You might already know that I have reviewed the SteelSound 5H headphones which I gave a rating of 9/10, so i'm expecting good things from the latest audio offering from the SteelSeries crew. I need to explain a little about version 2 of this headset.
Back in February 2006, SteelSeries issued a press release detailing technical problems regarding the gaming headset. There was basically build quality issues with the connectors in the ear cups, the cable and microphone - something that was not an issue for the headset that I had. SteelSeries admitted that a 3.75% failure rate was too high and issued a product recall for 20,000 headsets. At least SteelSeries admitted there was a problem and offered replacements units for the faulty ones.
Learning from their mistakes (like any self respecting company should do), the employees of SteelSeries set about redesigning their headset, identifying faults and implementing improvments. To make thing easy this is a summary of the changes:
The first thing that struck me was that there was no changes to the actual sound quality of the headset, but I can see that it really wasn't what the new revision was about. To be honest the sound is pretty damn good anyway, but you know things can always be cranked up a notch or two. The sound as I mentioned in the v1 review is great, and as you would expect things are just as good this time around.
I've mainly been playing Ghost Recon : Advanced Warfighter recently which has an amazing sound engine. The headset is a prefect complement, as it would be a real shame to have such good quality sound being output from the game but not actually hear the details which makes it so good. The close quarters combat in the game can rely heavily on your ability to hear the enemy players moving around you. If you cant hear the sound properly then you have an extreme disadvantage.Whether I killed or was killed, one thing I cannot say is that I didn't hear them comming.
Of course the large ear cups help a great deal to with the sound, they have more bass for a start compaired to flat-on-the-ear, or in-the-ear headphones. Outside noises are blocked out extremely well also. I guess this helps escape from your little brother, or kids or wife... maybe that would be a good selling point!?
When I'm online I spend the majority of time on Teamspeak chatting to clan members in or out of game. The quality of IP based chat is nothing to get excited about and it's probably difficult to guess who has better quality hardware, but the SteelSeries v2 certainly doesn't sound worse than anyone elses' headset, so I'm pretty satisfied.
I think there are two of the modifications to the design I like the most. The first is the extension on the mic boom. Previously it only just reached the edge of my mouth, but now it has been extended which gives better finctionality. I know that my voice comms will be slightly louder and clearer because of this.
The second modification that I really approve of is the larger ear cushions. Actually I was really happy with the ones on the original headset but now it's impossible to use the old headset without noticing this, infact the old ones are nowhere near as nice to wear now. This could be because the old ones have started to wear a bit, but I could not say unless I got hold of an unopened set of the old headphones. It's quite hard to see the difference in a picture so you will have to take my word for it. The pic below shows the old set on the left and the v2 on the right:
You should be able to see the difference in colour also. It's now a bit darked and meaner. The branding is also more pronounced, and the logo is noticeable on the ears and on the headband, this might be off-putting for some but it certainly isn't overpowering in my opinion.
One other thing worth noting that I have not seen before is the new braded cable. You can see it in the following picture:
I'm not an expert in materials but one thing I know from personal experience is that most of the rubbery / plasticy (see I told you I was not a materials expert) type cables will do a good job at getting twisted and sometimes split. The new design is perfect and does not casue any problems, not only does it not twist up by itself, it is very tough, so if you run over it with your chair, there is no damaged caused. Believe me on this because I've done a very good job of running it over in the past couple of weeks. Maybe this sould have been added to the list of things I like the most about v2.
So you can see that there have been suffcient changes already to make this a new version. The other changes include mechanical adjustments to the hinges and improved connectors which is not a major concern to me personally but welcome non the less. I'm particulary pleased with changes made to aid comfort, so the headset can be worn for as long as you like. The old revision were comfortable enough for me but it's definately possible to notice the difference, the padding is improved for one. The only thing I can say is that your ears can get warm... but that's a side effect of being able to wear them for so long I guess.
The eagle-eyed might have noticed that I'm reviewing the USB version of the headset. Essentially this means it comes with a USB soundcard which you plug your headet into. It looks just like this:
It's quite a neat little thing and works with Win XP/Win 2000/Win98/Win ME/Mac OS. It is mainly marketed on the user always having a constant sound experience, especially when travelling to LAN's etc, and this would be important when money is at stake which is becomming increasingly more so at LAN's. Because I'm not a pro gamer the USB device is just a convenience more than anything else, when I want my headphones on I just plug it and and I have sound. It is slightly easier than fiddling with two wires around the back of the PC, especially if you have front USB connecors. The sound quality is not bad at all either, certainly no complains here and in every situation seems to produce a better quality sound than my onboard sound processor, I'd like to compaire it to something like an X-Fi card, but alas I don't have one currently, but rest assured this fairly small device packs a big punch!
A nice touch is the inline volume control, which also features a mute selector for the mic. This was a feature carried over from the original headset and appears untouched in v2. Sometimes it's very handy to be able to adjust the volume quickly, rather then alt-tabbing out of the game to adjust the volume or adjusting in-game in the menus. All gaming headsets should have this feature in my opionion.
I think yet again SteelSeries have made an outstanding product. The have learned from their mistakes and have really though about ways to improve and already quality product. This has to be on your list of considerations when choosing your next headset for your computer. It is definately a good choice for any gamer out there.