Review: PDP Afterglow Prismatic Wireless Gaming Headset

PDP’s Prismatic headset updates its original Afterglow design while maintaining solid audio quality, but setup for an HDMI connection remains tricky. Image © PDP

Update: A new version of this product has been released since the original 2014 review. PDP is now offering two variants of its new Afterglow AG 9 Premium Wireless Headset at the same price point. These comprise of a green Xbox One version and a blue PS4 version, both priced at $100. New features for the AG 9 not available in the Prismatic include a removable boom mic with noise-cancelling technology as well as a true wireless experience compared to the more wire dependent versions of old.

Remember the saying “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?’” When I last reviewed Performance Designed Product’s Afterglow wireless headset, I gave it pretty high marks for its excellent audio performance, universal application across various systems, and cost in comparison to other gaming headsets. Fast forward to the here and now and PDP has released an update to the Afterglow with its Prismatic headset.

So why did PDP feel the need to change a solid product? Well, as good as the headset is, it still wasn’t perfect. One issue was the strange fitting mechanism on the headband, which can feel skull-crushing after extended video game sessions. Although construction is pretty sturdy and solid, the clear plastic headband also looked a tad cheap. Then there are the inconveniences that come when trying to use it with a game system connected via HDMI. Just how many of these issues does this refreshed Afterglow address?

Audio Performance

Well, before we get into the cosmetic changes with the device, I’d just like to point out that audio performance for its cans and mic is pretty much the same as the first Afterglow, so make sure to check that earlier review for all the details. If you’re lazy and not in the mood to do so, the shared DNA with its predecessor is actually a good thing as the audio in this headset is top notch. You get the same presets as before, though I’m partial to the bass setting as I like my audio with some low-end punch. The sound is especially excellent when you use the headset as a regular headphone with your MP3 player or smartphone. Audio is quite dynamic with a healthy amount of oomph. Use an equalizer, for example, and the inner bass head in you will giggle with glee. Stuff like control knobs and placement also remain the same.

Cosmetic Changes

As far as the key changes, the headband is the biggest one. Gone is the cheap-looking clear plastic and the head-crushing strap. Instead, it’s replaced by a more traditional headband with padding underneath. The headband itself remains sturdy. In addition to using some serious-looking screws to keep it in place, the headband can withstand lots of serious flexing like its predecessor thanks to solid build quality. On the plus side, it certainly improves the overall look of the device. On the downside, the switch to a more conventional headband also added extra pressure on the earcups themselves, which now pinch harder. This means that although the device doesn’t seriously squeeze the top of your noggin like the first Afterglow’s strap, it pinches harder around the ear area instead, leading to a different kind of discomfort during extended sessions.

HDMI Setup

Meanwhile, although setup with a component cable connection remains easy, setup with a console connected via HDMI remains hit or miss. Basically, being able to use the headset with an HDMI connection requires a TV with an analog audio out or headphone jack. Otherwise, you’re out of luck. The wire connectors for the USB dongle and component setup also don’t look as elegant as those offered by rivals such as the Astro MixAmp or the Turtle Beach Ear Force XP400.

Despite its drawbacks, however, this headset doesn’t cede ground in the most important function of all: sound quality. Even with its rough edges, it still provides the best audio bang for the buck among gaming headsets at $100. If you’re looking for a gaming headset for your Xbox 360, PS3, Wii or PC that offers premium sound but don’t want to spend two or three times as much as those offered by higher-priced rivals, then the PDP Afterglow Prismatic remains a good bet.

Final rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

For more about headsets for gamers, make sure to check out our list of Top Gaming Headsets. For more on headphones and speakers in general, visit the Portable Electronics Headphones & Speakers hub.