The SteelSeries 3Hv2 Gaming Headset is designed with portability in mind for those gamers on a budget. But what it gains in its travel-friendly design it sacrifices in overall audio quality. The frequency response shows that these are best suited for shooters and not much else. But there are plenty of other tests that determined its final score.
When you think of gaming headsets you often picture something large and gaudy with LED lights, sharp angles, and huge microphones. For gamers that want something a little more low-key and casual that they can easily take on the go wherever they game there aren't a lot of options. The SteelSeries 3Hv2 Gaming Headset (MSRP: $39.99) might be the solution for gamers on the go with a budget.
By clicking one of our links you're supporting our labs and our independence, as we may earn a small share of revenue. Recommendations are separate from any business incentives.
The 3Hv2 feature an affordable price, a compact and travel-friendly design, and the SteelSeries brand name. If you're a gamer on the go or just looking for a budget friendly headset you may be drawn to this introductory model.
Unfortunately, the numbers don't lie and the sound quality tells a different story. These are headphones designed for first person shooters and therefore downplay much of the upper frequencies in favor of bass. If you want to use these for anything other than holding the line with your brothers in arms or listening to chest rumbling music, they won’t hold up very well.
The first thing you’ll notice when you open the box is how compact SteelSeries was able to make this headset. When the 3Hv2 is completely folded it looks like it could almost fit into my pocket. A retractable microphone that rests inside the left ear pad when not in use further supports this travel-friendly design.
But, that compact design translates to a tight fit that presses a little too firmly after extended use. This, combined with the padded leather cushions, creates a heat seal around your ears, and it didn’t take long before my ears started to turn red. If you're looking for a headset to take you long into the night on a gaming binge, these may not be a good choice.
Where these headphones truly find their place is as a travel headset for LAN parties. The quality is good enough to get you through a gaming session with friends, and when you’re done it folds small enough to travel easily. Unfortunately, for a gaming headset built for portability there isn’t a carrying case to ferry them from game to game.
In fact, there is only one accessory in the package: a small cable adapter that unifies the separate microphone and headphone jacks. It’s a nice touch, letting these easily function with mobile devices (both Android and iOS), so you can play games and take voice calls without switching your gear. Speaking of cables, the 3Hv2 has a soft-rubber cable that resists tangling. It’s nice, but it only stretches to around four feet. That’s fine for laptops and other travel-friendly gaming devices, but older consoles may be too far away.
Rounding out the features of this introductory model are the retractable microphone and the in-line mic/volume controls. I tested this headset with some games and a Skype call and found the microphone matched the other basic features of the headset; the clarity wasn’t perfect, but it performed well enough for my uses–both in-game and during a voice call.
The 3Hv2 are the introductory model in the H-Series, and it shows in almost every aspect of the design and function. The included accessories and features are the bare minimum for a gaming headset, but that’s exactly what you’re paying for.
The meat and potatoes of our testing; the frequency response (FR) test forms the basis for what to expect. The FR is used to measure how well a product is able to reproduce a series of frequencies across the entire audible spectrum.
The 3Hv2 seriously underemphasizes high midrange frequencies between 2kHz and 5kHz. For each step in that range the sound drops to be about two times quieter than the step before it, reaching just below 50dB at 3kHz. Then it starts a slow climb, getting twice as loud with each step, until it hits 70dB around 5kHz.
Audiophiles will shudder to hear what these headphones do to music.
Audiophiles will shudder to hear what these headphones do to music. Bass overshadows the subtler sounds of string instruments, like the guitar, and anything higher.
Where the 3Hv2 comfortably perform is in first-person shooters. These are games where the sound of gunfire and explosions are supposed to help immerse you in the action. These live comfortably in the sub-bass to midrange frequencies that the 3Hv2 steadily reproduce between 70dB and 80dB.
As soon as we started testing with our good pal HATS, we noticed some troubling data. While the 3Hv2 excelled in a couple of tests, it performed poorly where it really counts.
To put it simply, the 3Hv2 are not designed for listening to music. Any song you listen to will be very unbalanced, with an emphasis on bass and the lower mid-range sounds and a severe drop in anything higher than that.
The 3Hv2 are engineered for first-person shooters, a genre that revels in the deeper sounds of gunfire and action.
Basically, you wouldn’t want these on your head if you're playing a RPG that features a detailed music score, like Final Fantasy. Instead, the 3Hv2 are engineered for first-person shooters, a genre that revels in the deeper sounds of gunfire, action, and the musical stylings of Eminem.
Our distortion test is used to measure how accurately a pair of headphones is able to reproduce the waveforms that make up the sounds you listen to. In an ideal world there would be 0% distortion, but the 3% mark is when we start to notice discernible differences.
Where the 3Hv2 really have trouble is in that sub-bass range of 20dB to 100dB. It's here that there are a lot of peaks and valleys that hang out between 5% and 20%. This translates to fuzzy, crackling sounds when you try to listen to music or play any game that features a detailed music score, like a RPG.
Going into the higher ranges the distortion improves greatly. There is a momentary spike right around 100dB that gets to 4% but the rest of the spectrum sticks to 1% or below.
The low price tag on the 3Hv2 makes this headset enticing at first glance, but you’ll have to remember that you’re mostly paying for the compact design and not the audio quality. These were not made for listening to the subtle nuances of music. Instead, they were engineered for a particular type of video game and video game player–one that is constantly on the go and under fire.
Even with those considerations, the 3Hv2 may be a difficult buy for most consumers. If you're looking for an affordable gaming headset that doesn't sacrifice quality we recommend the Razer Carcharias, which you can usually find online for $70.00.
If you game on the go, need a headset that locks in sound, or one that is compatible across computers and mobile devices they could be an effective budget alternative. But if you want gaming headphones that will be multi-purpose, the 3Hv2s aren't the best fit.
One of the most advantageous features for gamers is a headset that block unwanted sounds. When you’re on the edge of your seat and need to get the last kill of the match you don’t want to be thrown off your game by your roommates’ conversation about Interstellar.
In this test we found that the 3Hv2 didn’t start to block outside noise until around 1kHz. For these results, no normal speech sounds, outside of F, S, SH sounds (~2–4kHz), will be blocked from your ears. There isn't a lot of sound above 1kHz that you would normally encounter. The best example would be sounds like higher-pitched computer fans or even some children's toys, like toy drum cymbals.
We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.