Some days I like to think I’ve become something of a headset aficionado. Steelseries? Astro? Razer? I’ve tried them all, and I can probably tell you how they feel when they sit on your head, what makes them unique, better or worse than others, or why luminous green is a colour for cars in The Fast & The Furious and not for gaming headsets.
Asus are a big brand in gaming, and while headsets like their ROG Strix GO push the envelope in terms of tech and what you can expect from the cutting edge of gaming headsets, they’ve also got the TUF brand for when your wallet is feeling more like a Ryvita than a burrito.
The TUF Gaming H3 comes in at a hair under £50, pitting it against some of the entry-level headset big hitters like the Astro A10, the Razer Kraken and the Steelseries Arctis 3. The TUF comes out swinging, with a stylish design and an audio response that belies its accessible price point.
If we’re talking sensible colours, the H3 opts for black, grey and charcoal across its various materials. Padded faux leather covers both the headband and foam earpieces, giving plenty of durability to the areas that will come under the most wear. The main joints and adjustable sliders are made from sturdy-feeling stainless steel, and the earcups themselves are made from lightweight plastic.
There is some definite creaking as you pull and twist the headset in your hands, but it seems to come from the faux leather on the headband rather than the frame or joints. Once it’s on your head they’re not making any unwanted sounds, and thanks to their snug fit they sport a decent level of noise isolation to keep your mind on the game, rather than the washing machine or your housemate’s constant chattering.
Like a runway model, but for ears, Asus want to make sure people know what you’re wearing, so there’s the TUF gaming logo embossed across the headband, and each earpiece sports their striking – and mildly militaristic – logo. Aesthetically the H3’s a fairly unassuming, quiet and restrained headset, though its key visual differences ensure that you’ll still be keen to pop it onto your head. If you’re looking for a little bit more flair, you can grab blue, red or silver editions that colour the metal frame, with the blue one looking particularly smart.
Leaning on that most universal of audio connections – the 3.5mm audio jack – the H3 can connect to nearly anything that makes sound, and gaming with your PS4, Switch, Xbox One, PC, Mac or even Stadia is a cinch. It does cheekily claim to offer 7.1 surround sound support – in this case via Windows Sonic – and it performs as well as any other stereo headset out there with half-decent 50mm drivers, but you’re limited to PC or Xbox One to make use of either that or Dolby Atmos.
With its budget pricing you probably shouldn’t expect too much on the extra features front, and alongside the volume dial there’s a single solitary, relatively puny button to mute the microphone. Annoyingly the H3 sports a non-removable mic arm which limits the likelihood of going outside without looking like you work in a call centre, but it is at least a flexible metal arm that won’t be going anywhere while you shout and bawl into it.
The microphone performance is very good as well, producing pleasingly clear delivery of all of those important things you have to say, whether it’s about where the other team are coming from or less well advised statements about other people’s mums.
Things continue to make good sense on the audio front, with crisp and well-defined trebles sitting alongside well-balanced bass. The bottom end is a touch weaker than some of the other budget sets out there – the Razer Kraken for one – but while it might not make your wisdom teeth hurt there’s still more than enough depth to handle whatever you choose to put through them.
I’d readily argue that the penchant for bass-heavy budget sets tends to do them more harm than good, as they’re not tuned well enough to carry the rest of the audio through. The H3 counters that with comprehensive audio response across the whole spectrum, and the listening experience is much more pleasurable than something like Turtle Beach’s Recon series. I started the Witcher III up and each audio element, from the folky soundtrack through to Geralt’s gravel-filled voice, carried the epic drama through fantastically, with the H3 acquitting itself extremely well.