PerformancePerformance is always hard to measure unbiased. When it comes to sound there is no benchmark program, so the following is just my impression of the SteelSound 5H USB.
I decided to test the headset in my two favorite games BF2 and CS:S.
BF2The headset performed well in BF2 not much to comment on here. The sound quality was good and I was able to hear the enemy before I saw them. I also tried this headset with the Creative X-Fi in BF2 and that really boosted the audio experience. This headset really performs great with an X-Fi soundcard.
CS:SIn Counter-Strike where you have far less audio streams running at a time the USB soundcard comes more to its right. The headset seems to perform really good in CS:S. I was able to hear people more accurately than with my Sennheiser PC 160, now this surprised me a bit. I think the extra performance in CS:S is due to the headsets balance, the enhanced treble has a positive effect on the tracking of sound in CS:S.
After the games test I decided to check if there was any noticeable difference between the SteelSound and the Sennheiser in the Creative X-Fi CMSS-3D audio test. This test is very simple, the soundcard simulates a chopper flying around you. The SteelSound performed somewhat better than the Sennheiser PC 160. I was able to hear more clearly from where the sound was coming.
MP3The sound quality was really good, the headset is very balanced. You don't need to make any adjustments in order to get a nice listening experience. What really amazed me was just how nice everything sounded. This headset has it all when it comes to sound quality: a deep bass and a precise treble. The only thing that disappointed me a bit was that even though the bass sounds good there isn’t much of it and when you crank up the volume it is clear that the bass is inadequate for getting a good listening experience at high volume. But it is like this with all headsets except for high-end headphones. The sound becomes more and more flat as you turn up the volume. This problem is general and isn't like the music sounds bad when you turn it up, it just doesn't sound as good as with less volume.
USB SoundcardSteelSound has chosen to bundle this headset with a C-Media based USB soundcard. This little USB soundcard comes with its own software collection. Here you can adjust anything from emulation to the equalizer. The performance of the USB soundcard is about the same as you would get from a high-end onboard solution from any motherboard manufacturer. There is a noticeable difference in sound quality between my X-Fi soundcard and that of the SteelSound USB soundcard. The X-Fi soundcard performs way better in all circumstances, but you can't really bring it to LANs. I think the USB soundcard is a good addition to an otherwise great headset, it enables you to get decent audio performance anywhere on any PC and that is its strength.
This USB soundcard has a medium sound quality. After listening a while you begin to notice that it isn't as good as a full-sized one. The sound was more flat and it couldn't play as loud as with my Creative X-Fi. But besides that the USB soundcard does have its advantages, i.e. you can use it at events and the like and get a relatively good sound quality. Of course it is always unfair comparing a portable sound card with a good full-size one and therefore I will not measure performance in games, since it wouldn't take all of the things I described into account. So if you don't plan on going to a lot of events, why not go with the less expensive SteelSound 5H without the USB soundcard which sells for €69/$99/499DKK.
As you can se from the images the soundcard features only 2.1 sound. It has a one jack for the microphone and one for the two speaker units.
Picture 1: Shows the main control of the USB soundcard you can adjust the DSP mode and the Xear 7.1 sound emulation. Picture 2: All of the mix controls are gathered in one menu, you can adjust the audio level of both output and input. Picture 3: Even though it is a small soundcard you still have all of the effects adjustments that you might want to take advantage of. Picture 4: I don't know exactly how this Karaoke feature works, but I'm sure that someone might find it funny to sing-along.
- Frequency Response: 16 – 28,000Hz
- Impedance: 40 Ohm
- SPL@1kHz, 1Vrms: 110dB
- Cable: 3m / 10ft (With Included Extender Installed)
- Frequency Response: 75 – 16,000Hz
- Pick-up Pattern: Uni-directional
- Sensitivity: -38 dB
- Impedance: 2K Ohms