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PlayStation VR’s 3D audio only works with wired stereo headphones

Don’t use surround sound

PlayStation VR - Russ wearing headset
Sony includes a pair of white wired earbuds in the PlayStation VR package.
Samit Sarkar/Polygon

Virtual reality developers say that audio is just as important as video for VR, and PlayStation VR supports 3D audio, a technique that delivers positional sound to help make it feel like you’re actually in a virtual space. However, the headset’s 3D audio doesn’t work with wireless headphones, Sony said today in an FAQ for PSVR.

Positional audio simulates the behavior of sound in real life, making it seem like noises are coming from all around you — ahead, behind, left, right, and even above and below. Thus, 3D audio "greatly enhances the feeling of immersion and presence in VR over traditional audio systems like 7.1 surround sound," according to Sony’s FAQ.

"While purely visual VR experiences can be made, adding 3D audio greatly magnifies the impact and depth of a VR experience," said Dr. Richard Marks, senior director of research and development at Sony Interactive Entertainment America, in an interview with The Verge last year.

The feature works with wired stereo headphones; Sony is including a pair of wired earbuds in the PSVR package. The unit features a standard 3.5 mm audio jack into which users will plug their headphones directly. PSVR’s Processor Unit, an external box, handles the processing of 3D audio.

Wired headphones are the only way to get 3D audio from PSVR — wireless headphones like Sony’s Pulse headsets (or wireless gaming headsets from companies such as Astro, Turtle Beach and SteelSeries) "will not work with PS VR," according to the FAQ. That’s presumably because connections for gaming headsets generally use audio from a gaming console, not from an external source like PSVR.

Speaking of gaming headsets, Sony also noted that users should disable any surround sound features in headphones that they’re using with PSVR. Surround audio processing that’s performed by headphones "will interfere with the 3D audio from the PS VR headset," according to the FAQ.

PlayStation VR launches Oct. 13 for $399. For more, check back later this week, when we’ll have a review of the headset.

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