Six Months On, This Is Still My Favourite Thing About The PlayStation 4

Six Months On, This Is Still My Favourite Thing About The PlayStation 4

It’s one of those truly golden ideas. A ‘why the hell didn’t I think of that’ idea. And today, six months after the console’s launch, it’s still my favourite thing about the PlayStation 4.

I’m talking, of course, about the ability to plug my headset directly into the brand new PlayStation 4 controller. It make so much bloody sense. To the point where I literally can’t believe the PlayStation 4 is the first console to let players do this*. Why are we only making this happen now?

For PC gamers, used to playing three feet away from a smaller screen, three feet away from their motherboard, this is nothing new. Most people who play PC games, in my experience, use headsets exclusively. But playing on consoles, particularly in the last decade, has become a large screen affair. Nowadays the optimum console experience involves being buttcheeks deep in a comfortable sofa, six feet away from some gargantuan screen, drowning in pixels and extreme contrast ratios. If, for whatever reason, you are not able to have sound blaring from 6.1 speakers, this can make things a little difficult in the sound department.

Personally, I’ve been having this problem for the better part of the last decade. Whether it’s in-laws complaining about the sound from my speakers, or my wife asking me to turn it down so she can hear an episode of The Block, compromising on sound quality is something I’ve had to live with during console gaming sessions.

Until now the headset solution has been clunky at best. Wired headsets, for the most part, have wires that are simply way too short. I remember one moment, playing Metroid Prime on my Nintendo Wii, my poor eyeballs two feet away from a 46 inch plasma. It was far from ideal, but with my child struggling to sleep in the periphery it was, at that point, my only option.

Last night was a case in point. My wife, desperate to play catch up on her favourite show. Me, desperate to squeeze in a few last hours with the Destiny Alpha. My poor, long suffering son, trying to catch some sleep in the next room.

Normally this scenario could have played out a couple of different ways: a bullshit compromise with both of us playing/watching with the sounds at unsatisfactorily low levels, a brutal mish-mash of sounds; a shitty audio experience for both of us. It could have been me playing in complete silence, with subtitles on, unable to hear a single goddamn thing. Now, with the PS4 controller, it’s me playing with a glorious set of headphones on my earholes while my wife streams House Rules to hearts content. My son sleeps in silence and everyone is in paradise.

Now, I’m sure there are other solutions. Wireless headphones spring to mind, but I’ve never been a fan. My wife could plug headphones into her laptop I suppose, but she likes to do other things whilst watching TV shows, as is her wont. The wonderful thing about the PlayStation 4 and it’s controller/headphone jack contraption is the sheer simplicity of it. The convenience. The genius of it. Now I don’t have to think about the problem — at all — because the solution is a simple, commonplace thing I can now afford to take for granted.

It’s beautiful.

And it’s something that’s saved my arse on many an occasion. Late night, can’t sleep, want to play video games, don’t want to wake everyone up? Plug the headphones in. Wife has a team of friends over on a Saturday night, I’m not involved, bored out of my brains? Plug the headset in. This simple little doo-hickey has been the solution to so many little issues. It’s allowed me to play video games when I’m not supposed to be playing. It’s enhanced my overall experience. Legit.

Particularly now, particularly in this day and age. We live in a world where multiple screens are the norm. In my house we have two laptops, a tablet, a Wii U Gamepad, multiple smartphones and a 46 inch Panasonic Plasma all vying for attention. On a Saturday afternoon, with friends and family over, that number can double, and everyone wants their own personal space to use their own device. That becomes difficult when you’re obnoxiously blasting decibels of gunfire and fury in the lugholes of your guests.

And thankfully it’s a solution that we’re starting to see in all the major consoles. The Wii U, of course, has the added advantage of being able to play games on the GamePad as a second screen, but even the Xbox One allows you to plug in headphones. You just have to shell out for an additional adaptor for the privilege.

It’s a weird thing: a simple innovation that we realistically should have been enjoying the better part of a decade, only made accessible now, when we need it more than ever.

*From the heated debate in the comments, maybe I should add that yes, I’m aware the Wii U GamePad also allows you to do this, but for some reason I always saw it as more like the headphone jack in a Handheld. The Wii U GamePad would feel incomplete without a headphone jack, it sort of needs to be there to fulfil its function as a second screen. The PS4 controller is just a controller, so the way I see things it didn’t need to be there. That’s what makes it interesting to me. But fair point, I take it on board!


    • I was gonna say this! The WiiU was the first! (And the 360 had the adapter, but I think we are talking native support.)

      • Hang on – there’s a device for this on the 360? You mean I could’ve had sound in my games for the past 5 years and didn’t know this??? (I always play at night after kids are in bed)

        • No, I wasn’t aware when I originally posted that the 360 only did chat audio (I never tried). Sorry for the confusion.

    • Yeah I was about to say this.

      However I don’t know whether it’s simply a headphone jack or whether you can actually plug a full headset with a mic into it. Although, the gamepad itself has a microphone, so it’s probably not even necessary to have a headset with a mic on it.

      I’ve owned my Wii U for about 2 and a half weeks and I’ve just discovered it can do video chat natively using the front facing camera on the gamepad. That’s pretty cool.

        • I will endeavour to add all sexy Kotaku ppl to my Wii U friends list. You hippies better add me back or I will cry rivers of salty tears.

          • Truth be told, I am new to Nintendo. So if I can figure it out, it will be done!

      • wiiu definately supports headsets with a mic, i use it all the time. the physical volume slider makes it easier to use than the ps4’s virtual controls although you can’t adjust the chat level.

    • Yeah, I mention that at the bottom, but I feel like that being almost like a handheld negates things a little. In a way the GamePad NEEDED to have a headphone jack for it to work as a second screen. The PS4 controller didn’t really need to have it, but it does… if that makes sense. That’s why I’m such a fan. It didn’t need to be there. But it is and it’s cool.

      • I don’t think anyone disagrees. The headphone jack is cool to have and it didn’t need to be there.

        I think we are just a little surprised that in the (rather long) article it is made out to be the best feature. Perhaps if it were 3-5 different things that stand out and that for you personally the headphone jack takes the cake it would have made more sense.

        But as it stands, its a mighty big article for one feature that some people don’t use that you like subjectively and that has been around in one form or another. Which is absolutely fine BTW, but as I say, seeing more features mentioned would have been nice.

        No hard feels man.

        • Yeah, but I think it’s cool to take one weird addition and give it special attention. But of course! NO HARD FEELS!

          • Oh yeah. Look, I still appreciated the article and it was a good read. It also made me think about how cool the headphone jack really is. As you say you start to take it for granted.

            Just you know. I understand where people are coming from, and so do you.

        • LOL – very few things in the console space can be counted as Sony’s innovation!

      • I found this feature very needed imo. Not everyone will agree but it does make gaming a lot more personal without sounds annoying everyone else. Having the ability to plug a headset (Tested Beats and iPhone) enables game chat too! The only downside is the battery drain on the controller.

  • Thanks for the article and it is interesting but you should really give Microsoft there dues in that the xbox 360 controller allowed you to directly plug in headphones years ago… this isnt something new at all as you could plug in a variety of different headphones

    • As the owner of an XBox 360, no it can’t.

      For starters it’s a 2.5mm Audio Jack not a 3.5mm and it’s only for the Voice Chat. You can’t plug headphones into it and mute the TV.

  • Doesn’t the Wii U have a headphone port in the game pad? Didn’t that come before the PS4? Why does the PS4 get the focus and praise?

    • Yeah, but the Wii U doesn’t quite deserve the same credit since you can’t do it on the pro controller. Don’t get me wrong it’s great, I spent all last night playing through off-screen, but it’s more of a side effect of the game pads close relationship to the DS. I also don’t think the Wii U pad does all game audio through the jack, just the stuff that comes from the game pad. I haven’t actually used it to chat though so I’m not sure how well it handles that.

      You just have to shell out for an additional adaptor for the privilege.

      For the record it’s worth it if you’re not into wireless headphones and don’t want a cord running from the back of your TV. The official stereo headset isn’t perfect but it’s a good option for those of us who don’t want the expensive stuff.

      • It seems to depend on the game. Eg with Wonderful 101, I’m pretty sure that as soon as I plugged my headphones into the gamepad it piped all the audio through there. Whereas with DKCTF, I only got some of the sound effects coming through the gamepad while playing on the TV, so if I wanted the sound out of there too I had to manually switch the game over to only play through the gamepad.

        Can’t be certain right now that W101 did do the auto switch thing, and wasn’t just mirroring all the audio on the gamepad the whole time. But I think it might have. Actually yeah, I’m fairly sure that I remember the TV having no sound come out of it without me having to mute it. Whereas 3D World definitely doesn’t do that.

        • Actually yeah, I’m fairly sure that I remember the TV having no sound come out of it without me having to mute it.

          I feel like that’s the case, but I know that even without headphones when the game pad mirror’s the TV audio at a higher volume my ears lock onto the game pad sound and sort of filter out the TV. I remember testing gaming on the XBOX One’s HDMI input* and even though the sound was slightly lagging I don’t remember hearing a echo. So my judgement there isn’t to be trusted.

          *Huge disappointment since I really wanted XBOX Live on my PS4 and Wii U. =(

    • Apparently, a headset contains a mic, while the headphones only output audio.

      • Wouldn’t it be more logical that headphones are the one with mic since it contain the word phones which have a speaker and mic? I don’t know man English at its finest.

        • Of course, this would make sense, but it also makes sense that a headset contains a series or set of features.

        • phone only pertains to the fact that sound is involved, as in phonic eg. microphone, telephone, headphone, gramophone…phone as you refer to it is an abbreviation that i have heard applied to, at least, all of the previous examples i have given.

  • I thought the XBox 360 allowed people to plug a headset into the controller?

    Whatever.. more kudos for Sony just makes me happy.

      • Yep.

        I used to do this horrible thing where I would place headphones over my headset while playing Halo online. It hurt my ears a lot.

        • Wow that’d be annoying lol. Makes you wonder how in the 7-year lifecycle (and more in planning) they didn’t look at it and say “we may have a solution”.

          • I actually was stupid enough to think you could bring the in-game sound through the headset in Halo 2. Spent ages trying to find a way to do it. NOPE.

            There was a headset for the 360 that let you do it, but it was super expensive.

  • I hardly think thats the best feature… Oh well. That said, it made late night KZ and BF4 matches better. (Quieter)

    It sure is a great feature… But one worthy of a whole article?? I think remote play deserves more.. Heck IMO even the touch pad is higher up on my innovations list and thats just the controller.

    Oh well lol.

    • Remote play always seemed a little off to me. Doesn’t compare to Wii U Gamepad, which is a better, more tailored version of that.

      • I like playing on the game pad, and remote play ‘in some games’ was really good. But I just don’t like the sacrifice in IQ. The games always look washed out on both, which is a deal breaker for me. I only meant that it seems like a bigger feature than being able to use a headset..

        • I’m the same actually. I played a lot of Super Mario 3D World on the Gamepad and it actually took away from the scale for me. And you’re right, the IQ is pretty shit.

          • The game pad screen does wonders for Wii games though. I find them way more playable on the Wii U game pad than my big screen. They actually put a fair bit of thought into the Wii side of it with the built in IR bar and that little non-charging dock thing nobody can figure out.

          • YEAH! I tried some old wii games they look great! I wonder if it has to do with them being closer to the gamepads actual resolution.

            The only thing I wish they had, because dolphin has had it for a while, is some form of upscaling for the Wii games. That would have been sweet, and I’m sure the WiiU could probably at least handle 720p. (Even if it’s just an option, for compatibility sake, you know.)

          • I thought this wasn’t possible? i.e. you need a wiimote or wii pro controller to play Wii games on your wii U.

            Did they change this in an update or something?

          • you still need a remote and whatnot but you use the pad like a tv that has a built in sensor bar. pop the pad in the cradle and robert is one of your parent’s siblings.

          • If you’ve got a Wii U and a spare old Wii remote laying around I highly recommend giving it a shot just to see it in action. In Wii mode the console essentially reboots into the Wii OS so it all functions exactly like the Wii (as far accessories go). You can’t use any of the touch screen or pro pad controls but it displays on both the TV and game pad and works like @shk describes.

            It’s one of those features that isn’t exactly a selling point for the console but is still super cool. That and stuff like Wii U game pad having a built in universal IR TV remote made the console a lot of fun to get out the box and play with.

  • The Wii U GamePad has a headphone jack, and while you may argue that a headset is the main focus (I have no idea if the Wii U supports headsets, haven’t tried it yet) the Wii U GamePad has a microphone built in to the thing. And a camera!

    This article needs to seriously be fixed.

      • There is no peripheral involved for the Wii U though – you plug a headphone in to the GamePad.
        My main issue is the core of your article is embodied in this statement, and the statement is completely wrong:
        To the point where I literally can’t believe the PlayStation 4 is the first console to let players do this.

        The Wii U GamePad does not require a peripheral, adapter, or anything more than the headphones/headset themselves. It was released before the PS4. You have not mentioned the Wii U GamePad’s headphone port at all in the article, just its viewing screen. Do you see the problem we’re all having with this here?

          • Thanks for the addendum, it’s good to have an open-minded author! I do want to ask a couple of questions though:
            – At what point does a controller stop being “just a controller”?
            – Is off-screen play the only factor in making you view the Wii U GamePad as more than a controller, or are there other factors involved? (I ask this because I believe future-gen console controllers will have small touchscreens similar to what the Razer Blade has, so if the size of the GamePad’s screen is a factor I’d be interested in that)

        • Well, the Wii-U only does it on the gamepad, not on the other controllers, so I still think the PS4 can claim to be the first really.

          • While this is true, try applying it to the situation Mark Serrels described in the article:
            Last night was a case in point. My wife, desperate to play catch up on her favourite show. Me, desperate to squeeze in a few last hours with the Destiny Alpha. My poor, long suffering son, trying to catch some sleep in the next room.
            While the Destiny Alpha isn’t on the Wii U, it is still a [local/physically] singleplayer game session. The GamePad is required to use the Wii U for all Wii U games as far as I know, unlike other Wii U controllers. He would still have had the GamePad’s headphone port to use if he chose to play a Wii U game.

            And an important thing to note (also directed to Mark Serrels now): The Wii U GamePad is a controller. That is a fact. Whether or not it is personally viewed as a pseudo-handheld console does not change this fact. This, plus the fact that the Wii U came out first, means that the Wii U holds the claim here.

            And this idea that the claim is invalid because non-required Wii U controllers don’t have a headphone port would be so much easier to fight if Nintendo finally released standalone GamePads! That’s been in the works for ages now, come on!

          • the ps4 doesn’t do it with move controllers (not that anything is playable with them yet) or the camera. doesn’t count. ;P

      • I think what practically everyone is saying in these comments is that while you’ve mentioned the Wii U having the same thing, you gave all the praise to the PS4 controller when it was released a year AFTER the Wii U.

    • I think the gamepad’s headphone jack is supposed to be able to take a headset as well, not just headphones.

  • I would agree if it weren’t for the fact that for the past week I’ve had the headphone cables for both my PC and PS4 deliberately tangle themselves in my legs. If I didn’t object to the ludicrous price difference, I’d go wireless.
    As it stands, I much prefer the auto-update and remote install features.

    • It’s hard to love a feature that passes by so quick, but the PS4 is king of installs. Everyone I know with an XBOX One (myself included) spent the first night of owning one aimlessly navigating the menus looking for something to do while things installed. PS4 on the other hand raced through it. Long run I prefer my XBOX One but damn, I can’t argue with the PS4’s installs.

  • Kotaku what the living hell is this article about? Like this was a Sony invention that’s never been done before in video gaming history?

    Is this a joke?

    I know Kotaku is behaving like another NeoGaf nowadays on it’s journalistic bias, but this ‘article’ is just utter tripe.

    A bare week after E3 and THIS is what this site is reduced to posting for news & article filler… pathetic.

    • Well, I enjoyed the article and agree with Mark, it might seem a small thing, but it changes gaming totally for a lot of people. I don’t see the problem with an article on it. I enjoyed the read.

    • Read more than a few lines before flipping out like an enraged baby.

      It’s about having the option to have a headset and the option to change what audio you are hearing. It’s one of the features he likes about his PS4 the most, nothing to do with who did it first, nothing to do with making it a better product than others.

  • That controller in general is a thing of beauty and I really am enjoying the share button too.

    • The only thing that gets on my nerves is the rubber on the left thumbstick has worn off and the second controller is starting to now. I thought they learnt their lesson with rubber covers on plastic thumbsticks a long time ago

  • Is it just me or does anyone else seem to get occasional interference with their DS4 when headphones are plugged in. Besides some audio crackles I can experience lag when I have headphones plugged in. Not always and particularly when the battery is under half full.

  • yay, let’s turn this into a “what the? another news item i’m not interested in and doesn’t apply to me!? NERD RAGE” discussion. My body is ready!
    Seriously though, Mark has written an article about what his favourite thing about the PS4 is 6 months on, nothing more that that. Just because you don’t agree with it or his circumstances do not apply to you does not justify these sorts of comments.
    I agree with Mark, headphone jacks on controllers are a godsend as I also have a little boy, so i totally understand the sound issue 🙂

  • All it needs now is the cone of silence, so you can scream profanities at others in multiplayer without waking the rest of the household!
    (Not that I actually do this, I never play online).

  • Technically the Wii did this if all you were interested in hearing from the game was sound bytes like WAHOO!

  • I get where you’re coming from mark but a good wireless headset solves that problem too…
    I upgraded to a wireless one after my last one broke. Never looked back. The lack of cables is amazing.
    Mine has a 10 hour battery life and charges off a standard micro-USB cable. Can even be used while charging if you have a long enough cable (which it comes with).

    This is for PC btw but I think you can still use these headsets with consoles.

  • I didn’t realise you could plug proper headsets into the jack on the controller. I would have thought the quality would have suffered. Well there you go, I might have to look into a good set of headphones.

    One question, does the sound emitted through the PS4 controller (such as in games like Stick it to The Man) come through the headphones?

  • i remember a time when i used to play games with my lovely 5.1 home theater.
    my sony wireless pule elite headphones are the best gaming money i have ever spent.
    i do like that all the consoles support this now. makes everything so much easier

  • still the fact it uses a normal headphone jack and not a USB annoys me, since the headset I use is a USB one, and a wireless headset is better when you want to watch say a dvd or movie of the Playstation and not have to worry about cords.

  • Wow….I didn’t even realize this! I will use this feature vigorously. Thanks @markserrels.

    Side note: remote play with a PS Vita is pretty sweet. Sure it’s small, but it was still fun to mess around with whilst my wife watched Revenge.

  • Yep this is my favorite thing about the ps4. Its great for when the gf’s asleep haha

  • The headphone jack has been a godsend. I play on my monitor in my room because I live with my family who love watching television. Since my monitor doesn’t have any speakers, I needed to send the sound to my PC – so I had to keep my PC on, mess around with cables, and have my hot and very noisy PC on while playing PS3 games.

    But now, NO MORE of that annoying nonsense!

  • Geez, just wait till you find out about the existence of wireless headsets, your head might explode. Can’t wait for that article.

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