Xbox Series X won't have SPDIF optical audio, or an IR blaster (update)

Xbox Series X
Xbox Series X (Image credit: Microsoft)

Updated March 31, 2020: Astro Gaming confirmed to multiple users on Reddit that it was working with Microsoft to make its headsets compatible through USB.

Yesterday, Microsoft blew the lid off the Xbox Series X, giving us a deeper look into the console than ever before (while also confirming the majority of our previous leaks). The Xbox Series X will sport 12TF of graphical computational power, atop some powerful storage enhancements, ray tracing technology, and much more.

A while back, a bunch of photos leaked giving us a proper look at the ports on the Xbox Series X, although there was some confusion over what some of them were. Now we know the long strip is for expansion cards, but we've also learned that the prototype ports weren't final. In a bad way.

Source: Microsoft (Image credit: Source: Microsoft)

Some users noticed in today's footage of the Xbox Series X that the SPDIF optical audio port was missing on some of the pictures. We reached out to Microsoft for comment, and a spokesperson confirmed to us that indeed, the SPDIF optical audio port will not be available on the retail units.

No. Xbox Series X will include ports for Networking (Ethernet), HDMI out, Seagate Storage Expansion Card and three USB 3.1 ports.

We also asked if the Xbox Series X will feature an IR Blaster, given that some accessories like the Xbox Media Remote use the IR Blaster to send commands to compatible television sets. Unfortunately, Microsoft confirmed that this too, has been removed. Microsoft will opt for HDMI-CEC controls instead for the Xbox Media Remote. HDMI-CEC stands for "Consumer Electronics Control," and allows devices to send signals over a HDMI connection for things like power and volume control. Different TV manufacturers use a variety of different names and brands to describe HDMI-CEC, but most modern sets are capable of using it.

Source: Windows Central A handful of headsets use the Xbox SPDIF optical port, including the Astro A50 wireless dock. (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

For those of us with speaker systems and headsets that have SPDIF optical audio connections such as the Astro A50 wireless dock and certain audio controllers, it looks like our headsets and accessories won't work with the Xbox Series X, despite Microsoft's prior statements that all existing accessories will be compatible. There's a chance some of them could be updated via firmware to work via USB instead, as many of them have PC configurations designed to work that way instead, but it remains to be seen whether or not manufacturers will offer those capabilities as an alternative.

Microsoft probably has data that only a small portion of users were utilizing the IR Blaster and the SPDIF port on the Xbox One consoles, leading to their ultimate demise. Removing them may shed a few pennies off the final cost of the Xbox Series X, but it's a bit sucky if you're someone who picked up a SPDIF device hoping it would be forwards compatible.

Xbox Series X/S


Jez Corden
Co-Managing Editor

Jez Corden is a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by tea. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his XB2 Podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!