PDP Afterglow Wireless Headset for Xbox 360

PDP's Afterglow line of gaming headsets and controllers has been fairly hit or miss in terms of quality, as it's incredibly easy to fall in love with fun lighting effects in exchange for questionable designs. When it comes to PDP's Afterglow Universal Wireless Headset, that mold unfortunately hasn't been broken.

The Afterglow Universal Wireless Headset has a fairly modern design, with a dual headband setup seeing a flexible piece of black padding resting a few inches underneath a fairly stationary piece of clear plastic. LEDs rest in the top of both ear cups, allowing blue light to shoot up this piece of plastic while you're gaming, which is a fun effect, even though the gap between these two headbands looks more than a bit goofy. LEDs can also be found in the sides of both ear cups, but they serve no purpose other than looking cool (which they admittedly do).

The headset itself lacks truly adjustable straps, relying more on a "one size fits most" approach, with an unforgiving elastic band and wire setup allowing for only the slightest of extensions. This forces the headset to become uncomfortable after only a short play session, as the cups push up on the bottoms of the ears as the headset constantly tries to retract to its smaller size. Furthermore, the wires feel incredibly cheap and can easily be bent with only slight pressure, leaving me to wonder how long it would take before they snapped entirely due to overuse.

The design isn't all bad though, as the retractable microphone can easily be stored away when you're not chatting with friends, and the wireless range is pretty fantastic, with audio quality holding up to distances of at least 50 feet or more. The headset is even powered via a rechargeable battery that lasts around 8-10 hours, which is obviously preferable to the many battery-draining headsets on the market.

The package comes without the necessary adapter some folks might need to use with their 360 or PS3 if their TV lacks an analog audio out jack. Thankfully, PDP will send you the necessary adapter for free if you need it. Finally, the "universal" distinction of the headset is definitely earned, as it can be used across all major gaming consoles, with phones, handhelds and more (even if you need to provide your own headphone jack to make the headset compatible to more "unique" devices).

Unfortunately, everything great about the headset really stops there. The audio quality both when chatting and simply playing a game is lackluster at best. There are three gameplay audio modes to choose from, depending on whether or not you want raw game audio, an "immersive experience," or a bass boost, but the latter two options are indistinguishable from one another, and the raw gameplay audio sounds a bit dirty and muddled. The volume doesn't go as high as we'd like, and the lack of a surround sound option is disappointing, even if expected in this $90-100 price range.

Perhaps the biggest offense here is the poor chat quality. Incoming chat audio is average at best, but any outgoing chat audio can be most easily described as that of a fast-food drive-through speaker. It's way too loud and loaded with static, which obviously isn't something you'd want to subject your friends to. Moving the microphone as far away from your mouth as you can helps things only slightly, but the audio quality remains some of the worst I've heard in my many years.

Rounding out the package are some additional design flaws or apparent bugs. For instance, the microphone light will sometimes flash between all three colors, seemingly for no reason. In addition, the USB plug must be placed on the front of your console for "line of sight," limiting your flexibility if you play with wired controllers or simply don't like looking at a bright blue light that constantly flashes when you turn the headset off or it otherwise loses connection.

For everything good that can be said about the Afterglow Universal Wireless Headset, there are even more things that bring it down. The headset is uncomfortable, the game audio quality is only average, the chat audio quality is downright awful, and the entire experience screams of having been designed based more on flash than function. If this option were in the $25-50 range, then the issues here would likely be expected and therefore forgivable, but for $90, you could purchase far better headsets than this.