To begin, the EPOS H3 requires no special software or hardware to use. Simply plug it into a spare set of 3.5mm audio ports (on a chassis front panel for convenience sake, or a dedicated DAC if your setup is more high-grade) and use straight away. Tweaking EQ levels will require 3rd party software tools but, given the state of some software bundled with otherwise excellent audio hardware, you’ll probably find it to be more of a boon rather than drawback.
In contrast to some other headsets the first striking feature present on the H3 was the headband, but not because of how it looked. Reinforcement for this section of the headset can be exceptionally stiff on some models, in many instances forcefully squeezing your ears (and the arms of any spectacles) into the sides of your head, but that wasn’t the case with the H3. We’d be lying if we said that wasn’t an immediate relief.
The lack of compressive force keeping the headset in place also means that it’s relatively easy to shake the headset off, so it’s best to hold off on the headbanging movements if not the headbanging tunes.
Each ear pad sits comfortably, enclosing the majority of the ear and gently matching the contours around each. Larger ears may just reach the fabric surface inside the >2cm cavity which covers the speakers, but the pressure on them should be quite low. We found that it sat comfortably around the main outer ear and on top of the lobe.
We’ve not experienced sufficient lightweight headsets to make a strong qualitative judgement on the H3's lightweight credentials, but it’s certainly not so light that you’d forget it’s even there, which is a hallmark of some truly light wireless headphones. It is however considerably lighter than many gaming competitors despite an integrated microphone, which makes longer gaming sessions far more bearable.
The audio output by the H3 is good, but didn’t blow our socks off. Our subjective experience was that it had a slightly narrowed sound stage that emphasised mid-tones and higher frequencies over a meaty punchy bass. Stealthy games, with subtle sound design (see: Dishonored) offered the best match; high-octane titles with bass-heavy soundtracks and booming explosions (such as DOOM Eternal) didn’t resonate in the same way. You still get those tones, but they don’t quite rock your jaw to the extent they might. High hat notes also weren’t quite as sharp as you might expect, almost sounding like they had very slight distortion.
There is a beneficial trade-off however. Vocals, particularly voice comms, cut through ambient in-game music clearly and crisply rather than getting drowned out in the mush of background bass and reverb. This aspect of the headset will be critical in its viability for multiplayer gaming, which can run the gamut of quiet FPS round combat to the busy soundscape of an MMO raid encounter.
The headphones had clearly audible and consistent responses in a frequency sweep from 20Hz to 13kHz; higher frequencies may sadly be beyond my poor ears capability to hear as they’re now deep into their 30’s. Stereo separation was good, making in-game audio suitably directional.
Another experiential positive was that we experienced no low-frequency noise from the headset when simply on, which can be an annoying characteristic of some headsets. You can however still hear the cable rubbing against your arm/clothing (as vibrations travelling through the socket), a problem that hasn’t been solved in this model.
One curious discovery was that the integrated volume dial didn’t actually mute the headset audio at its minimum setting. Nor did it even limit output to ‘barely audible’ levels. It’s just enough to help you hear someone speaking to you in your immediate environment (i.e. your room) while still keeping track of in-game sound/music.
Speaking of your immediate environment, sound isolation on the H3 is excellent. Even when belting out music at levels uncomfortable to hear it’s effectively inaudible over ambient sound (from case fans for instance) from 1m away.
EPOS make the bold claim that the H3 is equipped with a studio-quality microphone. Without such a microphone to hand we instead compared it to our trusty RODE NT-USB, a discrete microphone we’ve used in the past for video review voice-overs.
The microphone was angled to be just in front of the mouth. Boost levels were set to +10dB in Windows 10 audio settings, and recorded volume was set to maximum in Audacity, the free-to-download audio capture software used in this test.
In general voice clarity is good, exhibiting only a little to the compression effect common to headset microphones. ‘S’s and ‘P’s don’t hiss and pop aggressively when speaking at normal volumes, from which we infer that it has particularly good filtering for an integrated microphone.
Typing on a mechanical keyboard, despite being somewhat suppressed, was still clearly audible through the microphone. More low-level environmental sound was less audible, particularly case fan noise and street noises. In-game audio also didn’t bleed into the microphone response.
Although well outside of the normal testing procedures, we did notice some strange audio artefacts when raising the microphone arm to its ‘off’ position. We couldn’t tease out exactly what was causing it, but would caution not to up the gain too high on this headset just in case these artefacts are transmitted over comms.