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Steelseries 5HV2 USB Review

By on June 25, 2011
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The sequel that’s even better.

Good: sound positioning is fantastic, comfortable, mic stash, sturdy
Bad: 7.1 USB sound card made no difference, software for it is useless,
Price: AED 549
* The price is the Suggested Retail Price at the time of review. Please call a retailer to confirm the latest price for this product.

Considered as one of the best gaming headsets when it was originally released, the Steelseries 5H is back again, and this time with a large ‘V2′ attached to it and a virtual 7.1 USB sound card to give it some oommph.

Much like video games, Steelseries rolls out ‘patches’ for its hardware, often fixing design faults but keeping the core experience intact. And although they seem to be following the ‘Valve Time’, the products, much like the games from the famous developer, are nothing short of outstanding. The 5HV2 improves on its questionable durability with better wiring engineering, extra stuffed padding and slight design modifications, while keeping its performance to the same level of ‘pro-gaming’ that it boasts.

Design
Needless to say, the Steelseries 5HV2 looks much like it’s original version. It’s design has a very classic look that tells of its age. The gray hard plastic covering and the once snazzy slits on the sides may not make it as attractive as Steelseries Siberia V2 or as flashy as the Tritton headphones, it is however, a simple and clean look, and for the most part, gets the job done.

As previously mentioned, the 5HV2 comes with extra padding on the ear cups and headrest. They are soft to touch and land quite easily around the ears without any stiffness. Having used the headphones for multiple hours at one go, I found them to be light and extremely comfortable. Although, yes, the headphones does create moisture around the ears, but unless we have mini coolers built inside them (calling dibs on the patent!), that’s not going to go away.

Like the Siberia V2 (and presumably all forthcoming Steelseries headphones), the 5HV2 also implements a convenient mechanic to stash away the mic inside the earcup when you are not using it. This reduces chances of unnecessary damage to the mic as well as making the headphones easier to port.

The mic’s sensitivity can be changed by choosing from the two presets present on the inline controller – high and low. It also allows you to turn the mic off entirely as well.

The 5HV2 comes packaged with a 7.1 USB sound card. It’s a plug-n-play device, although a software is needed to fine-tune its settings. More on it in the next section.

Performance
Admittedly, I wasn’t expecting much from these headphones. I knew they were going to sound great, of course, but in terms of matching other champs like the Roccat Kave, especially in sound positioning, I expected an average performance much like the Siberia V2. Boy was I wrong.

My test bed consisted of Team Fortress 2 and Crysis 2 on the PC using an Audigy 2 ZS sound card; and Uncharted 2 on the PS3. The headphones constantly surprised me by providing phenomenal sound placement that actually matched the performance of the Roccat Kave – which is high praise because Kave’s sound positioning is truly incredible.

Crysis 2, especially, was a great experience as I could pinpoint enemy position with precise audio feedback. I could feel all corners of the headphones buzzing with sounds as I launched myself head-on into a firefight against a group 12 soldiers. I could feel the pinch from everywhere as the 5HV2 captured every hit cleanly and precisely. Simply terrific for a normal pair of stereo headphones.

Coming to the 7.1 USB sound card, I found it did little to enhance the sound quality. Or actually, make any difference at all. The headphones already produced great surround sound and it didn’t seem to make it any better with the sound card plugged in.

The device does require a software to make ‘sure’ the 7.1 is turned ON and to adjust a few settings as well. I don’t know why Steelseries even bothered building one anyway. Not only does it look outdated and ugly, it seems to provide exactly the same options as Windows does. What’s the point?

Conclusion
The Steelseries 5HV2 costs AED 549, and that puts it right against the Roccat Kave which costs exactly the same. Now, normally I would be flipping about the price – it is after all a normal stereo headphones with seemingly no fancy features. But I am not. This is one of those products that lets the performance do the talking. No fancy features, no snazzy cuts, no bright lights and no ambiguous titles, just single-minded focus on performance, and it delivers.

That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if people still preferred the Roccat Kave. Not only is it a benchmark performer, but it’s got all of the bells and whistles I called out on above. However, the Steelseries has one crucial advantage over the Kave, and that is comfort. The Kave can be a bit bulky and heavy for longer periods of use, whereas the Steelseries can easily go for longer before any discomfort creeps in.

If you would ask me to recommend one over another, honestly, I would be stumped. Both has their own pros and cons, and I guess it all boils down to personal taste.


About

Mufaddal Fakhruddin is the Editor for IGN ME and thinks writing in third person about himself in an about me section is weird.

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