Excellent audio in gaming matters more than most people think. Picking a good gaming headset that offers amazing sound quality, durability, aesthetic and affordability is key. But when you’re on a limited budget, a couple of things need to be sacrificed.
It’s honestly the only reason we could think of to justify the existence of Creative’s $79 (£69, AU$199) Sound BlasterX H5 Tournament Edition. Not that it’s a terrible headset; it’s actually good for the price with its crisp sound, comfort and flexibility, and durability. It makes for a great option if you’re looking for something under 100 bucks.
But seeing as it’s essentially a lower grade version of the superb Sound BlasterX H7 Tournament Edition, which at $20 (£20, AU$30) more gives you a whole set of extra features – and thus, offers better value, the H5 seems a tad unnecessary. That is, again, unless you don’t have the money to spare, or you just want to eschew all the fluff and get a more minimalist piece.
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Design-wise, the H5 is built exactly like its higher-end brother minus the appealing red against black contrast and that pulsating X logo. We do appreciate its black matte aesthetic complemented with brushed metal ear cup plates, which lends simplicity as well as a bit of elegance to its obvious gamer’s headset look.
Like the H7, this headset flaunts memory foam ear cup pads and a flexible, foamed headband, all of which are wrapped in soft leatherette, for maximum comfort. Additionally, it’s surprisingly lightweight despite its size. You can wear this baby for hours without worrying about ear or headaches. Also super flexible is its mic, which you can attach/detach, twist, turn and tuck to the side depending on its necessity.
For durability, H5 Tournament has reinforced aluminum architecture and a thick, braided cable that Creative promises to weather everyday wear and tear. e haven’t had the gaming headset long enough to see if it withstands the test of time, however, we’ve put the headset through a battery of torture tests twisting, dropping, and pulling at it every which way challenge it. We’re happy to report that it’s performs swimmingly.
Lastly, it comes with an inline remote control with volume control, a play/stop/call button and mute switch for convenience. The 3.5mm cable isn’t that long, but the Y-splitter it comes with can double that length so you can sit back and relax while gaming or watching movies.
Though H5 Tournament doesn’t come with many features, it does have a few things that help improve its performance. To start, minor features include compatibility with other gaming devices including PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One, as well as a unidirectional mic that offers noise-reduction and is detachable.
One big feature is the headset’s underlying drivers. According to Creative’s website, they took the 50mm FullSpectrum drivers from the original H5 headset and fine-tuned them to produce a better and more accurate sound for the Tournament Edition. To minimize resonance and enhance sound separation, the ear cups boast a tilt-driver design. The combination is supposed to result in a boosted performance.
Finally, this headset utilizes the Sound BlasterX Acoustic Engine Lite software for limited sound customization. Sadly, you cannot fully personalize it to your preference. But you do have five gaming type profiles (namely Adventure and Action, Driving Simulation, FPS, RTS and Sports) and several gaming presets to choose from for sound optimization.
The H5 Tournament Edition holds it own against other reasonably priced competitors, bearing in mind that the best gaming headsets tend to sit in a higher price bracket.
It boasts an EQ frequency that’s great with games, a mostly accurate sound performance and a fairly good soundstage. In addition, its mic is clear and very directional, limiting background noise pick up.
Unfortunately, if you compare it to the H7 or even when you’re listening to music and watching movies, its limitations become a little obvious. The low mids are more prominent, making some media sound a bit muffled and muddy. It can also slightly distort loud sounds like explosions and bass-heavy music as well as overwhelming other frequencies.
Another disappointing detail is that the bass is underwhelming, which is only slightly made up for with a low mid bump. This means that the headset doesn’t have a lot of rumble or impact. Plus, it also lacks H7’s cool 7.1 virtual surround sound feature.
Altogether, these deficiencies make gaming and watching movies with the H5 Tournament a little less immersive.
To be fair, using the Sound BlasterX Acoustic Engine Lite software for sound optimization does improve its performance, if only subtly. The different presets use different settings that boost the bass and high end, add a smart volume feature to deliver the best voice quality, and even emulate virtual surround sound to improve the sound stage. These presets help make your sonic experience better, but only slightly.
The only thing you can’t really “fix” on this headset is that it lacks the digital audio option, which leads us to our final verdict.
The Sound BlasterX H5 Tournament Edition doesn’t suffer from the usual hyped high end that cheap headphones seem to have, and it does boast great clarity, durability and comfort. Still, it has issues that we just can’t get over.
It’s essentially the paired down version of the H7, and has several flaws including the low mid bump, underwhelming bass, and the lack of significant features like digital audio, virtual surround sound and better sound customization. It seems like Creative is punching above its weight, price-wise. You will find few gaming headsets out there that offer better performance at a lower price.
That is, if you want to ignore the fact that for only $20 (£20, AU$30) more, the Creative Sound BlasterX H7 Tournament Edition is a far superior gaming headset that more than makes up for all those shortcomings.