There was a time when gaming headsets were for PC gaming, and only for PC gaming. Thankfully, for us on mobile devices, that time has started to pass and now premium PC peripheral manufacturers are increasingly making their gaming headsets also compatible with mobile devices, including the use of the in-built microphones and also making in-line controls available. The Steelseries 5Hv3 is one such headset, released as part of the revamped and upgraded H-series, and is a set of headphones I’m pleased to say achieves its aim as a multi-purpose, multi-platform headset.
The 5Hv3 is the middle child of the new H-series headphones by Steelseries, flanked by the lower-cost, upgraded 3Hv2 and the completely new, more premium 9H, and offers a compromise between its siblings. Straight out of the box, pretty much everything you’ll need to get started. Along with the headset itself, you’ll get the standard PC output cables (headphone + mic) as well as an extension cable in case your computer tower is further away. A mobile adapter is also included, and the neat thing about the 5Hv3 and 9H headsets is that instead of adding on an adapter to get mobile capabilities, it instead uses a swappable, breakaway cable system for a much more elegant solution.
The 5Hv3 employs an over-the-ear, closed back design which looks quite reserved, but one thing you might say is that it doesn’t look terribly portable, but this is one ability that is hidden very well; in the headband are actually clips which attach to the headphones. Once separated, the footprint of the 5Hv3 is much smaller, and the separated components look durable enough to just throw into a bag. That said, including a small bag as an option would not have gone astray. The portability and durability of the 5Hv3 extends to the cable which is a double-braided nylon cable. And another nice side-effect of having the swappable cable system is if a large force is exerted on the cable, for instance when standing up at your computer, the breakaway section of the cable will just detach, instead of destroying your cable.
The highlight of the 5Hv3, for me, are the circumaural cushions, or as I like to call them, pillows. The cushions are covered with leather with extra padding inside, and the feeling of wearing them is supremely comfortable. Similarly, the cushioning on the top of the headset is super soft and super comfortable.
There are a lot of headsets that I would call comfortable and could generally be assumed to be wearable for hours on end, and the 5Hv3 firmly belongs at the highest echelons of that category. If there is only one complaint to be had with the cushions is that people with large ears may not find the fit to their liking; I don’t have particularly large ears, but I did find that my ears fit into the cushions with a hair’s breadth left of space. Even with that kind of fit though, I still found the 5Hv3 to be one of the most comfortable headsets I’ve ever worn.
Where the best feature of the 5Hv3 is its comfort, the best party trick of the 5Hv3 is definitely its retractable microphone. Unlike other ‘retractable’ mics which often utilize a swinging or folding boom on the side of the headphones, the 5Hv3’s mic is completely contained within the left cup when fully retracted; all that remains sticking out when the mic is retracted is the plastic tip which contains the microphone head. The microphone is extremely fluid to pull out and is malleable, adjustable into any position you want it. It’s an extremely impressive piece of engineering, particularly as it doesn’t feel like it would be easily broken. Naturally, the microphone is also usable when the mobile adapter is used, which is a nice plus for those of us who want to use gaming headsets with mobile devices but don’t want it looking hideously pretentious when out and about.
The 5Hv3 also includes some basic in-line controls, though unfortunately, it’s nothing to write home about. The in-line controls are comprised of a volume wheel control and a mute/unmute switch. From a gaming standpoint, a volume control and mute/unmute control is really all you’d really need; for us mobile aficionados, though, the in-line controls definitely leave something to be desired. Again, it’s worth noting that the headset is designed for gaming purposes, but given that the mic is compatible with phone calls, it’s disappointing there isn’t at least an answer call button.
When we met with Steelseries at E3 earlier this year (listen to the full interview here), they made the point that their headsets do not target any particular audio range, giving it a more balanced feel as compared to most headphones which accentuate the bass region. Steelseries’ argument for this is that sound in games does no necessarily come in at any particular frequency, so for the best performance, a balanced audio range is employed.
For the most part, having tried the headset for several weeks now, I would mostly agree. Having played a few games on PC with the 5Hv3 on, I noticed that while some of the explosions did feel less teeth-shattering without excessive bass, it was definitely a difference experience, one which could take getting a little getting used to.Â This was a similar situation when playing games on an Android device, though if anything, I was able to hear the nuances of the game better, particularly in more atmospheric games.
Listening to music, though, was a slightly different ordeal. While I do abhor the type of headphones that aim to destroy your eardrums with fistfulls of bass, the 5Hv3, due to its balanced range, sounds a bit on the weaker side listening to some of the dancier/bassier music on my playlist. That said, it’s worthwhile to remember that the headset is designed for gaming purposes and that is where excels; the balance isn’t for everyone, but if you’re going to be using the headset interchangeably as a gaming/mobile/music headset, you likely won’t mind the compromises.
Being an over-the-ear headset that isn’t open-back, the 5Hv3 does a good job of shutting out most external and environmental sound, but it certainly isn’t noise cancelling. But the in-line controls are definitely a nice touch so you can always turn it up if you’re surroundings are getting a bit busy.
The Steelseries 5Hv3 is a very good headset; versatile, portable and functional. As a gaming headset, it’s not the most premium headset on the market, but it is incredibly comfortable; and at a MSRP of $79.99, it does what you need it to at that price point, as well as having some nifty tricks up its sleeve like the retractable mic and detaching ear cups. As a mobile headset, while it’s nice that a mobile attachment is included and is inherently good as a headset, it sadly lacks any differentiating features compared to other mobile headsets, even missing some key ones like an answer call button.
That’s not to sully the 5Hv3 abilities though; the 5Hv3 is first and foremost a gaming headset and it excels at that purpose, and any mobile capabilities is strictly a bonus. The fact it can be used on multiple platforms, PC and mobile, is already a step in the right direction. But we can hope that future revisions of Steelseries headsets will have even more mobile functionality.
For more information about the Steelseries 5Hv3 or Steelseries’ other products, visit their website at the links below.
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