A pair of amazing gaming headphones are far and few among the hundreds, now add wireless into the equation and things can get pretty damn expensive on top of it. You’re not only paying for stereophonic immersion but also the convenience of staying in the action without being tethered. Wireless headsets like the SteelSeries H brings the gaming niceties in tow but they definitely aren’t cheap, in build quality or price.
Yes, SteelSeries’ latest will hurt quite a few wallets but it’s hard not to appreciate the versatility and expected power behind such a well-appointed package. If you’re a hardcore gamer, that is.
Included are the headset, transmitter base, necessary cables and adapters (analog/optical/USB), and two rechargeable Lithium-ion batteries. In a nutshell, they look like any other pair of headsets sporting an understated design (if you ignore the SteelSeries logo adornments and orange accents), utilizing hard plastic and rubberized matte on the cushioned headband, Removable glossy caps sit outside of the round earcups and hide the Li-ion battery and a Mini USB B port. You get plenty of control thanks to a power/mute button, another dual purpose dial that can control volume and toggle through additional settings, and two more audio jacks (behind a rubber flap) for the Xbox chat function and to either share or provide a wired headphone connection. And of course there’s a retractable microphone boon as well.
The biggest standout is the transmitter which acts like a source receiver for the headset. It might not look like much with only a sizable dial, two buttons (the dial works a select) and a monochrome OLED status display but it’s the hub for everything the H wireless can do. From here or remotely via the headset dial you’re able to change or tailor a number of settings from chat channel frequencies (ChatMix) and volume (LiveMix), and even save profiles for multiple output devices. The ability to have absolute control on the fly with such a miniature box is impressive, but because that screen is only 1.5” wide you’re going to be doing a lot of squinting if you adjust things at a distance.
Another godsend of the transmitter is simultaneous operation and fast battery charging whether it’s plugged into the wall (AC adapter) or connected to a PC/PS3/PS4/Xbox 360/etc. (USB), and since you get two of them you’ll never be waiting as long as you remember to swap them when needed – if you do forget though (a full charge yields 18-20 hours) the transmitter shows the battery life of the one being used and the one being recharged.
In a field where money usually determines quality the H Wireless mostly delivers. The inner earcups are padded with foam and remained comfortable for many extended sessions, although people with larger ears may need to break them in fully. Despite the typical closed-back phones and cushioning the H does an excellent job of isolating you from the rest of the world when the action gets hot an heavy.
Speaking of which, the H’s biggest strengths are definitely with booming and strong ranges starting from the mid-range upwards; appropriately enough titles like Halo 4, Battlefield 3, and InFAMOUS Second Son benefited the most where gunfire and explosions remain consistent. Dolby technologies like Headphone and Virtual Surround (Pro Logic IIx) did a good job of simulating 7.1 multi-directional sound with compatible material, bass performance on the other hand, though solid lacked some of the controlled depth we hoped for, it’s definitely powerful but minor distortion can be heard in more dramatic cut-scenes.
To compensate, equalization (EQ) presets that range from “immersion”, “music” can be selected for subtle changes; admittedly, you probably don’t need $300 headphones to enjoy loud hi-fi but I appreciate the effort nonetheless. Microphone clarity was equally good as both voice pickup and delivery was clean and outside interference kept at an minimum with lag being a non-issue throughout testing.
Despite the steep price you do get a lot of immediate bang for the buck with the SteelSeries H Wireless Headset. For people that want to feel like they’re in the game (and drown out the real world) you can’t go wrong. But keep in mind that their real forte is gaming first and foremost, with everything else a afterthought. If you see gaming gear as a real investment then SteelSeries may have a versatile long-term solution, expensive as it may be upfront.