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Polk 4 Shot review: If only it were built with the PC in mind

Hayden Dingman | Jan. 19, 2015
Oh boy, the Polk 4 Shot is a bit of a nightmare to review. Here's a headset that was designed first and foremost for the Xbox One, featuring not one but three different microphones, and it's one of the first gaming headsets for a company traditionally focused on general consumer audio.

Most of all, though, the 4 Shot wins points for having excellent sound. It's not flat-response — there's a bit of a bass boost. However, it's nowhere near as overwhelming as other sets and as a result you get a very warm and inviting sound even outside of gaming. There's a crisp high-end for gunshots and a decent low-end for explosions, but I've definitely enjoyed listening to music on these more than I've used them for games.

Now let's discuss the total mess that is the 4 Shot's microphone situation. Originally the 4 Shot shipped with two microphones — an omnidirectional mic built into the left ear and an optional microphone for use with mobile phones.

The omnidirectional microphone is flat-out broken. There's no excuse for it, and there's no reason it ever should've shipped in this state. The design is aesthetically fine, as it hides inside the left ear until you push to pop it out. However, it resides so close to the internal drivers that the microphone actually picks up more of whatever game you're listening to than it does your own voice. I tried experimenting with the 4 Shot's internal microphone by playing music at a moderate volume while talking. The result? I had to yell in order to hear myself over Bruce Springsteen. It's garbage.

Then there's the mobile microphone, which isn't much better. It picks up a ton of background noise, and your voice has a tendency to get lost in the mush. In other words, it's a typical in-line cell phone microphone.

To rectify the problem, Polk started handing out the Chat Pro microphone for free. If you've already bought a 4 Shot you can contact Polk and get one. If you've yet to buy a 4 Shot, I believe they're now shipping the mic alongside the headset.

The Chat Pro microphone is a huge step up. As I mentioned earlier, it features a braided fabric cable that terminates in a slinky, repositionable boom microphone. Voice reproduction is a bit bass-heavy and there's some tape-hiss in the background, but this is a damn good microphone considering Polk is giving it away for free. My biggest complaint is that there are no in-line controls for muting and volume because, well, this thing was designed for the Xbox One.

Bottom line

I love the Polk 4 Shot...as a pair of headphones. I've taken to wearing the headset especially while listening to music, with the Chat Pro microphone attached and bent out of the way.

It's honestly one of the weirdest hodge-podged headsets I've used though. It's clearly not built for PC, and the original omnidirectional microphone is just bafflingly bad. With no in-line volume or mute for PC users, the need for a microphone/headphone splitter adapter, and the lack of decent stereo directionality, it's honestly hard for me to recommend this headset to anyone — especially at its dazzling $130 list price.

 

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