As part of Sony's recent PlayStation live showcase, the Japanese brand announced a host of new accessories for the PS5, including a rather baffling handheld that only seems to work when connected to the internet and, more excitingly, a new pair of dedicated console earbuds.
The touted in-ears are expected to have a PlayStation-themed design and will be made specifically to work with Sony's flagship console. The PS5 doesn't natively support Bluetooth connections for even Sony headphones, meaning that the newly-announced model will be something of an exclusive by offering a wirelessly connected pair of earbuds, likely facilitated via a plug-in dongle, for your PlayStation.
While we do have some information about the form the buds will take, including confirmation of lossless audio and reports of low latency streaming rates, there are still secrets withheld from the general public as of yet. That leaves us in a position to speculate just what form the accessories will take, and to make a wishlist of exactly what we'd like to see when the new buds arrive later this year.
Active noise cancelling to keep you in the zone
A weird one, but there's been plenty of discussion on social media for Sony's upcoming gaming peripherals to come fitted with active noise cancelling. That seems odd considering that most people use ANC when they're travelling or working and attempting to block out the distracting intrusions of the outside world, but ANC has been touted as a possibility many times in conversations concerning the PS5 earbuds.
Why? Well, gamers like to be immersed in the action, so shutting off any background noise would be useful for competitive play. It's also very handy when you just want to be enthralled by a particular storyline (The Last of Us: Part II springs to mind) and don't want to be yanked out of the narrative by a pesky ceiling fan or the hum of a Range Rover's engine from the street below.
Not only that, but PlayStation revealed that the new buds could be simultaneously connected to your smartphone via Bluetooth, another great incentive to have ANC for when you're out and about as well as tethered to your console.
Better-than-average battery life
The new PS5 earbuds may end up using a wire-free dongle to actually form a connection with the native console itself, but they obviously aren't going to be connected to source via any form of wire or cable. This of course means that battery life will come into play, and it'll have to be decent if we're going to fork out our hard-earned cash upon release.
The WF-1000XM4 currently operate with about eight hours of battery life with Bluetooth and ANC activated without the charging case. Those are decent numbers (Bose's QuietComfort II only manage six under similar conditions), and it's essential that a long gaming session isn't suddenly cut short by your buds' poxy lifespan.
Rapid charging could certainly be a bonus, here. With many high-end earbuds offering a few hours of playback from just a short 10-minute charging blast, it would be great to only have to wait a few moments before we're back in the action.
Excellent level of comfort
Gaming sessions get long, far exceeding what most audiophiles manage in terms of marathon listening binges. They can get so long, in fact, that they can become immensely uncomfortable for over-ear headphone wearers, meaning that a pair of in-ears could get seriously irksome after a time if the design isn't up to scratch. Over-ears such as the five-star Sony PlayStation Pulse 3D Wireless Headset are a dream to use for long periods, but that isn't always the case with something that you shove into your actual earholes.
That is, thankfully, one of the things we usually love about Sony's designs. The Sony WF-C700N for example, can be worn for long periods without ever becoming a (quite literal) headache. Let's hope the trend continues with the PS5 buds, especially if they happen to boast an ergonomic design and a decent choice of tips.
Ultra low latency
We already know that the PS5 earbuds promise to deliver low-latency gaming, it's just a question of how low those rates drop.
When we sampled Qualcomm's low-latency gaming dongle courtesy of the company's impressive Snapdragon 5 S3 Gen 2 platform, the reduction in latency for what's termed the "click-to-bang" time was so impressive that you could barely register a delay between initiating an on-screen action and hearing it. Qualcomm is promising to reduce latency rates to around 20ms, so that's around what we're expecting here if the new in-ears are going to be worth our time.
Crystal clear voice chat
Gaming isn't just a solitary activity anymore. One of the most important features for anyone who owns a gaming headset or dedicated pair of headphones is the facility to make and receive call-quality audio thanks to the explosive rise of streaming and voice chat within the market.
If you're planning on hosting an online session with friends, streaming your content to Twitch or just chatting with mates while you enjoy a few games of FIFA online, you'll need proper, dedicated microphones to replicate the sound of the human voice in an authentic, intelligible way,
Excellent sound quality
The award-winning Sony WF-1000XM4 have long been the benchmark for audio quality at their price point, so we're expecting the PS5 in-ears to reach similar levels of sonic performance. Gaming doesn't quite offer the same demands as music does, but you'd still hope for the clarity, detail and expressiveness of the eminently versatile XM4 buds.
Obviously, if the PS5 earbuds end up having a host of features which are unique to their compatibility with the Sony console and cost far less than the XM4, then it obviously isn't fair to expect the same levels of audio fidelity. What you'd then be hoping for is quality comparable with the five-star WF-C700N at around the £100 / $120 / AU$200 mark, or the WF-C500 if they sink any lower to around £89 / $79 / AU$149.
Intuitive touch controls
If you're travelling across dimensions in Ratchet & Clank: A Rift Apart or seconds away from winning this year's virtual F1 Championship, you don't really have the time, or desire, to go into your source's settings to fiddle around with things like volume, equalisers or ANC toggling.
Gaming earbuds need on-ear controls more than most, as being able to quickly adjust things on the fly while you do something else (i.e. use your console) is a fundamental necessity for anyone taking their playtime seriously. The benchmark for on-ear touch controls comes once again from Bose's QuietComfort II or the XM4, yet just a few, accessible and customisable on-ear functions would be enough to keep us immersed in the action as we go.
Bluetooth Multipoint for switching on the fly
For those not in the know, Bluetooth multipoint is a rather canny feature which allows you to flit between various audio sources on the fly without having to constantly establish and re-establish your respective connections. The number of sources is usually two, although we did see industry-first triple multipoint courtesy of Technics' recent EAH-AZ60M2 in-ears not long ago.
This could be a really useful facility for the PS earbuds, especially if, say, a call comes in on your phone while you're halfway through a round of PGA Tour 2K23. The PlayStation Showcase 2023 video claimed that the buds "simultaneously connect to smartphones via Bluetooth", which likely implies that you'll be able to bounce between your phone and console courtesy of multipoint. We're certainly hoping that'll be the case.
A Competitive Price
The danger with any peripheral attached exclusively to a particular brand or console is that it becomes needlessly expensive by virtue of its association with the parent product or company.
That's something we'd like to see Sony shy away from, and while not every one of the manufacturer's headphones or earphones is necessarily "budget", they usually justify their prices with appropriately high levels of performance and design. For a rough benchmark here, we tested the Pulse 3D Wireless Headset at around £90 / $90 / AU$159, a pretty competitive tag for some really excellent performers.
Even if the PS5 buds turn out to be great, though, we're not sure fans would be willing to pay the XM4 launch price of around £250 / $280 / AU$450, especially as there aren't going to be many alternative gaming in-ears that can do a similar job. We'd be much happier to see prices hovering around the £100/ $100 – £150/ $150 mark, a similar price to the excellent WF-C700N.
Here are the best wireless earbuds we've tested
AirPods Pro 2 vs Sony WF-1000XM4: which five-star earbuds are better?
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II vs Sony WF-1000XM4: which buds are better?