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The Xbox One platform doesn’t play well with many gaming headsets out of the box. Actually, without using the Xbox One Stereo Headset Adapter, the gaming system only works with the included monaural headset and its proprietary connector that plugs into the Xbox One controller.
Polk Audio, a longtime leader in the consumer electronics market, has answered this problem with the Polk Audio 4 Shot, a gaming headset specially designed for the Xbox One platform.
The 4 Shot even includes the Stereo Headset Adapter, but is this enough to justify its rather steep price tag considering that the Stereo Headset Adapter is only $25 and allows the Xbox One to work with just about any gaming headset on the market?
In this Polk Audio Shot 4 review, the 4 Shot is put through its paces to determine if Polk Audio has the Xbox One gaming headphone market cornered or not.
Overview of the 4 Shot
Surprisingly, the 4 Shot is extremely sleek considering the headset isn’t designed for portable use. The design doesn’t incorporate the traditional boom microphone or loud color schemes that often mark gaming headsets as exactly that.
The leather-covered headband and faux leather ear cups are well-padded and fit comfortably on the head. The cups rotate 90° for storage using metal hinges that give the headphones a feeling of quality and durability uncommon for gaming headsets.
Within the left ear cup is a hidden microphone that pops out of the bottom edge when needed. This microphone design is great when not in use but unfortunately, the plastic wedge microphone leaves something to be desired in terms of functionality. The microphone performance is described in more detail in the Performance section below.
While this headset was specifically designed for use with the Xbox One platform, most gaming headsets work just as well with PC games. Unfortunately, the 4 Shot is not one of those headsets.
The included cables are meant to work with the included Stereo Headset Adapter so any PC gamers looking to use the 4 Shot will need to purchase a special adapter to use the headset for their favorite PC-based games.
It would have been nice if Polk Audio would have given slightly more consideration to PC gamers in this department (especially considering that the headset comes with three different cables – none of which can be used directly with a PC). At this price point, the additional versatility would be a welcome addition to the package.
Overall, the headphones are sleek, comfortable, and could even be used to listen to music while on the go thanks to the low-profile design and included cable designed to be used with mobile devices.
Performance – Audio Quality
The sound quality of the 4 Shot is top notch as one would expect from anything Polk Audio puts out. Unlike many gaming headsets, the 4 Shot doesn’t have a flat response.
Bass boost is apparent but it’s not overpowering like some of the competitive headsets. The result is a very warm and accurate sound that transcends gaming and can be used for listening to music, watching movies, etc. That said, the bass can come across rather strong in certain situations but since the headset was designed for action-packed gaming full of bass-ridden explosions and gunshots, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If you’re looking for a perfectly rendered audio track every time, look elsewhere but if you want to feel the explosions happening around you, the 4 Shot has your back.
The biggest problem with the 4 Shot is the built-in microphone.
As mentioned above, the microphone design is unique in that it remains hidden when not in use but unfortunately, Polk Audio really dropped the ball in terms of the microphones functionality. The omnidirectional microphone is too close to the internal sound drivers meaning that the microphone ends up picking up more of the game audio than the user’s voice. The decision not to use a conventional boom mic was unique but it simply doesn’t work in practice.
The 4 Shot also comes with an optional mic that was designed for use with mobile phones. Although offering a slight improvement over the built-in omnidirectional mic, this mic also picks up tons of background noise and doesn’t work nearly as well as it should.
The included microphones are so ill-conceived that Polk Audio recently started offering an upgraded mic to existing 4 Shot owners for free and as started included this new mic with all newly shipped 4 Shot headsets. The new mic, called Chat Pro, is a massive step in the right direction. Featuring a braided cable that terminates in a slinky, repositionable boom mic, the Chat Pro offers users much better voice reproduction despite being a bit bass-heavy. Considering this mic is a free upgrade, users of the 4 Shot will have nothing to complain about except for the addition of the very boom mic that Polk Audio tried to avoid in the first place.
As a pair of headphones, the Polk Audio 4 Shot is an exceptional piece of equipment. Although the bass may be slightly exaggerated, most users will find that the 4 Shot produces a warm sound across a variety of uses including music listening and watching movies. When playing games, the added bass is an extra bonus as it is heavy enough to highlight action events during gameplay without being overbearing as is the case with some other gaming headsets.
The only downsides to these headphones are that they are not compatible out of the box with PC-based games and the microphones leave much to be desired. That said, Polk Audio definitely took a step in the right direction by offering a free upgrade to the Chat Pro boom mic despite the fact that the addition of a boom mic is in direct contrast to the sleek lines Polk Audio originally sought by adding a hidden microphone instead.
- Comfortable, sleek design
- Strong bass that doesn’t distort even at high (dangerous) volume levels
- Xbox One Stereo Headset Adapter included
- Expensive for gaming-specific headphones
- Bass may be too much for applications outside of gaming (at least for some users)
- Microphone problems that can only be fixed by adding a functional, yet not visually appealing, microphone in the form of the Chat Pro boom mic
If you’re looking for a solid gaming headset that works very well with the Xbox One console, the 4 Shot from Polk Audio is an excellent choice. At about $160 as of this writing, however, there are much less expensive options that work nearly as well and can double as a set of multimedia headphones for everything from making a call on your cell phone to watching movies on your mobile device or gaming console.
Is the 4 Shot worth the price tag? It depends on what you’re looking for and how often you plan to use the headphones for activities other than gaming. Also, keep in mind that the sleek design is somewhat compromised with the addition of the Chat Pro mic system – practically a necessity if you plan to chat while gaming due to the poor performance of the omnidirectional built-in mic setup.