Published on June 24th, 2014 | by Greg0
SteelSeries Gaming Gear, Part 2: 9H Headset
In the first part of this series, we looked at a couple of gaming accessories for your hands- and today we’re turning out eyes towards, um, our ears. Every gamer knows the importance of excellent sound- and specifically, spatial dynamics that can help you pinpoint the location of that hidden sniper. Compared to other audio headgear, with their focus on a crisp and clear music experience, bass boosting, or street-worthy style, gamer sets put more importance on comfort for marathon sessions of Call of Duty and durability for those inevitable yanks on cables. It’s a big enough market than even established audio names like Sennheiser and Audio-Technica are jumping in.
The SteelSeries 9H Headset hits the high notes. It’s a true multi-platform model with an included USB soundcard, and we tested on smartphones with both Android and iOS operating systems, along with our gaming laptop and desktop computers (OSX and Windows 7) and finally with the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 as well. It’s not a wireless set, but does use Dolby ProLogic IIx Surround Sound technology to make your every move feel like you’ve moved in with The Sims or are driving around Chicago in Watch Dogs. The result is a 7.1 speaker experience that can convert stereo or 5.1 signals as well, and make them sound authentically multi-channel (as long as you use the soundcard of course). The software suite is pretty impressive too, offering handy EQ settings and even profiles for multiple users.
We’ve certainly see better-looking sets- the 9H don’t look all that powerful or intimidating at first glance. But we did like the earcup details and color, especially the visible stitching on the pads. Plus, they are real leather, which pushes this model above many peers. Speaking of which, the earpads were a good balance between soft and firm, offering a comfy fit while staying steady on your head. There’s a noise canceling microphone, and it can retract, which is a nice addition. We did find it a little sensitive- which does mean it picks up more external sounds than many competitors, but you won’t have to worry about finding a fixed mic in your mouth. There aren’t some convenient buttons and options we’ve seen before, like a mute button right at your fingertips, nor does it have colored lighting (unlike the lovely SteelSeries Siberia Elite set we tried previously). But for audio performance, and especially for the price, it felt really well-built and performed incredibly well over multiple consoles, systems, and games.
In short, if you’re looking for a sub-$200 headset for some gaming, we haven’t heard the 9H’s peer. If microphone/chat quality (or music audio) is paramount, you might want to consider another option, but these have withstood drops and some abuse without showing it- the metal construction feels solid without feeling too heavy. Lengthy cables and lots of options out of the box make for a top new contender, plus this one will block most external sounds allowing you to focus on what’s important- getting ready for Destiny. Available now, expect to spend around $160, online and in stores.