Overclock.net › Components › Speakers & Headsets › Headsets & Accessories › SteelSeries 9H Gaming Headset for PC, Mac, and Mobile Devices

SteelSeries 9H Gaming Headset for PC, Mac, and Mobile Devices

Posted

Pros: Build quality, sound quality, microphone clarity, software, retractable microphone, accessories, different types of connections

Cons: Microphone physical extension length, headband comfort (for long sessions)

Build quality: 8.5/10
Comfort: 8/10
Overall sound quality for a headset: 9.5/10
Isolation: 8/10
Microphone quality: 9/10
Software: 10/10
Review price: £145
Value: 9/10 (at £145 price tag)
Overall rating: 9/10

First of all I would like to thank SteelSeries for sending me their headset for review. After having reviewed the Siberia V2 Heat Orange Gaming Headset, I was very much curious to see how the closed-back offering by SteelSeries would compare, both sonically and in terms of its overall performance as a headset. The 9H can be found on AmazonUK. The product can be found for anything between £135 and £155. I took the mid-point for this review and reviewed it at a £145 price tag.

For more information about the headset and its specifications can be found on SteelSeries' website.


Here's my video review:




Now let's get into the written review:

Build quality

Before I get into the build quality of the 9H headset, I'll quickly mention what the package includes.
With the 9H headset you get:
-A 3.5mm removable jack for mobiles and OSX
-2x 3.5mm removable jacks that are used for connecting the headset to a Windows machine or a soundcard
-A removable USB soundcard v2 by SteelSeries, with Dolby technology integrated within it
-A 2m extension cable
-A 1.2m cable with a volume rocker and mute slider integrated within it
-A SteelSeries sticker
-A manual

Overall, the accessories you get are great, especially with the extra cable for different types of devices.
The only downside is the lack of a pouch. The only reason I mention a pouch, is because the headset can be taken on trips and be used with different types of devices. Therefore, I can easily see myself or anyone owning this keyboard taking it with them on the train or on a trip, where they'll want to use the headset with a given laptop and/or wit their friend's PC.
Thus a pouch would have been nice to have, in order to protect the headphone from spills or scratches, whilst being placed in a bag.

Moving unto the build quality of the 9H, which in all honesty is extremely impressive. I really like that SteelSeries maintained the retractable mic from the Siberia V2 range, however wasn't too convinced about the overall length of the retractable mic. I found the mic to be falling a little short, thus finding myself having the mic not directly placed in front of my mouth, but rather next to my cheek. This might not seem a problem, but what I found (demonstrated in my video, linked at the top of this article) was the microphone picking up external noises (such as keyboard typing and mouse clicking) and more so, the headset's own sound output. Thus if I was listening to music on my headset and not on "push to talk" (ie on Skype) or talking with music playing in my headset, I found that the other person that I was talking to, was able to hear my headset, via my mic.
Thus, on Skype for example, whilst listening to music on my headset, my cousin was able to hear the song I was listening to, despite me not talking. This wouldn't have been a problem if the microphone was placed further away from the drivers/cups. It's slightly disappointing, but not a major downfall of the headset, as I don't really expect gamers to be listening to music, whilst gaming and talking to their friends. However, it should be something to bear in mind and could cause discomfort for whoever is on the receiving end of your conversation.

Moving unto the actual materials that the headphones was constructed with, I found that the overall strength and durability of the headphones to be extremely good. The top of the headband is made out of a solid plastic construction, the headband is adjustable (despite not having marking to show how much you've adjusted it by), the ear pads are nice and thick (which comes as a huge relief over the Siberia V2) with a nice orange stitching around them to give them a good look, the wires are all braided and follow the orange colour scheme, which adds a nice little touch to them and finally the outer cups of the headphones are made out of a solid plastic material.

Overall, the build quality is great, however due to some flaws, I didn't feel it deserved a perfect rating, especially with the synthetic headband pads which just don't feel great nor absorb sweat well enough.
In comparison to the Siberia V2 it was nice to see the ear pads to have increased in volume, but it was a little disappointing to see SteelSeries dropping the suspended headband design assembly. I can see why they created a moire "solid" headphone, however I feel that it wasn't as comfortable as the older Siberia V2 (more on than just below). Furthermore, the Siberia V2 seemed to have the right mic length for me. Even if it was "too long" for some people, it could still be retracted to the desired length. For me on the other hand, the 9H was just too short - I just wish it extended that little bit extra. The comparison thus is a little give and take, with the Siberia V2. One one hand you got a more solid construction and robust design (the 9H), but on the other hand you got a more "thought out" design, that's really made for home use. I personally think a combination of the two models would render into a perfect gaming headset, in terms of build quality. The extra pads and closed back design from the 9H and a longer mic with a suspended headband assembly from the Siberia V2. That for me, would be the perfect gaming headset, build quality wise (and even generally).



Comfort

The comfort of the 9H was great, although not perfect. Being super analytical of the 9H's comfort, I found that over long periods of gaming sessions my head would "hurt" a little from the four small synthetic pads located at the top of the headband. This is me being super analytical of the headphones though and with long periods of gaming, so do bear that in mind.
With that said, the comfort did improve in respect to the pads. In my Siberia V2 review I tried to highlight the thing pads as a comfort issue. This is thankfully not the case with the 9H headset, as due to their thicker pads, comfort in that respect is really good. I was very much satisfied with the pads that were included with the 9H.
Again, as mentioned above in the build quality section, it was a little give or take on the Siberia V2 progression. I personally prefer a suspension headband design, as it sits looser and lighter on your head, but with that said I can see why SteelSeries went for a more robust design with the 9H.

Thus overall, in terms of comfort I liked the thicker driver pads, but personally disliked the headband, especially compared to its brother the Siberia V2. I guess there is a little subjectivity that plays into this, but in all honesty, I feel the Siberia V2 would come out on top (in terms of assessing headband only) for the majority of gamers and even casual listeners.



Sound quality & Isolation

Here is where the 9H is supposed to perform, as if it doesn't it won't be popular among gamers or music listeners and my god did it impress me.
In my Siberia V2 review I was a little disappointed by the bass strength and extension, however was reasonably pleased with the mids and highs, comparing it to a cheap-man's AKG K545 headset variant, which in all honesty is an honour to be compared with such an excellent audiophile headphone.
However with the 9H, especially being closed back, I was intrigued by its different approach to sound. The mid-bass and sub-bass is really what stood out for me, especially when compared to the Siberia V2. The 9H headset in fact completely blows the Siberia V2, in terms of bass extension and quality, out the water by a country mile. The bass was just lovely to my ears, when it came to listening to my music, it felt that there was no "compromises" being made by SteelSeries, especially at its price point. Then came my gaming experiences, and there I was very happy with the bass extension in explosions and the "rumble" you got from tank driving in Battlefield 4. I should say, I mainly based my audio impressions, based on my own personal music (which is R'n'B and dance music), as I personally feel that sound in games has degraded as years have gone by. Although that's a different debate, Battlefield sounds like overblown farts. That's got nothing to do with the headset, just the game itself(as my 5.1 speakers also perform like that with that particular game). I thought I should mention that as a little side note.
Anyway, I digress, the 9H really impressed me with the low end tones and especially with the sub-bass that it really did well in.

In terms of the mids and highs, I was neither excited nor disappointed. Just like the Siberia V2 they were slightly veiled and rolled off, which in all honesty I was expecting. However one thing did stand out from the Siberia V2, and that was the soundstage of the 9H headset. The soundstage of the Siberia V2 was sublime, due to it being a fully open back headphone. Although this compromised isolation, it really didn't matter as most of the gamers would use it at home, rather than in loud environment (ie. train commutes) - thus isolation not really being a problem.
The 9H, due to being closed-back really does well in the isolation front. I would in fact feel comfortable taking it on the bus or train, without worrying too much about isolation, especially seeing as it doesn't leek too much music. It certainly isn't perfect in isolation or the prevention of leaking music externally, but it does a better than average job.
The soundstage on the other hand was heavily hit, in comparison to an open back headphone, the Siberia V2s. This is really a debate between closed-back and open-back headphones. On one hand, you get better isolation and better bass (with closed-back) and on the other you get better soundstage and position with a compromise in bass. This really is the case with audiophile headphones, let alone with affordable priced headsets. So, it is to be expected, but it is something I feel I should mention for Siberia V2 owners, or people who were thinking of buying the Siberia V2 instead.
The Siberia V2 has a much better soundstage, simply due to its design. With that said the 9H is extremely good in soundstage, but just not as good as the Siberia V2. IN fact, the Siberia V2, due to being open-back would perform technically better in the soundstage department, in comparison to my "audiophile" modded Denon AH-D2000s. Again, this is due to the design.
Does this mean the 9H is bad at soundstage and position? No, absolutely not. But if you want something better, then an open-back headphone would be a better choice. Personally I prefer closed-back headphones, due to their better bass extension and increased isolation (due to my loud G710+ mechanical keyboard, isolation is always a plus). To put it into perspective for you, in numbers, the Siberia V2 would score 10/10 in soundstage, the modded Denon AH-D2000s 9/10 and the 9H headset a very reasonable 8/10. Thus you can now get a reasonable idea of how the 9H compares to other types of headphones.

Overall, the sound quality really impressed me. I really was with a smile with my face listening and using the 9H for gaming. In all honesty, with the Siberia V2 I was impressed, but the 9H for me took it to another level sonically. It just did that extra little bit. Sure it was outperformed in terms of soundstage, but other than that, especially in the bass department, it really excelled. I wasn't really keen in using the Siberia V2 for my gaming or musical needs, simply due to its lack of bass. But the 9H on the other hand has been leaving my Denon's on the shelf a few nights in a row (I think it might be getting jealous). Don't get me wrong the 9H doesn't outperform my Denon's sound quality, however it is reasonably close and give sit a good run for its money. Due to the 9H being a headset too, it gives me that added convinence, which makes me choose it over the Denon's when it comes to solely gaming.


Recording / Microphone quality

The recording and mic quality had a significant improvement for me. The microphone was very clear and more so didn't have any problems with the noise cancellation feature, unlike the Siberia V2. I felt the 9H really did well overall, however there were a few noted problems, which meant it didn't score full marks for. This came down to the build quality really and the design of the headphone. The mic didn't extend as far as I wanted it to, meaning the mic would often pick up other noises (even with the mic reduction/cancellation on, via the software). For example, my keyboard was easily heard and even my mouse clicks at times (tested via Skype and personal tests/recordings). The biggest issue however was the fact that the mic would pick up its own sound coming out from the headset. For example, when I was playing music via my headset and recording my voice in a commentary, you could clearly hear the song and even distinguish the song itself quite easily via the microphone. This meant it could potentially be bad for commentaries and/or the other person on the receiving end of your call or chat. Imagine having to play on Skype with someone, where you could hear all his or hers music/gameplay sounds, whilst talking to them. It would be quite annoying for me personally.
Thus the microphone isn't perfect, but it definitely is an improvement and in all honesty, I think it does an excellent job. Giving it anything lower I felt was a little criminal to do, as it does exceptionally well, especially when compared to other microphones out there that can be bought for as much as £20 and perform even worse. My Logitech USB mic is my go-to recording mic, but it can cause problems with keyboard clicks, speaker pick-up noises and even mouse clicks. So in all honesty, it sort of has the same problem, but that's another story.


Software

The software was what really let me down with the Siberia V2, with conflicts and problems with other gaming software (most notably the Logitech and Anker software), however whatever SteelSeries have done with their new Engine 3 is an absolute miracle. It had absolutely no problems with any other software and more so was a refined, more polished version of their previous iteration. I was completely blown away by the software. So simple, yet so effective to use. A job well down, all round from SteelSeries with the Engine 3 software. It provided all the options I was looking for and especially with its live preview function it made deciding between the options, extremely easy. Top marks, and well deserved to SteelSeries for that one.


Conclusions

Overall, this headset is extremely good and really did surprise me. I wasn't expecting such an improvement (especially software wise) in comparison to the Siberia V2, but what SteelSeries have done, is an excellent job in incorporating a good quality sound with a great piece of software innovation. Furthermore their build quality, although not perfect, really did impress me. I can't quite stress how impressed I was with the Siberia V2 and now the 9H takes it to another level. I think SteelSeries had a very high bar to reach, and boy did they reach it with the 9H. As far as I'm concerned, it's a new high standard for headset around the world. I want to commemorate SteelSeries for this fine headset, as in all honesty they did a great job. More so, when you think about the price to performance ratio it really does well. At a £145 price tag I would recommend it, any lower (say £100) would be a total no brainer, and that is coming from someone who has always been sceptical about headset and more so their raw sound quality.
Top marks to SteelSeries, highly recommended from me.

Hope you enjoyed my review!
-TotallydubbedHD

Posted

Pros: Great sound, Retractable mic, Noise isolation, Very comfortable, Included DAC and software suite

Cons: Included sound card doesn't add much, Never got "too loud", Price

SteelSeries is known for their great gaming audio products and the 9H is no exception. It is a long awaited update to the 3h and 5h tournament headsets that were so popular.

Here is the box. It details some of the key features. The back shows the included adapters as well as some features of the software. Some of the key features of the headset are the "next-generation SteelSeries audio drivers", sound isolation, and swappable cable design.


The side simply shows a side view of the headset with the mic extended. The bottom lists tech specs that don't mean too much to most users.


Included in the box are the headset, a USB DAC, multiple cables, and a manual.


The headset uses a proprietary connector and includes a the standard connector with in-line controls, an extension cable, a 3.5mm mobile jack adapter, dual 3.5mm headphone and microphone jacks for a PC, and the USB DAC.


Here is a closeup of the DAC. I will go into more detail about it later on in the performance section of the review. It features the same proprietary connector as well as headphone and microphone outputs.


Now for the headset itself. It features leather ear cushions and is fully adjustable. There are four foam pads at the top. These two features combined make the 9H very comfortable and easy to wear for long gaming sessions.


Here is a closeup of the ear cup. It features SteelSeries' traditional single orange thread. They are stylish and comfortable. You can also see the swivel mechanism. Each ear cup will rotate about 45 degrees meaning they won't lie down flat. This is great for storage, but isn't too big of an issue.



Now moving on to the review.

Usability 5/5
The headset was very easy to setup. Since it features analog inputs, you only need to plug it in to get sound. If you want the additional like Dolby and EQ, you will need to install the software. That is very easy and it will auto detect the headset. The headset is very comfortable and it fit very nicely on my head. Adjusting the headband is very simple. I especially like the retractable mic. This has become a trademark of SteelSeries headsets. This allows you to keep the mic out of your way when it is not in use.


If I had to criticize the 9H's usability, I would say it is the braided cable. It is very good at transferring sound up the cable and into the headset. I am not talking about electrical signals, but brushing up against the cable. It can get very annoying especially if the cable is crossing over your body. I also don't care much for inline volume and microphone controls. They are hard to reach in a gaming session, and they can get caught or tangled. I much prefer on-ear controls. That being said, the headset is astounding if that is what I have to pick on.

Software 4.5/5
The SteelSeries Engine for audio products is much more functional than that of keyboards. The only way to achieve its benefits is to use the headset with the USB sound card and the proprietary port. With the software you can control EQ manually or with presets, Dolby Simulated Surround, Mic Noise Reduction, Mic Compression, Mic Side tone, and Mic Volume. All of these can be set to individual profiles. These profiles can tailor the headset to each game you play.


What I don't like is that you need to use the USB adapter in order to use the great features of the SteelSeries Engine. I would have preferred a possibly integration into Windows to enable software control no matter how the headset is plugged in.

Performance 4.5/5
The headset sounds great. Sure you could get a better sounding audiophile grade headset for the same price, but that won't have all of the features the 9H comes with. In terms of gaming headsets, it is outstanding. Noise isolation is great thanks to the headphones main market being the competitive gaming scene. This also works in the reverse way. There is very little leakage from these headphones. You can listen to what you want, and the person sitting next to you doesn't have to also.

Going back to the software and its features, I personally don't use Dolby. It provides a neat effect, but I feel it makes the audio sound mushy. I do love the preset options for EQ though. There are enough options for nearly any situation or type of audio. Mic Noise Reduction and Compression help the microphone, but it still sounds like a gaming headset microphone. The USB DAC is great for adding these features, but it doesn't add much to the sound quality. It narrows the soundstage and I would recommend a 3rd party DAC to take advantage of the highly tuned drivers. A final complaint about the headset is the volume level. It never got "too loud". Most headsets will work fine between 30-70% volume. I found I was consistently using at least 80% volume and in some cases, 100% was still not loud enough. There are many ways to solve this issue though so it shouldn't be a deciding factor.

To wrap it up, I love the SteelSeries 9H Gaming Headset. It provides great sound quality and isolation, is easy to wear, and offers many options for connectivity. I would have loved a lower priced option that didn't include the USB DAC, but that is just my opinion. I would definitely recommend this headset to any gamer who wants to step up their game with a great headset. There are many cheaper headsets, but there are also many more expensive ones. I think this one strikes a good balance of performance and price.
SteelSeries 9H Gaming Headset for PC, Mac, and Mobile Devices
Description:

SteelSeries 9H Gaming Headset with Dolby Technology The SteelSeries 9H Gaming Headset delivers a tournament-grade audio experience, incredible digital features, and best-in-class comfort. The SteelSeries 9H features two Dolby technologies & allows up to 7.1 channels of realistic multi-channel surround sound with its advanced USB soundcard. Dolby Prologic IIx can convert a simple stereo signal into a rich, surround sound experience. In addition, it can convert a true 5.1 signal in a full 7.1 surround experience allowing for multiple listening modes and a more realistic sound. Features both Dolby Headphone and Dolby Prologic IIx for superior surround experience.View larger Includes the swappable cable system for use with PC, Mac, tablets, and phones.View larger SteelSeries Audio Building on the historic SteelSeries audio tradition, a custom-engineered soundscape features a wide dynamic range, which makes it possible for 9H to deliver a balanced and linear tournament-grade advantage. Advanced components like high grade mylar film further perfect the sound with added clarity and no distortion. Smart Noise-Canceling and Retractable Microphone When the SteelSeries 9H headset is plugged into its advanced USB sound card, it enables an active noise-cancelling, “smart” microphone that allows your team to hear you above whatever is happening in the area around you – appliances, dogs barking, whining spouses, and more. The microphones processor reduces the “noise” and focuses on the sound that is closer to the mic, your voice. A retractable microphone system allows you to pull it out when you need it or hide it in the left earcup when you don’t. Double Enclosure Design The SteelSeries 9H features double enclosure technology. A second internal enclosure is sealed around the back of the speaker creating a closed design typically only found in high-end audio studio and DJ headphones. When coupled with the extra-padded, leather ear cushions it creates a level of noise isolation unlike any other headset in gaming. Extra-padded, soft all-leather design provides extended comfort and passive noise reduction. Swappable Cable Ends and Inline Controls The ends of the 9H are swappable so that you can use your headset with PC, Mac, phones, and tablets. A mobile end with a single 3-pole 3.5mm jack and a PC cable with a 3.5mm headphone jack and a 3.5mm microphone jack have both been included. The double braided cable gives the 9H increased durability. An integrated volume controller on the cord offers a microphone mute switch, all for instant control without having to navigate through software settings. Smart noise-canceling microphone can be retracted and hidden in the left ear cup.View larger Personalize, Equalize The SteelSeries 9H Headset offers users the ability to adjust, personalize and save equalizer settings for each of your 8 profiles. Technical Specs Headphones: frequency response: 10-2800 Hz, impedance: 32 Ohm, SPL @ 1kHz, 1Vrms: 110dB, cable length: 3.2m, jacks: 2 x 3.5mm for PC, +4-pole 3.5mm Mac, mobile and tablets.Microphone: frequency response: 50 - 16000 Hz, pick up pattern: uni-directional, sensitivity: -37 +/- 3 dB, impedance: 2K Ohm.

Details:
DetailValue
BindingPersonal Computers
BrandSteelSeries
EAN0813810017201
FeatureNext-generation SteelSeries-proprietary 40mm speaker drivers with neodymium magnets deliver rich sound and low frequency power Dolby Headphone and Dolby Pro Logic IIx surround sound technologies for up to a virtual 7.1-channel immersive audio experience Double-enclosure, closed design for outstanding isolation from outside noise Fully retractable unidirectional microphone for crystal clarity, hides away completely when not in use Advanced audio customization including 10-band EQ, mic volume control, mic background noise rejection, auto mic gain, custom side tone Double enclosure design creates level of noise isolation unlike any other Double-braided cable includes integrated volume controller with microphone mute switch Double-braided fabric, ultra-flexible cable with 8-pin mini connector Includes cable ends for PC, Mac, and mobile devices Memory-foam ear cushions and headband for long wearing comfort Plug, play, and win with flawless operation that needs no installation Retractable microphone can activate noise-cancellation via USB soundcard Swappable cable ends compatible with PC, Mac, phones, and tablets
LabelSteelSeries
ManufacturerSteelSeries
Model61101
MPN5707119020336
PlatformWindows 8 Windows 7 Windows XP
PublisherSteelSeries
StudioSteelSeries
TitleSteelSeries 9H Gaming Headset for PC, Mac, and Mobile Devices
UPC813810017201
WarrantyOne year
ColorBlack
CatalogNumberList - CatalogNumberListElement5707119020336 61101
Item Height7.07 inches
Item Length3.79 inches
Item Width8.07 inches
NumberOfItems1
Package Height4.41 inches
Package Length10.55 inches
Package Weight1.63 pounds
Package Width10.08 inches
PackageQuantity1
PartNumber5707119020336
ProductGroupPersonal Computer
ProductTypeNameHEADPHONES
UPCList - UPCListElement813810017201
Item Weight0.61 pounds
Languages - Original LanguageGerman
IsAutographed0
IsMemorabilia0
HardwarePlatformPc
Languages - PublishedGerman
Languages - SubtitledGerman
Languages - ManualGerman
Models:
Model Name/TypeMPNEAN/UPC
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