One major takeaway from CES this year is that VR is a big deal and will, for the time being, constitute a luxury not only because it’s new and unique, but also in terms of price. The Oculus Rift, for instance, is going to cost $600, and that’s not completely without warrant. While the main culprits for this pricing are the two high-fidelity OLED displays built into the headset, another obvious factor is the pair of audio headphones integrated into the Rift.
In a Reddit AMA posted last week, Oculus founder Palmer Luckey addressed the headphones, citing why he believes they should be included:
“The overhead of managing a SKU without headphones would cost more than the savings of removing headphones. The integrated audio hardware is better than most cans out there, even expensive ones – the Rift has a built in low-noise DAC and amp, and our audio SDK is tuned around that hardware. Good audio does not cost much to build, especially when it is piggybacking on existing materials and distribution (ala the Rift). Give it a chance!”
Essentially, Luckey wanted to include an audio headset on at least one Oculus Rift model and adding a more affordable headphone-less option would cost too much money for Oculus. Fortunately, Luckey says, the onboard headphones compare “favorably” to entry-level professional studio headphones like the ATH-M50x from Audio-Technica. He goes on to compare the Oculus Rift’s audio setup to the ATH-AD700x in that it consists of “open-back drivers with pretty accurate response and a great soundstage.”
Furthermore, some of you may be disappointed to find out that the Oculus Rift may not even be compatible with the headphones you already have. That’s because, although there’s a DAC+amp built into the device, Luckey claims that “without a little hardware hackery,” the integrated DAC+amp won’t be usable with third-party headphones you might already have in your possession. In fact, you’re probably “better pairing off with an external DAC,” he continues.
Despite the inconvenience this poses, it’s at least reassuring that the company founder is so confident that consumers won’t be disappointed with the Oculus Rift’s built-in headphones, and based on my own experiences with them, it’s not hard to see why.