The Average Gamer

Polk 4 Shot Headset for Xbox One Review

Polk 4 Shot - Black
Without a doubt, the Polk 4 Shot headset for Xbox One produces the clearest sound I’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing. It’s noticeable across music, gaming and particularly, transcription. In more than one interview from this year’s gamescom, I had trouble picking out an interviewee’s words from the background buzz of the expo. I switched to the Polk 4Shot and there the voices were, clear as… well, as clear as you can expect from a room with no roof and the rumble of a live demo leaking through the paper-thin walls. They were audible, which is more than they were before.

The 4 Shot also the most comfortable headset I’ve used, featuring artificial leather padding on the cups and over a steel headband. They’re easy to wipe clean – brown foundation make-up smeared on white ear cups is never attractive – and well-cushioned with foam. I’ve been able to extend my Twitch stream sessions from two hours, which is when I used to get headaches, to well over five hours without a problem.

The headband is slightly offset from the centre of the over-ear cups, placing it just forwards from the most sensitive part of your skull. It sits close as well, making this a very secure headset without using a lot of pressure. I could comfortably look down and up without worrying about things slipping off.

The whole thing has a plastic finish and I was initially concerned about the loose bearing to rotate the cups when they’re resting around your neck, as it felt like they’d be easily broken. My fears were groundless. I’ve been using these as my main headset for over a month now and they’re fine. They’ve been dangled off a bag, slung around pub tables, dropped on the floor and worn in the rain with no damage.

The 4 Shot has a built-in retractable microphone that below the left ear cup. Rather unfortunately, this microphone is very quiet when plugged into either the included Xbox One controller adapter or the PS4 controller, which is apparently caused by a firmware issue. You’ll see many complaints about this if you look at the Amazon user reviews, and Polk have resolved the problem by including an additional cable with a boom mic.

I asked for a comment on the problem. “Polk has a longstanding reputation for product excellence and we pride ourselves in doing all that we can to ensure our customers love those products,” responded a Polk spokesperson. “Upon learning about the 4 Shot mic’s chat performance, we discovered there is no technical issue with the 4 Shot’s microphone hardware. Instead, it is a firmware issue and testing the 4 Shot with your smartphone will show the microphone works great.

Polk 4 Shot - Cup Close-up Green“However, to ensure that our consumers have the ultimate gaming and chat experience, we immediately took matters into our own hands and developed the POLK CHAT PRO boom microphone. This boom mic unit is designed to improve sound quality when chatting with gamers and friends via the Xbox One. The POLK CHAT PRO is included in all purchases of the 4 Shot, whether purchased on, online or at our authorised retail partners. With that said, we will continue to work internally to resolve any perceived issues with chat performance so that our customers can have the most heart-pumping and enjoyable gaming experience.”

It’s a fine solution and the Chat Pro boom mike picks up sound perfectly on the Xbox One and PS4. It does make the headset rather awkward to use as my daily choice though. I find myself constantly swapping cables, all of which use the smartphone-standard 4-pole jack. When gaming, I need the boom mike for multiplayer but because the braided cable rubs against my clothing and transmits the sound into my right ear, I use the plain, plastic-coated cable for offline gaming. I also use the third supplied cable when I’m out and about – this one has a smartphone button to control music or pick up phone calls. Unusually, the cable plugs into the right-hand cup rather than the left, presumably due to the design of the in-built microphone. It’s not a dealbreaker but since I’m used to wearing everything out of the way on my left, I’ve caught the cable with my right hand multiple times.

The biggest gripe I have is the sound itself. It’s wonderfully clear, but on many games it winds up sounding rather tinny. I’ve spent a lot of time with this headset just to ensure that it’s not just me being used to headsets that over-emphasise the bass. Listening to music is fine but on games like BioShock Infinite, the guns sounds awful and considering the gunfire content of most games? This is a problem. Everything verges on metallic. In something like Destiny, that’s somewhat forgiveable but when Booker’s footsteps on a wooden ship deck sound like he’s wearing tap shoes, it’s quite disconcerting.

The Polk 4 Shot is a beautiful headset with superb ergonomic design. It feels great for long gaming sessions and comes with all the bits and bobs you’ll need for any use, including the Xbox One headset adapter. The cable-swapping gets frustrating though, and the metallic edge on the sound outweighs the clarity. This is so close to being the perfect gaming headset, and given that it’s Polk’s first foray into gaming in their 40+ years of audio experience, that’s pretty damn good. Having to manage (and not lose) multiple cables though – on top of the sound issue – is a deal-breaker for me.