Oculus is aware of the sub-par audio quality on Rift S and says that an upcoming update will make a “meaningful difference.”

One of the major changes from the original Rift to the Rift S was the removal of the on-ear headphones in favor of an open-ear audio solution using speakers in the headstrap. While the open-ear approach means no headphones to adjust and nothing touching your ears, in the case of the Rift S, it has come at great expense to audio quality, especially compared to the headphones on the original Rift.

Rift S has speakers hidden in the headstrap near the user’s ear. | Photo by Road to VR

We noted in our review of the Rift S that audio quality was lacking, and that even at 100% volume, there were times we hoped it could be turned up louder. I recently opined that Oculus should release accessories to deal with the issue.

Apparently Oculus has been aware of the lackluster audio quality since before the headset shipped, though some further adjustments weren’t ready in time for the headset’s launch this week. That’s according to Nate Mitchell, Head of VR Product at Facebook, who wrote on Reddit that an update to improve bass and volume is on the way to Rift S.

The team’s continued tuning the audio driver software and algorithms – improving bass and overall volume – but those changes didn’t make the launch software release. For reference, the on-board audio hardware is similar to what’s in Go – which sounds great in my opinion – but we can’t drive as much power to it directly due to USB power constraints.

Having played with both, I can say the upcoming changes make a meaningful difference, but you’ll have to check it out for yourself. For the most immersive experience though, you’ll want to use your own headphones (via the headphone jack on the headset).

Some question how much a software update could improve the limitations of the open-ear design—and it’s a bit surprising that this wasn’t a priority for Oculus ahead of launch—so we’ll have to wait and see. Mitchell said that the update would come as “part of the monthly Rift platform releases,” though wasn’t clear if that means the next update or a subsequent update.

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Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • MOT

    Just need to fix the poor resolution next.

    • Les Vega

      Says somebody who has clearly never worn one the overall image clarity feels on par with the Odyssey.

      • AJ_74

        I owned the Odyssey+ for two weeks before returning it for the horrendous light bleed and discomfort, and I now own the Quest. Trust me, the Quest is not on par with the Odyssey or Odyssey+ when it comes to image sharpness. However, I don’t fault the Quest for not having a display as sharp as those headsets. I fault it for not having a display as sharp as the $200 Oculus Go. Is it a bad display? No, but it shouldn’t be inferior to the Go where the most crucial display property for VR is concerned.

    • doublefrag

      If that is resolved, please correct the unpleasant exhalations!

  • gothicvillas

    when you are done with audio, please fix tracking

    • Simple O’Rourke

      Tracking has been perfect for me so not sure what the issue is for you.

      • GamersBlogX

        Same here. The worst its ever been was one controller blocking the other one from view, but that doesn’t happen to me all that often, even when playing FPS games.

      • Alexander K

        Totally agree with u!
        Had much more problems (glitches) with the old tracking system…

    • Jake

      Verify that your lighting isn’t too dim. It needs to be able to see in your walls in visible light.

  • Olav-Rasmus Vorren

    Just received my Oculus Rift S today. Everything works perfect, and the image is crystal clear and practically no screendoor effect!

    • Phyllis

      Make monthly Up to $5013 by working for Zoetis from comfort of home —-> https://trivialurl.com/YCamQr

    • Mark J

      My brother bought it and says its not worth it from the rift. Barely noticeable from the original

      • JT

        Your brother should get his eyes checked!

      • Alexander K

        I had a original Rift and exchanged it to a rift S… It was worth every cent… Screen is much(!!) better, air ventilation ist highly improved (no more hard core sweating), its more comfortable, tracking works perfect. I finally got 3 USB 3.0 Ports for other stuff and no more cables running through the living room… I would never want to go back…

  • sfmike

    Another cost cutting feature run amuck. Audio should have been a more important consideration.

  • Skippy76

    Audio is total garbage and the tracking is horrible for FPS games that require any accuracy. Huge failure coming from facebook twits

  • Ernie

    I wonder, if a software update can really solve a crappy headphones hardware design.

  • impurekind

    Yeah, I own a Rift, I just bought and am in the processing of returning a Quest, and I think I’m going with Index for my next VR headset.

    • Mark J

      I am waiting for the HP Reverb

  • Glad to hear this. I wonder how much the quality can improve only with a software fix. I hope that is not a matter of the actual speakers

  • Jorge

    As a first gen oculus owner I will throw in some comments for those who are considering upgrading… [disclaimer: I work as a VR Game Dev too] —

    The Rift S improves in just about every area with image quality finally good enough to even use the Rift S with virtual desktop or reading text in flight sims… headset comfort is also great. Tracking as some suggest is -not- an issue even in FPS, I’ve had VERY few tracking issues. The old sensors worked great but would occasionally causes weird tracking glitches due to USB synchronization and throughput issues, the Rift S improves in this area. (Yes, we get it, some people hate inside out tracking… )

    Anyway the Audio is bad. It’s terrible. Think Skull Candy headphones ($5 from Walmart) hung about 2 inches from your ears. If the software update doesn’t help we need an official accessory. This would be handled with an accessory. There is a 3.5mm jack and honestly, the price is cheap on the headset + controllers for a launch price, so an accessory is fine.

    • fuyou2

      an accessory is NOT FINE!… Shitty design to begin with.

    • Eimihar El-Meruiy

      i am thinking about getting Rift S as a VR first timer.. would having a separate headset gives you any problem? in term of comfortability and movement restriction, and would there be a audio jack input inside around the VR?.

      • Caven

        Generally the biggest annoyance with separate headphones is that it’s harder to put them on while wearing the VR headset. I used to use wireless headphones with my Vive before upgrading to the Deluxe Audio Strap, and it was a bit of a nuisance to put them on while blind.

        Since they were wireless, I didn’t have to deal with the other issue, which is having to deal with the headphone cable. Normally headphones have a cable that can be anywhere from 1-3 meters, which is fine for normal use, but is a lot of extra cord to deal with if the headphones are plugged directly into your VR headset. Dealing with that excess cable is tricky, because too much slack means you have another cable getting in your way, whereas too little slack means you either have to be holding your headphones while you put on the VR headset, or you have to put your headphones on and plug them in after putting on the VR headset.

        If you go with wired audio, I think I’d recommend earbuds, as they’re light enough that you can minimize the amount of slack in the cable and just let them dangle from the VR headset until you put them on. If you want larger headphones, I’d recommend wireless if possible.

  • Jonathan Winters III

    Refreshing to hear Nate so candidly recommending plugging in your own headphones for best immersiion. Indeed, Rift S audio REALLY sucks compared to Rift.

  • Luke

    is this update already out?

  • Alexander K

    When they spared good audio for a good price, why the hell didn’t they just add the option to buy some clip on Headphones as accessoire. Even the PSVR was capable of such a thing… Would have saved them Money, gives the rift S a better Value and those ppl who are lacking for better sound would be able to get it… I don’t understand that decision.

  • linh

    I bough oculus Rift S because I have no choice, audio is suck, head set to me is not very comfortable, graphic is still fogy, like the Valve index better but my first one was retuned because it did not work and has too many problem, the HTC valve much worst especially the stupid controller. I am waiting for HTC cosmos and see if this is the real one