Bionik’s Mantis VR Headphones Patch a Rift in the PlayStation VR Experience

The default PlayStation VR earbuds are shockingly good for what they are. They give you a clear immersive experience — but they are also tiny and the cords can get tangled up easily. With the Oculus Rift as its main competition — especially with that headset also being on a huge summer sale for $400 — it’s easy to want to go for as 1:1 a comparison as possible for the devices. Bionik’s new clip-on headphones do just that in one major area. The Rift comes with sliding headphones that fit nicely over the ear and for a multi-user household, provide a more sanitary option than in-ear earbuds.  Bionik’s headphones can be placed anywhere on the thinner front visor area and moved around as needed. The 3.5 mm audio jack plugs into the same port as the default earbuds do, but the real test is in the sound quality.

Having used not only the default earbuds, but also a set of Astro A30 headphones with the VR unit. Using the A30s resulted in high-quality audio to be sure, but they were quite bulky and with them being corded, it led to even more cables being around me. For pure immersion in the game, the sound quality improvement worked — but having a slew of cables around will take you out of things when you feel them brush up against you from all sides. The Bionik headphone cable goes around the back and organically blends in with the back of the headset itself.

The headphones have the same overall visual dress as the VR headset, making them blend in easily with the overall design of the core device. They can moved around easily thanks to where they attach to on the headset — so if you need them a little further up or further back, you can just nudge them around until you find the sweet spot. The actual headphones have a glossy finish to help them stand out, and they are incredibly comfortable when on the ear.

In trying the Mantis headphones with a variety of games, they have held their own and perform quite well — offering up a similar overall level of comfort as the Rift’s headset with the only caveat being the mandatory cable. Playing it with Race the Sun showed off an impressive amount of immersion. You can still get a sense of direction — so if the wind is rushing by you on the right-hand side, you can hear it stronger on that side than on the left. This holds true if you swiftly move from right to left in order to dart through a gate. Smashing into obstacles sounds as violent as it should — with collisions giving you a bone-breaking crunch.

Our go-to PSVR game is RIGS, which remains a worthwhile game to own despite its online community thinning out thanks to its robust single-player options. The 360 degree audio replication comes in handy here and allows you to get a better idea of where enemies are at without having to either rely on a mini-map or eating a couple of shots to figure out where they’re coming from. The announcers’ calls remain as enthusiastic as ever, while your coach’s orders are still a bit dry — but get the job done well enough.

Super Stardust Ultra VR couldn’t possibly have more descriptive words in its title, and also works like a charm with the Mantis headphones. With this being a slower-paced game than RIGS, it’s a better one to actually start off with because the stakes aren’t as high and the enemy count is leaner. It also has a far better mini-map that takes up more real estate and is easier to see. Here, you can still tell where enemies are at through audio cues — but it won’t do you as much good because they will usually be obscured by some part of the environment.

With every game we tested, the big key was seeing how clear the audio was and comparing it to the default headsets. It’s a nice upgrade. You still get 360-degree audio, but these are far more comfortable and natural on the ear. If you’ve been wanting something for your PlayStation VR that kept the immersive audio, but allowed you to feel more comfortable, the Bionik Mantis VR headphones are available now via the official website and are a great pickup for anyone with a PSVR that wants a more comfortable headphone solution.