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Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Hardware review: EPOS H3PRO Hybrid


Review by Matt S.

EPOS sure does release a lot of headsets. It was just a few months ago that I reviewed the last Bluetooth-enabled headset from the company, the H3 Hybrid, and I absolutely loved it. Now we have the H3PRO Hybrid, and it's even better - after all, it has "pro" in the product name and everything! Jokes about just how iterative the headset industry is aside, this really is a brilliant, versatile, and powerful headset.

The really big feature in the H3PRO Hybrid, and the main reason you'd want to grab this over its relatively modest predecessor, is the fact that this one has active noise cancellation capabilities. You put these things on, and you're not going to hear anything around you as you play your games, listen to your music, or watch a movie. If total, uninterrupted immersion is your goal, this is the way to go. I'm making no exaggeration about just how good the tech is here. I have a fairly noisy air conditioning unit in my lounge room, and it is currently an unusually humid Australian summer in my little corner of the world. Give me 40-degree dry heat and I'm not fussed, but I can't handle humidity, so that thing is going 24/7. The noise isn't pleasant, but thanks to the active noise cancelling of this device, I was able to put on a quiet film (A Quiet Place 2 - a film in which quiet is pretty important) and the headset completely blocked out the aircon, cars and other noises from outside, and everything else besides. I was genuinely able to tune out the world around me. 

I have found that with many noise-cancelling headsets, the cups try and strangle my ears. That makes practical sense, given that they're working to block noise from getting in from outside, but it doesn't make for a pleasant experience for long. The H3PRO is a very different beast, and this thing is comfortable in the extreme. The cups are large, the foam is soft, and there's an "airy" feel to the way it sits on the head, which makes them enormously comfortable (and ear sweat-free) experiences over long periods of use. You'll get some decent time out of them too. With noise cancelling on and over Bluetooth, I was able to get a full day's use between charges (and I really do mean a full day - I'm currently crunching to get my visual novel done, and my headset has been on from 8am to midnight at times). 


EPOS has designed this headset around versatility, and much like the H3 Hybrid, you've got plenty of options. There's a wireless dongle option, which, for supported devices, gives you a very low-latency wireless option. For devices that don't allow the dongle (Apple TV, iPhone, Switch), there's a Bluetooth connection and, yes, there are mild compromises to the quality over Bluetooth, but those are barely noticeable in practice, and unless you're an audiophile, you're not going to care. The latency over Bluetooth was also low enough that I could enjoy rhythm games, which is the ultimate test for these things. 

On PC, meanwhile, you can also use Bluetooth, or the dongle, or USB-C for a big boost in quality. Finally, there's the more traditional 3.5mm corded option. This is old technology at this point, but there is a lot of legacy and cheaper devices that don't have any other option to connect to headsets, and for the purposes of playing my emulation consoles and retro games, I'm so glad that EPOS included the option. 

As I wrote in my review of the original H3 Hybrid, I do find myself irritated with modern headset manufacturers at times. When you're paying a premium of hundreds of dollars for each unit, the idea that the manufacturer can't include things like optional 3.5mm and Bluetooth connectivity is laughable. I strongly suspect they do it to try and force you onto their proprietary technology, or to even buy multiple headsets from them, but you shouldn't have to do that. You shouldn't need to maintain a hat rack dedicated to headsets just so you have a headset that will work for each device in the modern household, and in that context, the H3PRO Hybrid's ability to connect to anything is appreciated, especially since it comes from a company that has itself been particularly egregious with headset releases over the last couple years. 


In action, the H3PRO is nicely versatile, too. If you're connected to your PC via dongle or USB-C then you can access the EPOS Suite to fine-tune your experience and access surround sound 7.1. That's the best way to go. However, general use is no slouch either. Dialogue in films is crisp and clear, and that's something that gaming orientated headsets often struggle with as they're more focused on providing a resounding bass. This is also great if your taste in music doesn't veer exclusively towards the various flavours of metal. I like Hatsune Miku music and my ear for spoken or sung Japanese isn't great. It can be hard to hear the lyrics sometimes (especially with music created on the older versions of Miku), but the H3PRO has given me a better crack at it than I usually get. Lighter folk and alternative music, too, like Roth Bart Baron (check them out if you've never heard of them), comes up beautifully crisply on the H3PRO. 

And then when I'm in the mood for something heavier, EPOS knows how to give you that visceral feeling of good bass. The boom booms of big action come across just as nicely as you would expect them to with a truly premium headset. 

The one weakness with this headset is the microphone. It's functionally fine if you're on a Zoom call for work, or chatting while playing a game online, and I suppose that's all EPOS was looking to achieve with this, but given that the company has excellent microphone technology, I would be looking to the company to look at this more closely with the inevitable next iteration of this headset. Thankfully, the mic can be removed from the device entirely, and that's what I've done. I have a cheap-and-functional headset for work, and I rarely find myself wanting to talk to people, even when playing online games. The fact that I can use this as a headset that I can take with me when out-and-about without looking like a call centre worker while shopping or on the train is, again, greatly appreciated. 


(Just be careful if you do use the headset out and about, as the noise-cancelling technology makes it quite noise-leaky, and it is rude to annoy people around you with your music, no matter how awesome you think your taste in music is).

That one minor and irrelevant gripe aside, this is my new favourite headset. Whether I'm looking for ambient noise (I love being able to tune out with rain sounds while I read, for example), to watch a film, play a game or listen to music, the EPOS H3PRO Hybrid is perfect. At Aus$400, and $150 above the "base level" H3 Hybrid, you would want it to be something special, and this is very much a premium headset designed for people who want premium sound, but their expectations will be met and exceeded with this purchase. Backed by all-day battery life and some brilliant noise-cancelling technology, we'll never have to drop back into the real world again.


- Matt S.
Editor-in-Chief
Find me on Twitter: @mattsainsb

Hardware review: EPOS H3PRO Hybrid
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