There’s a bit of a comfort arms race in the VR world. The HTC Vive’s initial velcro strap bands came up short compared to the slightly more comfortable Oculus Rift. Sony showed both of them how to engineer a comfortable product with the PlayStation VR, providing an adjustable headband and more weight around the base of the skull than at the front. HTC punched back with their Deluxe Audio Strap, replacing the velcro with a PSVR-esque adjustable strap that gave us one more important addition – integrated audio. Now, it looks like Bionik is trying to shift the odds back in Sony’s favor with a third-party addition to the PlayStation VR headset – the Mantis.
The Mantis is Bionik’s removable VR headphones that attach directly to the PlayStation VR headset, but why do you need them? Playing anything in VR requires an inordinate amount of setup time and cords, and while the PlayStation is certainly better, you’ll probably add another cord and another bulky headset on top of your already bulky headset just to get solid on-ear audio. While any headphones will work, few are comfortable with PSVR as they have to go over the hard plastic band – something that only a few companies have tackled with purpose-shaped VR-specific headphones. Bionik has taken a different route by attaching them directly to that headband. Simple.
Taking cues from the aforementioned Deluxe Audio Strap, The Mantis is a pair of independent headphones that clip directly into the PSVR hardware, using a Y-jack to connect left and right, and into the PSVR audio jack on the headset wire. Once connected, you are done with setup – there’s no external power, no batteries, and no additional wires to deal with — a real boon in the already-cord-riddled world of VR.
With a snap, the Mantis left and right earphones pop out to a 45 degree angle, allowing you to switch from full immersion to being able to pull them off your ears – very handy for those moments when you need to hear things outside of the virtual world. They also slide along a rail, so they’ll be able to fit just about any size head and ear placement. I’m constantly comparing it to the Vive’s Deluxe Audio Strap, but the design is very similar. As a result, the Mantis is very comfortable for longer play sessions, and worlds better than the pack-in earbuds that most people are likely using.
If there’s one thing that the PSVR really nails over every other VR hardware maker, it’s the weight distribution and overall balance. Pushing the bulk of the weight to the back of the head, it doesn’t feel like a brick is hanging off your face. The Mantis adds just 7oz of extra weight – far less than any on-ear cans you might be using currently. Better still, developer Bionik has built them to match the existing hardware, as you can see below.
Again, like the Deluxe Audio Strap, the Mantis rests on the surface of your ears, instead of cupping over them to seal out all other sound. The 37mm drivers are powerful enough to provide all the shooting in Arizona Sunshine, the jump-scare screeches in Resident Evil 7, and the powerful thump of EVE: Valkyrie’s zero-g combat. As they don’t cup over your ears, you might hear a little bit of outside sound, but it also means that your ears won’t be a sweat-covered mess when you finish your play session. This is doubly important when you are dealing with a party situation where multiple people would be using the headset. Nobody wants to put your ear sweat on their ears, and with the Mantis, that’s not a problem.
The best part about the Mantis over any other solution is that they don’t require a lot of machinations to swap out players, or to take a break. Simply flip up the Mantis ear pieces, take off the headset, and catch a breather. When you are ready to resume, put on the headset, and simply lower the flaps back into position. No ear buds to fiddle with, and no cumbersome headphones to try to get back into a comfortable spot.
The MSRP of the Mantis is $49.99 on Amazon, and that’s half the price of the Deluxe Audio headset I keep mentioning. That’s impressive as they are essentially the same thing. While they won’t beat a pair of over-ear cans, they are also far more comfortable and don’t weight your head down with yet another piece of plastic.
With the Bionik Mantis attached, the crown once again passes to Sony for overall comfort and long-term usage. As they are on-ear, they do let a little bit of sound in, but that’s a decent tradeoff for longer use or group play. Lightweight, affordable, comfortable, and with more than enough power to fully immerse you in VR, the Mantis is a must-have for any PSVR owner.