I love my Vive and I enjoy my Vive but one of my peeves was having to hassle with the earplugs.
Whereas you just put the Oculus Rift on, the Vive had a sort of macabre dance requiring you to put on the headset then find the proper plug for each ear before going any further. It wasn't exceedingly difficult or anything of the sort. It was just... a hassle.
The Vive Audio Strap was released last year but a busy schedule at the time meant little room any VR accessory reviews. Plus, did I really want to spend another $99 on my already expensive headset? Eventually, the time came to give it a shot and my reaction is a bit mixed at this point.
RELATED: Fallout 4 VR gives an old favorite new life
The strap was easy to replace following a step by step online video making any pre-purchase anxiety completely unnecessary. So that part is not a problem at all and the resulting HMD looks nice with the re-routed cables and a cool little curled audio cable running into the headset instead of the seemly always twisted up earbuds.
With a 50/50 chance of selecting the proper earbud for the proper ear (marked with a plastic square) I almost always grabbed the wrong one on the wrong side. Chance was rarely with me in this endeavor hence the hassle.
I just wanted to put it on. No dance.
Now I can... and I want to dance. Ok... maybe that's going a bit far but now I can just put the thing on my head without the wrestling match. Amazing how a little thing like that can be so irritating.
Now that irritation is gone but... how was the audio compared to the earbuds? The only positive to the earbuds was great audio. Immersive audio... perhaps a bit too immersive. I spent time playing with one earbud out, so I could hear the outside world. I found out later I wasn't the only one doing that little dance either.
So how was it. Well... this is where the mixed part comes in.
As far as sound quality, it is fine. No problems there. Concerning placement of earpieces... that wasn't too bad. The problem for me was they are spring loaded to pop up next to your head. It sounded great this way but my head must be shaped funny because the left side kept popping back to the next position which is a little further away from the ear.
I really did not like this at first. It bugged me. The right side was snuggly against my ear while the left side was barely touching it. I could move it in and it would click in place. It just wasn't long before it popped back out of place. This made one ear louder than the other.
I finally decided to move the right side away a bit like the left side. This is a simple matter of moving it out till it clicks. Now both sides were equal in volume. I'm sure I groused and grumbled to myself a bit before I realized that this position was not so bad.
I could hear the game just fine and I could hear the real world outside. With little to no pressure on my ears, it is very comfortable. It finally dawned on me this is probably where I'm supposed to set the thing but being male I seldom if ever read the manual unless the world is coming to an end.
It could very well be that my head is just funny shaped. I don't know since I don't see much of it. With the earpieces tight against my ear the fidelity was better, but I was more comfortable with them slightly away from the ear which included the plus of allowing me to hear a bit of the outside world too.
So now you see the mixed part. Would I still opt for the audio strap knowing what I know now? I think the honest answer is... I don't know. I like the convenience of just putting the thing on with no dance, but I miss the audio the earbuds gave me. It is certainly more convenient but were it priced much higher it would stray into the "is it worth it" conversation.
If you want convenience, then it's worth forking over the extra cash but if you love the audio of the earbuds then you might want to tolerate the hassle for the audio fidelity.
This one is a toss-up for most. I've put several hours into using the audio strap and am personally glad I upgraded but this was not a conclusion that came easy or quick. Over time I've come to appreciate it, so it just depends on how badly you want to dump the earbuds.
The Vive Deluxe Audio Strap ($99) webpage
M.D. McCallum, aka WarLord is an international award-winning commercial graphics artist, 3D animator, published author, project director and webmaster with a freelance career that spans over 20 years. M.D. is currently working on VR projects and characters. You can learn more about MD at his website.