Review: SteelSeries Xbox 360 Headset ConnectorShawn Drotar

Posted on December 11th, 2008 in Gaming, Xbox 360, Reviews, News, Opinion by Shawn Drotar

Sure, the name isn’t catchy, but the Xbox 360 Headset Connector by SteelSeries might be the best third-party accessory for that system on the market today - even if you’ve never heard of it before.

If you haven’t, don’t feel bad. Two weeks ago, I scoured the Internet, looking for some device that would allow me to listen to my games through headphones while being able to use my microphone on Xbox Live at the same time, without spending an inordinate amount of money on an Xbox 360-specific solution like the Ear Force line of headsets from Turtle Beach. The Xbox 360 itself doesn’t make do-it-yourself solutions easy due to its integrated headset, which forces voice chat into the mic and out to only one ear, meaning that you’re more likely to turn the game up to hear the game-sounds instead of turning it down.

The simplest solution would seem to be utilizing what many gamers already have at home; a PC headset with stereo headphones and an integrated microphone, but without getting into the weird, wacky world of stripping wires and soldering your own solution (read: ruining a perfectly good headset), I couldn’t find anything that would fit the bill‚Ķ until I stumbled across SteelSeries.

I’ve never used their products before, though I had heard of them - the Denmark-based company makes headphones, mice, mousepads and other accessories for gamers - and their newly-released Xbox 360 Headset Connector caught my eye immediately‚Ķ because it’s exactly what I envisioned when I considered a simple solution to my late-night gaming needs. For under $20 shipped, I figured I’d take the gamble and see if this product would be able to do what I hoped it could. That gamble paid off, big-time.

The SteelSeries connector is elegantly simple. Using the headset connector jack (and the plastic stabilizers on each side on the plug), the box-shaped connector locks into the Xbox 360 controller securely. A thick three-meter-long cable extends from of the unit, which terminates in a standard headphone jack that plugs into your television, A/V receiver or what have you. I sit a bit further away from my television than that, but an inexpensive extension cord from the local Radio Shack was easy to add on and worked perfectly. On the underside of the box are two standard inputs, one green and one pink. To PC users, these will be instantly recognizable as standard headphone and microphone inputs, respectively.

Any non-USB PC headset with these two connectors will work with the Xbox 360 Headset Connector; so there’s no longer any need to have different gaming headsets for World of Warcraft raids on your PC and NHL 09 team-play sessions on your 360. Pick out your favorite, and it’ll now work with both. It’s as simple as can be - plug them in and go.

There are a few things that need to be done to your Xbox 360, however, to make everything work out just right. You’ll need to go into your Xbox 360 profile’s personal settings and change the voice output to “Play through speakers”; and since the 360 does an awful job of balancing voice in this fashion by default, you’ll want to access your game’s settings and turn the game effects and music volume settings down to at least 30 percent or so to ensure that you’ll be able to hear both your online buddies and the game around you simultaneously.

The SteelSeries device isn’t perfect, though its “issues” have less to do with the Headset Connector and more to do with the Xbox 360 itself. First, it can’t be used in concert with the keyboard Chatpad without a microphone extension cable due to its shape, and since doing so might create some odd balance issues with the controller in hand, it’s probably best to use another controller or disconnect your Chatpad before using the Headset Connector. Noise-canceling microphones may come through a bit quieter, and you’ll have to get used to not hearing the sound of your own voice when you speak because the headphones will likely be covering both your ears. Some people have difficulty adjusting to that and find themselves shouting at first, but experienced PC headset users will already be accustomed to it. There is no microphone mute button on the Headset connector, so gamers would be well-advised to use a PC headset that has one already (and they are quite common). There are more wires to deal with, of course; two from the headset to the Connector’s box and one from the Connector to your television or receiver, but it seems a small price to pay for the experience - and sleeping significant others and/or roommates would undoubtedly agree.

The SteelSeries Xbox 360 Headset Connector is solidly constructed, works flawlessly, and it’s fairly priced at $15. While SteelSeries’ products are sold online by many dealers and in certain stores, it seems that this particular product’s very hard to find anywhere else but the company’s online store (look under “Accessories”). Shipping takes about a week, so it’s probably too late to grab one for the holidays, but it’s absolutely worth the wait. If you’re a late-night gamer, this inexpensive little gem is nothing less than a godsend.

On the back of the Headset Connector’s package, it notes that “This product is not sponsored, endorsed or approved by Microsoft.” Their loss. Your gain. Go get one.

One Response to 'Review: SteelSeries Xbox 360 Headset Connector'

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  1. DaveDQ said,

    on January 10th, 2009 at 8:30 am

    Thank you for this. I often use my stereo headset in the evening to avoid waking the kids or bugging my wife. This will be a great benefit.

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