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SteelSeries 9H Headset Review

/ Dec 11th, 2013 No Comments

The H-series headsets have been Steelseries‘ tournament-grade audio equipment designed to give gamers the leg up on the competition. The new SteelSeries 9H offers more features, a more ergonomic design and the inclusion of Dolby Prologic IIx. With a no-nonsense matte black finish with orange accenting, the 9H is more visually subdued from its Siberia counterparts, focusing primarily on function. Does the performance of the 9H earn it the top spot in the H-series lineup or should it go back to the drawing board?

Build Quality

The 9H has a great mix of durable plastics and metal throughout the headband with incredibly soft leather and padding on the earcups. The matte black plastics can withstand some harsh treatment and the steel headband within is malleable while maintaining shape and integrity. Even with some aggressive twisting, the headset remained free of any cracks or warping. Anyone familiar with SteelSeries headsets will know how much damage they can withstand and the 9H is no exception.

The padding on the earcups along with the double enclosure design does an admirable job of passively filtering out outside noise. Even at high volumes, sound is barely audible outside of the headset. The microphone tucks nicely into the earcup, sitting flush with the rest of the exterior. The singular cable can detach from the headset, and comes with inline controls to control volume or mute the microphone. The cable easily breaks apart, making it easy to add in an extension or swap in an adapter for mobile devices or the standard 3.5mm jacks, all of which are packaged with the headset. The 9H comes with the new SteelSeries USB soundcard, which enables auto-switching audio profiles, equalizer settings, active microphone noise cancellation, Dolby and other features.
 

Three adapters, an extension cable  and the soundcard make this an all-in-one package.

The 9H packaging is as subdued and confident as the headset.

One issue is that the headset defaults to feeding back a certain volume of the microphone input through the headset drivers, allowing users to hear a bit of what they are saying. It is an option that is easily tweaked with the SteelSeries Engine 3 software and USB soundcard, but when the headset is directly plugged into headphone and microphone jacks and the microphone is retracted, any contact with the headset is transmitted to the microphone, which in turn feeds to the headset audio output. It is an extremely specialized case, but it was discovered inadvertently during testing. Muting the microphone with the inline controls or unplugging it while it is retracted solves the issue.

Performance

The stereo performance is fantastic and there is a complete lack of distortion of any kind. Even with a significant boost in output via the equalizer, there was still no discernible loss in quality. When the Dolby is enabled, the sound environment is expanded with a slight sacrifice of maximum volume. Bass levels seem subdued with the default settings, but with a mild adjustment of the settings, low frequencies are rich and distinct. Performance will vary from program to program and unlimited sound profiles allow each game to be optimized. Automatic switching by pairing profiles to programs makes it incredibly fast and easy to toggle between music, chat and gaming.

Value

At $159.99, the 9H is significantly more expensive than the mid-range 5HV3, while still well below the top of the line Siberia Elites. The price seats it well between the top two Siberia options, giving an option for those looking to spend around $160, but also makes their own products into the competition. Saving $40 means you get a great headset in the Siberia V2, which lack the soundcard and Dolby. Spending $40 more and you have the Siberia Elites, which have Dolby and the USB soundcard along with many attractive design features. It all comes down to how important appearance is, but in terms of raw performance and feature set, the 9H is a fantastic package for the money.

Overall

With the soundcard, performance and price tag, the SteelSeries 9H feels more like a no-frills Siberia Elite. Those looking for amazing sound with customization profiles, but prefer the low-key matte black finish of the most popular SteelSeries products will find a lot to love in the 9H. Those who want the visual flair to match the amazing sound should consider spending the extra cash for the Elites. Either way, the 9H is a great performing headset with incredible durability and a very comfortable fit.
 

Chance Asue

Chance Asue

Associate Editor & Multimedia Specialist at Gaming Illustrated
Chance Asue is a self-taught computer builder and hardware junkie. His favorite game franchises include Pokemon, Metal Gear Solid and Final Fantasy. He is Gaming Illustrated's Multimedia Specialist and reviews the latest hardware tech.
Chance Asue

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STEELSERIES 9H HEADSET REVIEW

Gaming Illustrated RATING

Overall90%

VALUE8.5

There is a big difference between the other H-series headsets, but this puts it in between two great options in the Siberia lineup. If looks aren't important, the 9H offers performance similar to the Elites while saving $40.

PERFORMANCE9

Sound is fantastic right out of the box and perfect with minor tweaking in SteelSeries Engine 3. The microphone can pick up unwanted vibrations when retracted, but audio quality is great with the active noise cancellation.

BUILD QUALITY9.5

Some of the softest and most comfortable earcups paired with a super durable headband. These can take all the abuse you'll never want to give them.

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