The Latest Steam VR Beta Addresses Vive Pro Audio Quality, Sort Of

Valve’s latest Steam VR beta update includes a firmware update to address the poor audio quality of the Vive Pro headphones. We tried the update, but we’re still not impressed with the sound that the Vive Pro produces.

HTC last week released the Vive Pro VR headset, which features high-resolution displays and an improved head strap design. Almost everything about HTC’s Vive Pro headset is a cut above the competition—except the headphones. HTC said that the Vive Pro includes an amplifier that can deliver immersive 3D audio, but the sound produced by the headphones doesn’t make us feel immersed; it lacks bass and feels distant.

Over the weekend, an HTC Support Technical Specialist who goes by VibrantNebula on the Viveport forums acknowledged that the Vive Pro’s poor audio quality is a “known issue” and that the company is working on a patch to address the problem that would be available soon. Yesterday, VibrantNebula followed up with the following statement:

“We have a working patch that we're finalizing and verifying across multiple hardware/software environments. Patching this issue is a top priority and deployment will occur at the earliest possible opportunity. “

Last night, Valve released a beta of that update.

A Swing & A Miss

HTC’s updated firmware patch is supposed to address the tinny sound that the Vive Pro headphones produce, but the current iteration of the firmware falls short of the goal. Multiple people who complained about poor audio quality in the forums also reported that the patch didn’t fix the problem.

We also installed the update, and we agree that it doesn’t correct the sound issues. Before installing the beta patch, we ran through a couple of games to refresh our memory about the sound quality. We played some Space Pirate Trainer with the soundtrack running; then we played Serious Sam VR: The Last Hope for a couple of rounds. Finally, we played Skrillex Bangarang in Audioshield. After installing the patch, we ran through the same three games again to compare the difference.

It’s hard to quantify audio quality improvements, but we’re convinced that the patch improved the audio quality. The sound is somewhat fuller, and the headphones produce deeper tones. However, the headphones still don’t produce deep rumbling bass, and the sound still feels a little bit distant. If this is the best that HTC can do with a firmware update, we might end up using a separate pair of headphones to complete our VR experience with the Vive Pro headset.

 Kevin Carbotte is a contributing writer for Tom's Hardware who primarily covers VR and AR hardware. He has been writing for us for more than four years. 

  • FreyjasChosen
    True enough. I think I'm going to disconnect the headphones that came with the Vive Pro and just use my Astro A50s instead. The sound quality is very noticeably different.
  • Evolution2001
    As an "$800 upgrade" only for existing Vive users, they damn well better fix the issue. I would consider it unacceptable, as it seems most people do. This reminds me of, "Just get the game released and we'll patch it once people have bought in...and release DLCs we go."
  • dx_houle
    I agree with Evolution2001. If they really wanted to be lazy, all they had to do was not claim that they were high quality headphones and charge a little less for the headset. Instead, they do the opposite and give themselves bad publicity.