The sound on the Oculus Quest was always a big surprise for me when I first played on the portable headset. Its ability to carry fairly decent spacial sound through the small channels of the headset’s headband, without the need of wearing headphones, is just great.
But for the best experience and immersion, you do have to wear headphones, but not everyone likes doing that. Sometimes I do like to be able to hear what’s around me or be able to hear if anyone is trying to talk to me. So I don’t always wear headphones when playing on my Quest. It is during these times I do miss the bass and the overall sense of immersion in some games. If only there was a best of both worlds. Well, there is with the Kiwi Design Q9 Earmuffs.
The Kiwi Design Q9 Earmuffs have been designed to improve the audio of the internal speakers on the Quest. Taking them out from their packaging sleeve, they look like a pair of black traffic direction wands or giant ear pods. Their aim, though, is to enhance the audio of the Quest’s internal speakers by extending the channel and cup the sound around your ears more.
With the sound coming out from the Quest head strap the audio escapes roughly around the side temples of your head. Nowhere near around your ears. The Q9 aims to channel this audio further towards and around your ears by bouncing the audio along its long plastic shaft and around the round dome that’s positioned next to your ears.
Applying each earmuff is super quick and simple. Just grab the correct ear muff for the side of your Quest and slide it onto the Quest head strap, starting from the front and sliding it backwards. They are designed to fit perfectly on the Quest and I think they compliment the Quest well once they are fitted.
Once attached, your Quest starts to look a bit more like a helmet, as each ear muff closes up the headset even more around the sides of your face. It’s a very low-fi solution but it does surprisingly improve the audio in some aspects. Placing my Quest on my head I tried out a few audio-focused games to see whether the audio is improved with them on compared to not having them attached.
First, I must say that the Q9 ear muffs came to me at the wrong time. Having played Half-Life Alyx with in-ear earbuds for so many hours on the Quest, I was used to the extra bass you get when wearing headphones. Using the earmuffs along with the internal speakers on the Quest, my first reactions were how tinny the internal audio is. This was of course enhanced through the Q9 earmuffs, which does achieve some level of improving the sound of the internal headset audio.
One thing I had to get used to was having to duck my hands under each earmuff when I had to scratch my ears, something I now found I do more often when I thought with these on. The weight of each earmuff is 57-grams, which isn’t enough to complexly change the weight of the headset. If the dome section could have weights on then they could have improved the front-heavy balance of the Quest, but because they are made of soft plastic they don’t create any major difference in the overall balance, sadly.
Trying them on and off the Quest, I think I prefer them on. The audio is improved, however, I do like having the freedom of air around the sides of my face, rather than covering them up with the earmuffs, and if I am happy to do that I might as well go with wearing superior-sounding headphones. This is important also if you’re working out. Head heat will certainly build up around your head as you exercise, so dissipating this heat is crucial to staying cool and the Q9 will slow this cooling down and incrase the rate of heat building up.
Retailing for £18.99 from Amazon, the KIWI design Q9 “Earmuffs” are a great, albeit pricey, accessory for those people who want to improve the immersion of the internal audio without completely blocking outside noise. But for me, the best audio will always be to use a pair of wired headphones or earbuds with your Oculus Quest.