There are two really big trends that we're seeing in the general world of consumer electronics. First, we've gotten into the habit of cutting every cable we can. You've got wireless mice, wireless charging, and wireless printers, as well as the ability to wirelessly stream a video from your smartphone to your HDTV. Second, we want products that are a little more universal, offering greater compatibility with some of the gear that we already have.
And approaching both of these trends is the SteelSeries H Wireless gaming headset. It's wireless, for starters, and it's also designed to work with just about any audio source you want to throw at it, including the PS4 and Xbox One.
Features and Box Contents
The SteelSeries H Wireless is decidedly a higher end product, retailing right around the $300 range. These are larger headphones with each of the ear cups measuring some 9 cm across. And yes, it is wireless, but for better or for worse, it doesn't work directly via a standard Bluetooth connection. Instead, there's a little controller box (about the size of an Apple TV) that connects to your audio source and it, in turn, communicates wirelessly with the headphones.
The transmitter box doubles as a charger, providing a slot along the right side where you can pop in the extra battery NES cartridge-style. The second battery comes pre-installed in the left ear cup and you swap between the two on an as-needed basis. Each battery lasts about 20 hours. Also in the box, you'll find an assortment of cables, including an optical audio cable, USB power cable, microUSB cable, analog audio cable, mobile cable and chat cable. The USB power adapter is accompanied by four worldwide plug ends to boot.
If there's one thing we've learned, SteelSeries doesn't skimp on the included accessories. You might remember the SteelSeries Flux In-Ear Pro Headset and how we got several silicone sleeves, as well as a splitter adapter and carrying pouch. The same idea applies here, sans carrying case.
Other notable features include lag free audio, as the H Wireless continuously jumps between frequencies to preempt and circumvent interference; support for Dolby Headphone, Dolby Digital and Dolby Pro Logix IIx for virtual 7.1 surround sound; ChatMix to control the balance between game and chat audio; and LiveMix to automate the ChatMix feature.
Size, Comfort and Build Quality
You do get the sense right away that the SteelSeries H Wireless is positioned as more of a premium product, based on the packaging alone. The headphones themselves feel very solid, but the padded headband offers a lot more flex than I had expected. It doesn't feel cheap, but it doesn't have the same kind of rigidity that you find on other premium headsets. It holds up very well.
The ear pieces themselves are generously padded and take on a circular shape. I wasn't quite able to completely encapsulate my ears, but the padding made for a very comfortable fit, even for extended playing and listening sessions. There's enough of a tilt and turn to accommodate most head shapes, especially with the more flexible headband.
The retractable microphone on the left earpiece is on a flexible arm, about 10 cm long, and on the right earpiece you'll find a volume dial and power button, as well as a covered flap that reveals the chat and share ports. The former is primarily for the Xbox 360, whereas the latter lets you output the same sound you're hearing on the headset to another speaker or set of headphones.
As a whole, the matte black finish with subtle orange highlights offers an understated classiness to the H Wireless, but the glossy black plastic caps on the outside of the earpieces can collect fingerprints very easily. They detract from an otherwise attractive package.
Plays Friendly With Almost Anything
Around the back of this box, you'll find your connectivity options. On the PC, the easiest path to take is the USB input, as this will also provide power to the box. With the other options -- optical in or analog (3.5mm) in -- you'll need to make use of the DC power input. There are also ports for optical out and chat out. On the front, you get one main dial that also serves as a confirmation button, while the smaller button serves the "back" function in the menu.
What this means is that while you can use this with mobile devices, the setup can be cumbersome. The SteelSeries H Wireless is quite clearly best suited for use with a PC or in front of a TV. I found the wireless range to be comparable of most Bluetooth headsets, only starting to break up when I was at the other end of my house, going through three rooms (and sets of walls).
The PC Gaming Experience
I tried using the SteelSeries H Wireless with a number of different games, as well as with music and movies, via a USB connection to my computer. The audio profile was rich and full. The bottom end didn't hit quite as hard as some other headphones that I've tried, but the sound was always very clean and never distorted.
In playing a couple of first-person shooters, I didn't really come to appreciate the simulated 7.1 surround sound at all. That being said, I was generally quite pleased with the overall audio performance of these headphones, even when it came to listening to music. It's clear enough that these are geared mostly toward gaming, but you won't be disappointed with how it performs for tunes and movies either.
Using Other Audio Sources
That being said, the experience with an analog stereo connection (3.5mm) left something to be desired. It's not that the audio was bad, but it was far too quiet. I ended up having to leave the volume level at close to the maximum to really get enough sound pumping into my skull, only getting to a level that I would otherwise achieve at maybe 50% on some other headphones.
The SteelSeries H Wireless can clearly produce more volume than that, as I experienced it via a USB connection, so I don't understand why the analog audio is so quiet. This is not a problem that I encountered with competing products like the Creative Sound Blaster EVO Zx, even though the H Wireless dwarfs it in size.
MEGATechie SteelSeries H Wireless Awesomeness or MEGATechie H Wireless Dull Thud?
As far as wireless gaming headsets go, the SteelSeries H Wireless offers classy, understated looks, but truly robust audio performance in the context of gaming. The flexible band and soft cushioning make it a comfortable choice too. The transmitter box looks great and is easy enough to use, but it does add an extra wrench to your setup. It also means you can't establish a direct Bluetooth connection to your mobile devices, though I suppose the H Wireless was never really meant for that purpose.
Considering that it retails for about $300, the SteelSeries H Wireless is hardly the most affordable option out there. You do get some great sounding audio though, as long as you don't settle for an analog connection. You really need to take advantage of that Dolby goodness, even if the clean, low end bass still leaves us wanting.