Review: SteelSeries H Wireless Headset

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Product: SteelSeries H Wireless Headset
Release Date: December 30, 2013
Manufacturer: SteelSeries
Original MSRP: $299.99

When I visited the folks from SteelSeries at PAX Prime 2013, I was very fortunate to have been able to try a prototype of this headset, and I was immediately impressed. I couldn’t wait to try the final product out, and fortunately for myself and for all of you, SteelSeries sent a set for both myself and Josh to try out.

In the box is a pretty impressive collection of microphone cables and power connectors for different regions to ensure connectivity in just about every situation. Of course, also included are the headphones themselves, a base unit that they connect to wirelessly, and TWO batteries. It’s such a simple thing, but the fact that they’ve included 2 batteries right out of the gate is a huge plus for owning these headphones. You can always have one charging in the base unit, and swapping them out is a breeze. Even nicer, you won’t have to do so very often, as the battery seems to hover at around 18 hours of regular use.

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Setting everything up is pretty easy, and I was up and running within minutes on the PS3 and the PS4. The base unit requires external power using a compact power connector, which allows you to choose from one of four packed-in modules for different regions. The USB connector is used for chat on PC and PS3, and the cables needed to plug into the controllers on the Xbox 360 and PS4 are here as well. Audio to the headphones can be connected via a standard 3.5mm stereo connector or via optical, including an optical pass-through for those that only need to use the headphones part of the time. Personally, having a pass-through is great for me as well, since I can use that output to go to my mixer for when I run any live streams, especially since the PS4 doesn’t allow for stereo output as the PS3 did.

The base station is quite compact, and offers a black and white OLED screen, which is nice and bright so you can see everything clearly from a decent distance away. Everything is set by simply using a dial on the front of the unit, and as you’ll discover, many of these features can even be altered directly from the headset. The amount of customization is pretty nice, with the ability to create profiles (up to 4) and separate source configs as well. You’ll also find 6 preset equalizer configurations, and the option to create your own.

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The menu items that can be a bit confusing are for the ‘Chatmix’ and the ‘Livemix’, but both are important if you plan on chatting while playing online. Chatmix is the balance between game audio and chat, allowing you to give priority to one or the other, all adjustable on-the-fly. Livemix is used to dynamically set how much the game audio will drop when someone talks, giving you a better chance to hear what they’re saying but allowing you to still hear the game. Depending on how you set the Livemix, you can even have the game audio drop-out completely when someone talks. So, the audio levels will fluctuate when someone talks, which is a feature that I really like. If you’ve been in a party on the PS4 or the Vita, you’ve already had the opportunity to experience how this feature works.

The H Wireless supports Dolby Virtual Surround (that many other headsets use as well.), which can be toggled on and off. The difference with this headset though, is the amount of immersion when compared to others. These are without a doubt the best gaming headphones that I’ve ever heard. Movement in the virtual 5.1 space is incredible, and being fully uncompressed over wireless, you’ll get the same audio bitrate via optical that you would on your home audio receiver, and you’ll definitely be able to notice the difference. I’ve been using these for a few weeks now, and the sound separation is fantastic, especially in audio-heavy games like Battlefield 4 and Killzone: Shadow Fall.

I’m able to hear not only that an enemy is sneaking up behind me, but from which direction. Bullets fly within inches of my ears and strike walls and rocks all around me, and they never miss a beat. The headphones cover your ears, adding even more punch to the beefy bass in the 40mm drivers, but nothing ever gets distorted or lost in the mix. Additionally, the microphone is really top-notch, and reports from people I’ve played online with have been universally positive, with little to no background noise or hum.

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From a hardware design standpoint, they’re fantastic, with lighter weight than you’d expect. The headphones are very comfortable to wear for multiple hours, and the cushions are ultra-soft throughout. For headphones that cost $299, you’d expect a solid feel, and the H Wireless exceed those expectations, but they still retain a good amount of flexibility, even allowing you to turn the cans sideways so that they rest around your neck and on your chest comfortably. Another nice touch is that the microphone pushes up into the main housing if you don’t want to use it, and sliding them out and making adjustments is effortless.

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But, these aren’t just intended for gaming. I’ve watched a couple of Blu-rays with them, and as expected, the performance is stellar. The best part about it is that you can set up four different sources within the base, and you can have separate configurations for up to four different systems. There are presets available for PlayStation, Xbox, TV, and AUX, but all of that can be edited and customized.

I know that a lot of this seems complicated, but it’s not. All of the menus are easy to navigate, and are very horizontal to keep the user from having to dig past a couple of levels. Again, everything is reached by a simple, clickable dial. It was a bit more complicated for me however, since the review unit didn’t include a manual (which I have been assured will be included when the set hits retail.)

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Chat works flawlessly on PS3 and PS4 using a USB connection (PS3) or a standard 3.5mm cable (which is included) plugged into the DualShock 4 (PS4). Xbox 360 chat is also supported with an included cable, but I was not able to test it with an Xbox One since I don’t have one. The controls on the headset itself have been kept very simple, which merely offers a dial that’s clickable, two microphone jacks hidden under a rubber cover, and a power button that you can also tap to mute the microphone, all of which are on the right ear. Twist the black cover on the left ear to get access to the battery, and you’ll have a fresh one swapped in seconds. To get an indication of your battery’s remaining power, just check the base station to see it onscreen.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention that they’ll even work with portable devices like the Vita, a phone, or a music player using the included 3.5mm male-to-male cable (the same cable that you’d use to connect to the DualShock 4). Once again, the performance is great. Obviously, since you’re not interfacing with the base station though, you won’t be able to set any audio preferences etc, but it’s nice to know that they work with pretty much anything when you’re spending this amount of cash.

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I’m not exaggerating when I say that these are my go-to headphones now. I have absolutely no complaints, and really, the only negative for gamers would probably be the price. A lot of thought has been put into this package as a whole, and the fact that so many optional cables and connectors have been included just adds to the feeling of getting a “Premium” product.

I just love that not only did they include a battery charger in the base, but that they also included another battery. The H Wireless Headset transcends simply using them for gaming, and the amount of customization and the stunning audio quality, paired with a brilliant hardware build and design makes these the best home theater and gaming headphones that you can buy.

Score:
9.5

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  • Would love to get a pair of these, but man that price.

  • Alex

    HI, I have a question about connection. Can I plug 3.5mm male-to-male cable from my phone to the base and use the headset wireless for phone conversation? Thanks

  • svvoop

    hi glenn
    i am using the steelseries h with my ps4 but livemix is not working. chatmix is working but livemix just does nothing.
    any idea why?
    best regards

    • T Fabien

      I have the same problem, do you found a solution ?
      Apparently setting the bas on xbox and put a jack wire is a solution but it’s not a decent solution on a 300$ wireless headset in my opinion …
      Thanks !