Date: December 12th, 2006
Article by: Karl van der Walt (Hardware Reviewer)
Edited by: Nathan Glentworth (Owner / Head Editor)
Product was submitted by: Steel Series
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PRODUCT COMPOSITION & WALKTHROUGH (cont'd)
Here you can see the microphone fits neatly into the left headphone and is barely noticeable. No irritating microphone support in the way here.
Here you can see the microphone pulled out of the left headphone. The protective sheathing on the stalk is coated in a durable plastic. The stalk is just long enough to reach the left side of your mouth. I found it to be completely unobtrusive and pleasant to use.
Lastly is the cable and connectors, its not the usual thin fragile looking cable you would expect on an entry level headset, instead SteelSound have gone the extra mile and used a thicker more sturdy cable that should stand up to being constantly connected and disconnected if you take the 3H to regular LAN games. Oddly the 3H has black and red connections, the black for audio and the red for the microphone. Still, the black jack has green bands on the tip and the red jack has pink bands so even though the molding is nonstandard the bands do help identify what goes where.
PRODUCT IMPRESSIONS & SOUND QUALITY
I have really put these headphones through their paces in almost every way I could think of over the course of the last three days. I have listened to music, played games, watched movies and even tested the recording quality of the microphone. To test the durability of the product I also spent about ten minutes stuffing them into various bags and well, they survived. I have tested the 3H using a SoundBlaster Live! Platinum, although not the latest cutting edge soundcard it is good quality and delivers a full range of sound leaving the sound quality you here purely in the hands of the 3H.
As I stated at the beginning of this review, I wasn't expecting anything spectacular from the 3H. Passable sound quality at best right? To say I was surprised is a vast understatement; I literally almost fell off my chair when I pressed play on my first sound test. Serves me right for not remembering to set the volume level before testing. Not only is the 3H loud but it also has more bass than any headphones I have used in the past and being into music recording I have used many. The really nice thing about the 3H is that it has a good balanced sound. Not only is the base incredible but also the midrange and treble are just clean and clear enough to give your music, games and movies a nice rich, full sound. Yes they could be clearer but what do you expect, pay for a Fiat you get a Fiat, not a Ferrari. For the price I highly doubt you can beat the sound quality and volume these little driver units produce. I was simply stunned by the difference the 3H makes when gaming, I could hear footsteps long before the enemy was in sight and whenever there was an explosion I almost felt like I had a rumble pack from a video game controller strapped to my head. Yes, the bass is that good. I am no bass addict, in fact I prefer good balanced sound and I'm pleased to say that the 3H gives just that. Unlike most other bass intensive audio gear the high ranges remain clear no matter how loud the bass is, short of distortion obviously.
The microphone is neatly retractable into the casing of the left headphone and is easily pulled out and put back though you may need to use both hands to push it back in. I tested the microphone in a variety of ways, ranging from UT 2004 using voice commands to a professional studio-recording package. As I said earlier, I am into recording music. Suffice it to say that although not premium quality this microphone produces very respectable quality with very little background noise and is more than adequate for gaming and VOIP use with applications like Skype.
The only issue I have with the microphone is the fact that it generates a large amount of feedback if you take off the headset while its active. Simply muting the microphone in your volume control prevents this but if you are in the middle of a LAN game and need to go to the bathroom you don't really want to have to tab out of your game to mute it so you can go relieve your bladder. I would like to have seen an inline volume control and microphone off switch on the 3H's cable. It would have been worth the extra bit of cash to be able to control both volume and the microphone without having to tab out of your game and adjust the windows volume control.
As I mentioned earlier there are no ventilation holes in the 3H and as a result you do sweat a fair bit with prolonged use but I can understand SteelSound's reasons for this. The main reason the 3H has such good bass is that it has a sealed design. In other words, if they added ventilation you would loose the bass and in my opinion it's not worth the trade off. An issue I would like to see changed is the pressure distribution. I have a large head and by default large ears. The 3H was comfortable for about an hour but then my ears started to get sore. The reason is that the pressure is concentrated on the cartilage at the back of the ear. That said someone with a smaller head would most likely not have the soreness I experienced after about three ours of use. Adding a simple rotating pivot system like that found on the 4H and 5H v2 would make the 3H a lot more comfortable. Again though, paying for a Fiat…
Other than that the 3H is adjustable to suit different head sizes and is fairly comfortable. Its only after prolonged use that I experienced any discomfort and considering that the 3H was not really designed to be your “regular use” headset you can't really hold this against them. If you plan on using the 3H for prolonged periods of time I would suggest periodic breaks to avoid sweaty and sore ears.