Looking for a more integrated audio solution for your PSVR setup? Bionik may have just the ticket, minus one nagging drawback.
If VR hardware is anything, it’s unwieldy. Even the most streamlined options currently available require bulky headgear and what feels like an endless deluge of cords and accessories to function—HDMI, AC, USB, earbuds, peripheral processing units, mice on running wheels, ancient mystical talismans, and that convoluted breakfast-making contraption from the beginning of Pee-wee’s Big Adventure. Okay, maybe it’s not that complicated, but rarely is it as simple as putting on a headset and pressing ‘On’. So any product that’s attempting to cut down on the amount of extraneous gear I’m forced to endure during my VR adventures is something that I’m going to, at the very least, check out in earnest.
Enter bionik’s brand new Mantis headphones for PSVR, a really interesting (and detachable) audio option for Sony’s premier virtual reality hardware. Rather than bother with large over-the-ear headphones that only add more real estate to the current situation, these rather strange-looking devices snap onto either side of the headset and hang down over your ears, looking almost as if Sony itself designed them to augment the main product. That’s a feature I truly like about the Mantis—it blends into the hardware incredibly well and boasts a notably impressive form factor. The earpieces themselves are just as big as they need to be without feeling too small or gaudily superfluous. Kudos to the bionik team on that front.
The Mantis comes in two separate earpieces.
So what do you get in the box? The Mantis comes in two separate pieces—one left and one right—that connect to each other via a single Y-shaped audio out, a plug which feeds directly into the PSVR headset control. Each rounded earpiece (37mm sound drivers) is nicely cushioned and contains a retractable clip. These clips have some decent movement, able to move toward and away from your head. They can also swivel slightly so that you can achieve maximum comfort once they’re attached. Speaking of which, the whole attachment process is extremely easy. Simply pull open the clips and slide each unit onto the headset. There really isn’t much more to it than that. No external power supply to mess with, either.
It’s important to note that these are not over-the-ear or noise-cancelling headphones. You can very much hear what’s happening outside the Mantis sound environment, and that leads me to my only big complaint with this product: Because they aren’t made to cover your ears and only rest on top of them, I never felt that the earpieces were pushed close enough for me to really feel immersed. Every few seconds, I found myself pushing the earpieces against my face in an attempt to get better sound, but they would always return to their natural position, which seemed ever-so-slightly too far away. I do think that’s a problem you run into with headphones that don’t fit over the ears. Maybe that was a design choice to cut down on bulk (which I’d totally understand), but the issue did prevent me from truly enjoying my time with the Mantis.
These retractable clips are extremely easy to attach to the PSVR headset.
Beyond persistent physical complaints, how is the sound quality? I’d wager it’s quite good. Nothing approaching say, Razer’s recently released Thresher or any number of other high-end gaming headsets. But for the price (MSRP $49.99) and its massively convenient style, I’d say it does just fine. I was able to ascertain sounds coming from multiple directions within games, the general bass levels were serviceable and I never ran into any annoying popping or static. That was, of course, when I wasn’t hearing sounds from outside the headphones, which tended to distract from the overall experience. They are extremely comfortable, though, and I’d be lying if I said I experienced ear fatigue on any level.
In the end, I’d say this is a solid effort from bionik. Yes, the earpieces never quite fit me the right way, and as a result, the sound absolutely suffered. Maybe my head is an odd size, who knows. But as of now, and ignoring any kind of traditional headphones, the Mantis may be the best audio option currently available for PSVR owners. I just hope that we see a revision next year that is either a more snug fit or opts for an over-the-ear design.