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SteelSeries SteelSound 4H

Do you attend LAN parties? Do you play games late at night where your family members and friends are sound asleep? If you do, then you must need a good pair of headset that will not only feel comfortable but also produce clear sound so you can pinpoint your enemies’ position and defeat them in a bloody virtual battlefield. Check out our review on the gaming headset from Steel Series, the SteelSound 4H and see if this pair of headset is a good choice for you.

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INTRODUCTION

Do you attend LAN parties? Do you play games late at night where your family members and friends are sound asleep? If you do, then you must need a good headset that will not only feel comfortable but also produce clear sound so you can pinpoint your enemies’ position and defeat them in a bloody virtual battlefield. Here at Bjorn3D, we have reviewed a few headsets, the Xgear Multimedia Gaming Headset and Icemat Siberia Headphones.  Today, we will take a look at another gaming headset from SteelSeries, the SteelSound 4H.

The SteelSeries’s SteelSound 4H is actually built based on the same technology as the the SteelSeries’s top of the line SteelSound 5H v2.  Thus, it has the same qualities as its big brother. Both headsets are designed for gaming use but the SteelSound 4H is much more budget oriented as it is retailed for $69.95 while the 5H v2 is retailed for $99.00.  Thus, if the SteelSound 4H can produce a good sound at cheaper price, then it should be a great buy for the budget gamers out there.

THE COMPANY

 
SteelSeries manufactures a wide variety of gaming peripherals, ranging from headsets, mouse pads, to keyboards. As SteelSeries puts:
 
SteelSeries is all about gaming. Our mission is to create performance enhancing gaming gear, created for and by leading professional gamers. We continuously strive to better ourselves, and work with leading professional gamers from 3 different continents to create our products.
 
Our staff is distributed throughout the world, working from offices in Europe, North America and Asia.
 
The SteelSeries headquarters are located in Europe (Copenhagen, Denmark), and host the primary office facilities for the company. The headquarters handle all planning, production and partner coordination.
 
For logistical reasons we also have sales offices in Asia (Taipei, Taiwan) and USA (Los Angeles, California). From Taipei we can each the entire Asian market, as well as New Zealand and Australia. From Los Angeles we can reach North America, Canada and South America. All manufacturing is done by sub-suppliers from Europe and Asia, and then delivered to one of our warehouses for final processing.
Since the SteelSeries’s product line is geared toward gaming community, let’s see if the 4H can live up to the expectation.
 

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATION

 
Headphones
  • Frequency response: 16 – 28,000 Hz
  • Impedance: 40 Ohm
  • SPL@ 1kHz, 1 Vrms: 110 dB
  • Cable length: 1.8 meters (6 feet)
Microphone
  •  Frequency response: 75 – 16,000 Hz
  •  Pick up pattern: Uni-directional
  •  Sensitivity: -38dB
  •  Impedance: 2k Ohm

Features

  • Lightweight gaming headset with XL-sized earcushions 
  • Developed in cooperation with professional gamers 
  • Retractable uni-directional microphone system 
  • Volume control, featuring 3 microphone settings 
  • Full-size earcups for maximum individual comfort
  • Strong and deep resonating in-game sound projection
  • 40mm SteelSound SunDancer(Sd) Units

A CLOSER LOOK

 

 

The headset comes in rather plain package with the headset in clear view covered by plastic molded in the shape of the headset. The back of the package is a cardboard that gives the features of the headset in multiple languages. Although the package is not too flashy, I like the fact that the package is extremely easy to open as I absolutely hate those sealed plastic mold that would require a sharp knife to cut it open.

 
Open up the package and you will see the headset, and a couple of sheets advertising other SteelSeries’s products.

 

 
The headset is black color and made primarily with plastic. You will see two ear cups labeled left and right which are cushioned with felt cloth. The cups are full size so it should fit most people’s ear without any problem. There’s about an inch depth from the cushion to the headset itself, thus you won’t be in direct contact with the hard headphone. The cups are not rigid and can be swiveled a few degrees to add some comfort. Overall, the design of the cushion and the size makes the headset really comfortable.

 
The top of the headband is also padded to add additional comfort. The internal of the headband is made of metal which reinforces the headband so it won’t break easily. The headband adjustment mechanism is retained within the two ear cup holders.
 
  
 
There is a handy controller on the headset that can control the headphone’s volume and microphone’s sensitivity (hi, low, off). The controller also has a metal clip that can fasten to your shirt or pant.  Because the clip is not the spring type of the clip, it maybe slightly harder to fasten it onto the cloth and it may not be able to hold onto the cloth securely.

 
The headset, as the name implies, should come with not just a headphone but a microphone as well. Well, where is the microphone? The microphone is actually hidden inside the left ear cup. The 4H’s metal microphone boom is retractable. The microphone is uni-directional and it is flexible to twist and bend to any position. I feel that it’s a bit short and I personally would prefer the microphone to be placed on the right side but that’s just personal preference.
 
 
 
The headset’s cable is 1.8m (6 feet) long and at the end it is split into the headphone and mic connector which are color labeled. The split is about 5 cm. The audio cable is attached to the left and right side of the ear cups and the point where it attaches to the ear cups is reinforced. Personally, I would prefer to see just a single cord instead of the two cords going into the ear cups to avoid having an annoying cable hanging over the jaw. The headphone and microphone jacks are your plain jack and they are not gold plated like many of the high end headset.

TESTING

Impression and Comfort

The SteelSeries is probably one of the most comfortable headset that I have used. The cushioned ear cups and head band make this headset really comfortable even after hours of use. Since I wear glasses, often I will feel some discomforts for those headphones that press tightly against the head but the soft cushion and the fact that the ear cups are not directly pressed against my ear really take away such discomfort.  Furthermore, the ear cups completely cover the ears so they block the interference from environmental noises.

The first thing that I noticed about the SteelSound 4H headset is that the sound seems to be quieter than any other headsets (the XFX gaming headset or the IPOD headbud) that I have been using. I have to crank up the volume in order to get to the same sound level as the other headset. I am not sure if this is due to the cushion of the ear cups which does not put the headphone directly next the ear or if the headset simply has a problem getting the same volume level as other headsets.

Testing

 
It is extremely difficult to give an accurate performance assessment of any audio device as it’s quite subjective and very dependent on personal preference. I decided to test the headset in three categories: music playback, in-game performance, and VoIP.
 
Game
 
Given that the SteelSound is a gaming headset, it is not surprising to see that the headset performs quite well in games. The position of the enemies are easy to detect with the headset.  The good bass means that bomb and gun-fire noises sound realistic and enhances the game play enjoyment.  Since this is not a 5.1 headset, the sound quality and the position depend on the quality of the sound card so having a good game card will sure help to make a good sound reproduction.
 

Music
 
Despite the fact that SteelSound 4H is not design for music enthusiasts, it still needs to provide good sound quality with music since most people do use their computer to play musics. I tried the headset with the computer and played various types of music with iTune.  In addition, I hooked the headset to my iPod. The sound plays back nicely. The vocals, though clear, are slightly tinny in the higher range which makes the sound seem slightly less full. The bass is slightly weak but it’s still noticeable and fairy strong. These little sound discrepancies are nothing major as they can all be adjusted in the volume control panel and/or using the program’s own equalizer to adjust the sound quality.  Overall, the sound quality of the music playback is much clearer than the XFX’s XGear Multimedia Gaming headset that I have (which sounds slightly muffled).  Both headsets seem to unable to reproduce good sound in the high notes region; the sound quality becomes very faint and hard to hear when the vocals are in the high-pitch region.
 
Microphone VoIP
 
Voice recording is where the SteelSereis 4H falls slightly short. The microphone picks up voices clearly but it’s not loud enough even with turning the setting to high when the computer’s +20dB setting is turned off. However, once the +20 dB boost setting is turned on, the sound becomes much louder in both the low and high settings. Normally, when the +20 dB boost is turned on, you will hear a lot of background noise, but the 4H actually blocks the background noises and only picks up the voices. Only when I turned up my volume then I would hear the annoying background noises coming from turning on the +20dB boost. Thus, if you plan to use this for VoIP, make sure that the +20 dB is turned on. 
 

CONCLUSION

 
I think that a gaming headset not only has to be able to produce nice sounds, it also has to be comfortable to wear for long periods of time. The SteelSeries 4H certainly meets both of these requirements. The headset is durable and well constructed with nice features, such as an in-line controller and microphone level adjustment. At the MSRP of $69.95, it may seem quite expensive for a headset, but a quick online search reveals that the headset can be purchased for $46.99 (which makes it much more competitive in terms of pricing). Overall, the SteelSound 4H headset is an excellent choice for any gamers out there who need a good gaming headset for all those long nights of fearsome gaming. They would also be an excellent choice for casual music listeners out there as well.
 
 

For the extremely comfort and good sound reproduction, the SteelSound 4H will earn a score of 8.5 out of 10 and receive Bjorn3D’s Seal of Approval.

 

Pros:

     + Modular connectors
     + Really comfortable
     + Retractable microphone
     + In-line control
     + Cushioned ear cups and head band
     + Good sound quality

Cons:

     – The cable connector to the ear cup is not a single cable
     – Slightly shorter microphone buds
     – Audio volume needs to be turned higher than other headsets
     – Sound is slightly leaning toward treble

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