Pulse Wireless Stereo Headset – Elite Edition manual does state that powered settings may not work with handhelds; my experience has been they do not.  It’s a “your mileage may vary” situation.

Now while the EQ powered settings do not work well with handhelds, if you use them with the power off in the first place they are useable as regular headphones.  The audio from them are good, and because of all the padding and size, they are also decent at cutting down the external noise.  I used them with my PS Vita and my classic iPod and the sound was much better than the normal light-weight headphones I use.

The Pulse Wireless Stereo Headset – Elite Edition has a built in microphone for communication.  It works well and other players could hear me clearly while playing games.  In fact if your cell phone uses a regular headphone jack you could possibly use the headset.  My phone does not, so I could not check this.

There are few other notes about the Sony Pulse Wireless Stereo Headset – Elite Edition.  Because the batteries are sealed within the headset, when they run down and die you have a choice to make.  Either stop playing or use a very long USB cable to power/recharge them while you continue.  The headset does give you warnings when power levels are getting close to dead.  On the PlayStation 3 and my PC I got about 5 to 6 hours of play time before I needed to recharge them, and that was while using the BassImpact.  You could get more time if you choose not to use BassImpact.
The overall feel on my head was a bit weighty, but then again you have a lot of speakers and battery power packed into the ear cups.  The padding does make up for the weight by keeping the Pulse Headset comfortable.  Around the 3 to 4 hour mark of continuous wear I was starting to shift them around my head.  The build quality is very solid and they look like a good set of headphones.

The Tritton Kunai Stereo Headset for PlayStation 3 and PS Vita.

At the budget price end of the spectrum we have the Tritton Kunai Stereo Headset for PlayStation 3 and PS Vita.  The Kunai Headset are a wired stereo headset that plugs into your RCA stereo plugs on the output cable of your PlayStation 3 and then a USB that plugs in for the microphone.  The RCA plugs are the pass through style that allows you to keep both the head set and your TV plugged in at the same time.
The Tritton Kunai Stereo Headset for PlayStation 3 and PS Vita are regular two channel stereo headphones that have been optimized for the PlayStation 3.  The sound quality is quite good for just a stereo set.  I played the same games as I did for the Pulse and the Kunai may not have the surround sound, but they are nothing to turn your nose up to either.  The padded ear pieces do a good job of keeping out noise distractions, while the 40mm speakers provide excellent stereo sound.
While I didn’t watch movies with the Kunai I did listen to music on my PlayStation 3, again the sound quality was really good, no noise floor hiss or other problems.  I was really impressed with the bass quality from them.  Bass is a make or break point in my opinion and the Kunai passed with flying colors.

The overall cable length is 14 feet (headphones to mini plug 3ft, PlayStation 3 extension 11 ft, see image in gallery) which should be good for most people when using them for the PlayStation 3, only 3 feet when you use them with the PS Vita.  The mini-plug plugs into the inline control on the PlayStation 3 extension for use with the PlayStation 3.  When you want to use the Kunai Headset with your PS Vita you plug the mini-plug directly into the PS Vita’s headphone jack.  The 3 foot length is usable, but I felt it was a little too short.  If you keep the Vita in your hands the whole time it’s just long enough. At one point I set my Vita down, went to reach for my coffee, and yanked my Vita right off the desk.  Good thing Sony made the Vita a tough little system. 

While Tritton made the Kunai specifically for the PlayStation 3 and PS Vita I decided to use it with my iPod and home computer.  I had to plug in a mini-jack cable extension for my home computer, but otherwise it worked just fine for both, in fact I kind of preferred it for my iPod on the bus commuting to and from work.  The microphone is easily removable so the Kunai Headset can also be used just as a regular stereo headset.

Comfort-wise the Tritton Kunai Stereo Headset for PlayStation 3 and PS Vita have the advantage of being very lightweight with nice thick padding.  At no point did I find myself fidgeting with them to find a new spot on my head.  When I did need a break from gaming I would unplug them from the inline controls and hang them off the back of my neck with the ear cups rotated flat against my chest.
While my review model is designed for Sony products, Tritton is also bringing out a Kunai model for the Nintendo Wii-U and 3DS.

Both headsets are great quality for their classes, and I can recommend them both.  It’s just depends on how much you want to spend.  The Sony Pulse Wireless Stereo Headset – Elite Edition retails around the $150.00 mark, while the Tritton Kunai Stereo Headset for PlayStation 3 and PS Vita comes in at around $60.00 (and an added bonus you can get them in black, white or red).

For more information on the Sony Pulse Wireless Stereo Headset – Elite Edition see their website.

For more information on the Tritton Kunai Stereo Headset for PlayStation 3 and PS Vita see their website.

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