Relatively affordable. Customizable lighting. Powerful sound.
No simulated surround sound. A bit bass-heavy. PS4 version isn't officially compatible with PCs.
- Bottom Line
The PDP Afterglow AG 9+ is a wireless gaming headset that sacrifices simulated surround sound for an appealing price tag.
PDP's Afterglow AG 9+ Prismatic is one of the most wallet-friendly wireless gaming headsets we've seen. At $99.99, it costs a third as much as the high-end Astro Gaming A50, and is at least $50 less than most other wireless headsets. It even features customizable colored lighting. However, while the AG 9+ can get very loud, its sound quality is a bit too heavy on the bass and lacks the higher frequency finesse of our other picks, and it doesn't have simulated surround sound.
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Models and Design
We tested the PlayStation 4 version of the Afterglow 9+, which is physically identical to the Xbox One model. This version is only recommended for use with the PS4, while the Xbox One model officially works with both the Xbox One and PC. Keep this in mind if you want a headset you can use with both your game console and your computer.
The AG 9+ is a bulky over-ear headset with circular earcups and plenty of soft padding covered in breathable fabric on the earpads and under the headband. It's available in black or white, with transparent plates on the back of the earcups to display the circuit boards holding each earcup's 50mm driver. A small, raised circle with the Afterglow logo sits in the middle of the plate, highlighted by a colored light that changes to show the headset's status.
The glowing circle on the left earcup doubles as a combination power/microphone mute button. The large, rubber-covered boom microphone plugs into a trapezoidal protrusion on the left earcup, on which a wide, flat Mode button sits. This button toggles the headset's audio modes, and can be held down to cycle through colored lighting options. A volume wheel sits on the back edge of the earcup, and a micro USB port for charging and 3.5mm audio jack for wired use (both cables are included) sit on the bottom edge. The right earcup has no controls or connections.
Light and Connections
The glow part of Afterglow 9+ feels almost like an afterthought. The colored rings on either earcup aren't very large or bright, producing more of an accent lighting effect than anything that really catches the eye. Of course, you don't want to be too distracted when gaming, but a larger light ring would have given the headset a bit more distinct flair. Also, while you can change the color of the light, it's a clunky process that requires holding down the mode button repeatedly until the ring slowly shifts to your desired color.
You can use the headset with any device equipped with a 3.5mm port using the included cable, but it's designed to be used wirelessly only with the PS4. PDP doesn't recommend using the PS4 version of the AG 9+ with a Mac or PC, but the headset still showed up and worked properly as both an output and input audio device when I plugged the USB receiver into my PC. That said, I noticed a very slight buzzing in test recordings through the PC that didn't show up when using the headset microphone with the PS4, so don't count on the PS4 AG 9+ to work with your computer without some quirks. The Xbox One version, however, is officially compatible with Windows PCs.
All you need to do to use the AG 9+ with your PlayStation 4 is plug the included USB transmitter into the front of the console. The system will automatically switch over to headset audio, sending sound (either just voice chat or all system audio) to the earcups and picking up the microphone audio.
The boom microphone picked up my voice clearly through the wireless connection to the PS4, with no noticeable fuzziness or popping. It will serve you well for using voice chat in multiplayer games, or narrating gameplay you capture and edit on the system through the Sharefactory app. However, because of the lack of official PC support for this version, we can't fairly evaluate the microphone's capabilities for voice communication and recording outside of the PS4's supported software.
I played Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition on the PS4 with the AG 9+. The headset gets impressively loud, bordering on unsafe at maximum volume when the action really picks up. Explosions are thunderous, and Steve Blum's voice acting comes through clearly even in combat. The sound signature is notably bass-heavy, which can make the game's audio feel a bit more oppressive than it does through a more balanced headset.
Nier: Automata also sounds solid though the AG 9+. The game's fantastic soundtrack comes through clearly, with a notable emphasis on bass that doesn't take away from the overall experience. The orchestral swells and ominous chanting in the escape scene are bombastic and exciting. In less intense moments, the robotic sounds of combat are crisp and allow voices to be clearly heard.
Unlike many high-end PC gaming headsets like the Steelseries Arctis 7, the AG 9+ doesn't support simulated surround sound. Surround sound is technically impossible to accurately present in gaming headsets due to the acoustics of headphones, but some headsets can simulate it with clever audio processing that handles between the left and right drivers. Without this feature, the AG 9+'s sound imaging is much flatter than the aforementioned headsets, with no sense of panning from left to right based on the position of audio sources. It doesn't significantly take away from the gaming experience, but it's a step down from the wider sound field produced by headsets with simulated surround.
The Spotify-powered PlayStation Music app is the primary way to listen to music on the PS4. However, it seems to engage in some form of digital signal processing (DSP) or volume limiting that other PS4 software doesn't, based on the test tracks we played through the app on the AG 9+ and other headsets. While the AG 9+ didn't distort when playing our bass test track, The Knife's "Silent Shout," at maximum volume, it also didn't get particularly loud or powerful. The headset seemed to throttle back on audio power as soon as the very low frequency bass synth notes and kick drum hits started. The thumps were consistently unimpressive no matter how high I cranked the volume dial on the headset (which functions separately from the PS4's volume controls).
Many headphones are borderline dangerous to listen to at maximum volume, but this is so you can find a comfortable, satisfying listening level closer to the middle of the device's volume range, which makes the throttling here disappointing. It isn't a limitation of the AG 9+ specifically, but since the headset is designed only for wireless use with the PS4, it makes music listening options limited. Fortunately, it doesn't come up in games, only when playing music through Spotify app. The throttling also isn't present if you use the headset wired and unpowered, with your mobile device or plugged into the Dualshock 4's headset connector (though you then lose the wireless benefits and lighting effects).
When playing music through the AG 9+ through a wired connection, the headset gets markedly louder than with the PS4's Spotify app. "Silent Shout" still doesn't distort, and while the headset's bass-forward sound is noticeable on Yes' "Roundabout," the texture of the acoustic string plucks in the opening of the song can be clearly heard against the bass.
The PDP Afterglow AG 9+ Prismatic is a capable and uncommonly affordable wireless gaming headset. It lacks simulated surround, and its audio balance leans a bit too much on the bass, but it still produces a powerful sound. You'd be hard-pressed to find a better wireless headset at this price, but there are several compelling wired options for much less, and better-sounding, more flexible wireless models for a bit more.
The Logitech G231 Prodigy is one of our favorite wired gaming headsets for its excellent sound quality and balance. If you can spend more and really want a wireless headset, we recommend the Steelseries Arctis 7 or, if you can really splurge, the Astro Gaming A50. Both have far more connectivity options, superior audio, and simulated surround, and feel a bit more comfortable to wear.
By Will Greenwald Senior Analyst, Consumer Electronics
Will Greenwald has been covering consumer technology for a decade, and has served on the editorial staffs of CNET.com, Sound & Vision, and Maximum PC. His work and analysis has been seen in GamePro, Tested.com, Geek.com, and several other publications. He currently covers consumer electronics in the PC Labs as the in-house home entertainment expert, reviewing TVs, media hubs, speakers, headphones, and gaming accessories. Will is also an ISF Level II-certified TV calibrator, which ensures the thoroughness and accuracy of all PCMag TV reviews…. More »
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