Not everyone hears the same as each other. People’s ears are different and preferences dictate our style. While the SteelSeries 5Hv3 sounds only average at best, there will be those who want “good enough” and that’s something to be respected. The subjective listening tests in our reviews not only compare the product with other gaming headsets, but also audiophile grade headphones. Those who don’t regularly listen with higher-end equipment may not notice the sound quality deficiencies we are able to notice.
The 5Hv3 is heavily dependent on the quality of the output source and as a result can sound terrible or decent. Overall, these aren’t great music headphones. The sound characteristic can be described with well-defined highs, underpowered and hollow sounding bass, and moderate detail at all frequencies. Compared to better headphones, the 5Hv3 lacks impact and energy. Just about every song from every genre tried with this headset resulted in disappointment.
To be particularly nit-picky, long decay on the mid-tones muddies the overall sound and impacts instrument separation. Decay is amount of time it takes for the vibrations to stop after a sound has stopped. This is normal to all headphones, but better headphones will more correctly sequester or lengthen the time the drivers vibrate at certain frequencies.
The 5Hv3 generally does well with movie audio playback. Despite not having a sound characteristic optimal for a variety of music, the 5Hv3’s tuning for gaming makes it adept at emphasizing vocals and most environmental effects, even if doesn’t always reproduce those sounds accurately. Speech sounds are sharp, sometimes or oftentimes too sharp that words that end in –sh will loudly hiss back.
The stereo soundstage is remarkably wide. Dual-channel audio fluidly moved between left and right ear and stereo positioning had a good amount of emulated distance.
Surprisingly, the 5Hv3 didn’t recreate gaming audio as well as expected. Taking Battlefield 4 Beta as an example – running sounds, enemy footsteps, character dialog had very good clarity and positioning. However, impactful effects such as bullets and environmental destruction were not impactful. The last point is important because the game atmosphere feels less lively and is an important consideration for those who like to hear explosive combat.
The microphone’s sound quality is more than passable and users definitely won’t need to yell to make themselves audible. It’s definitely not studio quality, but it gets the job done for gaming and casual voice chat. The bendable boom and unidirectional pattern are hugely valuable for the sake of usability.