Want Xbox Wireless Headset’s low latency on PC? You’ll need to buy an extra adapter

Microsoft's grey Xbox Wireless Headset with a speaker plate that rotates

Microsoft’s stylish Xbox Wireless Headset is now available to pre-order for $99 / £90, packing a couple of different untethered connections across Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, and Windows 10 systems. If you want access to all its features on the best gaming PC, however, then you’ll need to pair it with the official Xbox wireless adapter for Windows 10, which will set you back another $25 / £20 or more.

Since the Xbox Wireless Headset is Bluetooth compatible, you could simply connect it to an inexpensive PC adapter, but you’d be sacrificing the low latency and potentially the lossless audio quality that the new cans boast. This is because the latest Bluetooth 5.0 codec usually has between 100 – 500ms delay and some audio compression depending on the generation of the receiver you’re connecting to.

While this is rarely an issue when pairing wireless headsets to your phone, listening to music, watching movies, or videoconferencing, the delay is instantly recognisable in FPS games where every millisecond counts. Wireless models of the best gaming headsets usually include a dongle with a proprietary wireless protocol to combat this, putting latency in line with the average 5 – 10ms we’re used to with wired versions.

Unfortunately, the Xbox Wireless Headset doesn’t come with a dongle of its own, meaning its Windows 10 compatibility comes filled with caveats that aren’t clearly displayed and can’t be solved unless you get your hands on an Xbox wireless adapter.

“Xbox Wireless is a proprietary protocol that enables uncompressed audio at a latency much lower than current Bluetooth solutions,” a Microsoft spokesperson tells us. “Customers can connect the Xbox Wireless Headset to an Xbox Wireless Adapter for Windows 10 (sold separately) and experience a lower latency compared to using Bluetooth on their PC.”

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The Xbox Wireless protocol is native to Microsoft’s consoles, meaning anyone that owns an Xbox Series X/S or Xbox One can benefit from rotating speaker plate controls, up to 15 hours of battery life with quick charging, and its many spatial sound technologies (Windows Sonic, Dolby Atmos, and DTS Headphone: X), no strings attached.

Until we get our hands on the headset, we can’t say whether the premium PC users must pay for the full feature set is worth it or not, but the additional cost should certainly factor into your decision to buy it.