Steelseries H Wireless Headset Review: A paragon of headsets
There's a big reason why the Pulse Elite Headset from Sony was one of my favorite headsets of all time. Setting it up is effortless. All it required me to do was plug in the included USB receiver, and my PlayStation 3 would recognize it and stream both sound and voice instantly. Better yet, it also worked perfectly on my PC. There were downsides however. I was limited to only using it on the PS3 and the PC, leaving my Xbox 360 out in the cold. The battery life also wasn't really that great, which meant my headset spent more time plugged in to be charged than on my head.
Much to my surprise, Steelseries has released a new headset that trumps my love for the Pulse Elite Headset. Seriously, this headset has exceeded any and all of my expectations.
What comes in the box
The H Wireless headset comes with everything you need to set yourself up, be it on last-gen consoles, the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3, or current-gen ones, Xbox One* and PlayStation 4. I put an asterisk next to the Xbox One since the box doesn't list it as a compatible console on the box, but rest assured it does work. It also comes with a 3.5mm jack so you can plug it in various mobile devices or handheld consoles, without the need of using the included transmitter box. The headset also works beautifully with PCs as well, making it one of the most versatile headsets on the market.
The wireless headset is fairly lightweight and rests comfortably on your head with some soft padding on both the headpiece and the earcups as well. Unlike the Pulse Elite, which had controls on both sides, the H Wireless has a simplified control scheme, with only a single scroll wheel. Clicking it in will cycle through various options which you can see on the transmitter box, such as audio profiles, audio balance, Chat Mix and Live Mix as well as allowing you to adjust the volume on the fly. This simplicity means that there is no learning curve to using this headset. You always know where the scroll wheel is, since that's the only thing you'll need to be using.
The Power Button on the bottom of the headset has a dual function. Aside from turning it off and on by holding it, it also allows you to mute the microphone with a single press. Speaking of the microphone, the headset features a fully retractable mic, which means you won't look odd when you want to sport these bad boys outside somewhere, just listening to music. It also has a red LED which lights up so you know when it's muted.
ChatMix and LiveMix are two super handy features that allow you to control the volume of chat coming through the headset. ChatMix lets you balance the the audio between game sound and chat. LiveMix is a little more creative and automates this process. You can set the levels of when the headset detects chat audio, so it automatically lowers the game audio and then raises it again. It's good if you want to keep the game loud, but don't want to keep messing with the volume when someone says something.
The other side houses two jacks, one for the Xbox 360 mic cable which has to be plugged into the controller and a 3.5mm jack for when you want to use the headphones on mobile devices. That same jack is also referred to as the Share jack, meaning anyone with another headset or headphones, can plug theirs in, and hear the audio themselves.It's perfect for a household with multiple people playing the same game.
For you visual types
On the side is a compartment which holds one of the two included rechargable batteries.
The transmitter box
This all-in-one solution will be your gateway to getting crisp and clear sound to your headset wirelessly. If you want to make use of the headset's ability to toggle between game audio and chat audio, you can connect the transmitter to the consoles using an optical cable, which is included, and also a USB. This allows the two different sounds to mix in your headset, and lets you toggle how loud you want each audio to be.
Its tiny build makes it so you can put it virtually anywhere, and won't obstruct anything, nor will it make you rearrange your consoles or PC setup. The front of if is consists of two buttons, one of which is a knob which allows the user to change the volume or make selections. The front also has and LCD display which is hidden from view when the box isn't in use. There is also a slot for one of the two included rechargable 20-hour lithium-ion batteries, which can be placed in there to charge, while the other one is in use. This genius set up means you don't ever have to stop using them, because the battery is dead. You're constantly in the game.
If you're the type to like his audio levels preset whether you're gaming, watching a movie or switching a console, the transmitter box allows you to save up to five separate audio profiles, which can also be easily and quickly switched on the fly using the box itself, or the scroll wheel located on the headset.
If my opening paragraph didn't give it away already, the Steelseries H Headset is a breeze to set up. After reviewing a bunch of headsets, there isn't anything that I hate more than complicated cable and wire setups, usually consisting of multiple passthroughs of the receiver, as well as multiple cables connecting to the consoles, and often requiring you to change your audio set up on the consoles themselves. Here the set up is extremely simple, and thanks to the new Stand By mode of next-gen consoles, it eliminates the need of the power cord completely, since it can be powered by plugging it in the console's USB port. The only other cable you'll need to worry about is the optical cable, which you can plug into either console, and voila, you're done.
Even though the Xbox One isn't listed as being compatible with the device, you can still hook it up and use it to stream the system's audio through the headset. The console unfortunately won't pick up your voice through the microphone, but since every Xbox One is bundled with the Kinect, I found that talking to people through the Kinect's mic while hearing their audio come in through the headset worked just as well.
When used in conjunction with the transmitter box, the sound output is absolutely superb. The bass isn't overwhelming to the point where your head would be pounding from it. You're getting completely lag-free sound with utmost clarity. The headset also has a few audio balance profiles for different situations though I didn't find the sound to change that drastically when I enabled them.
The Steelseries H Wireless is advertised as also being able to be used to listen to audio on mobile devices such as smartphones, or handheld consoles like the Vita and 3DS. While its true that the headset definitely supports this, the audio quality when used this way is less than ideal. The bass levels are either too high or the treble turned way too low, and the result is a very deep sound that's just very hard to hear, much less enjoy. Keep this bad boy at home, trust me, that's where he shines.
The bottom line
The Steelseries H Wireless is a paragon among headsets. The ease of use coupled with fantastic sound and comfort make it not only one of the best, but probably the best solutions as an all-in-one headset. If you're on a budget though, the H Wireless might not be the best choice for you, since its retail price is $299.99. Considering you can get a PlayStation 4 for just a $100 more really puts that in perspective. However, if you're in the market, and you won't settle for anything but the best, the H Wireless is a must buy.