EVEN though Sony are best known in gaming circles for the PlayStation family of consoles, their latest offering is designed first and foremost to be a PC peripheral.
The Sony InZone H9 is the flagship model of Sony’s InZone range of headsets, including the H3, H7 and the H9 which are designed for PC gamers first and with PlayStation compatibility as a bonus feature rather than the main attraction – at least from a marketing perspective.
The H9 is a wireless, noise cancelling model with 40mm Neodymium drivers and an overall weight of 330g, and I was quite impressed with it when I had some hands-on time with it a couple of months ago at the launch event.
There’s a lift-to-mute mic on the left hand side, along with the general volume control and the button to switch between noise cancelling and ambient noise modes. The power, Bluetooth and chat/game audio mix controls are on the other earcup. There are LED light accents around the rings connecting the earcups to the headband, too. Not really sure who they’re for, though, since as the wearer you can’t see them.
Primary connection is via a USB-A wireless dongle that plugs into a PC or PlayStation; there’s a switch on the dongle to select between the two. It’s plug-and-play; just plug it in and turn the headset on. It also has Bluetooth connection too – more on that later
At first feel, the unit feels pretty average – all plastic (except the leather earcup pads and fabric speaker covers, obviously), no metal, and not particularly hefty.
The somewhat lacklustre handling feel of the unit is rescued by its solid audio performance, however.
Sony have said the unit has the same drivers as its WH-1000MX3 wireless headset and the sound quality is certainly quite good, with plenty of bass (no doubt helped by the vents on the top of the earcups).
What’s particularly unusual about the H9 is that it also has Active Noise Cancelling, which I haven’t encountered in a dedicated gaming headset before (although it is commonplace in higher-end multipurpose headsets).
In practical terms, this means it blocks out ambient noise – for example, a PC fan, a neighbour’s lawnmower, a pet running up and down the hallway for some reason, or just general household noise.
It makes a noticeable amount of difference to the experience too, allowing for a more focussed audio environment, although it’s not perfect and seems to work better on lower frequency sounds (such as humming fans) rather than higher-pitched noises.
The H9 features 360 degree spatial audio, which certainly works very well, and can be enhanced a bit further with the somewhat gimmicky idea of using a separate app to take photos of your ears so it can customise the soundscape further (I didn’t notice a significant improvement and the headset worked fine without it, though).
On PC, the audio can be customised via Sony InZone software, covering everything from EQ to which mode the ANC starts in, and things like that. This lets you get the audio just how you like it, but it only works on PC – the settings don’t transfer over to other devices from what I could tell.
It worked well audio-wise with everything I tried, including Saints Row and the assorted YouTube videos, streaming audio, and so on that I regularly use on my PC too.
Despite Sony pitching these as PC gaming headset, they are fully PlayStation 5 compatible (obviously) and this is where they shine.
The surround sound experience via PlayStation 5 really is amazing. It’s not quite the Pulse 3D audio effect, but it’s very close and provides a very similar practical experience.
They are probably the best-sounding PlayStation wireless headset I’ve used, and have inserted themselves into the default PS5 headset location on my entertainment unit as a result. I tested it with The Last Of Us Part I and Ghost of Tsushima and was impressed by the quality of the audio, including how I could specifically identify where enemies were moving or sounds coming from – moreso even than other headsets with 7.1 or virtual surround capabilites that I’ve used before.
In addition to the PC or PS5 connection, the H9 also supports Bluetooth connectivity; including simultaneous connection with a mobile phone. This is surprisingly helpful for ensuring you still receive notifications, calls and so on – you can even stream audio from your phone too.
The unit worked well as a straight Bluetooth headset too with an iPad Pro and iPhone 13, although if you’re looking for a primary headset for a mobile device I strongly suggest you invest in a set of Sony WH-1000MX5s instead.
The H9 is extremely comfortable to wear, but with one caveat: My ears got pretty sweaty while wearing it, to the point where I had to take them off after a couple of hours so the side of my head could ‘breathe’.
The battery charges via USB-C connection and lasts for about 32 hours without the ANC going, and there’s an option for a 10 minute rapid charge which can provide an hour of gaming if needed. It also supports charge-and-play too, if you need that.
Aesthetically they fit well with the PlayStation 5 and the Lunar White colour gaming systems from Alienware, so if you’re keen on your peripherals matching your system that’s something which might be of interest.
The main sticking point for me at the moment is the price – with an RRP of AUD$449 – and the sweaty ears thing. I live in Queensland and the summers here get over 40°C so I foresee a suboptimal experience there.
As a PC headset, these are pretty good but nothing particularly special and are rather expensive for what they are (especially when you consider the many other high-quality headsets from other brands which are available – but if you’re looking for a decent PlayStation 5 headset with ANC, these have a lot to offer and are a more appealing proposition for that use case.