Sony Inzone H3 Wired Gaming Headset Review
A swing and a miss?
Do you want the performance of a $50 headset but the build, design, and price of a $100 model? Then the Sony Inzone H3 is the product for you! That might seem a little harsh, but it’s the thought I’ve kept going back to during my time with the lowest-priced model of Sony’s new gaming lineup.
The Inzone series is meant for PC gamers first, and PS5 gamers second. The H3 is $99 (official site here) and it comes with a USB dongle in the box that has a really long cable attached; perfect for routing to the back of your PC case. The headset itself has a permanently attached boom mic and uses a 3.5mm connection to either the USB dongle or any analog audio device.. And in case you think that “Inzone” is too cool of a brand name from a company normally obsessed with monikers made of weird gibberish letters and numbers, fear not: this headset is also known as the MDR-G300.
Sony recommends in the manual that you use the dongle with a PC and the standard wired connection with a PS5 via the DualSense controller. That’s for two reasons: 1) The dongle doesn’t put out that much volume when used with a PS5, and 2) The Sony Inzone Hub PC software is needed to unlock all of its features.
Inside this new, simple app you’ll get access to Sony’s new spatial audio tech (not the same Tempest 3D tech used on PS5), a basic EQ, and some mic controls like sidetone and automatic gain. Although it’s using a more rudimentary spatialization system than Tempest, this is the first Sony gaming product to feature custom HRTF adjustment through ear photographs. You can sign up for an account and submit pictures of your ear, and then Sony will adjust the virtual surround to better suit you — in theory. This feature is also supposed to come to PS5 someday, and it feels like they’re beta testing it on Inzone customers. The software is adequate and syncs all changes immediately, but the dongle is a bit of a mess. It’s the source of most of my frustration with this headset, and really needed a second pass before release.
As first discovered and reported on by LifeLong Caboose right here , the dongle has a persistent always-applied EQ that’s active regardless of your settings in the software. It raises the bass response and smooths out the midrange a little bit. I think the headset sounds better with these corrections applied, but it’s weird that Sony doesn’t let users turn them off and have a “true flat” USB dongle experience.
The dongle’s issues don’t stop there. It’s particularly aggressive on power savings, whereby it constantly tries to shut down to save some miniscule amount of electricity. You’ll hear it pop and sputter at the start of every audio playback as it fires back up out of its internal sleep mode. This power saving aggression also impacts the sidetone function in a negative way. The sidetone will often disable if I don’t have any active game or chat audio coming out of the headset speakers, which is super frustrating. I couldn’t get the sidetone to stay on in Audacity when recording at all, even when trying to fool the headset by running a YouTube video in the background. It’ll just crackle for a moment and then turn the sidetone off.
These issues would be forgivable if the dongle performed well, but its sound is a bit bleh even with the applied EQ. The microphone channel is rather low quality, with a tendency to over drive the signal and a level of tinny unpleasantness smeared over the top of my voice. You can hear a sample I recorded on my personal site here (just scroll down to this same part of the review), and if you get about three and a half minutes in, you can hear how much better the mic capsule sounds plugged into a proper gaming amp.
Apart from the dongle woes, the headset itself is just okay. The stock non EQ-ed sound is light on bass, but the midrange is nice and textured. The treble is weird and cheap sounding on certain material, with a crinkly quality that sounds a bit like your audio is playing through wrinkled cellophane. It’s a harsh unpleasant distortion that doesn’t appear on all material, and that I got used to over time, but it’s not the sort of treble performance that I expect at this price.
The comfort of the H3 is awesome, with a low clamping force, plush nylon-covered pads, and a ton of room both for height adjustment and for my ears inside the cups. This has true top tier comfort for any price range as far as gaming headsets go, and it’s the thing Sony got the most correct. The isolation is surprisingly okay considering they went with cloth instead of leatherette, and I can happily wear this headset for an all day gaming session. I only have to open it to six out of ten clicks on the arms to get a good fit on my larger-than-average head, so it should fit most heads just fine.
Build is also quite solid for the price, considering that it’s mostly made of plastic. I’m also testing the much more expensive Inzone H9 right now, and the H3 is built to a surprisingly comparable level. The materials are well balanced between weight and durability, and the adjustment clicks are robust and hold their place firmly.
The visual design is a little old fashioned, in ways both good and bad. I like the rounded esports tournament aesthetic of the headset. It’s more fun and whimsical than most other Sony audio products, and has a nice smooth look with no sharp edges that would be right at home in a retro sci-fi movie. Unfortunately, the permanently-attached cable and microphone feel like they fell out of the distant past. While I get that this type of configuration can help reduce potential crosstalk issues in the headset, most other brands figured out how to make these elements easily detachable and replaceable for their customers years ago. At least you can remove the pads here.
Sony almost put out a totally fine $100 headset, but the sound is underwhelming and problematic in the treble, and the dongle has serious technical issues. Things improved when I put the dongle in my closet and used a GSX 300 gaming amp instead, but that defeats the purpose of this type of “all in one” bundle. I think that this headset sounds better and feels better to wear over long sessions than Sony’s identically- priced Pulse 3D headset, so that’s something. If they update the dongle firmware in the future to fix its issues, I’ll dig it out my closet to take a second look. Otherwise, this is a misstep. The more expensive H9 is dramatically better, and absolutely worth the upgrade in price if you’re trying to decide between the two.
FINAL SCORE: 6 out of 10
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Originally published at https://www.worldbolding.com on August 11, 2022.