I conscripted my twins Jon and Aidan to help me test out a gaming headset sent by Creative. The 13-year-olds spend an awful lot of time playing on Xbox Live with their friends, and they already have several headsets to compare the Sound BlasterX H5’s to. The verdict? This is a gaming headset well worth considering.
When it comes to gaming, my boys are all about online multiplayer titles on Xbox Live. Star Wars: Battlefront is a current favorite, along with Halo 5 and Call of Duty: Black Ops 3. That means being able to chat with their friends as they play can be as important as all the sound effects in a game.
They’ve been alternating between a pair of wired gaming headsets, a Tritton AX 120 and a budget-level Turtle Beach 30X they bought after snapping an ear cup off a second set of Trittons.
My first interjection (as a parent) comes now: the Sound BlasterX H5’s have a reinforced steel frame that’s bendable, with a microphone and cable that are both removable (and replaceable). The cable is a high quality braided cloth style that resists twisting and knotting. This is a headset that seems quite capable of taking the punishment that kids can dish out.
In terms of audio quality, the boys say the Sound BlasterX H5’s blow away their other headsets. That’s not surprising given the price difference ($129.99 MSRP versus $29.99 for the Turtle Beach set and $79 for the Trittons), but they are adamant that it is more than a minor upgrade. The microphone was also a big hit. We’re undergoing some home renovations at the moment, and that means their Xbox One and TV are temporarily in the rec room–where our primary TV is located. So they’re frequently gaming when other people are watching movies. Or I’m running a power saw in the next room. They tested the microphone with their friends and confirm their voices come through loud and clear (without having to shout), while the background noise doesn’t make an appearance.
Parent mode again. The Sound BlasterX H5s are well padded, lightweight and very comfortable to wear for extended sessions. The over-ear cups seal well enough that there’s no noticeable sound leak from them to annoy other people. They can also be used for listening to music on an iPod or other device. They’re equipped with 50mm full spectrum drivers and an inline remote for music control. If you’re looking for a set of headphones for a kid who’s also a gamer, this is an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone… They are also platform agnostic, compatible with Xbox One, PS4, Mac, PC, Android and iOS devices.
Since the Sound BlasterX H5s have been here, the other headsets have sat untouched and gathering dust. I was a little worried that fighting over them might lead to their early demise, but so far the reinforced construction has withstood everything they’ve thrown at the headset.
I tried the Sound BlasterX H5s myself on Fallout 4–my new obsession–and really enjoyed their performance. When I get time to play a video game I don’t normally use a headset. I find most of them uncomfortable and I have a 23-speaker Yamaha sound projector and subwoofer hooked up to the TV that does a pretty decent job of audio with most games. But this headset improved the gaming experience dramatically.
A storm in Fallout 4 sounds like you’re sitting right in the rain (it’s actually kind of relaxing). On the other end of the spectrum, the first time a feral ghoul managed to surprise me from behind a pile of rubble, the sound nearly made me jump out of my skin. The grumbling of super mutants took on new clarity, explosions rumbled and the direction of distant gunfire became much more clear. Plus I discovered a bunch of ambient noises I’d been missing that added to the game experience even more. No more external sound system for me! The headset was also comfortable to wear, easily adjusted to my larger head, and, while not actively noise-cancelling, it blocked all but the loudest background noises.
At $129.99 Creative’s Sound BlasterX H5 Gaming Headset sits somewhere in the mid-range so far as price is concerned. Based on our experience, it’s well worth paying the premium compared to budget headsets–the sound is on another level, the microphone works well and effectively isolates noise, and they seem very durable. I’m sure a $300 wireless set with Dolby 7.1 Surround Sound would be even more impressive, but, given how well the Sound BlasterX H5s perform, I can’t ever seeing myself paying as much as the game console did in the first place.
Disclosure: Creative provided a Sound BlasterX H5 Gaming Headset for review purposes.