The phrase “gaming headset” is capable of evoking a couple of reactions. It might make your eyes glaze over as you read through the tiny differentiating details from one product to the next, contemplating broken promises of virtual surround sound, crackly microphones or ever-increasing driver sizes that couple boomy bass with ridiculously tinny ‘game’ modes. For those of us that value the “up close and personal” audio experience however, getting your hands on a new premium-branded headset is a chance to run through favourite games with a fresh approach, listening to the differences and (occasionally) marvelling at whatever subtle nuance each company manages to bring to the table.
In that respect, the arrival of QPAD’s QH-85 was met with a suitable level of intrigue last week, not least because this is the first product by the highly-respected manufacturer that we’ve managed to lay our collective mittens on.
As befits a company aiming to bring premium quality to the table without breaking the bank, the QH-85 is a mid-priced open-cup wired stereo headset with high-end aspirations, and comes complete with enough plugs and connectors to ensure it’ll hook up handily to your PC, mobile device, tablet or PS4. The latter option makes for a suitably enticing prospect, with Sony’s latest controller handily now piping both game and microphone audio through a solitary 3.5mm jack on its base, meaning both late night sessions with quiet audio and the crappy pack-in PS4 earpiece can be consigned to dustbin of progress.
One headset, multiple purposes then; but is it any good?
- Hi-Fi capable 53mm drivers for supreme audio quality
- 15-25.000 Hz frequency response
- Detachable microphone (quick and easy to plug/unplug for music-only purposes)
- Solid aluminium construction for durability and stability
- Super-soft padded leather headband and velour padding on cups for maximum comfort
- Open cup design for natural Hi-Fi audio with a minimum of sound leakage
- Transducer type: Dynamic Ø53mm
- Operating principle: Open
- Frequency response: 15Hz-25KHz
- Nominal impedance: 60 Ω per system
- Nominal SPL: 92±3dB
- T.H.D: < 2%
- Power handling capacity: 250mW
- Sound coupling to the ear: Circumaural
- Ambient noise attenuation: approx. 10 dBA
- Headband pressure: 5 N
- Weight with microphone and cable: 350g
- Cable length and type: 1m + 2m extension + 10cm iphone
- Connection: Mini stereo jack plug(3.5MM)
- Transducer type: Condenser(back electret)
- Operating principle: Pressure gradient
- Polar Pattern: Cardioid
- Power supply: AB powering
- Supply voltage: 2V
- Current consumption: Max 0.5 mA
- Nominal impedance: ≤2.2 kΩ
- Open circuit voltage at f = 1 kHz 20 mV / Pa
- Frequency response: 100 – 12,000 Hz
- T.H.D: 2% at f = 1 kHz
- Max. SPL: 105dB SPL
- Microphone output: -39±3dB
- Dimensions: Ø6*5mm
- Length mic boom: 150MM(include gooseneck)
- Capsule diameter: Ø6mm
Build Quality, Microphone & Connectivity
From the off, the QPAD packaging oozes quality. All of the components are nicely presented and easily accessible, with a quick note from the designers letting you know their intentions for raising standards above and beyond the boomy or tinny gaming-only headsets. Both Hi-Fi and music are referenced frequently throughout, letting you know in no uncertain terms that the QH-85 isn’t going for gimmicks.
With everything laid out on the table, the contents are thus:
- QH-85 headset
- Detachable microphone
- Audio control box & cable
- Twin 3.5mm to single three-ring 3.5mm audio jack for smartphones, tablets and PS4
- 3.5mm extension cable
- Carry case
On picking up the headset, the most immediate sensation is that of physical solidity. That sensation largely stems from the aluminium frame that connects both ear cups with a simple horseshoe shape hinge on either side. It’s not as rigid as you might expect however, and the QH-85 is pleasingly pliable when it comes to fitting the unit onto your head. The aluminium band stretches apart and twists without any creaks or groans, and the soft-filled headband cushion, velour padding and light weight make the QH-85 extremely comfortable for every day use. The earcups themselves are large enough to fit over my ears entirely, which eliminates the pressure I’m used to with most other gaming headsets.
Whilst it would have been nice to see a braid, the QH-85′s cabling is nevertheless thick and heavy duty, splitting into a seperate microphone and audio jack at the end of its short length. From there you can either connect those cables to the three-ring adaptor and plug straight into a phone or a PS4 controller without any excessive cables to tangle up the sofa, or else connect up the short audio control box cable to add an analogue volume control, mute functionality and mobile phone answer button, or mix and match all of the above with the 3.5mm extension cable to suit whatever purposes you can feasibly devise.
Although the audio control box is a little underwhelming and lightweight in comparison to the rest of the package, the same criticisms can’t be levelled at the microphone, which clips into the left earcup with a satisfying thunk. It’s the same sort of positional and adjustable little unit we’ve become accustomed to over the years on headsets of this type; it’s clear and precise without any tweaking, with a satisfying level of cable resistance keeping it firmly in place at a chosen distance from your tonsils.
There’s little to complain about with any of the QPAD components included here, and although the QH-85 falls a little short of the absolute luxurious build quality that top-end headphones trade-on, there’s little else to match the fit and finish within this price range.
And thus we get to the crucial part. After reviewing umpteen gaming headsets it’s become pretty easy to work out those that are re-branded year after year, settling on simply meeting expectations for their price point without any real progression, and thankfully the QH-85′s exude no such adequacy.
The first point to hammer home is that the QH-85′s are very much an open-cup design, which may make them unsuitable for public use or in close proximity to anybody that needs silence (your embarrassment levels may vary). Although they may leak a significant level of audio through the grille at the rear of each cup, they sound fabulously open in comparison to the majority of gaming headsets out there – and you may be surprised by the difference that makes.
Firing up FIFA 14 on the PS4 was a suitable test for the QH85′s ability to reproduce the cavernous echo of a football pitch mixed with the thud of the ball and clang of the woodwork, and boy did it ever sound spectacular. The crowd feels tangibly spacious in comparison to closed-back headsets in the same price range, and I was able to pick out more of the ambient audio and individual crowd voices than I previously knew existed. The phenomenal audio design in DICE’s Battlefield 4 was also brilliantly reproduced and frighteningly lifelike (at least, what my minds-eye deems war should sound like anyway), while the squeeking footwork and buzzer-beating shots of NBA 2K14 produced some remarkable results.
With crisp, spacious highs and a mid-range full of clarity, some may feel the QH-85′s balanced – but not overwhelming – bass lets the side down a little, but now that I’m adjusted to the subtlety on offer, it’s hard to go back to the boomier, overbearing audio of some of its rivals. Tweaking the equaliser on your device will showcase the low-end to its full potential anyway, and when suitably calibrated, music is an absolute joy to listen to on the QH-85.
The same plus points apply here. Listening to Queens of the Stone Age classic …Like Clockwork was a new experience on the QPAD, which produced audio from the majority of tracks that I’d simply not heard before. Bass heavy tracks from the soundtrack to Sidhe’s magnificent Shatter sounded suitably alive and driven when necessary, whilst even basic podcast audio exhibited a sense of audio placement that I’d not heard previously. Whether or not that’s a positive depends exactly on whom you’re listening to.
As you might have gathered from the above, the QH-85′s are incredibly impressive for the price point. They shone no matter what setup I threw at them over the past week, whilst the bundled accessories allowed for practically any device with a 3.5mm jack to be used in a manner that suited the situation. By far the largest bonus was in ditching the crummy PlayStation 4 earbud and settling in for some late-night gaming that competed well with the wide-open soundstage I’d normally get from my Onkyo amp, whilst the microphone audio is clear and incoming chat volume mixed loud enough to make it a viable long-term solution for this generation.
The only real downside to using the QH-85 as a dedicated gaming headset is a lack of surround audio, but if that’s the price to be paid for this level of quality then to my mind it’s a sacrifice worth making. The placement of audio effects in Battlefield 4 was superbly handled even without the rear channels to rely on, and I came to miss them less and less as time wore on.
As an all-rounder then, there’s little to compete with the QH-85 in its price range. For a little over £70 at the time of press, you can get your hands on something approaching the levels of high-end stereo headphones, without any of the gimmickry or processing that usually compromises lesser models. There are better headphones out there, but you’ll have to pay a heck of a lot more to bring them home, and for that reason alone the QH-85 is a huge, huge bargain, and thoroughly recommended.