The PlayStation VR is an impressive piece of kit, bringing immersive worlds and unique gameplay experiences to living rooms around the world. It does a lot of things right, very little wrong, and you’d be hard pushed to find something that needs improving… but there is one. When it comes to the supplied in-ear headphones, they’re functional yet a bit fiddly to connect and use when the headset’s in place. Likewise, going for some over-the-ear cans causes a few issues if you don’t remove things in sequence. Fear not though as there’s a solution in the form of the Bionik Mantis PSVR Headphones that integrates the audio with the headset creating a hybrid all in one device. Read on as we put them through their paces.
First up, the Bionik Mantis PSVR Headphones are nicely presented in premium packaging that befits the fact they’re an officially licensed accessory. Of course the box they’re in doesn’t really matter, but it’s good to see some effort put in to give them a premium feel and be very clear to the consumer what they do and what’s inside. The headphones are compatible with both versions of the PSVR hardware so it doesn’t matter which one you own. In the box comes the headphone elements, instructions and an alternate set of cups if you want to try and isolate more outside noise. The actual parts that do the business feel well made, which will be needed given the degree of freedom on them, and the alternate cups are functional though not quite what you might expect being very deep.
What makes the Bionik Mantis PSVR Headphones unique is that they are not actually rigidly connected together, they’re two separate pieces connected by a cable that jacks into the main headset. At the top of each is a slider that clips each onto the appropriate side of the VR headset so they become a part of the whole and hang down where your ears would be. Once it’s all assembled it’s a surprisingly effective way to house the headphones, and definitely removes any connection hassles. Even the short wire manages to stay out of the way and is less obtrusive than the originally bundled in-ear ones. The ear pieces slide forwards and backwards on the VR headband (but with a reasonable amount of friction so they don’t move on their own), they also slide up and down, and rotate slightly so you can always get them positioned easily, and they stay in place as well. What do they sound like though?
To put them through their paces, we started with the VR missions in Ace Combat 7 – a game with great audio design. It was clear and kept up with the static charged radio messages and crackling explosions that punctuate the aerial action. Whipping our head around to track the bogeys in the sky saw no shift in earpiece position with everything feeling comfortable and stable without any additional weight. There’s a bit missing at the bass end of the audio spectrum, more likely due to the low amount of pressure the units exert on the ears than the 37 mm sound drivers. Indeed, pressing them in slightly during menu music bore this out. Because the units are designed to be light and reduce ear discomfort they don’t really apply as much pressure as needed to get the full effect of the audio across. Next it was onto both the WipEout Omega Collection and Rez which both have heavy bass in their soundtracks and the Mantis coped well with the balance of music and effects whilst lacking the punch that ideally you’d want from them. Sound performance tested, could the headphones hold up to more movement than those two games demanded?
What better way to test out the rigidity and effectiveness of the fixings than to boot up Beat Sabre and ramp up the challenge. There’s a fair amount of movement involved in splitting blocks with lightsabres and punctuating the music, and fortunately there were no slips or slides from the headphones. Cranking the sound up didn’t result in any distortion or artefacts in the sound and with the standard ear pieces there’s enough cover to remove outside noise. If you do need to keep an ear out then each side levers up a few degrees, which also aids in taking the headset off. Switching to the alternate cups to try the isolating aspect proved a bit disappointing because the surrounds are too deep to allow them to sit against your head. Sticking with the default attachment is the way to go for us at least.
What the Bionik Mantis PSVR Headphones do is provide an innovative way of hooking sound in for the PSVR headset in an unobtrusive, comfortable and convenient way. They’re semi-permanently fixed and easily adjustable so no matter how many times the visor needs moving, the earpieces are quick to sort out. It’s a little disappointing on the bass transmission and the over-the-ear cups don’t do what they should, though neither are a deal breaker given what’s being offered up. With nothing else on the market that does this job and a reasonable price point of £50 for them (though you’re paying for the engineering rather than the sound quality), they are worth considering if you’re fed up of being tangled in cables and pulling your ears off each time you take the VR headset off.
A sample unit of the Bionik Mantis PSVR Headphones was provided for the purposes of this review and they’re available for around £50/$50 directly from Bionik or your usual gaming accessory retailer.