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We've recently released our Test Bench 1.6 update for Headphones! Read the Latency R&D Article to learn more.

Sony PULSE Explore Truly Wireless Headphones Review

Tested using Methodology v1.6
Reviewed Feb 06, 2024 at 09:41 am
Sony PULSE Explore Truly Wireless Picture
7.6
Neutral Sound
7.0
Commute/Travel
7.9
Sports/Fitness
6.8
Office
6.8
Wireless Gaming
5.2
Wired Gaming
6.2
Phone Calls

The Sony PULSE Explore are wireless earbuds designed for gaming on PlayStation consoles. They have planar magnetic drivers that the manufacturer advertises to improve the clarity and detail of audio. Their transmitter plugs into PlayStation consoles and PCs, providing a wireless connection. They can also connect that way to PlayStation Portal, the company's portable console. However, they also support Bluetooth, so you can connect with your phone or computer to use them more casually. Otherwise, they're somewhat light on features since they don't have a dedicated app, built-in virtual surround sound, or an ANC system.

Our Verdict

7.6 Neutral Sound

The Sony PULSE Explore earbuds are good for neutral sound. They have planar magnetic drivers, which is unusual for earbuds and can help produce a tighter bass response. Their sound profile is well-balanced, with an overemphasized but flat bass response, so audio has some extra rumble, punch, and boom, but it doesn't overpower the rest of the mix. However, sibilants like cymbals sound a bit dull. You can customize their sound with an EQ with the PS5, but they don't have a dedicated app to apply settings when you're connected to another device, like your phone. Like most earbuds, they have a small, unnatural passive soundstage.

Pros
  • Good build quality.
  • Very consistent audio delivery.
Cons
  • No sound customization features except with PS5 consoles.
7.0 Commute/Travel

The Sony PULSE Explore earbuds are satisfactory for commuting and traveling. They don't have ANC and have sub-par passive noise isolation capabilities, so they won't block out rumbling bus and plane engines. Their roughly 5-hour battery life isn't enough for longer journeys, although the case holds two extra charges. They have a decently comfortable fit for most people and are also quite portable as Bluetooth earbuds, so if you're looking for gaming headphones that you can also connect with your phone for your commute, they aren't bad.

Pros
  • Good build quality.
Cons
  • Poor noise isolation.
7.9 Sports/Fitness

The Sony PULSE Explore are good for sports and fitness, mainly because of their portable in-ear design. However, they're primarily designed for gaming. They lack an IP rating for dust and water resistance, so they aren't the best choice for outdoor runs in rainy or dusty conditions. They have a stable fit but might slip out of place occasionally during intense movements, like during a dance workout. They also lack audio controls, so you'll have to use your phone to change the song.

Pros
  • Good build quality.
  • Good stability.
Cons
  • Poor noise isolation.
  • No IP rating.
6.8 Office

The Sony PULSE Explore earbuds are adequate for office use. They're decently comfortable for most people, so if you get a good fit, they won't cause much fatigue during the day. They support multi-device pairing, so you can use Bluetooth to connect to your smartphone while simultaneously connecting to your PC via wireless dongle. They only last for about 5 hours, so you may have to recharge partway through the day. They also lack ANC and won't block out very much noise passively.

Pros
  • Good build quality.
Cons
  • Sub-par mic recording quality.
  • Poor noise isolation.
6.8 Wireless Gaming

The Sony PULSE Explore are okay for wireless gaming. They're designed for PlayStation consoles and have low latency via USB, so your audio and video stay in sync while you play. Their slightly bass-heavy sound profile brings out boomy sound effects, while instruments and vocals are reproduced clearly. You can customize their sound with an EQ when connected to a PS5 console. They're also quite comfortable for most people. Their mic doesn't have a good recording quality, so your voice sounds distorted when you're chatting with friends.

Pros
  • Good build quality.
  • Low latency with transmitter.
Cons
  • Sub-par mic recording quality.
  • Poor noise isolation.
5.2 Wired Gaming

The Sony PULSE Explore are wireless-only earbuds, so you can't use them for wired gaming.

6.2 Phone Calls

The Sony PULSE Explore earbuds are mediocre for phone calls. Their integrated mic has a sub-par recording quality, so your voice is understandable but distorted over the phone. The mic struggles to separate your voice from louder noise, and you can be drowned out by something like a truck going by. If you're making a call from a noisy place, you might have difficulty hearing it because they don't block out much noise.

Pros
  • Good build quality.
  • Support multi-device pairing.
Cons
  • Sub-par mic recording quality.
  • Poor noise isolation.
  • 7.6 Neutral Sound
  • 7.0 Commute/Travel
  • 7.9 Sports/Fitness
  • 6.8 Office
  • 6.8 Wireless Gaming
  • 5.2 Wired Gaming
  • 6.2 Phone Calls
  1. Updated Feb 06, 2024: Review published.
  2. Updated Jan 30, 2024: Early access published.
  3. Updated Jan 25, 2024: Our testers have started testing this product.
  4. Updated Jan 10, 2024: The product has arrived in our lab, and our testers will start evaluating it soon.
  5. Updated Jan 08, 2024: We've purchased the product and are waiting for it to arrive in our lab.

Differences Between Sizes And Variants

The Sony PULSE Explore Truly Wireless come in one black and white variant. You can see the label for the unit we tested here. If you encounter another variant, let us know in the forums, and we'll update our review.

Compared To Other Headphones

The Sony PULSE Explore Truly Wireless are earbuds designed for PlayStation 5. Unlike the vast majority of wireless earbuds, they have planar magnetic drivers, which are bulkier but intended to reduce distortion and improve the clarity of audio reproduction. They support Bluetooth as well as PlayStation Link via their USB transmitter, which you can use to connect to PlayStation consoles and PCs. They also connect wirelessly to the PlayStation Portal remote player.

Otherwise, though, they're pretty thin on features. Unlike the Sony INZONE Buds Truly Wireless, they don't support Sony's 360 Reality Audio, which provides a personalized virtual soundstage. They don't have a dedicated app like the Sony INZONE hub with features like a graphic EQ for sound customization. They also block out less noise and have a worse mic performance than other dedicated gaming buds like the INZONE and the EPOS GTW 270 Hybrid Truly Wireless.

If you're looking for recommendations, check out the best earbuds for gaming, the best earbuds and in-ears, and the best gaming headsets.

Sony INZONE Buds Truly Wireless

The Sony INZONE Buds Truly Wireless are better for most uses than the Sony PULSE Explore Truly Wireless. The INZONE have a longer battery life, a better mic performance, and a better noise isolation performance, thanks to their ANC feature. They also include a dedicated app with sound customization features. On the other hand, the PULSE support Bluetooth, so you can use their dongle to connect with PlayStation consoles and stream audio from your phone simultaneously.

Sony PULSE 3D Wireless

The Sony PULSE 3D Wireless and the Sony PULSE Explore Truly Wireless are gaming headphones meant for PlayStation consoles; which one you prefer mostly depends on what type of headphones you want. The Explore have a smaller, more portable in-ear design and use planar magnetic drivers, which is intended to improve the clarity of audio. They support Bluetooth, so you can connect them to your phone when you're on the go. On the other hand, the 3D are over-ears with a longer continuous battery life. Their design helps them create a more wide, spacious-seeming passive soundstage. They also have a dedicated app with a graphic EQ and presets for sound customization.

Razer Hammerhead Pro HyperSpeed True Wireless

The Razer Hammerhead Pro HyperSpeed True Wireless and the Sony PULSE Explore Truly Wireless are gaming earbuds with different strengths. The Razer have ANC, so they can block ambient sound while you play. Their integrated mic has significantly better performance, and they have an app with sound customization features. However, the Sony have lower latency via non-Bluetooth wireless. They also support Bluetooth, so you can listen to audio from your phone and console simultaneously or use them more casually when you're out and about. They also support PlayStation Link, which allows them to connect wirelessly with the PlayStation Portal remote player for PS5.

EPOS GTW 270 Hybrid Truly Wireless

The EPOS GTW 270 Hybrid Truly Wireless are better gaming earbuds than the Sony PULSE Explore Truly Wireless. The EPOS feel sturdier, have a better passive noise isolation performance, and offer a much better mic recording quality. They have a dedicated companion app with sound customization features and support multi-device pairing via Bluetooth or via both Bluetooth and non-Bluetooth wireless. However, you might prefer the Sony PULSE because they have lower latency over non-Bluetooth wireless. The Sony also work with PlayStation Portal, a remote player for the PlayStation that doesn't support Bluetooth or have a USB port.

Test Results

perceptual testing image
Design
Design
Style
Type In-ear
Enclosure Closed-Back
Wireless Truly Wireless
Transducer Planar Magnetic

The PlayStation PULSE Explore earbuds have a sleek, curvy aesthetic but are quite big and visible when wearing them. The small black ear tips fit inside your ears, while the white outer faces fit into your outer ear. They're only available in one white and black colorway.

7.0
Design
Comfort
Weight 0.03 lbs
Clamping Force
0 lbs

The PlayStation PULSE Explore have a decently comfortable fit for most people. It can take some time to get used to how they fit, and you might need to work at getting a comfortable fit for your ears. The design has sharp edges that can dig into your ear if you don't position them correctly. However, if you twist them into place correctly, they have a snug fit and don't go too far into your ear canal, which avoids a plunger-like feeling.

5.2
Design
Controls
OS Compatibility
PS5
Ease Of Use Good
Feedback Decent
Call/Music Control No
Volume Control Yes
Microphone Control No
Channel Mixing
No
Noise Cancelling Control No
Talk-Through
No
Additional Controls No

The Sony Explore earbuds have physical buttons, which is unusual for earbuds. There's a volume rocker on each earbud that controls the earbud volume separately from your device's volume. Both earbuds have the same set of controls. You'll hear audio cues for most commands, and you can hear the physical button presses. However, you don't get any cue when you reach maximum or minimum volume. The buttons also feel mushy and not very clicky.

On both earbuds:

Volume rocker

  • Adjust the earbuds' volume.

PS Link button

  • Single press: Pair with a Bluetooth or PS Link device.
  • Long press: Switch devices.
  • Triple press Access EQ settings on PS5.

9.4
Design
Portability
L 1.4" (3.7 cm)
W 1.0" (2.7 cm)
H 1.1" (2.9 cm)
Volume 1.77 inยณ (28.97 cmยณ)
Transmitter Required Yes

They're very portable, like most earbuds, and they won't need much space in a bag or pocket, even inside the case. They work with Bluetooth, so you can easily connect with your phone without the USB dongle. However, you need the transmitter to connect them with PlayStation consoles and PCs, so you'll have to remember to bring it with you as well if you plan to game where you're going.

7.0
Design
Case
Type Hard case
L 1.5" (3.9 cm)
W 3.5" (8.8 cm)
H 1.7" (4.2 cm)
Volume 8.80 inยณ (144.14 cmยณ)

The case is quite a bit bigger than cases for other wireless earbuds like the Apple AirPods Pro Truly Wireless, so it might not slip comfortably into the pocket of your jeans, but it's still very portable and has a curvy black and white design that matches the earbuds. It's light but sturdy, and the sliding lid has a solid, satisfying feel. This mechanism also feels like it might break if you drop the case accidentally, though.

7.0
Design
Build Quality

They have a decent build quality. The plastic used is light and feels good quality, but not premium. The buttons on the earbuds are a weak point since they feel mushy and cheap. They aren't rated for water resistance, unlike the Sony INZONE Buds Truly Wireless, which are rated IPX4 for resistance against water splashes.

7.5
Design
Stability

The PlayStation Explore earbuds have a stable fit. They'll easily stay in place even if you move your head sharply while gaming. While they can fall out sometimes if you make exaggerated movements, it's less likely than with the Sony INZONE Buds Truly Wireless.

Design
Headshots 1
Design
Headshots 2
Design
Top
Design
In The Box

  • Sony PULSE Explore Truly Wireless
  • 4x ear tips (S, M, L, XL)
  • Charging case
  • USB-A receiver
  • USB-A to USB-C charging cable
  • Quick Start and User Guide

Note: Our unit is missing one small ear tip and came with an extra large ear tip, but the earbuds are meant to come with four different pairs of differently-sized ear tips.

Sound
Sound
Sound Profile
Bass Amount
1.02 dB
Treble Amount
-2.61 dB

The PlayStation PULSE Explore use planar magnetic drivers instead of the dynamic drivers most earbuds used, which is intended to improve the clarity of audio reproduction. Their bass response is slightly overemphasized across the range, so you hear the rumble, punch, and boom in music and sound effects like footsteps or explosions. Instruments and vocals are clear and present in the mix, but some underemphasis in the mid-treble makes sibilants like S and T sounds dull and gives them a somewhat warm sound profile overall. They don't have a companion app with sound customization features, although if you're connected to a PS5, you can access an EQ.

9.3
Sound
Frequency Response Consistency
Avg. Std. Deviation
0.15 dB

They have fantastic frequency response consistency. Once you get a good fit with the ear tips, you'll get the same sound delivery every time you use them.

Sound
Raw Frequency Response
8.6
Sound
Bass Accuracy
Std. Err.
1.99 dB
Low-Frequency Extension
10 Hz
Low-Bass
2.08 dB
Mid-Bass
2.28 dB
High-Bass
2.19 dB

They have an excellent bass response. It's slightly overemphasized across the range, so your game's soundtrack has thump and rumble. Sound effects like footsteps are also easy to hear.

9.2
Sound
Mid Accuracy
Std. Err.
1.09 dB
Low-Mid
1.5 dB
Mid-Mid
0.06 dB
High-Mid
0.66 dB

They have incredible mid accuracy. They have some overemphasis in the low-mid, which can muddy mixes slightly. However, the rest of the range is very neutral, so in games with a lot of voice-acted cutscenes, like Baldur's Gate 3, character's voices are present, clear, and detailed in the mix.

8.7
Sound
Treble Accuracy
Std. Err.
1.93 dB
Low-Treble
0.26 dB
Mid-Treble
-1.51 dB
High-Treble
-10.02 dB

They have excellent treble accuracy. The upper harmonics of instruments sound detailed and articulated. However, a slight dip in the mid-treble makes sibilants like S and T sounds dull.

8.6
Sound
Peaks/Dips
Peaks
1.11 dB
Dips
0.36 dB

They control their sound profile very well, with some slight deviation in certain ranges. There's a small dip in the mid-mid range, which nudges instruments and vocals to the back of the mix, as well as bigger peaks in the low and mid-treble ranges, which add harshness to instruments and make sibilants like cymbals more piercing.

8.8
Sound
Imaging
Weighted Group Delay
0.12
Weighted Phase Mismatch
2.47
Weighted Amplitude Mismatch
1.09
Weighted Frequency Mismatch
1.35

They have excellent imaging, like most Sony products we've tested, indicating good quality control and ergonomics. The group delay is below the audibility threshold across the range, resulting in tight bass and transparent treble reproduction. Our unit's left and right drivers are well-matched in phase, amplitude, and frequency response, so objects like instruments and sound effects are accurately placed in the stereo image. However, imaging varies from unit to unit, so your earbuds may perform differently.

0.9
Sound
Passive Soundstage
PRTF Accuracy (Std. Dev.)
N/A
PRTF Size (Avg.)
N/A
PRTF Distance
N/A
Openness
4.7
Acoustic Space Excitation
0

They have a bad passive soundstage, which is to be expected from in-ears. Because of their design, their sound doesn't interact with your outer ears, so it seems to come from inside your head rather than speakers in the room around you. The soundstage also seems small and closed-off.

0
Sound
Virtual Soundstage
Head Modeling
No
Speaker Modeling
No
Room Ambience
No
Head Tracking
No
Virtual Surround
No

These headphones don't have any virtual surround sound features. You can use Sony's Tempest 3D Audio if you connect to a PlayStation console with the transmitter, but that's the case for any headphones you connect to your PlayStation via USB or by plugging an analog cable into the controller. You can't use this feature if you're connected via Bluetooth.

7.5
Sound
Weighted Harmonic Distortion
WHD @ 90
0.401
WHD @ 100
0.138

They have a good weighted harmonic distortion performance. There's some distortion in the low-treble to mid-treble ranges, but it's difficult to hear with real-life content. Otherwise, most of the frequencies result in fairly clean and pure audio reproduction.

Sound
Test Settings
Firmware
0136
Power
On
Connection
Wireless (Proprietary)
Codec
PCM, 16-bit, 48kHz
EQ
Default
ANC
No ANC
Tip/Pad
Silicone (medium)
Microphone
Integrated

These are the settings used to test the PlayStation PULSE Explore. Our results are only valid when the headphones are used with these settings.

Isolation
5.2
Isolation
Noise Isolation
Isolation Audio
Overall Attenuation
-14.29 dB
Noise Cancelling No
Bass
-3.94 dB
Mid
-10.46 dB
Treble
-28.91 dB

They have poor noise isolation. They don't have ANC like the Sony INZONE Buds Truly Wireless and don't block out very much noise passively. You'll hear noise like traffic outside your window or engine rumbles on the bus if you're using them on the go. That said, they do an okay job with mid-range noise, so they will help reduce background conversations.

10
Isolation
Leakage
Leakage Audio
Overall Leakage @ 1ft
9.74 dB

They have a superb leakage performance. They hardly leak any audio, so you can turn up the volume as much as you like without bothering people around you.

Microphone
Microphone
Microphone Style
Integrated
Yes
In-Line
No
Boom
No
Detachable Boom
No
Mic Yes
5.4
Microphone
Recording Quality
Recorded Speech
LFE
84.76 Hz
FR Std. Dev.
8.46 dB
HFE
13,279.64 Hz
Weighted THD
30,625.132
Gain
-14.58 dB

The mic has a sub-par recording quality. Your voice is easy to understand and full-bodied but sounds very distorted. It sounds somewhat better in a more realistic scenario than in an isolated test environment, but you can still hear the distortion. You can listen to that recording here.

6.3
Microphone
Noise Handling
SpNR
7.69 dB
Noise Gate
Always On
Speech + Pink Noise Handling
6.5
Speech + Pink Noise Audio Sample
Speech + Subway Noise Handling
6.0
Speech + Subway Noise Audio Sample

The mic has passable noise handling. It manages to reduce moderately loud background noise, but it'll still be present in the background along with your voice. It can reduce louder noise, like voices or the sound of a train going by, but your voice gets garbled and drowned out simultaneously.

Active Features
5.9
Active Features
Battery
Battery Type
Rechargable
Continuous Battery Life
5 hrs
Additional Charges
2.0
Total Battery Life
15 hrs
Charge Time
0.9 hrs
Power-Saving Feature
No
Audio While Charging
Yes
Passive Playback
No
Charging Port USB-C

They last for about five hours of continuous use, which isn't very long but matches the manufacturer's advertised battery life. However, they recharge in under an hour, and the case holds two extra charges. You can also use one earbud while the other charges in the case. Keep in mind that battery life varies depending on use, though.

0
Active Features
App Support
App Name No App
iOS No
Android No
macOS No
Windows No
Equalizer
No
ANC Control
No
Mic Control No
Room Effects
No
Playback Control
No
Button Mapping No
Surround Support
No

The Sony PULSE Explore earbuds don't have any phone or PC app, unlike the Sony INZONE Buds Truly Wireless, which have a dedicated PC program. However, you can access some settings on PS5, like an EQ, sidetone, and volume.

Connectivity
0
Connectivity
Wired Connection
Analog Audio
No
USB Audio
No
Detachable
No
Length
N/A
Connector
No Wired Option
Latency - Analog
N/A
Latency - USB
N/A
Recorded Latency
N/A
Recorded Latency Connection No Wired Audio

They come with a USB-A to USB-C charging cable; you can't use them wired.

8.0
Connectivity
Bluetooth Connection
Bluetooth Version
5.3
Multi-Device Pairing
Bluetooth + Console/Non-BT Wireless
Quick Pair (Android)
No
Quick Pair (iOS)
No
Line Of Sight Range
282.15 ft (86.00 m)
Latency - SBC
265 ms
Latency - aptX
N/A
Latency - aptX Adaptive (High Quality)
N/A
Latency - aptX Adaptive (Low Latency)
N/A
Latency - LDAC
N/A
Recorded Latency
Recorded Latency Codec SBC
AAC Support
Yes

The PlayStation PULSE Explore wireless earbuds have high latency via Bluetooth, so you'll notice lip-syncing issues if you're using them to watch videos or are gaming on your phone. However, they aren't intended for gaming via Bluetooth, and you're expected to use the transmitter with your PS5 or PC for a lower latency connection. They support multi-device pairing with Bluetooth and the wireless transmitter, so you can listen to audio from your phone via Bluetooth and hear your game audio at the same time via the transmitter. They also support the AAC codec, which offers slightly improved audio quality compared to the default SBC codec.

8.9
Connectivity
Wireless Connection (Dongle)
Line Of Sight Range
203.41 ft (62.00 m)
Latency - Dongle
27 ms
Recorded Latency

They have low latency when connected via their USB dongle to a PlayStation console or PC, so your game's audio and visuals stay in sync while you're playing.

Connectivity
PC Compatibility
Analog
No
Wired USB
No
Non-BT Wireless
Audio + Microphone

These earbuds are fully compatible with PCs using the wireless transmitter. You can also connect via Bluetooth if your PC supports it.

Connectivity
PlayStation Compatibility
PS4 Analog
No
PS4 Wired USB
No
PS4 Non-BT Wireless
Audio + Microphone
PS5 Analog
No
PS5 Wired USB
No
PS5 Non-BT Wireless
Audio + Microphone

These earbuds have full audio and mic compatibility with PS4 and PS5 using the wireless transmitter.

Connectivity
Xbox Compatibility
Xbox One Analog
No
Xbox One Wired USB
No
Xbox One Non-BT Wireless
No
Xbox Series X|S Analog
No
Xbox Series X|S Wired USB
No
Xbox Series X|S Non-BT Wireless
No
2.2
Connectivity
Base/Dock
Type
Wireless USB Dongle + Charging Case
USB Input
No
Line In
No
Line Out
No
Optical Input
No
RCA Input
No
Dock Charging
Yes
Power Supply
USB-C

The PlayStation PULSE Explore come with a case with a couple of additional charges. It doesn't have any inputs besides the USB-C charging port and doesn't support wireless charging. They also come with a USB dongle that you can plug into PlayStations and PCs to use the headphones wirelessly.