Throughout my years as a PC user I was never particularly bothered with the quality of the speakers/headsets I used while sat in front of the screen. I was never bothered that the beige, ugly speakers I had scavenged from a closing down PC store, would crackle and the first hint of bass. This was never a big deal to me as I knew no better; that was until my friend decided to upgrade himself to a 5.1 surround sound setup, a monstrous system for that time. I couldn’t believe how much nicer it was listening to music on it, how much scarier games were when you heard things behind you as apposed to the tinny stereo sound my set kicked out.
Since that time I have upgraded myself to a similar setup, but being a gamer at heart I spend most of my time using a headset anyway so that I can talk to my fellow players. Now my headset’s since that time have always been, “fine”. Nothing to flashy, nothing too comfortable, therefore it has always been something I have thought about changing. Imagine my excitement when I was asked by Steel Series to review their 7.1 virtual surround sound headset, the Steel Sound 5h.
Steel Series’s Take on the Steel Sound 5h
Professional Gaming Headset.
Pull-out microphone system.
Detachable headband for safe transportation.
Incl. USB soundcard optimized for gaming!
Best available on the market
- Freq. response: 16 – 28.000Hz
- Impedance: 40 Ohm
- SPL@1kHz, 1Vrms: 110dB
- Cable: 1 + 2 = 3m / 10ft
- Freq. response: 75 – 16.000Hz
- Pick up pattern: Uni-directional
- Sensitivity: -38 dB
- Impedance: 2K Ohm
The Steelsound 5H is packaged very nicely indeed. Clear plastic cover allowing you to have a good view of the product itself and a nice cardboard backing which lists plenty of information about the headset. Its specifications and features are listed in detail on the back and in brief on the front.
A Closer Look
After removing the headset from the packaging, I was struck by the fact that the headset is very much in the style of studio headphones, very big and very comfortable. They allow your ears to sit snuggly inside the bowel that they create; this is also good as it manages to keep out a lot of ambient noise without making you deaf to the world.
The Steelsound comes with some very nifty little features that make this product great. The connector cables that run from the headset come in 3 pieces. There is a short microphone and headphone cable, an adaptor cable that extends those 2 cables by another few feet and a USB adaptor.
The pack also contains a small instruction booklet and a driver CD.
Another helpful little tool that the headset brings to the table is a volume control and mic mute switch. This is all attached to a clip so that you can clip the little thing to anything you want. I did try clipping it to my dog’s ear for a laugh but he wasn’t very impressed. The mic mute switch has 3 settings, “hi”, “low” and “off”. This represents “on” “half volume” and off respectively. The volume switch is not a new feature on a headset but it is always nice to be able to adjust the volume of the headphones themselves as apposed to doing it through the computer.
The headset’s redeeming factor for me though was the brilliant microphone design. It is made of a bendable cable with a plastic coating so that you can place it where you find it most comfortable and for best sound pickup. However, the best part of the microphone for me was the fact that it retracts inside the headset. This is perfect for when you just want to use the headphones for listening to music as apposed to talking. It is also good if you fancy a snack while using the headset as you don’t end up getting food on the mic, as some of the messier headset users can attest to.
The software bundled with this headset was nice and simple to install which is a plus. It also provides you with some nifty little features. There is the option for the virtual 7.1 surround sound and there are also some little settings to change your voice when using the microphone, however almost all of the settings (and there are quite a few) mainly just add different levels of echo to your voice; however they are fun to play around with none the less.
Since there really is no specific way to test a headset, I spent a few hours listening to music on it, a couple more gaming and a few chatting to a friend over Skype.
Music: I was pretty impressed by the headphones during this test. The music quality was very good in the high frequency ranges with excellent sound quality. It seemed to suffer slightly if the bass was turned up or if the eq was changed for something a bit deeper, but it still performed admirably.
Gaming: This is where the virtual 7.1 really comes into its own. F.E.A.R became so scary I was considering leaving the light on lest Alma reach out of the screen like the girl from the ring! Considering there are only 2 speakers, the way that they emulate 7 was very impressive. By adding minute changes the volume they trick your ears into thinking that the sound is coming from in front, behind and to your sides, a very clever little trick.
Skype: The Microphone worked admirably throughout this test, with no crackle or hiss and even when breathing directly onto the mic there was very little registered at the other end of the call. My only qualm during this test was that the microphone cable didn’t quite reach around far enough for my voice to be at optimal volume. However I soon fixed this by scanning through the software provided and adding a 20db volume boost, a very helpful feature.
Throughout all these tests the headset performed admirably, with very few problems at all. The headset was comfortable, the sound clear and the microphone was of good quality. My only qualm with the headset really, was the fact that by completely covering your ears it does tend to heat them up quite considerably, so after a few hours you may find that your ears have decided to get a bit sweaty.
|Good sound quality||Sweaty ears|
|Good quality microphone||Microphone cable is not long enough|
|Software is helpful|
NB. While writing this review it was pointed out to me that the look of the headset may suit some better than others, I’ll let you be the judge of that…