Above: Oculus Rift S
Image Credit: Oculus
Oculus’s Rift S tethered PC VR headset is only days old, but complaints have already piled up over the audio experience delivered by its open-ear speaker system. Thankfully, Oculus VR head Nate Mitchell has confirmed that a software update will soon address the issue, which the company apparently knew about but didn’t remedy before Rift S’s release.
Unlike the original Rift, which uses headphones, Rift S places speakers in its headband — a design decision inspired by a similar choice in the inexpensive all-in-one Oculus Go headset. This prioritizes convenience and comfort over immersion and audio quality. After Redditors opined that Rift S’s audio was “bad” if not “terrible,” Mitchell said that an upcoming “monthly Rift platform release” will “improve the audio quality of the onboard audio system,” later adding that the Rift S team has been working to improve both bass and overall volume.
Mitchell suggested that while Rift S’s audio hardware is similar to Go’s, it doesn’t receive as much power because it’s constrained by the USB cable standard’s total power output. As a result, the hardware can’t put out as much sound as it’s capable of delivering, though Mitchell said that software and algorithm changes that “didn’t make the launch software release” will “make a meaningful difference.”
Realistically, headphones and earphones will always deliver a superior sonic experience to open-ear speakers, since they’re designed to either passively or actively isolate your ear canals from outside sound, enabling you to hear audio without competition from your environment. Mitchell acknowledged as much, suggesting that users connect their own headphones to Rift S’s headphone jack for “the most immersive experience.” Since that answer and the nature of the promised fix haven’t exactly thrilled the Reddit masses, we’ll have to wait until the software update hits to see whether there’s enough of an improvement to consider the issue resolved.