In no shape or form would I describe the PlayStation VR as “elegant.” And that is by no means a dig to the (relatively) budget virtual reality headset — I still love any opportunity I get to break out REZ: Infinite or Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes. With that said, anyone familiar with the actual hardware itself knows that the PS VR is a virtual labyrinth of wires, HDMI cords, and controller additions that are likely taking up a large section of your living room.
Among these wires and extra components are the almost-mandatory headphones. Plugged into one of the main component wires of the PS VR headset, this is where arguably most of the fumbling takes place. With semi-frequent wire tangling or having to navigate headphone selections that will fit around the PS VR, I have always had a small but dedicated wish that future versions of the PlayStation VR would include built-in headphones.
Enter bionik — gaming hardware designers that mostly dabble in power solutions. The occasional charger for your Nintendo Switch, or battery pack for your Xbox One controller. Stepping away from the norm, they have developed the Mantis: attachable headphones custom-built for the PlayStation VR to solve that problem that I (and many consumers) have been looking for a solution on.
As you can see in the photo above, the bionik Mantis headphones nearly camouflage with the PS VR — so much so that casual viewers may simply believe it is all one unit. In this case, the headphones may have been more aptly titled “bionik Cricket” — something hardly seen, but loudly heard.
The actual setup to the bionik Mantis is entirely simple. The black sections of the Mantis are extendable and retractable — simply pull and clamp down on the PlayStation VR and the Mantis will be mostly immobile. More importantly, this set-up is something you only have to do once. I frankly see very little need to ever take these off, given how it makes the PlayStation VR an all-in-one package.
Adding onto the simplicity of the machine, the cord for the headphones are just long enough to reach the audio input jack on the PS VR component wires. This means effectively less tangle and less cords — a boon to anyone having to untangle the set of PS VR wires with each new play session.
To test the bionik Mantis, I booted up some of my favorite, sound-intensive virtual reality titles for the PlayStation VR: Rez Infinite and Resident Evil 7: Biohazard. Each brought something new to the table which I hoped to hear for myself to judge the capability of the headphones.
Thankfully, the bionik Mantis passed both tests. For Rez Infinite, I was easily able to get lost in the swells and beats — the headphones were more than a competent substitute to my Skullcandy earbuds that I use as a frequent and easy go-to for PS VR. Meanwhile, I was able to hear small and quiet details on Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, fully working myself into a scare (as expected) in the early parts of the game.
However, this did bring me to my one (and only) negative observation of the Mantis: immersion. Without a doubt I can recommend this product for those of you using your standard earbuds or lightweight headphones on your PS VR. However, headphone enthusiasts may find that the product leaves something to be desired. The lack of noise cancellation and the ability to pickup some background sounds make other products a better recommendation for those looking for the most purist experience.
What do I mean? Typically during more immersive virtual reality sessions, I break out my Sony MDRV6 Studio Monitor Headphones that (thanks to their padded over-ear design) cancels much of the sound around me. Meanwhile, I would still hear the occasional sounds around me in my apartment (text tones, pets, etc) using the bionik Mantis. On the bright side, both products are equally comfortable and Mantis is simply far more convenient.
There is no doubt in my mind that the bionik Mantis is an easy recommendation for the run-of-the-mill PS VR owner. Presenting an elegant solution to one of my biggest gripes for the virtual reality headset, bionik has created a product that is attractive, easy to use, and convenient. While audiophiles and hardware purists may prefer sticking to more immersive audio options, I will take my love of minimalist set-ups any day.
Disclaimer: A unit of the bionik Mantis was sent to DualShockers by bionik for the purpose of this review.