SteelSeries H Wireless Review (Page 2 of 4)

Page 2 - Physical Look - Hardware

The SteelSeries H Wireless is quite an attractive looking headphone in my personal opinion. It is a good departure from your stereotypical "gamer" product. At first glance, the H Wireless looks like a standard circumaural headset, but subtle details make it every bit appropriate in both your living room and at your local LAN party. One glossy, round plastic cover with SteelSeries' logo on it is placed on both the left and right side, while the rest of the can carry a textured matte black finish on hard plastic. At the top, the headband features SteelSeries' logo on both the left and right side; let your eyes travel along, and you will find the company's full name engraved at the apex. A rubber coating strip is placed over the exterior of the headband, making it soft to touch, while retaining its matte finish. From our photos below, you will notice orange stitching on the leather pads, as well as fabric of a matching color over the drivers, giving it a bit of style highlight. Because the orange is quite subtle, the SteelSeries H Wireless does not give off any Halloween overtones. All in all, I really like the way these headphones look. I found them classy, but not bland; stylish, but not overdone.

The SteelSeries H Wireless also has quite a bit of onboard features. A unidirectional microphone specified with a frequency response of 100Hz to 10000Hz is located inside the left cup, and can be pulled out when needed. It can be almost fully retracted when you are not using it, as you can see in our photo above. Meanwhile, on the right cup, there is a power button, plus two jacks hidden behind a rubber door. Out of the box, you will find a white label placed over the power button to give you a quick tutorial on how it works (I ripped it off after I took this photo, haha). The reason is because the power button can be used to turn your mic on or off in addition to turning your entire headset on or off. To turn your H Wireless on or off, simply hold down the power button. A white LED on the button will indicate its power status. To turn your microphone on or off only, simply tap the power button while the headset is turned on. A red LED at the top of the microphone will pulse red when muted. I found this to be quite a nifty feature, and it works quite intuitively.

As I have mentioned in the previous paragraph, there are two ports behind the rubber door on the right cup. An Xbox chat cable can be connected to one jack, while a 3.5mm audio cable can be connected to the other. If you connect another headphone to the SteelSeries H Wireless, that will serve as an output, and lets you share an identical audio stream with someone else. On the other hand, if you connect an audio source to it while the headset is turned off, it will serve as an input. In other words, the H Wireless can function as a regular wired headset.

Here is a view at the SteelSeries H Wireless at another angle. The microphone is shown extended. Its wire can easily be bent to set it to where you need it to be. Twisting off the round, glossy plastic cover on the outside of the left cup reveals a Lithium Ion battery, as you can see in our photo above. This battery is pre-installed for you from the factory; a second one is included inside the retail package. The battery is easily accessible by the end user, but very well hidden for aesthetics purposes. I also like the fact SteelSeries includes two batteries for you out of the box -- this way, you can keep one battery charging, while the other one is in use. When one runs out, you can swap instantly. One charge will last you twenty hours, which is very reasonable. On the right side, twisting off the round, glossy plastic cover reveals a Mini-B USB header.

As with most headphones, each cup has virtually three hundred and sixty degrees of axis adjustment. The length of the band can be extend with notched steps, while both cups can be tilted forward, and twisted up to ninety degrees for optimal fit. An array of memory foam lines the interior of the headband. With all these fancy features on board, you may wonder if the SteelSeries H Wireless is really heavy. Fortunately, it is actually quite lightweight. The manufacturer gives a figure of 293g without batteries, but the battery definitely is not heavy. With its lightweight design and comfortable padding, I found the SteelSeries H Wireless to sit comfortably over my head for hours, without feeling tired at all.

A close up look at the SteelSeries H Wireless' earcups. As aforementioned, the edge near the leather pads' outer perimeter has a line of orange stitching, while a layer of matching orange colored fabric covers the drivers. I found the leather used on the H Wireless to be very soft and comfortable to touch. Generally speaking, it is quality material. The diameter of the drivers is about 2.5", with a frequency response rating of 20Hz to 20000Hz. It is Dolby Pro Logic IIx, Dolby Digital, and Dolby Headphone certified for virtual 7.1 channel support when connected via a digital S/PDIF optical connection.

To ensure you can sit comfortably on the sofa or your desk without fiddling with the transmitter module, the SteelSeries H Wireless has an integrated remote. A wheel on the right cup provides you with all the control you need. By default, you can tilt it up or down for volume adjustment. You can also press it to toggle between menus, and tilt it in menu to adjust settings that are displayed on the transmitter module's OLED screen.

A shot at the SteelSeries H Wireless' transceiver module. It is a small, slick looking black box with SteelSeries' logo on top. It is designed to sit on your desk, or in your living room with your Xbox or PlayStation, and judging by the way it looks, I think it will have no problems integrating well. Functionally, the transceiver is really a big deal, because even though it operates on the standard 2.4GHz ISM band, it uses its own wireless format rather than Bluetooth for uncompressed, lag free audio. Okay, there is no such thing as "lag free", but 16ms is really negligible at best. During our tests, we found its range to be excellent and works as advertised. The setup procedure is very straightforward, and the headphones work flawlessly every time. I have never had a connection or interference problem. We will talk more about this on the next page.

At the front of the device is a well integrated OLED screen that displays input source and volume by default. When your H Wireless is connected and turned on, its battery level will be shown at the top left corner of the screen. The transceiver module also doubles as a battery charger, with a slot on the side -- quite a good design in my opinion. To charge, simply insert the battery. The OLED screen will show the battery's charge status at the top right corner.

Of course, with a button and a clickable knob on the SteelSeries H Wireless' transceiver module, it makes quite a bit of sense the OLED screen shows more than just volume and battery status. Click the large knob on the very right, and you will enter its main menu. To scroll up or down, simply rotate the knob. Here, you can do things like set up various input sources, configure equalizer settings, and turn Dolby on or off, where available. There is a five band equalizer, where you can select from custom presets, or build your own configuration. The smaller button is a back button to make navigation through menus a breeze.

The SteelSeries H Wireless system accepts quite a number of input and output connections. As you can see in our photo above, all of them are appropriately labeled at the back of the transceiver module; from the left, we have Analog In, Chat Out, DC, USB, Optical In, and Optical Out. The transceiver module can function as a USB sound card for PC connections, but if you go through the manual, you will notice SteelSeries really encourages you to go with an optical connection for the best sound quality. There are several reasons for this. For one, a digital-digital-digital-analog transmission is much better than going digital to analog (At the source), back to digital (For wireless transmission), and to analog again (For final output). Secondly, a Dolby encoded digital connection can be made through an optical connection. At first, I wondered why they kept mentioning that, but after some testing, the answer became really obvious. Again, more on this later. One minor complaint I have is there is no standard 3.5mm microphone or line out, so you cannot use your computer's sound card input with the SteelSeries H Wireless. To use the microphone on your PC, you must go through USB.

There are two unique features on the H Wireless I would like to talk about. SteelSeries has two functions implemented to improve the balance between your chat stream and game audio: Chat Mix and Live Mix. Chat Mix balances the two, while Live Mix reduces your other input stream only when chat signal is detected. The volume of each can be configured by the end user. Do keep in mind, however, that a separate game and chat input source must be used for it to work. I think this is quite an innovative feature, and very useful in real world usage.

The SteelSeries H Wireless is a great looking system with excellent build quality and loaded with features. But how well does it sound? Let us find out on the next page.

Page Index
1. Introduction, Packaging, Specifications
2. Physical Look - Hardware
3. Subjective Audio Analysis
4. Conclusion