Would you mind if I have a little gush? Because this is a lovely headset. Lovely, lovely, lovely. QPAD have a reputation for understated, pro-grade kit, and the QH-85 is no exception. It’s lovely, I tell you.
Thankfully, there are some slightly less-than-lovely elements too, which is a relief for those of us who like to produce balanced, impartial reviews. But, for the moment, we’ll ignore all of that. There’s so much good stuff to tell you about. Let’s start with the box.
It’s rare that we mention packaging in a gadget review but, in the case of the QH-85, the box says a lot about the quality of the product inside. There’s no flimsy cardboard or cheap plastic tray here; instead, you get a beautifully robust gift box laden with soft, cushiony foam. Inside are not one but two congratulatory notes on the wisdom of your purchase, together with headphones themselves, a removable microphone, masses of accessory cables, a quick-start guide and a decent storage bag. This sense of quality extends to the build of the headset, which features an embroidered headband, solid metal construction, quality matte plastics and an elegant, simple design. The only hint that this is a QPAD’s entry-level model comes from the earpads, which are finished in velour rather than leather. Otherwise, there’s little to fault: the manufacturer’s pride and confidence in the product is obvious.
More importantly, this is a headset that sounds fantastic, producing clear, crisp stereo in all ranges of the audio spectrum. It’s a resolutely hi-fi experience, lacking the distorted bass of urban headphones or the exaggerated rumble of mainstream gaming units. As a result, some may find the bass a little light and the treble slightly too bright. However, if you’re using a device with adjustable sound settings, this can be tweaked to produce results which are the equal of headphones with a much steeper price tag. Game sounds are sharp and precise, while music takes on detail and texture, particularly in the mid- and high ranges. Once you’ve adjusted the soundscape to your taste, this is a headset that’s a joy to use.
The QH-85 possesses one more standout feature, and that’s the microphone. It’s excellent. It managed to capture my voice in all of its croaky detail, and in-game voice transmission was sharp and distinct.
At the risk of stating the obvious, there’s just one additional thing to point out. While the QH-85 is an excellent device, it uses standard connectors and has no software of its own. Like every other non-USB headset, it relies on the quality of the equipment you use it with. It made my cheap mp3 player sound good, but the Realtek soundcard on my computer sounded better; a SteelSeries external soundcard sounded better still. You shouldn’t have any problems connecting it to your favourite sound source, as the fixed headphone and microphone connectors will work with any devices which use 3.5mm mini jacks. QPAD also provide extension leads, an inline controller and an iPhone convertor for good measure.
And so it’s time to turn (reluctantly) to the less attractive aspects the headset. Firstly, there’s the issue of fit. Those velour pads exert mild pressure and completely enclose the ear, but the padding could be softer. As a result, comfort levels are distinctly average. Next, there are all the optional connectors: it’s great to have them, but they’re inelegant in comparison with the latest systems from the likes of Steelseries and Mad Catz, and it’s easy to end up in a tangle of wires. There’s also the issue of sound leakage from the open-backed design: my advice is to never use the QH-85 on a crowded train. Finally (and slightly unfairly), these are stereo headphones, and I’d argue that surround-sound headsets do a better job of creating ambience in games like Skyrim.
However, these are small quibbles, and they’re easily offset by a very fair mid-range price. I’ll admit it: I’m impressed. The QH-85’s build quality is terrific and, if you pair it with half-decent kit, the sound quality can be amazing. It’s a lovely headset. Did I mention that?
– Rob P.