SteelSound 5H V2 Page: 1
Introduction

Steelseries are a company that has, for a long time, been producing some of the highest quality gaming equipment available. From mousepads to keyboards, clothing to audio, steelseries have products covering them all.

Today I will be looking at one of SteelSound's (steelseries' audio division) latest gaming headsets, the SteelSound 5H V2. This headset, as the name suggests is an improvement on an already relatively successful model.

Some images taken from the SteelSeries website:

steelsound 5H

Improvements:

These headphones have recently undergone some development by SteelSeries:

"The new headset features improved microphone quality, a longer microphone cord, bigger (and more comfortable) ear cushions, additional frame pressure and numerous other technical design improvements."

I am interested to see how these affect our testing.

Specification:

Headphones:

Frequency response
16 - 28.000 Hz Impedance
40 Ohm SPL@ 1kHz, 1 Vrms
110 dB Cable length
1 + 2 = 3 meters (10 feet) Connectors
3.5 mm Microphone
Frequency response
75 - 16.000 Hz Pick up pattern
Uni-directional Sensitivity
-38dB Impedance
2k Ohm

The specs look good on paper but how do they translate?

SteelSound 5H V2 Page: 2
Packaging

The box that houses the SteelSound 5H headset is a thin, clear plastic box with a cardboard backing and moulded plastic insert to support the headset. The headset is held to the insert with wire ties which stop them from falling forward into contact with the plastic, where they could get damaged.

Packaging

Package Back

Inside Back

The plastic insert is covered in a fine grey "flock". This leaves it feeling soft to the touch and gives it a matt beige finish. Unfortunately the static generated by the case plastic attracts any loose fibres, and after transit gave the box a slight haze.

Inside Package

Inside Closeup

Overall the packaging is sufficient to prevent damage from drops and knocks and is certainly perfect for the retail outlet, putting the headset well on show.

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How We Tested:

As this is the first Headset to pass through Overclock3D.net, the review structure will be somewhat unfarmiliar to regular readers. Due to the nature of audio equipment, it is very hard to perform any form of benchmarking without highly accurate and expensive devices, therefore the review will be solely my opinion on the headset, and will be structured to clearly compare and contrast both good and bad points..

The SteelSound 5H were tested on the following test system:

CPU: Intel C2D E4300 @ 3400mhz
Motherboard: ASUS P5B Deluxe
RAM: Mushkin XP2-8500 DDR2 2GB
GPU: Leadtek 7800GTX
Hard drive: 200GB Barracuda
PSU: 580W Hiper Type-R

For fairness we tested the Headset with the following three Sound Cards:

Auzentech X-Mystique Gold 5.1
Sound Blaster Live! 5.1
Sound Blaster X-Fi Fatal1ty FPS Edition

To test the sound I used the following games:

Quake 4
Counterstrike: Source

I also listened to some music on the headset using Windows Media Player 10 and Foobar2000, making sure I adjusted the headset and sound card outputs to try to get the best sound quality possible.

Furthermore I used the headset in place of my usual in-ear earphones with my Creative Zen Micro, a Sony NW-A3000 and my HiFi system, mainly to ensure that the computer setup was performing properly.

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Good Points

In this page I will cover all the positive points that I have come across while using the Headset

Comfort

The first thing I noticed when putting on the headset was how comfortable they were. The shape of the SteelSound headset is just right, not only are they lightweight but they cling to your head. Heavier and larger headsets such as speedlink Medusas tend to just hang on your head, making them most uncomfortable after a few hours use. Secondly the padding on the ear cups is very thick and soft, this keeps the flat surface of the speaker compartment off your ear, preventing discomfort during use. This thick padding however causes problems with the audio output, which I will cover in the next page.

Padding


Weight

One of the major selling features of the 5H, in my eyes, is its weight. More precisely, its lack of it. Apart from the pressure on the wearers ears, it is easy to forget youre even wearing them. Another feature perfect for prolonged gaming.

Cable Braiding and Controls

The SteelSound 5H cable is pretty much everything you could want from a wire. It's well braided, has a relatively lengthy rubber inlet, it has an extension cable that brings it to a more than adequate length and it has a neat little in-line controller with volume + mic controls as well as a stainless steel clip.

Guard

Cable

Controller

extention

Dismantle

The SteelSound 5H headset has quite a nifty little party trick; It breaks into three separate pieces with ease, making it easier to transport to LAN events or just to a friends house.

3 piece

3 piece close up

top piece

ear piece

Mic Cord and Microphone

The 5H's retractable microphone is another great feature. Not only does it return fully inside the cup but the microphones output is of very good quality and was in fact clearer than the microphone on my Medusa headset.

Microphone Tip

Microphone Wire

Retracted Microphone

So that's what the 5H headset has to offer that is worth shelling out a few pounds for, on the next page we will take a look at the headsets downsides....


SteelSound 5H V2 Page: 5
Bad Points

On this page I will cover the negative points I have come across while using the headset.

Tinny Sound Quality

Due to the distance put between the users ear and the speakers by the padding on the cups, the sound comes across as quite tinny and quiet. The same as when a good pair of earphones are held a few inches from the ear.

In game this reduced the feel of immersion and I felt not able to be as involed in the gaming experience as I should have been. This is in comparison with the headset I am personally used to and so is likely to be a lot more noticeable to me.

When it came to testing with MP3 players, both the Creative Zen Micro and Sony players managed to distort the headset at medium volume whereas the HiFi became what I would call unpleasant at about one third of its output volume.

WMP screenshot


Poor Feel

The plastic used to make the 5H v2's is particularly lightweight. While this has several upsides, it also makes the overall feel of quality suffer. Largely because it gives the impression that the construction is largely hollow.

A the build quality also took a second knock in the form of a loose cup extender ( the retracting system that adjusts the size of the headset). This meant that every time I would pick up the headset the left cup would lose its positioning. In fact the slider was so lose that a slight tap would cause the cup to fully extend from its lowest setting, while the right cup holds in place fine. Not a problem in terms of performance but not exactly a sign of quality.

Crackle

Another major letdown in quality with this headset was a crackle in the left speaker. This was not permanently noticeable but was of huge annoyance with quiet or low sounds such as distant explosions in games.

Some tracks on the MP3 players used, particularly bassy and songs with quiet intros highlighted this a fair bit clearer than in-game audio.

CSS screenshot


Poor Bass

The bass output of the headset was not exactly at the level I would prefer, in fact, it was pretty low. Nor was the quality fantastic; above half volume and the bass would distort a fair bit. This coupled with the distance added by the padding on the cups basically made the bass non-existent in both music and games.

So that's what the 5H headset has going against it, but which points are the most prominent ....

SteelSound 5H V2 Page: 6
Conclusion

Overall the SteelSound 5H V2 headset fell short of my expectations. Its best features ( lightweight, comfortable, portable) are just as common and easily found in a lot of budget and mid range headsets. Its sound output was nowhere near what I or any of the other reviewers had expected. I can honestly say I would opt for Sony In-Ear earphones over the 5H V2 for sound quality and even when gaming I was surprised that they did not perform.

On the other hand, this headset is sold as a gaming headset, an area in which voice communication is a lot more important. This would be where the 5H V2's high quality microphone would serve the user well.

The headsets physical features are also the type which frequent LAN goers would look for but these features are not things upon which one can justify charging around £45 (see OcUK £46.94) . They are things that make for pleasant extras and quirky party tricks.

Several months ago I made the move to 5.1 headgear in the shape of the Speedlink Medusa headset. This, in my eyes, was the single greatest purchase for my gaming performance. The sound quality in-game is avery good and the sense of immersion is fantastic; The two main points on which the 5H V2 headset is sold (and fails to meet), for a lower price.

So in conclusion, yes, the headset is comfortable, it is fairly clear and is ideal for transporting around but for the price they are just not good value for money. They simply do not meet their purpose as a gaming headset, the sound quality and stereo sound just doesn't cut it anymore in a gaming situation.


Pros:

+ Comfortable
+ Lightweight
+ Dismantle for transportation
+ High quality retractable microphone

Cons:

- Very mediocre sound quality
- Stereo sound not as good as it could be for gaming
- Build quality is lacking

Reviewed Award

Thanks to SteelSeries for the Review Sample

Discuss in our Forums

It is worth noting that 3 reviewers have taken a look at this headset and come to the same conclusion. We have also had 2 sets of these to test to make sure the first was not DOA.

Feedback From SteelSeries

SteelSeries were rather surprised and disappointed with the result of our review and believe in their product to be the best headset for gamers. We will continue to work with SteelSeries and appreciate their "taking it on the chin" in this instance.

Overclock3D have tried to give a fair review and we want to make sure that our readers know we gave the headset every chance. We will certainly look forward to any SteelSeries products for review in the future.