Drop + EPOS H3X Review: An Affordable Gaming Headset That’s Also Great for Music

 

Drop + EPOS H3X front view

Shopping for an affordable gaming headset is often an exercise in frustration, as many of them take cheap components and try to fix them with software and features like virtual surround sound. The Drop + EPOS H3X aims to be different, dropping the software and focusing on great-sounding components.

The headset is a collaboration between online retailer Drop and EPOS Audio, formerly a division of Sennheiser. While the company affiliation may have changed, the people behind EPOS haven’t and the engineers behind the H3X also worked on the popular PC37X and PC38X headsets from Sennheiser.

While this headset is based on the EPOS H3, Drop always likes to tweak a few things for its collaborations with companies. Did this matchup result in a great gaming headset without the giant price tag, or should you keep searching?

Here's What We Like

  • Good for music, unlike many gaming headsets
  • Great positional audio for gaming
  • Comfortable for hours
  • Mic design makes muting and unmuting easy
  • Sturdy build

And What We Don't

  • Volume dial isn't for everyone
  • Cables could be longer

How-To Geek's expert reviewers go hands-on with each product we review. We put every piece of hardware through hours of testing in the real world and run them through benchmarks in our lab. We never accept payment to endorse or review a product and never aggregate other people’s reviews.

Build and Design

Drop + EPOS H3X headband and ear cups
  • Weight (without cable): 9.5oz (270g)
  • Weight (with cable): 10.2oz (290g)

Take a quick glance at the H3X, and it looks close to identical to the EPOS H3 headset it’s based on. That said, there are differences, both major and minor. On the minor side, this headset is available in a single “Meteorite” color option, while the H3 comes in black or white.

One major difference is the headband, which isn’t taken from the H3 at all. Instead, this is taken from the pricier EPOS H3 Hybrid headset. This is a combination of cloth and imitation leather that gives the headset a slightly classier look than the model it’s mostly based on.

The frame connecting the two ear cups is made of polycarbonate, a type of plastic that aims to be more resistant to wear over time. This remains to be seen, but despite the plasticky feel, the headset feels fairly sturdy, thanks in part to the metal yoke.

While the H3X definitely has the look of a headset, it doesn’t include the LED lighting or bright colors you’ll see on many headsets. This is a matter of personal preference, but I prefer the relatively understated look of the H3X compared to many of its competitors.

Fit and Comfort

Drop + EPOS H3X mic side

The ear cups on the H3X use the same combination of cloth and artificial leather that the headband does. While it’s mostly an aesthetic choice for the headband, the combination helps the ear cups balance breathability and bass response.

The clamping force of the headphones is slightly on the tight side compared to some others. Fortunately, it’s a good thing here. The headset never budged when I moved around, something that can easily happen with some other headsets, but it was never so tight that it became uncomfortable.

Overall, the H3X is quite comfortable, despite the tight fit. The material choices for the headband and ear cups definitely help breathability, and that goes a long way toward keeping the H3X comfortable for hours at a time.

Connectivity

Drop + EPOS H3X cables
  • PC cable: 6.6ft (2m) 3-pole 2 x 3.5mm with split TRS connector
  • Console / mobile cable: 4.9ft (1.5m) 1 x 3.5mm TRRS connector

This is strictly a wired gaming headset, and it’s analog only, so you won’t find USB-C or other connectivity options. That said, you do get two different cables. The first plugs into the headphones on one end and has two 3.5mm jacks on the other: one for the headphone jack and one for the microphone jack on a PC.

The second cable connects to the headphones via a mini jack on one side, and has a single 3.5mm TRRS connector on the other. This can plug into your phone or tablet as well as the Nintendo Switch or newer Xbox Series X|S controllers, but it also worked with the single headset jack on my gaming laptop.

You may notice that the mini jack side on each cable has a red stripe. This is to help you make sure the cables are plugged in all the way. If you can see the red stripe, you haven’t plugged the cable in all the way.

Sound Quality and Music

Drop + EPOS H3X volume dial
  • Frequency response: 20Hz — 20,000kHz
  • Impedance: 25ohms
  • Sound Pressure level / Sensitivity: 111dB SPL @ 1kHz, 0.7V RMS

Most gaming headset I’ve tested, even higher-end models, haven’t been great for music. In many cases, it’s possible this is due to over-reliance on digital signal processing (DSP) for built-in EQ and virtual surround. Regardless of why most gaming headsets have a problem playing music, the H3X don’t suffer from that issue.

The H3X use the same size and type of driver as the H3, but they aren’t delivering the same sound. Inside the box, you’ll find a welcome note that shows a frequency graph, illustrating the differences between the H3 and the H3X. Overall, the H3X have been tweaked to deliver a flatter, more neutral sound than the H3.

Many gaming headsets overemphasize the low end for wow factor in games, but this can negatively affect music. Listening to Junior Murvin’s “Police and Thieves,” the bass is handled well, but it’s far from over the top. Despite the more neutral graph, the H3X are slightly aggressive and forward sounding, even on this relatively relaxed song. That’s not a bad thing, just somewhat unexpected.

Turning to The Clash’s version of the same song, the guitars — panned hard left and right — show the highly positional nature of the H3X, which makes sense for a gaming headset. Again, there’s an aggressive nature to how the H3X handles the dynamics, but it’s not in a bad way at all.

Gaming headsets often sound very close up for music, without much of a sense of soundstage. Listening to the Dirtbombs’ version of Sly and the Family Stone’s “Underdog,” the headset was much more open sounding than I expected. There was just enough bass, but any less, and it might have been too little.

Gaming and Voice

Drop + EPOS H3X mic muted
  • Microphone frequency response: 100Hz — 10kHz
  • Microphone type: Electret condenser
  • Pickup pattern: Bi-directional

To test gaming performance, I played a few rounds of Halo Infinite. Here the H3X showed yet another strength, as the positional audio is very precise. This wasn’t just limited to sounds off to the left or right, but in front of or behind me. It was easy to catch the footsteps of someone trying to sneak up behind me.

There is an onboard volume control, which makes adjusting on the fly fairly simple. This is a simple flat dial, and reaching for it can take a little getting used to, but it has raised ridges on it that make it easy to quickly reach up and make a minor volume adjustment.

One thing to keep in mind is that this is a passive volume control, meaning that it can only lower the volume coming into it. This won’t be an issue if you’re plugging into a PC, but I noticed that the volume was slightly quiet when using the headset with an Xbox Series X|S controller.

The built-in microphone takes a smart approach to muting. When you flip the mic up and out of the way, this mutes the microphone. Want to start chatting? Just flip the mic downward and it’s unmuted.

This might sound like a minor detail, and it is, but knowing whether your mic is muted can be important. With this design, you never have to second guess whether your mic is on or not.

Voice quality through the built-in microphone is good, but keep in mind we’re talking about a headset. For chatting with teammates in-game or coworkers on a video call, the mic is just fine. That said, if you’re streaming on Twitch, you might want to consider a dedicated streaming mic like the JBL Quantum Stream.

Should You Buy the Drop + EPOS H3X?

I was hopeful due to the Sennheiser lineage and the quality of previous Drop collaborations, but wasn’t sure what I was getting into at first. After spending some serious time with it, the Drop + EPOS H3X is one of the more impressive headsets I’ve tried, and it’s all down to audio quality.

The headset isn’t perfect. While the build feels fairly solid, it still feels plasticky, which isn’t for everyone. Fortunately, the headphones don’t lean fully into the “gamer” aesthetic, meaning you can use them for video calls without feeling out of place.

If sound quality is paramount for you, but you’re on a budget, the H3X is a great pick. Not only does it deliver on the gameplay front, but it’s a solid set of headphones, which isn’t always the case for gaming headsets.

Rating: 7/10
Price: $79

Here’s What We Like

  • Good for music, unlike many gaming headsets
  • Great positional audio for gaming
  • Comfortable for hours
  • Mic design makes muting and unmuting easy
  • Sturdy build

And What We Don't

  • Volume dial isn't for everyone
  • Cables could be longer

Original Article

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