The Sound BlasterX H5 from Creative Labs is an impeccable mid-range gaming headset. Within the first hour of setting it up and playing around, you quickly come to find the H5 is a well articulated package. From the quality build and excellent sound performance, Creative has gone the extra mile and cemented a place for themselves in the gaming peripheral realm with the H5. It is a huge improvement over their last headset, the Recon3D Omega. For the full H5 Headset product page, visit Creative.com.
In the same vein, they’ve made a statement with their new BlasterX series. The complete range of their products includes the G5 External Sound Card, H3 analog headset, H5 analog headset, and the H7 7.1 surround sound digital headset.
In this review, I check out Creative’s Sound BlasterX H5 analog headset and the G5 external sound card. I tested the H5 headset with and without the BlasterX G5 DAC (Digital Audio Converter). The BlasterX G5 DAC/amp is essentially an external sound card that plugs into a USB port. There was a dramatic difference in sound quality with the G5 sound card set up and the standalone H5. This makes me think the internal sound card in my computer needs upgraded asap.
What comes in the box?
- BlasterX H5 Headset
- Flexible/Detachable Mic
- Detachable 3.5mm braided cable with inline controls
- Braided extension cable with Audio/Mic splitter
- Quick Start Leaflet
In the Trenches: A Day with the BlasterX H5
I decided to really put the headset and external sound card combo to the test this past Saturday. What better way to evaluate their marathon gaming session potential than a 10 hour stretch?
I started out at about 10AM, going through emails and putting in some work while listening to a mix of electronic, Grateful Dead, and an easy listening playlist on Amazon Prime Music. Compared to the headphones I use on a daily basis the Sennheiser HD 558, the sound quality was crisper. How much of this can be attributed to the DAC is something worth considering. Nevertheless, the first song I hit play on I had to kick my feet up, close my eyes, and give the wonderful stream of sound flowing into my ears my undivided attention. I’m not an audiophile by any means and taking a full 4 minutes to solely appreciate a song without any multi-tasking isn’t something I normally do. Overall, after a couple hours of music I feel like the sound clarity is on point; the bass doesn’t hit hard though if that’s what you’re looking for.
Next up was checking out the NA LCS stream and watching my favorite team CLG duke it out with Team Liquid. The series was all tied up at 2-2 with both teams showing moments of brilliance. The bard plays were in fine form. CLG pulled it out with a double TP on the same minion and home guards play to take out Piglet. This left the Nexus vulnerable for CLG and gave them the opportunity to zerg it down. It was a cool play, something I’d never seen before in such a clutch moment in a competitive match. Throughout the long 5 game series, I could pick out a lot of the champion noises and ability sound effects as long as the shoutcasting wasn’t too crazy.
Of course, this product test wouldn’t be complete without some gaming. I logged some hours in to Hearthstone and CS:GO. Certainly, CS:GO was where the headset and sound card really shined. The G5 Sound Card with 7.1 Surround Sound is a serious competitive advantage in competitive FPS games like CS:GO. I was playing Dust 2 in a 10 on 10 server and it was a blast. I could pinpoint which direction people were coming from and could also accurately predict when they would come around corners. That’s really helpful, especially when you’re one of the last ones left and you have no idea where the last few enemies are. Patrolling the Dust 2 tunnels near B bomb site was a treat. Fortunately, I wasn’t playing competitive and people didn’t bother to shift walk, so the results were beautiful.
That put me at about 8pm, so with breaks and meals I probably put in roughly 8 hours in the headset. The only time I got uncomfortable was in the mid afternoon, it got warm outside ~75 or so and I didn’t turn on the A/C. So a word of warning: if you have your computer in a relatively warm room or you are the type of gamer who runs on the warmer side, the leatherette material on the ear cups can heat up and get bothersome. Other than that, my ears weren’t worse for wear. Towards the evening, I started to feel the band on top of my head but it wasn’t enough to make me feel like I needed to take them off at any point.
I think for most of us, comfort is a big deal. I know for me, it is #1 when determining whether audio headware is right for me. I prefer wearing headphones to computer speakers whether it be gaming, listening to music, watching streams, etc. That means I end up wearing them for long stretches at a time. If they aren’t comfortable or too heavy my ears begin to protest in a very disagreeable way. Head and ear fatigue takes away from the enjoyment of whatever I’m doing and can fragment my focus if I’m working on something.
The first thing you notice is the lightweight construction, leather padded headband, and leatherette ear pads. These factors combine to make a headset that is markedly comfortable. When compared to other circumaural headphones (ear cups that completely surround the ear) I’ve worn in the past, this is the clear winner. Granted, I haven’t owned a gaming type headset that is priced over $200, and perhaps they get more comfortable in the ultra premium class. At any rate, for the BlasterX H5’s $100-150 price point I haven’t experienced anything quite so pleasant.
The sound was a huge improvement over my laptop speakers, but of course that’s comparing apples to oranges. I think anyone will be very pleased if they are switching over to this headset from external computer speakers. When I’m playing Hearthstone hearing every little cackle of the background noises in the ‘inn’ is pretty awesome. Compared to my Sennheiser headphones, they are extremely close in sound quality. However, with Creative’s sound card set up the BlasterX H5 outperforms in every department.
The enclosed, circumaural design keeps you engrossed in your game and in the zone. It isn’t noise cancelling, but with the volume at about 60%ish I can’t hear softer to medium loud noises in the room (like my bulldog’s snoring when laying near my feet). I took the volume up to about 80% and that quickly became uncomfortable. So even for those who’ve blasted their ear drums to smithereens in their wild teenage years will probably be satisfied.
The headphones I use daily are the Sennheiser HD 558. I picked those up for about $95, so they are quite close to the price of the H5. I’d say the sound quality is comparable though you are getting a quality detachable mic with the BlasterX H5. As I mentioned, the big thing for me is comfort, and second would be in game performance — whether or not I can hear that goofball playing with knife only all match coming up behind me to turn around in time for an easy frag. If the sound is quality that’s a bonus, but I doubt my ears could discern too much of a difference between this headset and one that costs $300 when gaming. Perhaps my sense of hearing just isn’t that refined. At any rate, the one word I’d settle on using to describe the sound of the H5’s is balanced, not overly bassy or too soft.
Creative Labs went with a professional aesthetic that serves casual and pro gamers alike. The black with red accents isn’t over the top, like some of the hyphey styles you get with some headsets from companies such as Razer and Turtle Beach. If you like flashy lights and customizing LED lighting zones you’ll be disappointed. I know some gamers dig the ‘glow’ but there are many who prefer the tried and true black-on-black. A practicing minimalist, Creative’s understated design is right up my alley. Complimented by the brushed steel frame and braided external cabling, the H5 is a gorgeous headset. The supple leather ear cups and head band satisfactorily complete the elegant look.
Software & Extras
Arguably one of the shortcomings of the BlasterX package is the software. I’m still playing around with the genre and game title profiles, but that is about the extent of what you can change in the BlasterX Acoustic Engine software. By registering your email with Creative, you get an activation key to install the software for free.
While the sound profiles are really cool and I hope they continue to add game titles, you can’t tweak and fine tune individual settings such as bass and the like. I think the majority of people don’t experiment too much with granular settings like that anyway, so that feature missing in the software doesn’t make or break the product. For me, I’m kind of lazy and like things to be as optimal as possible when I plug it in. In that sense, the H5 excels and the genre presets are ideal for gamers like me.
Another thing some gamers have been critical of is the lack of extras such as secondary earcups and carrying pouch. Of course, I think most people would opt to have them over not having them. But, for example, if that added another $20 to the final price tag I think the majority would lean towards saving the money instead of getting a couple extras they may not end up using too often.
Zoom In: Technical Specifications
- Drivers: 50mm neodymium magnet drivers
- Connections: single to twin 3.5mm jack, single to single 3.5mm jack
- Frequency Response: 20Hz – 20kHz
- Impedance: 32 Ohms
- In-Line Volume/Playback Control: Yes
- Microphone: Detachable, Noise-Reducing, 2.2k ohms, -42 dB @ 1KHz, 100Hz – 15kHz
Zoom Out: Sound BlasterX H5 Review Summary
- Fair price
- No nonsense analog gaming headset
- Clear, crisp, well-balanced sound
- Lightweight, steel frame is very bendy and durable
- Not many frills, no flashy lights
- Cool product ecosystem with the G5 Sound Card & BlasterX Acoustic Engine software