Since it split with Sennheiser, gaming audio company EPOS continues to make an effort to release products with a unique twist. Now the EPOS H3 Hybrid is out and looks to cater to a burgeoning gaming audience—console gamers who want to talk to their friends on Discord. It may not seem like the biggest group in the world, but cross-platform gaming gets more common every month, and cross-platform voice chat isn’t keeping up.
Is this wired/Bluetooth gaming headset worth a pickup?
Who is the EPOS H3 Hybrid for?
- Gamers looking to hop in a Discord server while they play games on their PlayStation, Xbox, or Switch.
- People who want a multi-use headset they can game with and also take to a cafe.
- At-home workers who want something they can use all day with a decent microphone (provided their ears fit).
What is the EPOS H3 Hybrid like?
If you’ve seen the previous EPOS H3 headset, the EPOS H3 Hybrid should be pretty familiar, but a few meaningful changes really alter the experience. Let’s get through the familiar stuff, before diving into what’s new.
This is still a wired gaming headset the connects primarily over 3.5mm, which makes it ideal for gaming on platforms like the PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X. Much like with its predecessor, the H3 Hybrid is built mainly of plastic, with a steel strip running through the headband. The headset features a two-part hinge system that offers a decent amount of vertical and horizontal tilt, though it’s not the kind of mechanism to allow the headphones to lay flat. The frame features the same smooth design aesthetic as the original H3.
The ear pads are made of memory foam, covered in leatherette and a soft suede fabric—the parts that come in contact with your head are covered in suede, and the edges are leatherette. However, while the ear pads are soft and thick, and don’t struggle with heat or sweat build-up, they’re among the narrowest I’ve come across in a pair of over-ear headphones—let alone a gaming headset. If you have big ears or a wide enough head to make spacious ear cups necessary, this is almost certainly going to get uncomfortable. Otherwise, the EPOS H3 Hybrid feels snug, with just the right amount of headband tension.
Actually using the headset is pretty straightforward, though there are a couple of foibles. The on-ear controls this headset offers are simple and clearly laid out. The huge, textured volume dial sits on the right headphone and is really easy to find. The H3 Hybrid’s microphone sits on the left headphone, and it flips up to mute—it’s also detachable. Where the original H3 mic was permanently affixed to the headset, this one is held in by a magnetic three-pin connection.
The H3 Hybrid also features a power button on the right headphone, as well as a multi-function button on the left headphone. The left button does different things depending on the circumstance. First and foremost, holding it for three seconds initiates Bluetooth pairing. You can also use it to answer phone calls when paired via Bluetooth, and when you’re connected to a PC via a wired USB connection, it toggles between EQ presets or turns on EPOS’ virtual surround sound feature using the EPOS Gaming Suite app.
Unlike the vast majority of headphones that support both 3.5mm and Bluetooth connections, the EPOS H3 Hybrid always has to be powered on to play sound. It’s normal on Bluetooth, and using a wired USB connection means the headset is charged the whole time anyway, but if you’re plugged into a headphone jack, you’re going to be using the battery the whole time. The H3 Hybrid is lucky it has very good battery life (more on that in a bit) or the inconvenience of having a wired headset you eventually have to stop using to recharge would be a serious black spot—nevertheless, it’s still something to bear in mind.
What is the EPOS Gaming Suite?
EPOS Gaming Suite is a pretty rudimentary app, and frankly, I’ve never found it terribly reliable—it often fails to recognize headsets, and no matter how many fresh installs I do, getting it to open in the first place is always a roll of the dice. However, the app also offers both headphone and mic EQ options, and a place to download firmware updates, so it’s worth installing if you plan to use the H3 Hybrid on PC. You can avoid dealing with the EPOS Gaming Suite if you don’t want the hassle, though.
How do you connect the EPOS H3 Hybrid?
The EPOS H3 Hybrid features three ways to connect to your platform of choice. It can plug in via 3.5mm or USB connections, and it can pair using Bluetooth. The headset supports simultaneous connections, so you can listen to wired and wireless audio at the same time. (No, you can’t connect the USB and 3.5mm plugs to different sources.)
The Bluetooth functionality is limited but reliable as a secondary option. The headset uses Bluetooth 5.2, but it only supports the default SBC codec, so there’s no high-quality wireless audio option, whether you’re an iPhone or Android user. In theory, support for Bluetooth 5.2 means the H3 Hybrid could one day support the new LC3 codec and Bluetooth LE audio, but we’ll have to wait and see on that front.
How long does the EPOS H3 Hybrid’s battery last?
According to EPOS, the H3 Hybrid battery can last up to 41 hours on a single charge when connected over Bluetooth. In our testing, we found it lasted 44 hours, 31 minutes at a consistent output of 75dB(SPL). Performance like this normally places the headset at the top end of the gaming headset market, and it’s definitely impressive, but temper your expectations.
The headset’s battery performance when connected over 3.5mm is considerably lower—EPOS projects it at around half the Bluetooth performance, and nothing in the review period has called that into question. Now, 22 hours is still very good for a gaming headset, so it shouldn’t be a constant concern as you game. However, if you want to game while connected over Bluetooth and 3.5mm, expect even worse performance.
How is the EPOS H3 Hybrid for gaming?
As a gaming headset, the EPOS H3 Hybrid performs quite well in a lot of different circumstances, as long as the issues we’ve addressed above don’t get in the way. If your ears can fit comfortably in the ear pads, it’s a great option for long gaming sessions, provided it’s charged up. The simultaneous audio connections also means you can play a game like Final Fantasy XIV on PlayStation 5 and still keep in touch with your friends playing on PC over Discord. It also means you can play games like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate or Splatoon 2 on Nintendo Switch and connect to Nintendo’s smartphone-based voice chat app without needing a daisy chain of dongles and splitters.
The headset handles pretty much any kind of game sound you can throw at it without issue, too. The mix of atmospheric electric guitar and sporadic gunfire in Deathloop on PlayStation 5 sounds great coming through the H3 Hybrid, and the headset doesn’t struggle with the console’s spatial sound feature.
How well does the EPOS H3 Hybrid block out background noise?
The EPOS H3 Hybrid actually offers pretty good isolation performance for a gaming headset. There’s nothing approaching active noise cancelling here, the headphones will block incidental noise quite a bit.
The isolation performance we measured here is what you’d achieve with a decent seal, but it’ll be a lot worse if the headset doesn’t fit properly. Regardless, isolation performance like this, coupled with the ability to take the boom mic off the headset means this could be a decent option for use outside the home, which is nice to see.
How does the EPOS H3 Hybrid sound?
The EPOS H3 Hybrid (cyan) veers away from our target curve (pink) in a few spots, but it still offers a pretty nice frequency response, especially if you don’t particularly like boosted bass. Sub-bass sounds under 80Hz come through a little quieter than we generally like to say, as do midrange notes between 200-300Hz, and treble notes from 1-4kHz.
Lows, mids, and highs
Music of most kinds should sound pretty nice coming through the EPOS H3 Hybrid, though you may notice the lack of bass thud, a consequence of the under-emphasized sub-bass response.
In Salute Your Solution by the Raconteurs, Jack White’s vocals come through very clearly, as do the guitar, bass, and most of the percussion sounds. However, when everything is blaring, the kick drum is hard to hear, and everything other than the immediate sound of the impact gets masked. Similarly, the bass guitar comes through clearly, but it doesn’t have all that much oomph until the mix gets a little less crowded in the bridge, around 1:45.
How is the EPOS H3 Hybrid microphone?
The EPOS H3 Hybrid features two microphones, a detachable boom arm, and an internal mic for when you’re out and about. The boom mic sounds very good for a gaming headset, accurately representing bass tones and offering clear vocals. It’s not exactly broadcast ready, but nobody’s going to have problems understanding you over Discord or Zoom.
The internal microphone sounds about as good as you’d expect from an embedded headphone mic, so, not very good. It has some pretty aggressive noise suppression that quiets traffic sounds and your voice.
EPOS H3 Hybrid boom mic sample:
EPOS H3 Hybrid internal mic sample:
Should you buy the EPOS H3 Hybrid?
If you’re one of the growing gamer cohorts who need a headset that connects to multiple platforms simultaneously, you should consider the EPOS H3 Hybrid. Otherwise, there are better options for less money.
On paper, the EPOS H3 Hybrid is a compelling package. It offers good audio and a nice microphone. It works pretty much everywhere. It has maybe the best battery life on the market. It feels sturdy, and EPOS sells replacements for the cord, mic, and ear pads, which is really nice to see.
However, this is also a pretty expensive headset, and it’s not as convenient as it should be. As great as the battery life is, having to recharge a wired gaming headset prompts a raised eyebrow (at best). The EPOS Gaming Suite app still just doesn’t work very well. Perhaps most notably, the narrow ear cups will make this headset unusable for some people—multiple staff members here at SoundGuys have tried them on and found them immediately uncomfortable.
If those don’t sound like issues you’ll suffer from, there’s a great time to be had with EPOS H3 Hybrid. Otherwise, it might be worth looking elsewhere.
What are some alternatives to the EPOS H3 Hybrid?
If you’re on the hunt for a gaming headset that supports Bluetooth, the SteelSeries Arctis 9 Wireless costs just $20 USD more than the H3 Hybrid. This wireless gaming headset connects using a 2.4GHz wireless USB dongle and Bluetooth. As a part of SteelSeries’ Arctis line of gaming headsets, it features a sturdy aluminum frame and a super comfortable suspension band, along with ear cups covered in a soft fabric. The isolation isn’t as good as the H3 Hybrid, but it’s a fantastic at-home option.
If Bluetooth support isn’t terribly important, you can spend a lot less to get a lot more in the wired gaming headset space. The Razer BlackShark V2 and Logitech G Pro X are perennial PC-centric favorites, with excellent sound and software features, and comfortable builds. Oh yeah, and they’re both more than $50 USD cheaper than the H3 Hybrid.
See also: EPOS Sennheiser GSP 602 review
If wireless compatibility on a lot of platforms is your priority, but the latency of Bluetooth doesn’t make you excited to game, it might be worth checking out wireless gaming headsets that use USB-C dongles. The SteelSeries Arctis 7P and Razer Barracuda X both sound great, feel great, and have great battery life (though not quite on the level of the H3 Hybrid). Both also use USB-C wireless RF dongles, which means they’re compatible with PC, PlayStation 4 and 5, Nintendo Switch (docked and undocked), and smartphones with USB-C ports—there’s even an Xbox variant of the Arctis 7P that swaps the PlayStation compatibility for Microsoft’s consoles.