Having a setup that can produce the best visual experience is high on the priority list for most gamers, but sound quality is something else that should never be neglected. Game development audio engineers put just as much effort into recording and producing rich and immersive sounds as the film folks do these days. A good set of head cans can also be the difference between life and death in modes like multiplayer. Simply put, if you’re missing out on good sound, you’re missing out on part of the experience. Good sound can be expensive, however, so today we’re taking a look at the more affordable EPOS H3 gaming headset to see how it holds up in review.
The EPOS gaming brand stems from Sennheiser, which is a well known manufacturer of high end audio equipment. As one would expect, Sennheiser products can get quite pricey, and that is certainly true with some EPOS headphones as well. There are a couple products that come for less though, and the H3 is one of them. Priced at $119 USD, the EPOS H3 headset promises quality sound, plug-and-play convenience, and a slew of other improvements over previous generations for far less cash.
Specs, design, and build quality
We’ll briefly run through the specs for the EPOS H3, and provide a little context about what it all means.
|Frequency range||10Hz – 30kHz|
6.5ft/~2m split 3.5mm audio out/mic in & 3.5mm console cable
|Weight||11 oz/ 312g|
|Ear pads replaceable||Yes|
Black/ White with black accents
The EPOS H3 comes with 40mm drivers at 20 Ohms of impedance that allows it to get loud enough for most people out there, even without an amplifier. These headphones are also capable of delivering plenty of bass with a strong frequency range that hits all the lows and highs you’ll want to hear. The microphone is bi-directional and features some noise-cancelling technology that helps to filter out background noise quite sufficiently. You can also flip it up to cut input manually if you need to go silent for a few minutes.
There’s nothing flashy in the way of lighting or high profile designs on this headset. The EPOS H3 only comes in two color schemes. All black, or a white and black combination for all you Stormtroopers out there. With that in mind, the headset is perfect for those who want something that can blend in at an office setting while still looking cool enough for gaming.
The unit weighs in at 11 ounces (312 grams) and feels light and comfortable to use due to how the weight is spread out. The top band is padded and wrapped in leatherette, while the headphones come with a suede like material that touches the skin around the ears.
Connectivity is via 3.5mm auxiliary analog plugs. The main cord that comes with the unit is five feet long and comes with a splitter on the end so that you can attach it into audio out and mic input channels on the motherboard. The cable itself feels well made. It’s also flexible, and the braided cord lends it more of a premium feel. One thing to note is that this cable may not be long enough for your needs, as it is only half the length of the cable that came with previous models. This seems like an oversight for the product, as some unaware users may attempt to mitigate this by using the front IO ports on their PCs when this headset needs to be plugged into the motherboard for sufficient power delivery. Aside from the main cable, you also get a console cable for plugging the unit into other media devices like controllers. The console cable is sufficient in length.
Similar to previous Sennheiser and EPOS products I’ve used, the build quality on the H3 is solid. The plastics don’t creak, there’s no play in the joints throughout the design, and the materials feel durable. Admittedly, the Game Zero feels a little more sturdy than the H3, though that product should given how much more it costs. The H3 also has some flexible fabrics for the foam covering in the earcups which should help it hold up longer than leatherette ear pads. If the material does break on you though, you can detach the earpads and replace them.
The one point of concern for this design is the leatherette wrap on the headband. Depending on how you use your headset, rubbing the headband against a surface when set down could introduce significant wear over time. Seeing as this part is not replaceable, it would be something to keep in mind during daily usage. The Game Zero does not have this issue. It only features padding on the inside of the headband, whereas the rest is hard plastic. Yet, there are plenty of wear marks on the plastic band of the Game Zero, which shows how the leatherette on the H3 could wear from similar handling.
All in all, the design and build quality are well thought out. The H3 shouldn’t cause you any problems for years to come, as the Game Zero I use has similar features and is still in great shape after four years of regular use. If you should have any problems with the H3, there’s a two year warranty for manufacturing defects and failures.
There are many praises to sing about the sound quality of the EPOS H3 gaming headset, and few criticisms. It delivers clear highs, and deep bass no matter what how you choose to use it. The plug and play nature means that it doesn’t require an amplifier to sound significantly better. You can give it a boost, particularly in the high frequency range, if you do use an amp though.
I used an AudioEngine DAC with a built in amplifier for the duration of my testing, but also tested these headphones on an ASUS TUF Z270 motherboard and on an MSI GL62M laptop. As you might expect, it sounded best on the amp and was able to run more power to the drivers to get louder while sounding clearer in the process. It still managed to sound good on the ASUS motherboard due to the decent onboard capacitors, but clearly wasn’t hitting the same highs as before. The sound quality was, again, worse on the laptop and I noticed a hiss that became more prominent as the volume was increased. Fortunately, this headset gets loud enough overall to where you likely won’t ever have much of an issue with the noise.
When you give the EPOS H3 an amp to help it perform its best, the results are very similar to more expensive headsets like the Game Zero. I noted that highs were not nearly as good in certain instances, but the differences in quality were so minimal that most would struggle to even notice. You also get rich bass with this headset, which is a clear improvement from the lackluster effects of previous headsets from the company.
This adds a lot of punch to things like gun shots, explosions, and deep voices. There was one particular moment while playing Destiny 2 where I stopped in a cave to admire the immersive sounds of water dripping into pools, rocks rolling about on the floor, and insects chirping calmly to it all. Those are the moments where a good set of headphones allow you to get lost in the moment and enjoy the details as if you are there.
As for the microphone, I can’t say it boasts the clarity of a dedicated studio microphone, but it does fine for most things like Discord calls and in-game voice chat. My voice was clear and the mic picked up my voice easily, but it didn’t equate to the natural sound. If you’re looking for that professional streamer mic quality, you’ll still need to pay out for one of those separately.
However, the H3 is not perfect. I felt the bass was actually a little too strong in a few instances, which highlights the issue that comes with the lack of tuning software. While I wish there was more first party support for sound profiles, the engineered audio is still exceptional and the simplicity of the plug-and-play nature has its appeal. The EPOS H3 is not the undisputed best pair of headphones I’ve used, but it definitely has some of the best overall sound and value for the money.
Functionality and comfort
When it comes to daily comfort and ease of use, this headset does the job. It doesn’t feel uncomfortable or hot over long play sessions, and offers a few practical features. As mentioned, the mic can be flipped up to a clicking point that cancels input. Flipping the mic up to the cutoff position will become second nature in no time. You can also manually control the volume via a disk on the exterior of the right cup. You’ll need two fingers to have enough traction to control it, but it’s not problematic.
One thoughtful aspect of this design is that it comes with numbers on the headband. You can set the length properly if you happen to share the headset with anyone else regularly. Instead of just guessing, you’ll how know to set it every time.
Another attribute that deserves praise is the low-profile mic design that is far improved over the bulky, older headsets. The old design was likely larger to help pick up sound more evenly, but it doesn’t lend well to those who intend to be on camera. The mic on the H3 is far less obstructive and sounds just as good in settings like Discord calls.
There are some considerations to be made about this headset that could make or break your decision to buy it. The main factor is the size of the ear cups. If you have larger ears and dislike headphones with small cups, the H3 isn’t for you. Compared to the cups on the Game Zero, those on the H3 are small. Most people shouldn’t have a problem with fitment, but this factor could disqualify this headset for you. It’s also important to know that the cups are about average in width. If you prefer a slim profile when appearing on camera, these may be a little wide for you.
The last issue with daily usability is the cable length. This was already mentioned, but here are a few more points. If your PC sits on your desk, the 6.5ft cable is probably sufficient for you to move around with the headset on. However, if your PC is set up on the ground and you run this cable behind your desk, 6.5ft won’t cut it. The Game Zero came with a 10ft cable, which seemed a bit long, but easily allowed for enough slack, whereas this cable needs an extra foot to be truly universal for users. You can still buy the 10ft cable for $20 USD, but you shouldn’t have to.
Should you buy the EPOS H3 gaming headset?
If you like the style and have the money for it, absolutely. Just keep in mind that there are better value options out there strictly in regards to sound quality, but this headset offers a very high-end feel for what you pay. You get clear highs, strong bass, and a lot of improvements over previous models for a price that’s much lower. It also boasts the ability to use it for work meetings without making it blatantly obvious that you’re a passionate gamer.
It’s worthwhile to buy an amp with this headset though, so you also need to factor in that cost. Sennheiser sells the GSX 300 for $70 USD if you want to keep brand parity and know the products are designed to work together, but there are plenty of other amps/discrete sound cards on the market if you want to give your headset more oomph.
The gaming peripheral market is fiercely competitive now, and there are plenty of great headsets, both wireless and wired, that you can get at attractive prices. The EPOS H3 is an excellent gaming headset, but it needs software support and a universal-length cable to become the clear choice for gamers looking to spend around the $119 USD price point.