Over-ear headsets have been the standard for gaming for years. They fit almost everyone, they’re comfortable for long periods of time, and there’s more room to place bigger batteries. But they’re also big, ruin your hair, and take up more storage space. No matter what you think of them, true wireless earbuds are the direction headphones have been going in for a while.
Featuring planar magnetic drivers (fancy, and usually only seen on much more expensive buds), these new Sony Pulse Explore Earbuds ($329.95) are an attractive prospect for those who can get them to fit.
My first reaction upon seeing the Pulse Explore earbuds was “that’s a bold design choice”. It matches up with the PS5 and the Pulse 3D wireless headset, but somehow they seem a bit more extreme when you have to shove them in your ears.
Setting up was easy. Pairing with the PlayStation 5 requires plugging in a little dongle, so you can get that sweet, sweet low-latency gaming audio. Pairing with my phone just meant holding down the pairing button inside the oddly shaped case until the light flashed blue. From there, it showed up in my phone’s Bluetooth pairing list to select as an audio device.
Sony Pulse Explore earbuds specifications
PlayStation Link wireless connection for: PlayStation 5 consoles, PlayStation Portal remote player, PC/Mac. Dual device connectivity Bluetooth 5.0
Approx. 6.1 g (0.2 oz.) – both earbuds with medium size earbud tips
Up to 5 hours of battery life and an additional 10 hours via the included charging case.
Those are shockingly impressive specs for buds at this price point and for this purpose. Planar magnetic drivers are a big deal, and it’s great to see them finally filtering down to other kinds of headphones. The battery life is fine, and the two extra charges in the case are welcome.
But the box only comes with four pairs of ear tips, and that always makes me nervous. With these types of buds, if you don’t get a good seal, you won’t get the full experience. I can’t get a good seal with the included tips, which is really a shame, because they sound amazing on paper.
There are a few things here that make it difficult to get these headphones to fit properly. The main thing is that the shape of the body is large and awkward. They look really cool and futuristic, but they don’t place nicely with my ears. Your mileage may vary, but Sony took a bold swing in this design, which means that it won’t fit the ear shapes it wasn’t designed for.
Not including Comply foam, or other kinds of foam ear tips, in the box also limits who these will fit.
The case for the buds is cool. Kind of like what I imagine a lipstick case would look like in 2040. It’s bulky, though, and not overly pocket-friendly.
Even with my sub-optimal fit, it’s clear that these headphones are good. Accurate positioning of footsteps in 3D audio is key, and these pulled it off. It was also easy to distinguish between different kinds of gunfire.
It is weird that they don’t have ANC, so the background noise of living in the city did occasionally creep in. But with a better seal that shouldn’t be as much of a problem due to passive noise cancelling.
The microphone was clear. Perhaps not as good as a boom mic on an over-ear pair at this price range, but still very good for what it is. Though, I wish there was an easy button to press to mute the mic. Sometimes you just need to say something to your spouse, or eat a particularly loud chip, and you don’t want to subject your squad to that sound.
But, if what you’re after is a minimalist gaming headset for PS5 that still sounds good, this is a good pick.
I can’t tell if it’s because of the sub-optimal seal, or just because these are gaming headphones tuned for gaming, but I’m surprised by the lack of mid-tones on the Sony Pulse Explore Earbuds. On “What’s Left Inside” by Conquer Divide I can clearly hear the crash of the cymbals, the bass drum hits true, and I’m getting a lot of detail from the semi-open hi-hats, but the song also sounds like it’s missing its guts. The drums are front and centre, yet I can barely hear the guitars and the vocalist sounds washed out.
“Full Heart Fancy” by Lucky Chops actually sounds really good like this. It’s clean. Perhaps missing a good chunk of the emotion, and the snare sticking pattern sounds a bit buried, but the brass instruments are really in their element here, and I’m enjoying the brightness of the ride cymbal.
“Simmer” by Hayley Williams is more stripped back, less chaotic, and it sounds really good. I don’t think these headphones are Spatial compatible, and yet I’m getting a good 3D soundstage anyway, perhaps because of the stereo separation. I feel like I’m sitting in the middle of the drumkit while Hayley Williams makes eye contact with me.
Although that poor seal makes everything seem a bit softer, and the emotion is dulled, it’s still good, and I can imagine that with a good seal, the impact would be really impressive. This tells me that the headphones are technically excellent, and that someone with a good fit would be having a damn good time with them. I really hope Sony releases more ear tips so I can get the full experience sometime.
Who are the Sony Pulse Explore Earbuds for?
To get the most out of these earphones, you need a couple of things: a PS5 you play often (but don’t like wearing over-ear headphones), and uncomplicated ear holes with good grip. If you’ve had trouble getting true wireless headphones to fit in the past, you’re probably not going to have a good time with these. You need to have perfectly averagely shaped ears to make the most of them. But that’s also probably most people, so you might be ok.
Next generation gaming audio: Enjoy extraordinary lifelike sound in your favourite games. Planar magnetic drivers – Studio-inspired drivers reproduce soundscapes with ultra-low distortion, to deliver rich details and deep clear bass. PlayStation Link technology – Enjoy a lossless, lightning-fast ultra-low latency wireless connection to your PS5 console, PC, Mac and PlayStation Portal remote player. AI-enhanced noise rejection – Be heard loud and clear with microphone noise-rejection technology
Multi-device connectivity: Go where adventure takes you, with the ability to wirelessly connect to a range of devices. Bluetooth – Go mobile, by directly connecting your earbuds to a phone or tablet. Dual-device connectivity – Listen to audio from a PlayStation Link and Bluetooth device simultaneously, to stay in play as you answer calls or enjoy music from a mobile device.
If possible, I recommend trying on the Sony Pulse Explore Earbuds before buying. That will be difficult, due to hygiene reasons and ear wax being disgusting. But if you have a friend with a pair, maybe ask if you can try them on to see if they fit.
Otherwise, at this price point, you could get a pair of INZONE PlayStation 5 headphones, which are excellent and more likely to fit you. Having the planar magnetic drivers is extremely impressive on paper, but that means nothing if they don’t fit you, same with all in-ear headphones. Your mileage will vary.
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Sony Pulse Explore wireless earbuds
If you have perfectly average ears, you will love the Sony Pulse Explore Earbuds.
Value for money
Ease of use
Planar magnetic drivers
Good battery life
Getting a good fit is challenging
Interesting design makes comfort a challenge for unusual ears