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May
22
2014

SteelSeries 9H Gaming Headset Review

SteelSeries 9H Gaming Headset Review

When it comes to gaming peripherals, SteelSeries is considered to be one of the top manufactures in the industry. With the company’s top-of-the-line tournament grade headset, the 9H aims to win gamers over with its unique industrial design, multiple use scenarios and SteelSeries build quality.

The headset comes in at $159 which is about $100 cheaper than the GAME Zero. This makes it fall right in the middle when it comes pricing for gaming headsets.

Image courtesy of SteelSeries

Unboxing/General Information

Upon opening the outside box, you’ll find an inner plastic shell that houses the headset and accessories. As far as accessories goes, the SteelSeries 9H comes with a 1 meter long standard cable and a 2 meter extension cable as well as swappable analog plugs for a right-angle connection, headphone/microphone adapters, and a USB sound card.

The 9H only comes in a black color with orange accents. Having more color options couldn’t hurt but there is nothing wrong with a standard black headset. Other than the orange stitching and the padding covering the driver, everything else on the 9H headset is black with the metal joints being their natural silver color.

We really liked the plastic material that SteelSeries opted to use on the 9H. It feels very durable yet light enough so you won’t notice it while gaming. In addition, the coating isn’t glossy so there isn’t much worry of it becoming a finger print magnet.

Unlike other gaming headsets, the microphone on the 9H is actually retractable meaning that you can slide it back into the left ear cup when not in use. The wire itself that the microphone uses is very sturdy and you bend it in any which direction depending on the size of your face.

The cable that plugs into the left ear cup uses SteelSeries own proprietary connection and features the volume control as well as the mic on/off toggle on the same switch. On the opposite end of the cable you can attach either the headphone/microphone cable, the right angle headphone connector or the USB sound card.

Build Quality

Overall, the 9H is a solid built headset. Considering it is a tournament grade headset, you don’t feel like you will break it by dropping it or by twisting the headband. The use of braided cables helps with any tangling issues and the retractable microphone is a nice touch as it allows you put it away when not in use so it doesn’t get ripped out.

One of the major features of the 9H is the removable wires. All of the wires are removable making it easy to replace just the cable and not the whole headset.

When it comes to comfort, the 9H definitely fits into the gaming category meaning that after 4 hours of playing Wolfenstein, we didn’t notice any discomfort. Because it is an over-the-ear headset, we had to vent our ears occasionally but that is normal with any headset that covers the ears.

Noise isolation was a bit iffy on this headset. Although it was tough to hear what was going outside of the headset, there was some sound leakage so people next to me could hear what I was listening to when I had the volume cranked up.

Sound Quality

General

When using the 9H and USB soundcard, you can go into the SteelSeries Engine 3 software to enable Dolby Headphone® for 7.1 channels of virtual surround sound and Dolby Prologic IIx® to convert a regular stereo signal into a surround sound experience. In addition, the headset is capable of converting a 5.1 signal into a 7.1 signal.

If you hookup the 9H via the USB Sound Card, you will definitely notice a reduction in the audio quality. When we switched from the USB sound card to our dedicated Creative Sounds Blaster Z, we noticed a huge increase in clarity and bass performance. No longer were the mids and lows taken over by muddy bass. I could actually make distinct difference between the multiple tones. There is one caveat, however. When you don’t use the USB sound card, you are unable to utilize the surround sound functionality of the headset.

Gaming

For gaming, the 9H definitely sounded great when gaming. Personally, we felt that the DOLBY surround feature actually took away from the audio quality. Although you do get a bigger sound stage, you sacrifice overall quality and for some, that is more important. Besides that, when hooked up via the 3.5mm jacks to our Sound Blaster Z sound card, we were blown away when playing Wolfenstein and Battlefield 4.

Compared to our base reference Audio Technica ATH M50s, we really enjoyed the soundstage on the 9H. Things sounded more open and the bass was more visible and didn’t feel to overpowering where as in the M50s the bass was toned down.

One thing we liked was the ability to set presets for different games. For example, you could have a preset made to change the equalizer when launching a certain title like Wolfenstein and then have it reset after you close the game.

Music

Music wise, the 9H sounds great when listening to Top 40 tracks and even bass heavy tracks such as Skrillex’s new album. Without an amplifier, the 9H can be a bit underwhelming so we do recommend one if you really want to enjoy music on the headset.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the SteelSeries 9H is a great gaming headset for everyday use. The quality of the sound is superb for the $159 price tag and the overall comfort of the 9H is hard to beat. Although there are some noise isolation issues, considering it is a tournament grade headset, it does the job as advertised being that it blocks the majority of the sound coming from the outside.

We would have liked to seen a wider variety of color options but it’s not something that takes away from the overall quality of the headset. In addition, the USB soundcard left us wanting more so if you want the true audio experience, we recommend picking up a sound card or amplifier.

In the end, SteelSeries has been long known to be a great manufacturer for gaming peripherals and 9H is no exception. We hope you enjoyed this review and be sure to subscribe to our channel as well as follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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