At launch the HTC Vive VR headset definitely had its shortcomings, but the people at HTC seem to have decided that there’s no point waiting for a second generation to correct some of these issues.
The Deluxe Audio Strap, a $100 add-on that brings integrated audio and superior ergonomics to your Vive VR headset, is the first such upgrade available.
Generally speaking, I’ve found the ergonomics on the Oculus Rift to be a bit more pleasing than the all-fabric Vive head strap. The Deluxe Audio Strap manages to surpass the original Vive and Rift in terms of comfort and provides a fit that may not rival the design of Sony’s PlayStation VR but still provides stellar balance that keeps the weight of the large face computer even more evenly distributed amongst your noggin. The sizing dial is a great addition, bringing a more snug fit to the Vive without having to fuddle around with straps.
Sound-wise, the new headphones are quite good but not great. At this point Vive owners already have or have likely invested in quality headphones beyond the included HTC earbuds to use with the VR headset. It’s the same question with the integrated audio on the Rift: how much does convenience matter to you? It’s definitely a personal question for consumers, any developer or company showing off demos on a Vive will undoubtedly buy this, if only to prevent the awkward exchange of putting headphones on someone’s head after they’ve already donned the headset.
HTC has announced a slew of VR add-ons that when combined give the Vive a heavily updated feel. Though the company may be holding on to its existing hardware setup as a base model, heavy users can add the Deluxe Audio Strap for more comfort and better sound quality, but they can also add eye-tracking through the $220 specially outfitted lenses from 7invensun or wireless capabilities using TPCAST’s $250 system.
All of these accessories may be able to give your Vive a 1.5 generation feel but at a certain point modularity gets unfeasibly pricey. These three add-ons total $570 combined and while HTC is certainly trying to corner the extra-early, early adopter, it doesn’t exactly bode well for the device’s affordability when the $799 price is suddenly the “base” model.
At $100, the Deluxe Audio Strap feels a bit more expensive than it should be for something that largely just brings the Vive slightly ahead of the Rift in terms of the things that headset already does well. Buying this might be an easier choice than other Vive upgrades but it really depends on how much cash you’re willing to keep dumping into your financially crippling VR habit.
At a certain point, you’re still operating on first generation hardware and there aren’t enough upgrades than can be bought to convince you otherwise. Virtual reality is already crazy expensive and adding non-standard upgrades into the experience is definitely a luxury, hence the “Deluxe” descriptor. The Deluxe Audio Strap is available starting next week, June 6.