SteelSeries H Wireless Gaming Headset Review

by Ryan Perry on September 29, 2014 in Audio & Media

Gamers hate lag, and many of them think that it goes hand-in-hand with wireless peripherals. So when SteelSeries stepped-up with its H Wireless headset, it was hard to not take notice given the company’s passion for gaming and eSports. With a unit in the lab, let’s find out if it’s actually possible to have a gaming-worthy wireless headset.

Setup & Testing

As stated near the beginning, the H Wireless provides three different Dolby surround sound technologies, each of which aims to deliver the best possible sound experience regardless of the original audio. When used with an XBox or PS3/PS4, users will be able to enjoy 5.1 virtual surround sound, while PC users can take full advantage of 7.1 virtual surround.

Connecting the optical cable enables Dolby Digital, along with the Chatmix and Livemix features that either adjusts the game volume automatically, or keeps game volume and chat volume at a user defined preset respectively, so that the in-game volume doesn’t wash out your teammates. Choosing USB audio out on the other hand allows for Dolby Headphone or Pro Logic IIx technologies.

I’ll be connecting the H Wireless to a PC and selecting USB audio since it’ll probably be the most common connection type. Doing so is as easy and plugging in the USB cable and power adapter and moving through the no nonsense menus below.

SteelSeries H Wireless Headset - Receiver Setup

First, add the source, which is whatever type of device the H Wireless is connected to.

SteelSeries H Wireless Headset - Receiver Add Sources

Next define the input based on the cable type being used.

SteelSeries H Wireless Headset - Receiver Audio Input

Then do the same with the audio output.

SteelSeries H Wireless Headset - Receiver Audio Output

In this instance, since Chatmix and Livemix are not supported with USB audio, there’s a small notice that says these features are disabled.

SteelSeries H Wireless Headset - Receiver Chatmix and Livemix

That’s all there is to it, except that in order for the surround sound technologies to kick in, Dolby needs to be enabled. Once turned on in the menu, the unmistakable Dolby double D logo is shown on the main screen.

SteelSeries H Wireless Headset - Receiver Dolby Digital

There are a few equalizer presets as well, but those who want to fine tune the sound can also make manual adjustments.

SteelSeries H Wireless Headset - Receiver Immersion

To test out the H Wireless, we decided to run the gamut and watch a movie, listen to some music, and of course, get our game on. This was all done using the Immersion equalizer preset. Keep in mind that this testing is subjective and I’m about as far from an audiophile as you can get. A trained ear takes years to develop, and I’m sure that rather than nurture my hearing, I’ve destroyed it over time.

Our in flight movie was the Blu-ray retail version of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, as well as a lower quality rip of the same movie with only 2 channel audio to see just how well the H Wireless handles upscaling sound from a less than ideal source.

It was amazing how close the sound from the rip matches the retail version. There was a noticeable difference when watching 10 seconds of one version, then immediately switching to the same 10 seconds of the other, but most would never even know that the audio is being upscaled without something to compare it to. The sound on the rip was a little bit thin when compared to the retail version and lacked a small amount of that big movie theater sound, but it should still impress just about all users.

SteelSeries H Wireless Headset - The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

For music we decided to test with the original soundtrack of the 2013 movie, The Host. While the movie was panned by critics, I didn’t entirely hate it (yeah, I’m a sucker for a love story with a twist), but loved the orchestral soundtrack enough to run out and buy a physical copy. Music doesn’t sound good in surround sound, so that was switched off resulting in a fantastic listening experience. I found myself picking out small details that I couldn’t hear with my regular headset. I’m sure it could have sounded even better if I chose to fiddle with the equalizer, but even with the Immersion preset, it still sounded wonderful.

SteelSeries H Wireless Headset - The Host

No SteelSeries review would be complete without some game testing. The Borderlands series has always been one of my favourites, and given the obscene amount of time I’ve spent playing the sequel, I figured it would be the perfect one to test with since I’m very familiar with the audio. I play as a Mechromancer exclusively, so Death Trap is usually off pounding on Psychos while I bring the pain elsewhere. I had no problem hearing him causing a ruckus from behind me, or when a Psycho breaks away and tries to jump me. The amount of low end punch from the H Wireless is a little less than what I’m used to because I like to really rattle my teeth, but explosions and melee strikes still gave that satisfying kick, while providing crystal clear audio across the board.

SteelSeries H Wireless Headset - Borderlands 2

The recording quality of the microphone was equally as good. While it didn’t sound as warm as my usual headset, it was incredibly clear, and it did a fantastic job at filtering out the noise from the two systems that sit three feet to my right.

Some might be wondering if there’s any latency, which is likely to be a real sticking point with prospective buyers who just happen to be hardcore gamers. I’m happy to say that there was no real world lag noticed with no slowing of the audio followed by a fast tempo period as the signal tries to catch up to what is being displayed. Everything that was displayed on the screen, whether sitting front row center, or from the next room over was delivered to the headset with consistent, spot on timing.

SteelSeries claims that the range on the H Wireless is 40 feet and in my small-ish, wooden frame house I could go anywhere on the main floor and even onto the back deck without any loss of audio. The signal also remained strong while upstairs or downstairs so long as I didn’t tuck into any corners, which I’m not very likely to do. In short, the range will end up likely being more than what’s needed, but to answer the question that’s on everyone’s mind, yes, I can reach the fridge.

When it comes to comfort, we’re aware that no two people are alike, but for me I was immediately amazed at how light H Wireless was, but then remembered that it’s a stereo headset. Some surround sound headsets have separate audio drivers in each cup, which adds to the weight, but the H Wireless doesn’t suffer from this since all audio is processed by software. The cups fit nicely over my ears and the foam found there and on the headband did a fantastic job keeping me comfortable. Normally an hour is all that I can stand before having to make an adjustment, but with the H Wireless there was no fatigue felt anywhere on my head after a 2 hour session with both cups on, and another 2 hour session with one sitting behind my ear.

Battery life was a little tough to gauge, because I had to leave a signal running at all times as I went about my day. I didn’t manage to catch the exact point when the H Wireless turned off, but it wasn’t any less than 19 hours with the volume at maximum, which isn’t far off of what’s advertised.

Overall, the H Wireless knocked my socks off. If I had continued testing, something else might have come off, but I’ll spare you all that disturbing mental image and sum things up on the next page.