We think buying a headset exclusively for gaming is a bit daft, which is why we admire the SteelSeries 9H Gaming Headset. From testing we’ve found the pair to be a suitable all-rounder type of headset, for listening to music, enjoying movies, taking Skype calls and, of course, playing video games. They have a price tag of $171 within the USA and £123 in the UK on Amazon, so they're targeted towards the premium end of gaming headsets currently on offer.
Design & Features
Three good quality double braided interchangeable cables are included within the box, one with a 3.5mm auxiliary connection, another with 2x 3.5mm auxiliary connections and finally a USB 2.0 connection with a sound card equipped for further control and enhanced audio features. A retractable microphone is fixed into the left ear cup, so you can walk around in public listening to music with the 9H’s on, without drawing unnecessary glances from onlookers. The ear cups are over-ear styled and look proportionally stylish when worn. It's a gaming headset that avoids looking clunky, in an all black design featuring subtle orange stitching along the ear cups' faux leather covers. The headband is reinforced with metal and has plenty of give, so we felt relaxed cramming them into a bag. In fact, the entire construction feels dense, but the headset has an unexpected airy lightness in weight.
None of us here have huge ears or heads and we found the generously thick and soft 1” inch memory foam padding around the headband and ear cups make the 9H headset very comfortable to wear for hours on end. The padding truly hugs the ears, which significantly enhances noise isolation and lack of sound leakage. If you're looking to create a sound bubble within your environment, the SteelSeries 9H's will truly deliver.
The single 40mm drivers with neodymium magnets output a frequency range of 10-2800 Hz, an impedance of 32 Ohm and 110dB. To start testing the audio performance of the SteelSeries 9H Headset we sampled a varied selection of music through them. This gave us quite a surprise, and the price tag that we originally thought may be a bit greedy turned out to be generous. We've listened to many headphones that have far higher price tags stapled onto them, and the 9H headset is notably better. The bass is well levelled and truly captures dark depths, the highs soar and the mid-range is amply wide between the two ranges. All in all we felt that these could be used as a main pair of headphones in conjunction with a smartphone for someone on a commute or suchlike. The only disadvantage is that the 8-pin mini adapter which the supplied 3.5mm auxiliary cable attachment plugs into can become slightly undone from movements such as running. Plus the control doesn't allow for skipping or pausing of music, it just lowers the volume of the headphone's output but not the actual volume on the device the audio is streaming from.
Serious gamers will revel in the quality on offer. We used the SteelSerious 9H headset with games consoles and computers; primarily using the PS3 via the USB sound card, which solely transports the in-game conversations, so we used an auxiliary cable running from the TV to the card to gather all in-game audio. As previously learnt, the balanced frequency ranges definitely further enhance gaming engagement, and the volume can be cranked without any distortion or loss of quality, and constantly gives immediate timing with onscreen actions and fellow online players' conversations. As far as inbuilt microphones go, this one meets the task at hand well, picking up vocals without any problems, but occasionally also picking up background noises too easily when not speaking. However, when the SteelSeries 9H headset is used with the USB card it utilises smart noise cancelling and does a good job at eradicating all other sounds than your voice.
Dolby Pro Logic IIx Surround Sound
The Dolby Pro Logic IIx surround sound is intended to dish up virtual 7.1-channel surround sound when used with the USB sound card attachment, which also raises ten EQ settings for selection. We found the SteelSeries 9H headset makes sound appear as if it's floating past your ears and thankfully not directly into the ear canal, as this would result in some ear fatigue with prolonged stretches of use. So we don't have any earache or pain complaints to note whatsoever. This directional appearance is a somewhat credible surround sound effort from just two speaker drivers, but still evidently artificial and doesn't really challenge true surround sound. It does have very positive stereo separation and a wide sound stage, but the direction of something like a bullet being fired from an angle can only really be detected in terms of being from the front, back, left or right.
The impression we think you should take away from the SteelSeries 9H headset is that it is a comfortable and seriously good audio gaming headset that, because of its clean styling, offers other general media uses, further benefiting what we feel is its already fair price.