SteelSeries H Gaming Headset
The SteelSeries H touts good sound, amazing battery life and the best possible multi-platform compatibility but stumbles on its poor microphone, irritating mute button and stiff fit.
For the price, I was slightly disappointed. Expectations aside, the SteelSeries H Wireless is moderately comfortable headset suitable for hours of gaming. For comfort, it trails only the Logitech G930 and Astro A50. The cups were big enough to fit around my ears but slightly shallow. Like many headphones, the cushions are a supple faux-leather. The benefit to this material is a tighter seal for better sound and reduced noise pollution. However, that same principle also helps seal in the juices after extended wear. Overall, the fit was a bit tight and awkward at the apex of my skull. The band weirdly flattened out at the top. It was stiff and squeezed my head more than the other headsets. If you have a smaller head (i.e. average height or shorter) and low profile ears, I’m certain your experience will be superior to that of mine.
This is a great sounding headset for music and games. Bass was adequate and details were richly present. Where Astro included only three predefined audio profiles, SteelSeries packed a customizable 5-band equalizer. This allows owners to dial in the sound they like. Out of the box though, I subjectively felt the A50 sounded better for most situations. Choosing a favorite based on sound quality alone really comes down tonal preferences. I think the presets on the A50 have a colder sound overall, which may or may not fit your listening pleasures.
SteelSeries touts “dual band” connectivity and “lag free” audio. Performing identically to the A50, latency wasn’t an issue. Transmission delay between mic to ear was nearly instantaneous (about 100ms round trip). While heavily polluting the 5.8GHz and 2.4GHz spectrum, I experienced no interruptions or weirdness. Range seemed only a tiny fraction worse than the A50. There were small, infrequent hiccups in the same areas where the A50 barely (and I mean barely) worked without issues. With few obstructions and modest room sizes, the H Wireless should be usable in adjacent rooms.
The microphone found on the H Wireless is perhaps the only disappointment here. It’s equipped with a frustrating microphone no better than headsets one-tenth its cost. First, it’s very sensitive to wind noise. Walking indoors, for example, produced wind noise as did a ceiling fan set to low. Adding your own mic foam cover could help here, but that will get in the way of its retractable design and further hurt its already sub-par clarity. Additionally, there is no secondary noise-cancelling mic and while unidirectional, it manages to pick up lots of nearby noises in painstaking detail. If you want noise mitigation, you must rely on your audio card’s input DSP features or use the USB transmitter as your recording device. Although the transmitter’s USB chip did a passable job of cleaning up mic input, my Xonar produced better results. I should add that USB was definitely preferable over my onboard Realtek chip, which I also tried.
Although the microphone’s sound quality fell flat, the headset mute button is a welcomed feature. Sadly, this button also makes a loud spring-loaded clacking sound when depressed. This sound, which reverberated through the entire headset, invariably ended up in chats and recordings. Any time the headset was muted, everyone heard this noise loud and clear before it actually went silent. This is simply poor design and a deal-breaker for me.
Features and Value
At nearly $300, value will be a tough proposition for any headset. Overall though, the H Wireless is a tour-de-force of options and features. It is such a versatile headset. The transceiver slash mixer includes a metric ton of connectivity options: 3.5mm input and output jacks, mini-USB output, as well as optical SPDIF input and outputs. On the headset itself rests a 2.5mm hook-up for console gamers. Also, one of each cable you may need is included in the box (thank you, SteelSeries!)
The uniquely feature-rich base station sports an OLED screen and makes a cool-looking addition to anyone’s desk. From here, you can navigate and customize sound profiles, chat mix, volume and device settings via a dial and some buttons. Wearers can actually control the transmitter via the headset as well, although it’s clunky to navigate in this manner.
Following a full charge, one battery yielded over 14 hours in synthetic testing. SteelSeries also designed the transmitter to charge and house a secondary hot-swappable battery pack. One battery already provides the H Wireless with best-in-class battery life, so two batteries definitely goes above and beyond expectations. Owners will never have to plug in.
Overall Quality and Impressions
Here’s yet another fancy box built to air-tight tolerances. In a classy move by SteelSeries, inside this box you’ll find all the cables you could want. Aesthetically, the SteelSeries H Wireless doesn’t rely on gimmicks or overstated glam. It’s a handsome, simple looking pair with adult appeal. Its orange accent color may be the only visible evidence of its gaming origins. The transmitter is a sharp looking device with something of a high-tech stereo aesthetic. Depending on what you have it connected to, you may need to employ some cable management skills to keep the wire spaghetti tamped down -- an irony for any wireless device. Build quality is premium; however, I did expect more comfort for the price. The retractable mic -- as frustrating as the sound is -- easily tucks away, making wearing them around the house feel a bit less silly.