Field in View: A Week With Vive’s Deluxe Audio Strap

by Jamie Feltham • June 17th, 2017

While the rest of the UploadVR team jetted off to E3 earlier this week, I remained behind at base camp to keep things in order. That meant frantic news writing and press conferences that start at the ripe old hour of 5am (thanks, Bethesda). It also meant I got to spend a fair bit of time inside my HTC Vive, accompanied by its new friend – the Deluxe Audio Strap.

If you’re a PC VR enthusiast chances are you’ve already heard of this nifty new accessory for the SteamVR headset. In fact, you might already own one; they went on sale last week but quickly went out of stock. HTC supplied us with a sample, though, and instead of rushing to get a review out I thought it would be best to spend the week getting used to the kit and making it a true member of the VR family.

As someone that’s never been especially bothered by Vive’s lack of integrated headphones — or all that taken with the Rift’s built-in solution — I have to say I’ve been surprisingly impressed with how much the audio strap adds to your VR experience.

Before we start, it’s worth noting that I have a lot of hair and I’m not an especially sweaty person, so I haven’t seen the strap deteriorate as many others have after multiple hours of use. If you tend to take your headset off and find yourself drenched in your sweat you might want to steer clear of the device.

With that said, I’ve otherwise had a pretty enlightening week with the strap. This is more than just an audio enchancement; the Vive’s original strap has always given me a lot of trouble when it comes to looking down. Unless I have the thing fastened so tight that it hurts, I’ll find the headset swings up a little from my eyes, causing constant and frustrating adjustment when ducking down to work on fine details in apps like Tilt Brush.

The Deluxe Audio Strap does away with that. In fact, this thing feels less like a strap and more like a comfortable helmet when it’s in place. It does a much better job with weight distribution than the original strap did (in other words, none at all), and the ability to tighten and loosen the strap by twisting a dial on the back of your head makes it the most accessible and convenient head wear for a VR device yet.

It’s just a shame I still can’t manage to bring the Vive up to rest on my forehead like I can do pretty easily with my Rift and PSVR. The device pushes down into my eyes, making quick transitions to type on the keyboard or grab a drink uncomfortable.

Installing the device is a pretty scary experience too. You’ll find parts of your Vive that you never knew existed, like the detachable cicruclar plates at the side where the new strap fits, or the compartment housing cables at the top of the device that feels incredibly uneasy to remove. Given that the Vive costs $799, it’s hard to follow instructions that tell you to push on the device until you hear a snap. I was gritting my teeth throughout, but I was ultimately delighted to be able to move the Vive’s three normal wires off of the top of my head and head them round the side of the device, where I barely noticed them.

With everything in place, though, the Deluxe Audio Strap works wonders to enhance your VR experience. Having the headset feel that much more secure on my head and having one less dangling wire to think about does away with the worries of the real world and connects me to the virtual one that bit more. Upon booting up the new SteamVR home section with the strap attached I found myself instantly immersed; I even ducked when I thought the silhouette of a bird meant that one was flying right over my head.

To test the audio itself I’ve played a few things. Its release is conveniently close to Charm Games’ Form, a brilliantly triumphant puzzler that revels in its surreal shapes accompanied by atmospheric audio. Resembling a dreamlike take on Inception, Form is a master of the unpredictable, and I found the clear positional sounds emitting from the headphones leading me around its world with a sense of discovery and fascination few VR apps have captured so far.

The strap also served to make the derelict remains of Dead Effect 2 VR’s spaceship that much more terrifying. Hearing the ship hum and whir as I edged forward made me feel like I had awoken in an Alien movie. Other apps that employ great use of sound like Audioshield or even Fantastic Contraption are that much better to experience with the audio strap.

Even at $99 I think the Vive Deluxe Audio Strap is a pretty essential purchase for headset owners. On a purely structural level it erased many of the distractions I find when wearing HTC’s headset and by extension brought me much further into the virtual worlds I love to explore. It’s a shame this isn’t a built-in feature for every Vive owner already, but here’s hoping HTC makes good on that omission next time around.

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  • So it basically brings it in line with the Rift’s default headphones-included strap, for all intents and purposes, and takes the Vive price up to just over $300 more expensive than the Rift (which still also includes an additional Xbox One controller and remote for free, as well as more and better free games bundled, and is currently also offering $100 credit to spend on even more games too).

    • Fortran

      You again, really? Is facebook paying you to advertise the Oculus? Why else would you post in a Vive specific forum?

      • Alorwin

        This isn’t a vive-specific forum, it’s a VR-specific forum and that guy is giving a critique of the product being discussed. That’s relevant.

        • I agree. We should include and be critical of all aspects and its a good price comparison of the two HMDs. Wrapped up in an $100 store credit promotion. But relevant none the less.

          • Robert Cole

            All new HTC Vive really should come stock with this strap, now its available?

            Expecting buyers of brand new Vive’s to fork out another £100/$100 to correct a considerable design defect (the original harness) is weak sauce

            I could care less about the headphones as I always use studio Sennheisers; but the strap itself is the key to a much better experience with the Vive HMD

          • Totally agree; and that’s just one reason why I feel compelled to make posts like the one above.

          • Robert Cole

            My experience with VR goes back to ’91 whilst training as an industrial designer. The Vive is an awesome piece of kit (1st consumer steamVR system), but with some issues that are easily remedied, which means should be remedied at production level going forward? Rather than tacked on as extra costs for aftermarket “upgrades”.

            The Rift and Touch is looking like a great deal at the moment. I tested the system recently and was very impressed with HMD, controllers and display quality.

            It’s over to HTC now…

          • Totally. And the huge demand for integrated sound for the Vive should be HTC’s justification. That and the Rift has never been so competitive until now. Offering Vive Port Subscription wont be enough to swing consumers their way – they need integrated sound and a price drop. Also, the author mentioned not having this problem, but I’ve heard multiple accounts of the Deluxe Audio Strap having some flaws in the foam which is concerning.

        • SandmaN

          Vive-specific story is most likely what he meant. Also, take into account that this iNCEPTIONAL guy is a huge Oculus fan-boy and bashes on Vive every chance he/she can get – click his/her name and check out previous posts by him/her. He’s not critiquing the product either, only complaining about the price and content of the Vive ecosystem. While I agree that HTC should have had something like this integrated into their headset from the start, the original story here is only about the Deluxe Audio Strap and a review thereof – there is no need for their bashing and rampant fanboy-ism.

      • It’s not a Vive specific forum; it’s an article on a website that covers all the VR headsets. And, until the Vive is giving the same bang for your buck as the Rift is I’ll feel compelled to make sure that anyone reading these articles isn’t misled into thinking the Vive is actually the better option when it isn’t–for all the reasons I’ve mentioned again and again, as you so astutely observed.

    • rikardbjorstad

      I kind of agree, in my oppinion the DAS should be included with the vive for the same price the base unit is selling for now.

      Im still going to get the vive at the end of the summer due to the better roomscale tracking, wich i need as my space is bigger than average.

      • Robert Cole

        Be interesting to find out how much “in country” stock is first release and how much new release (new 3-in-1 cable, lighter HMD) in each territory. If sales have slowed new stock is not shipped in country, meaning buyers may not be benefitting from ‘improvements’ unti new stock ships in country.

      • I don’t think the Vive’s room-scale tracking is actually better quality than the Rift’s room-scale tracking with three sensors that this point in time (I’ve actually yet to see anyone officially compare a Rift with a proper 3 sensor setup vs the Vive with its two sensors, especially Rift’s room-scale 360 moved out of the testing phase)–and remember, the Rift is still $140 cheaper than the Vive even with that third sensor–but I can understand if your room is so big that ultimately Rift’s room-scale total area would be smaller than the space you have available. You’re lucky to have such a big space free that you can dedicate to VR; I wish I had that too. I’d still get a Rift, but it would be cool to have a large room where I could mount the 3 sensors in the corners and both have great tracking coverage and a fully clear area to move around in. My living room space is totally fine size-wise but I can’t afford a third sensor and I’m not really able to stick stuff on the walls so I have good standing tracking but obviously not full 360 degree room-scale stuff. But that’s obviously just my issue as opposed to the Rift’s.

        • NooYawker

          He said his space is BIGGER than average so the Oculus can’t keep up. I’m sure the three sensors and the really long usb cords are great for small spaces, but people with larger homes have larger spaces and needs better tracking.

          • I totally agree about people with larger homes being able to and wanting use more space for VR, and the Vive is obviously better for that. But, for the majority of people who don’t actually have huge homes–meaning there’s more people in the world who have small-medium homes than those who have larger homes–I think the Rift is absolutely delivering.

          • rikardbjorstad

            I dont actually have a big home, just a very open apartement, if i move around some stuff ill easily get 4x3m.

    • koenshaku

      None of these devices came out perfect. I’m glad small things like a head strap was an afterthought than say.. releasing a stationary VR solution with a Xbox controller then forcing users to plug USB cameras all over the place for patchy room scale tracking. My stock head strap works well enough for me once you adjust it you don’t need to again, but this is a welcome addition if you have different people swapping often.

      HTC vive is still the most robust solution I think they made this strap more for arcades and businesses in mind where different people can pop it on with less hassle. oculus is a cool solution if you don’t have the extra cash for a vive, a but of a mess but works out all the same. If I were a broke VR early adopter though I’d wait to confirm if Bethesda games will be compatible before dropping the cash though.

      • The point is, if you have “the extra cash for a Vive”–just the standard bundle–then you have enough cash to buy a Rift setup that utterly pisses over the Vive in almost every single way:

        For $800 you could buy a Rift (which already has a great head strap with built-in headphones, and additionally comes with an Xbox One controller and remote, plus Lucky’s Tale, Farlands, Dragon Front, Minecraft, Dear Angelica, Lost, Henry, Oculus Video, First Contact, Oculus Dreamdeck) + Touch (which comes with Toy Box, Quill, Medium, Robo Recall, Ripcoil, Dead & Burried) a third sensor for proper room-scale, and you can spend the currently included $100 store credit on say Thumper, Chronos, Edge of Nowhere and Superhot–and you’d still have around $140 to spare for even more games.

        • Justos

          Agreed. The vive was a better solution a year ago, if you buy a vive today you are wasting money, period. Only exception is if you have a giant space, but even so I would rather use the rift in a slightly smaller area and have the superior controllers, SDK, and HMD. Plus being able to play anything on steam is a great bonus.

        • koenshaku

          That’s all good and well in a fanboy fantasy. Anyone with some sense would do their research before spending their money I would think. Most reviews recommend the vive and those short games are cheap and short experiences. Triple A games are hard to come by right now and if Bethesda isn’t supporting the rift that alone with not perfect and messy room scale with USB cables all over the is not consumer friendly I don’t care how comfortable the headset is personally.

          • No, most totally outdated reviews recommended the Vive about a year ago, before the Rift even had Touch, didn’t have final 360 degree room-scale with 3 sensor implementation, was $200 more expensive than it is now, and didn’t come with an additional $100 of store credit too.

            Get any semi-intelligent and objective person to try out the Vive package as it exists in 2017 vs the Oculus package and everything you can get for the same $800 in 2017 and I’m pretty sure the majority would recommend the Rift.

            Seriously: How am I still having to waste time explaining the same thing over and over and over to some total f’n morons?

          • koenshaku

            You have to explain it over and over because it is what trolls do. I’m glad you support your decision to purchase your rift, not everyone supports your views obviously. If I was still in the market for a VR HMD i would do my research and still buy the Vive in my eyes not much has changed with the rift and i am going to have USB cameras running all over the place it is impractical to take to a friends place and impractical for my front room, not to mention the tracking is not as accurate technologically wise.

            I don’t condemn the oculus rift, in fact I’d even recommend it to those on a budget. The point is none of these devices pisses on the other as you say. The HTC Vive seems to be the more open platform and the most flexible. I think you will see an oculus rift 2 pretty soon since it wasnt as well thought out, that is if zenimax doesn’t sue them out of the business first.

          • Are you paid by HTC/Valve to spout this sh*t? Are you a plant?

            You sound like a marketing man trying to use really insidious wording to lie about the virtues of one product over the other, just like that recent article where the HTC representative tries to manipulate readers into buying into his marketing spiel about why they still haven’t reduced the price of the Vive yet.

            There is no good reason right now why the Vive is over $200 more expensive than a Rift yet comes with far, far less stuff out-the-box–FACT.

            And, go show me a single article or shred of evidence that actually shows demonstrable examples of the Vive’s two sensor arrangement being superior to the Rifts three sensor arrangement as of 23 May 2017–when 360 room-scale went proper release-ready on Rift–otherwise shut the **** up with that marking-man spiel bullsh*t.

            And WTF are you talking about “taking it to a friends place”?

            Are you f’n kidding me? Who the **** moves their entire VR setup to a mates house just casually, especially the likes of the Vive where you actually have to mount your f’n sensors to a God d*mn wall or a least on a couple of high shelves or brackets in pretty much any scenario? Don’t to a total an utter spazoid.

            Seriously–do you work for HTC or Valve?

            “it wasn’t as well thought out”

            Almost every single aspect of Rift was BETTER thought out than the Vive, from the more comfortable design of the headset, the inclusion of a proper strap with actual headphones built in, and the far better designed and more intuitive Home interface, to the Touch controllers that are vastly more ergonomic and actually offer PROPER traditional controller inputs such as analog sticks and face buttons, getting a bunch of games that are fully fleshed-out experiences from day one (because most of them were self funded by Oculus), and even the fact you can set it up in a normal/average-sized living room as opposed to basically having to set aside a spare room just to play the f’n thing.

            Again, are you paid by HTC/Valve–or are you just SERIOUSLY this dumb?

            You, sir, really are one of the biggest fanboy morons I’ve come across online in quite some time.

            You say you would “do your research” . . .

            GTFOMF with that utter ignorant bull!

          • NooYawker

            Dude.. you have been posting the same thing over and over again, if anyone is acting like they’re a paid poster it’s you.

          • Because I believe it is worth pointing out to potential consumers, and new VR enthusiasts, the huge difference between what you are getting with the Rift bundle vs the Vive bundle right now; and I don’t think any of the “professional” VR websites have done anywhere near a good enough job on this.

            They all blabbed on about how the Vive was the better choice when both systems first came out–which no doubt got a lot of people to buy the Vive early on–but now that the Rift is $200 cheaper and comes with so much more stuff too (extra Xbox One controller, remote, more free games/experiences, and currently a $100 store credit), as well as overall arguably being the better overall VR experience now (especially if you do get that third sensor–still for $140 cheaper than the basic Vive bundle), I think it’s time for people to know that the situation has truly and utterly reversed.

            You certainly aren’t going to do, so I will.

          • Well, I’m hardly surprised you would think that. And yet, to anyone with a brain, it’s patently clear that all I’m doing is trying to make sure any people looking to purchase a new VR headset in the near future actually know the true value and worth of each of the options presented to them. Without people like me, these potential consumers might think the Vive is the better choice because some douche–not you–is telling them “but it’s sold more”, as though that’s why you should buy one headset over the other, rather than it being about what’s really the best all-round option in pretty much every single way that actually matters, and absolutely the best value for money by a long, long ways.

          • NooYawker

            I’m sure the other side thinks theyre doing a service by pushing what they believe is the superior product as well.

          • Except–and here’s the kicker–the other person is utterly wrong and I am totally right (objectively speaking); and that is backed up by the numerous measurable examples of how this is so, which I have now provided “over and over again” as you so astutely observed.

          • NooYawker

            “Except–and here’s the kicker–the other person is utterly wrong and I am totally right ”

            Ok. I’m starting to think this is a joke at this point and I’m being punked.

          • Look up at the edited comment. . . .

            The joke is anyone believing what the “other side” has to say in the face of multiple indisputable facts that say exactly the opposite to what the “other side” mistakenly and ignorantly believes.

            The “joke” is anyone who is too stupid to see some basic objective truth in front of them.

          • NooYawker

            Everything you listed goes back to my original statement. The oculus is a better value.
            And that’s it.
            So for everyone who’s broke listen to inception. Everyone else do your own research and find out why people are willing to pay more for the Vive.

          • And, again, there’s more there than just value: There’s stuff that goes directly to quality of the experience; but you just seem too blind to see it or something. Here let me show you just one example again:

            The Touch controllers on Rift have [clearly] better ergonomics, actual built-in finger/gesture tracking, and proper traditional inputs such as analog sticks and face buttons for all those VR games that aren’t just about standing up and waving your arms around or pointing and shooting at things, which it also does brilliantly too.

            So, it utter f***ks the Vive in terms of value for money, and it even betters it in many areas of actual quality of experience too.

            Add it all together and how can any non-moron come to any conclusion other than the one I have been banging on about “over and over again” for however long now?

            Because some people STILL don’t seen to get it!

            I mean, seriously.

          • NooYawker

            “And, again, there’s clearly more there than just value for money:”
            And that’s your opinion. And most tech sites disagree with your opinion. See how opinions work, now who should everyone believe.. a random internet person or tech web sites.
            Listen bottom line is most people who are buying VR sets are doing their research, and the more expensive Vive is outselling the Oculus. There’s a reason for that, especially since market recognition leans heavily in oculus’s favor.
            I dropped $3k for the Vive and a brand new computer. You think I give a fuck about a couple of hundred bucks? No, I did my research and chose the Vive over the oculus as did most people.

          • Are you dumb?

            How is a motion controller with superior ergonomics, actual finger/gesture tracking, and controls that work for more traditional games, alongside the proper motion controls, not objectively better than a motion controller that does none of those things?

            Pretty much every single review of the Touch controllers says they are superior to the Vive’s motion controllers.

            Ergonomics, as one point to highlight, is not a matter of “opinion”; it’s is literally a best-practice design principle that has been understood and practiced for generations.

            Again, are you dumb–or are you just acting dumb for the sake of argument?

          • koenshaku

            I think I sound like a reasonable consumer that does his research before buying products. For example I read this article to confirm what I read on pc gamer hardware about this HTC Vive strap. Now soon as it is back in stock I will buy one.

            You however read this article to pander a competing product to other people reading then you ask me if I am a marketer. For one all I said is substantiated from general reviews of both headsets you will pretty much hear HTC Vive for room scale and the tracking accuracy there of. Instead of facts that you do have USB cables running back to your pc for the camera sensors which reminded me of the kinnect anyway it was a deciding factor for my purchase.

            Your argument is comfort over immersion which I have no problem with to each there own, but then you hurl insults for no reason other than your being a fanboy then you refuse to agree to disagree because you are a troll. Then you have the gall to ask if I am paid by HTC while spouting such nonsense. So here you have it let’s agree to disagree which I find kind of pointless to tell a troll anyway, but I won’t bother commenting again.

          • Again, stop trying to use insidious guided wording to manipulate what I am saying into what you’d like me to be saying.

            The Rift is every bit as immersive as the Vive, and even more so with its finger/gesture tracking.

            The Rift requires multiple cables running back to the PC; the Vive requires multiple spare power sockets to be use–they’re both not perfect solutions.

    • NooYawker

      Dude, the fanboy thing is getting tired.

      • You don’t understand “the fanboy thing”. A person isn’t a fanboy when they state total and utter facts in a relevant post where it just makes good sense for every potential VR consumer to know the objective facts and relative advantages and disadvantages about each of the products they can choose between.

        I’m not a “fanboy”; I’m a guy trying to make sure the average VR consumer doesn’t end up picking a worse all-round value proposition because they don’t have all the information available.

        Idiots like you should be thanking people like me for doing that kind of consumer service, especially when I’m not getting paid any money to do so.

        • NooYawker

          Let’s say for a second your OPINION is correct that Oculus actually is a superior device to the Vive. Even then I’d still buy a Vive for the simple fact I value my privacy. Same reason I don’t use Google or any of it’s service, I don’t use Facebook or any of their services. I install software to actively block google and facebook from tracking my web browsing. So while all you can think about is saving a couple of bucks, some of us are more involved in our decision making. People have done their research and they are choosing the Vive more often.

          • That part is entirely your choice. I have a Rift and don’t have the Facebook/friends stuff connected. Can’t say if it’s using some of my details regardless–it probably is, like every other consumer product with an internet connection these days–but I’m not too worried about it as long as it doesn’t force me to have to actually activate and use all that junk, which it isn’t for now.

  • Slo Creators

    It is sad that HTC is more concerned about handing out loaners (or free?) to bloggers when there were so many buyers who were turned away by HTCs shortsightedness in what many HTC Vive owners feel was the weak point in it’s design. Even more frustrating is the complete lack of alerts from HTC when the strap became available. Complain all you want on how Oculus sold out to Facebook, but the needed cash infusion has made inventory available on day one of it’s controllers, cameras and other accessories. I wonder if Samsung or Sony have had the same inventory issues with their VR products as HTC?