Steelseries 5H v2 Headset Review

Overall Score

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For the last week we have had the great pleasure of testing the 5H v2 headset and the SX surface (soon to be featured in an upcoming review) from Steelseries.  When we first examined these products we quickly realized that Steelseries is a company that is extremely focused on providing gamers with devices that scream innovation and quality.  Not a single detail has been overlooked; every single ounce has been scoured over carefully to ensure that we the consumer, are satisfied with every aspect of the product.

As reviewers, we honestly would have loved to have found a design flaw so that we could provide some feedback to Steelseries but we simply could not, kudos to Steelseries.  This basically gives you an idea of the review ahead, but the pictures are definitely worth the look.

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All photos courtesy of Jeff Clark of Santa Barbara

 

Let us see what we are working with here….
 

Specifications:

Headset

  • Frequency response: 16 – 28,000 Hz
  • Impedance: 40 Ohm
  • SPL@ 1kHz, 1 Vrms: 110 dB
  • Cable length: 10 feet
  • Connectors: 1 –  3.5 mm audio, 1 – 3.5mm mic.

Retractable Microphone

  • Frequency response: 75 – 16,000 Hz
  • Pick up pattern: Uni-directional
  • Sensitivity: -38dB
  • Impedance: 2k Ohm

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Construction:

The overall construction of the headset is made from a really sturdy flat-black plastic.  Everything is very smooth, there are no hair snagging edges or creases. Nothing about the headphones feels fragile or flimsy, and we could easily see this headset surviving many years worth of lan parties.  The headset has a lot of foam padding on the underside of the bridge as it rests over the head, this helps to reduce the feeling of weight quite a bit.  The headset can also be taken apart into three seperate peices in a matter of five seconds.  This feature is great for taking apart the headphones and stuffing them into a bag.  There is no cord running through the entire length of the headset, each earpeice is attached to the bridge via two large gold connectors on both sides.  The dismantling of the headphones are engineered really well.  Constant disassembly will not weaken the structural integrity of the headset.

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Comfort:

Each earpiece is on a pivoting joint for added comfort.  The ear covers are made from a breathable cloth like material that prevents your ears from getting sweaty during extended sessions spent sitting in front of your computer.  The ear covers completely engulf the ears causing absolutely no awkward pressure on the ears or the head.  The foam on the ear coveres protrude a good full inch also helping to eliminate pressure on the head as well.  Most outside noises are inaudible when the headphone is on and audio is being played.

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Interface:

All the 3.5mm jack contacts are gold plated for that extra audio clarity, something worth noting in a cable of this length.  The length of the cable that is directly attached to the headphone is about three feet long, perfect for people who use headphones on laptops.  The cable that goes into the headset is secured by a rubber gromet that will prevent the cord from being ripped out on accident.  The pakage comes with a mic and headphone cable extension that allows the full length to reach up to ten feet.  One really superb feature about this headset is that every cable is braided similar to the one found on the Logitech G5 and G9.  This is welcome feature that I wish more companies would adapt.

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Two feet down the cord is a thumb controller that can turn the mic hi – low – off and limit the volume being transferred to the headset.  The volume dialer is very sturdy and has just the right amount of friction to prevent someone or something from accidently turning it down or up.  The click interface to control mic transmission volume is about twice as hard to move as turning on a game boy.  Both ends have a rubber casing to prevent the cord from tearing apart should something pull on it the wrong way.

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The mic is retractable and as flexible as one of those tiny little led flashlights.  We’ll let the pictures do all the talking.

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The real question is… how did we like them?

Sound Testing Methodology

Measuring the quality of audio is clearly a listening expereince.  There are no benchmarks or ways to properly identify and judge the quality of audio from one headset to another.  The best way to bench a headset is to listen to songs from multiple genres and compare them side by side.  Listening experiences may vary from user to user so I enlisted the help of my fiance for additional input.

To strengthen the qualty of this review even more, two seperate sound output devices were used:

  • Conexant High Definition SmartAudio 221 found in the laptop.
  • Auzentech X-FI Prelude 7.1 found in the desktop.

When sitting at either computer we tested the Steelseries 5H v2 and Zalman 5.1 Headphones listening to:

  • Queens of the Stoneage – Sick, Sick, Sick (Rock)
  • Infected Mushroom – Never, never land (Trance)
  • MGMT – Time to pretend (Easy Listening)
  • Counter-Strike : Source – 3 rounds
  • Ventrilo (VoIP) – 1minute session

The following experiences were gathered from the tests:

 

Steelseries 5H v2

Laptop experience:

The Steelseries dominated the Zalmans using the single audio jack found on the laptop.  Everything sounded very clear and there was no static noise at any volume.

Desktop experience:

The Steelseries sounded a bit heavy on the treble; something that we quickly fixed using the Auzen Console.  The only battle that it lost was trying to determine player locations in Counter-Strike: Source.  The Zalmans had a definite advantage here, but the Steelseries did a great job of attempting to emulate surround sound.

Overview of the Steelseries:

The Steelseries sounded crystal clear at any volume.  One of our biggest gripes, however, is the lack of bass.  Rock and Trance suffer due to this but after adjusting the audio panel on the desktop, the bass could be raised a fairly reasonable amount without the clarity suffering.  Overall the audio produced sounded superb, albeit a little tinny.  The MIC sounded so crystal clear over Ventrilo that without saying a single word people immediately recognized our "new voice" and asked what headset we had purchased.  Soon after posting a link to these headphones over on Ventrilo, people were talking about how we souded as if we were sitting right next to them, pretty impressive.

  • The ear covers caused no pressure on the ears.
  • The bridge over the head is less flexible and is not very forgiving if you wear glasses under your headphones.
  • The braided cable is a plus.

 

Zalman 5.1

Laptop experience:

The Zalmans were very quiet without the support from 4 of the 6 internal speakers (the laptop is not equipped with surround sound audio jacks like the desktop).  Trance was very muffled, Easy listening was very muffled, and Rock sounded the best but still lost compared to the Steelseries in audio quality.

Desktop experience:

The Zalmans were favored in Counter-Strike because of the true Front, Center, and Rear channel audio jacks.  Personally we could not see ourselves playing in a CAL-I match using the Steelseries, but for other games that do not require 5.1 channel audio, the Steelseries have our money.  If the Steelseries were 5.1 the Zalmans would lose in every category.  The loud muddy bass is quickly put to shame when you switch back to the Steelseries.  We cannot even begin to explain how good Counter-Strike: Source sounds on the Steelseries.

Overview of the Zalman:

Overall the Zalmans sounded pretty muddy compared to the Steelseries.  What they lacked in sound quality they more than made up for in bass and volume; causing sound distortion and noise.  With all 6 speakers pounding, certain notes were loud enough to make the ears bleed even if the lyrics did get drowned out.  If you are a fan of listening to music and drowning out the mids and highs with those dual 15inch subs in your car, these are the headphones for you.  We will say that if you are a surround sound gamer, the Zalmans won that battle.

  • The ear covers caused some pressure on the ears.
  • The bridge over the head is flexible and comfortable for long gaming sessions.

 

Let’s dumb it down a little shall we…

Conclusion:

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Steelseries has delivered an excellent product for gamers.  We could continue to elaborate on what we wrote on the first page but all that needs to be said is that this headset is a keeper.  For anyone looking for a great gaming headset at an affordable price, look no further than the 5H v2.  The only similar offerings on the market that would put up a good fight are also made by Steelseries.  At this point in time we would like to give a big thanks to Steelseries for the review sample and Jeff Clark for taking the photos.

Pros

  • Quality of Construction
  • Rugged and Innovative design
  • Superb Audio Clarity
  • Easy to disassemble and reassemble for transportation
  • Affordable price
  • Great companion with Laptops (perfect for laptop gamers)
  • No more tangles
  • Very high quality retractable MIC
  • GOLD plated contacts at every connect-point
  • Comes with a cable extension should you need it.
  • Emulates surround sound really well thanks to it’s custom engineered soundscape.

Cons

  • Lack of Bass (this can be fixed using your audio panel if you have a decent soundcard)
  • If you wear glasses it may cause awkward pressure behind your ears
  • Not true 5.1 surround sound (that’s just me being picky)

 

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XCPUS RECOMMENDED

Steelseries 5H v2 retail for $79.99

 

Discuss this review here.

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