SteelSeries 5Hv3 Gaming Headset
The flavor of multiplayer games over the years has changed, but team communication has remained a staple. Though the big days of cooperative multiplayer online games such as World of Warcraft are decaying out of age, a surge of competitive multiplayer games has driven a continued need for gaming headsets. SteelSeries has been keen to push its name within the competitive gaming scene and has become a highly recognizable brand as a result. On the 5Hv3 box, SteelSeries proudly associates itself with four accomplished esport organizations: Na’Vi, Ninjas in Pyjamas, Tyloo, and Fnatic.
SteelSeries is no stranger to gaming audio since 2005 when the original 5H was announced. The recently released 5Hv3 we are reviewing is among a few new SteelSeries headsets that mark a return to the H-series. Particularly, the new 5Hv3 as well as the 3Hv2 are presented as more budget friendly options compared to the rest of SteelSeries audio offerings, respectively costing $79.99 and $39.99.
The 5Hv3 is an update to the 5Hv2, the latter which can still be found at the time of writing both in retail channels as well as the Alienware Tact X headset rebrand. The new 5Hv3 has all the same general features – three piece disassembly, padded earcups, in-line controls, braided cable, and retractable microphone – but now with minor changes to the headset’s appearance and accessory cables for mobile device compatibility.
SteelSeries 5Hv3 Features:
- Advanced dynamic drivers for detailed sound
- Superior comfort and noise reduction via replaceable leather cushions
- Retractable unidirectional microphone
- In-line controls
- Swappable cables for both both PC, MAC and mobile devices
- Easy dismantling into 3 separate pieces for easy and safe transportation
SteelSeries 5Hv3 Specifications:
- Frequency: 16-28,000 Hz
- Impedence: 32 Ohms
- Sound Pressure Level (SPL) @1KHz, 1 Vrms: -113 dB
- Mic Pattern: Uni-directional
- Frequency: 75-16,000 Hz
- Impedance: <2.2 KOhm
- Sensitivity: -38 dB
- 1-year warranty worldwide, 2-year warranty in Europe
The 5Hv3 headset comes included with a SteelSeries sticker, a product safety notice, and an infographic on how to use the accessory cables as well as the accessory cables themselves. The 5Hv3 has two swappable ends – one for computers and one for mobiles devices – and an extension cable for the dual headphone/mic 3.5 analog plugs.
SteelSeries 5Hv3 Gaming Headset
The SteelSeries 5Hv3 is a full-size over-ear headset constructed almost entirely out of plastic. The earcups are mounted by hinges onto the length adjustable headband. Comfort is carefully considered by a moderate clamping force and leather wrapped pads on the headband and earcups.
Like other SteelSeries headsets, the 5Hv3 has a style emphasized by the choice of colors, curves, and branding.
The microphone is attached to a flexible boom that retracts in and out of the left earcup. The boom is very articulate allowing users to bend it in into any shape.
Features and Accessories
The SteelSeries 5Hv3 has a few interesting features that captured our attention. The first of these we’re covering are the headset’s detachable pieces. The headband and earcups can be unclipped and the lightweight plastic construction allows for convenient storage or transport. However, no carry bag or case is included which runs the risk of scratches or damage from careless transportation.
Along the braided cable is an inline remote control with a volume slider and mic mute switch.
The 5Hv3 has two swappable ends – one for computers and one for mobile devices. The swappable end for computers has two 3.5 mm analog plugs, one for the headphones and the other for the microphone. The swappable end for mobile devices has one plug with three poles.
A 7 ft. male-to-female extension cable is also included for the dual analog plug.
Subjective Listening: Music, Movies, and Games
Not everyone hears the same as each other. People’s ears are different and preferences dictate our style. While the SteelSeries 5Hv3 sounds only average at best, there will be those who want “good enough” and that’s something to be respected. The subjective listening tests in our reviews not only compare the product with other gaming headsets, but also audiophile grade headphones. Those who don’t regularly listen with higher-end equipment may not notice the sound quality deficiencies we are able to notice.
The 5Hv3 is heavily dependent on the quality of the output source and as a result can sound terrible or decent. Overall, these aren’t great music headphones. The sound characteristic can be described with well-defined highs, underpowered and hollow sounding bass, and moderate detail at all frequencies. Compared to better headphones, the 5Hv3 lacks impact and energy. Just about every song from every genre tried with this headset resulted in disappointment.
To be particularly nit-picky, long decay on the mid-tones muddies the overall sound and impacts instrument separation. Decay is amount of time it takes for the vibrations to stop after a sound has stopped. This is normal to all headphones, but better headphones will more correctly sequester or lengthen the time the drivers vibrate at certain frequencies.
The 5Hv3 generally does well with movie audio playback. Despite not having a sound characteristic optimal for a variety of music, the 5Hv3’s tuning for gaming makes it adept at emphasizing vocals and most environmental effects, even if doesn’t always reproduce those sounds accurately. Speech sounds are sharp, sometimes or oftentimes too sharp that words that end in –sh will loudly hiss back.
The stereo soundstage is remarkably wide. Dual-channel audio fluidly moved between left and right ear and stereo positioning had a good amount of emulated distance.
Surprisingly, the 5Hv3 didn’t recreate gaming audio as well as expected. Taking Battlefield 4 Beta as an example – running sounds, enemy footsteps, character dialog had very good clarity and positioning. However, impactful effects such as bullets and environmental destruction were not impactful. The last point is important because the game atmosphere feels less lively and is an important consideration for those who like to hear explosive combat.
The microphone’s sound quality is more than passable and users definitely won’t need to yell to make themselves audible. It’s definitely not studio quality, but it gets the job done for gaming and casual voice chat. The bendable boom and unidirectional pattern are hugely valuable for the sake of usability.
Final Thoughts and Conclusion
The SteelSeries 5Hv3 headset is by no means a great headset, but we aren’t left entirely disappointed. The 5Hv3 is very dependent on the quality of the audio source. Headphone sound quality was greatly degraded by entry-level and low-end audio devices such as motherboard integrated audio and even smartphones and MP3 players. On such outputs, the 5Hv3 was very revealing of flaws and lack of detail. The headset sounded drastically better when paired with higher quality audio sources such as dedicated sound cards.
The 5Hv3 is a very comfortable headset thanks to the generous padding, gentle clamping force, and lightweight plastic construction. When properly adjusted, the headband couldn't be felt. The three-piece detachable headband and earcups is a practical portability feature for those who can make use of it, though without a carrying case, one runs the risk of scratching or breaking the headset with irresponsible handling.
There are obvious concerns with the 5Hv3’s build quality. The headband is constructed mostly out of plastic and the detachable disassembly mechanism introduces mechanical weak points. Despite SteelSeries claiming the 5Hv3 to be an improvement over the 5Hv2, the continued material reliance on plastic casts doubt on the long-term reliability of the newer headset.
Overall, the 5Hv3 is acceptable headset. The sound engineering is good for games and movies and decent for music. However, the usage of plastic at the joints and headband gives an impression of cheapness. Additionally, the ability to disassemble the 5Hv3 introduces more locations for damage than the typical headset. It’s also rather expensive at $80, which puts the 5Hv3’s price too close to that of the SteelSeries Siberia V2, a headset with a more reliable design and better quality.
Legit Bottom Line: The SteelSeries 5Hv3 gaming headset gets marks for its style, comfort, and so-so sound quality, but it’s hard to look past its overpriced plastic construction.