We do love our gaming here at Stuff HQ and headphones are a close second, mostly because it can get really noisy when everyone is talking at cross-purposes during the course of an ordinary day. So it is great to get something that combines the two subjects, like SteelSeries’ 9H gaming headphones.
These cans are made for PC gaming, much like the Siberia Elite headphones that we featured recently, and also support Mac as well as mobile device. Though a step down the technological ladder, the 9H headphones are still solid performers. With special emphasis on the word ‘solid’.
A peek in the box reveals the headphones themselves, constructed from very sturdy plastic and metal around the headband, which is padded. The large earcups feature extra padding with leather-wrapped cushioning. It isn’t as generous with its padding as the Siberia Elite is but is still comfortable for extended periods, even if the user happens to wear glasses. Some headphones can press the bows of a pair of glasses into the side of the head quite painfully but the 9H is thankfully exempt from that list.
Also in the box is a USB sound card, for users who want to take advantage of some Dolby sound, a collection of double-braided cable segments for attaching these ‘phones to your machine of choice (up to a length of 3.2 meters) and an attachment for using the 9H headset with a smartphone. The headphone to PC connection is typically three pieces of cable, a base unit that is either two 3.5mm jacks (for audio and mic) or the USB sound card, the longer extension cable and then the short connection from the rest of the setup to the headphone, which features a volume control along its length. Users can completely disconnect the cabling if they want to for some reason that we have yet to figure out.
Audio transmission is via a neat little adjustable boom mic that lives inside the left ear cup. SteelSeries have made this mic a bit too short for comfort, probably for space reasons, but it still gets the job done whether you’re just talking over Skype or swearing at teenagers in a session of Modern Warfare.
Which brings us to the sound. The 9H headphones aren’t as loud as the Siberia Elite setup is but they’re still loud enough to be heard from a distance when all the knobs have been turned up (nobody was wearing the headphones during this test). Sound at this volume does tend to distort a bit and some of the clarity is lost (someone sacrificed their eardrums for this assessment). At anything less that full taps the 9H holds up nicely and players will be able to tell voice playback from bullet whines and background music while in the thick of battle quite easily.
It handles music equally well, though it’s not going to take the quality crown from the Sennheiser IE 800 headphones that wowed us a while back. Which is fine, we didn’t expect them to.
The cable system is the weak point with the 9H headphones, as an errant arm movement could quite easier remove the braided cord from the main headphone body. When you’re gaming, the last thing you want to be doing is attempting to reconnect your sound setup thanks to something silly like that. But overall the 9H is a great choice for extended gaming, with the added bonus that they’re comfortable enough to use connected to a smartphone while walking around. Just don’t expect to hear the sound of oncoming traffic in that case.