When the Xbox One released in November, it was more of a soft launch than a full-fledged release. There were no system-selling games; instead, upgraded versions of last-gen titles such as Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag and Madden 25 awaited early adopters. While games were good enough to whet the appetite of eager consumers, accessories were clearly lacking from the Xbox One’s launch slate.
With a few months under its belt, the Xbox One is more complete. Updates have improved the console’s features and everything from an official Microsoft media remote to third-party controllers have hit store shelves. Polk Audio, an industry leader in sound, worked with Microsoft Studios development teams to create the 4 Shot headset, and although it was not ready for the console’s launch, the recently released gaming headset is the first of its kind developed specifically for Xbox One.
Comfort and Joy
The 4 Shot headset integrates a sleek design that is equal parts style and comfort. Lightweight plastic ear cups are positioned on a pivot that ensures a nice fit even on an odd-shaped head. However, the cheap plastic and lack of a pivot lock raise questions about the 4 Shot’s durability. Ear cups are topped with stitched leatherette padding, providing a comfort level that allows gamers to use the headset for hours at a time while canceling out exterior noise.
Leatherette is also wrapped around the spring steel headband for maximum comfort. The headband and faux leather are tightly wrapped to create a small profile over the top of the head that does not disrupt gamers. Players with glasses are recommended to wear the headphones slightly off the ear to prevent discomfort while still getting solid sound performance. However, most players will find no issues with breathability and design–in fact, this is where the 4 Shot shines brightest.
Polk is not reinventing gaming headsets with its design–a task that is seemingly impossible at this point–but an innovative drop-down microphone sets the 4 Shot apart from its competitors. A small button under the left earcup can be pressed to unveil a protruding plastic mic. The creative microphone design requires no additional wires and the mic can easily be stowed right back in its place.
A quick access mic is a unique idea but it fails in execution. It works as a temporary solution but there is no replacement for a dedicated, near-your-mouth microphone–and Polk knows this. 4 Shot owners can register their product online to receive a free Polk Chat Pro adapter that is essentially a boom microphone. The adapter easily plugs into the headset, taking the place of the required cord that attaches to the Xbox One controller.
UPDATE: Polk says it is working with Xbox to fix the issue with the built-in mic. A future firmware update should fix the problem. The free Chat Pro adapter is considered a temporary solution.
Packaged with the 4 Shot is a required Xbox One headset adapter, which plugs directly into the Xbox One controller and has a slot for the headset cable. Users will need to update their controller firmware in order for the headset to work (included instructions will walk players through this simple process). This means the 4 Shot will only output stereo sound, a disappointment for audiophiles intent on purchasing a headset for surround sound capabilities.
Polk worked with Halo developer 343 Industries and Forza makers Turn 10 to make the headset perfect for gaming. For the most part, sounds are crisp and sharp, especially those occuring in the foreground. Sound is especially brilliant when playing first-person shooters–piercing gunfire sounds pulsate throughout users’ ears. Background noises also come through clear, but high-pitched sounds like bird calls or whistling can come off too loud while background music is overpowered by character dialogue.
The 4 Shot design is more akin to music headphones, and the headset performs admirably when listening to music. Bass could be stronger but there are few flaws to find outside of that.
Microsoft was in desperate need of a headset designed specifically for the Xbox One, and the Polk Audio 4 Shot headset delivers. Polk brings decades of audio experience into its first foray in the gaming industry, resulting in fresh design elements that blur the lines between music headphones and gaming headsets. However, the 4 Shot headset is more style than substance.
The protruding mic–the 4 Shot’s most intuitive feature–performs poorly and the headset is hampered by Xbox One’s stereo-only abilities. Still, the 4 Shot headset is a solid option that is a joy to use, and represents a nice value for Xbox One owners who want a headset that can be used on smartphones and other devices.