How the Xbox One saved Game of Thrones

Things aren’t going well in season 5 of HBO’s Game of Thrones. With the exception of Qyburn, the weirdo with the ever-expanding collection of twitching corpses and severed dwarf heads, all the characters are having a rough time.

In my living room, however, things are going great. I can hear every whispered line of dialogue without worrying that a loud sword clang or dragon screech or sex moan will wake the kids. What’s my secret? An Xbox One.

The most annoying character in every dramatic series used to be our TV’s volume bar. It would wiggle through every scene of Walking Dead or Gotham as my wife clenched the remote, twitchy thumb on the volume rocker, struggling to keep the voices audible while suppressing every gunshot, explosion or loud commercial. With unwavering vigilance, she persevered.

For me, it was a minor annoyance in what was otherwise the most relaxing part of my day. For her, though, it was work. She’s definitely the kind of working-mom lawyer who DOES NOT NEED MORE WORK.

Enter the Xbox One. Heralded as “Dad Box” the moment Microsoft announced it, Xbox One aims to be the ultimate all-in-one media center. Beyond videogames, it plays blu-rays, streams almost everything and even takes control of your cablebox.

But the feature nobody hypes enough is that the system can stream audio to its wireless controllers. The Playstation 4 can do it too, but you can’t run your cablebox through PS4 with an HDMI cable. That’s a dealbreaker for us suckers who still pay for cable and DVRs.

Xbox One doesn’t make it easy, though. First, you have to get a dongle for your controller called a Stereo Headset Adapter. I bought a whole kit called the Xbox One Stereo Headset that included the adapter and a nice, chunky pair of headphones with a mic. It worked great for late Sunset Overdrive sessions or watching Better Call Saul by myself, but the adapter’s lone headphone jack wasn’t built for sharing.

I had a plan, though. I’d get my wife an extra controller and her own Stereo Headset. Thing is, these accessories don’t come cheap. We’re talking $60 for the controller and another $40 or so for the headset. The Xbox One was expensive enough, so I keep balking at the price.

Then we try to watch Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Movies are waaay worse than TV shows when it comes to volume. After the 500th surprise explosion, my wife couldn’t take volume duty anymore. That’s when I remembered the Rockstar.

The first time we stayed in a hotel room with a small baby, I had this idea that we could watch movies quietly on an iPad while the baby slept. None of my old headphone splitters seemed to work, so I bought a Belkin Mixit Rockstar 5-way splitter, which is built for 3.5 millimeter stereo headset-microphones like your iPhone earbuds.

We barely used the Rockstar for iPad movies, but it fits perfectly in the Xbox One’s Stereo Headset Adapter. Put the blu-ray in the Xbox, add two pairs of Apple earPods and Captain America can blow up S.H.I.E.L.D. quinjets to his heart’s content.

If you have small children and like watching television, this may not be the most elegant or cost-effective solution to your home-audio woes. For me, though, I solved a long-nagging problem with videogames and A.V. geekery. I call that a win.

And you can call it a good excuse to put an Xbox One on your baby registry or Father’s Day wishlist. Valar dohaeris.

Shopping list:

  • Xbox One
  • Stereo Headset Adapter (or Stereo Headset)
  • Belkin Mixit RockStar
  • 2 identical pairs of earbuds

 

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