Sound BlasterX H5 Headset Review: A Better Takstar Pro 80?
Takstar is a manufacturer of audio gear in China. They’re also an OEM(Original Equipment Manufacturer). This means that other companies can hire Takstar to make products. Takstar is probably most famous for the Pro 80, its excellent budget headphone. It’s a clone of the Beyer-Dynamic DT 770, and to call it a knockoff would be a mean insult. The Pro 80 is an phenomenal headphone in its own right.
In the gaming headset world, several companies have found great success hiring Takstar to make versions of the Pro 80 that come with microphones. HyperX is perhaps the most prolific seller of Pro 80’s, at least in the US market, with the Cloud line of headsets. They offer exceptional value and performance for their $99 dollar price.
Enter the Creative Labs Sound BlasterX H5.
Now, I don’t actually 100 percent know that this is a Takstar Pro 80 variant. But boy. It sure looks like one. Creative has done more customizing than HyperX does, but the DNA here is undeniable. Either that, or Creative is using a different manufacturer…making this a copy of a copy.
Which is hilarious.
In either case, this headphone is so close to the Pro 80/Cloud in features, price, and performance, that a closer look is warranted. It turns out that, in spite of the similarities, the H5 has its own strengths and weaknesses that make it stand out as a unique product.
The H5 features an almost-identical headband and ear cup support system to the Pro 80. The headband adjusts to exactly the same sizes, too, in spite of the H5 having more little detents in its adjustment.
Incidentally, I have to wear both headphones at max size. It’s not the best pair for giant heads, but it does fit me.
Build quality on the H5 is really good. One side of my headband adjustments sounds a little more clicky than the other, but they both stay put and work well. My HyperX CloudX exhibits this exact same quirk. The H5 uses aluminum lavishly, for the ear cup supports and the backs of the ear cups. As does the Cloud/Pro 80. The pleather material on the headband and ear pads is really nice, just like on the Cloud, and they both use memory foam padding.
This is where the similarities end, and the H5 tries to pull ahead of the pack. The headband support under the memory foam is stainless steel. It’s lighter and more bendable that whatever metal is inside the Cloud headband, while still feeling robust. The ear pad openings are slightly larger on the H5, giving a more spacious feel to the fit and causing a little less ear sweating. The ear cups are completely custom. They’re flatter than the Cloud/Pro 80 cups, and they have more room inside for your ears to sit. They make me look a bit less silly in public, but they still stick out a little.
But hey everyone, check this out: The cable is detachable and not proprietary!
I will repeat that.
The cable is detachable and not proprietary!
This is outstanding for a $99 dollar product.
As you can see above, the included cable has a molded piece that fits snugly into the hole on the H5. However, the hole is shaped such that pretty much any standard 3.5mm cable will fit in just fine! Yay! This is the biggest quirk of the Cloud/Pro 80, and Creative crushes it into oblivion. I’m not completely put-off by the permanent cord on the Cloud, but removable cables are always better.
Let’s talk sound.
The H5 sounds almost nothing like the Cloud/Pro 80. But it’s still darn good. It uses Creative’s own proprietary “FullSpectrum” driver design. The drivers are 50mm compared to the 53mm drivers of the Pro 80. The ear cups have small bass ports cut into them, but this is not a terribly bassy headphone. In fact, it’s quite neutral and pleasant, with a bit of an emphasis on the midrange. It’s not as sparkly or punchy as the Clouds, but it still has a really good sound signature that will work for games, movies, and music. You’ll hear everything that’s there.
The soundstage is where the H5 truly excells. Creative makes use of angled drivers, as do many other headphones. This has never made much of a noticeable difference in soundstage for me in the past, particularly in closed-back models.
However, something magical is going on with these.
The angled driver, in concert with the unique layered ear cup design, created a sound that I at first described as really weird.
In a good way.
The H5 has a much wider, more “pulled-apart” sound than I was expecting. Different elements in music have exceptional spatial characteristics, and it’s great for gaming and movies too. The H5 fully achieves a wider sound field than the average closed headphone, doing an even better job at this than the solid Cloud Revolver. It almost sounds, at first, like some sort of digital processing is going on, but it’s all just acoustic design magic. I like it, and it’s nothing like the sound of the Cloud/Pro 80.
Which is honestly kind of great, otherwise I’d now own two similar-sounding pairs that just look different.
Isolation is really good, and the headphones seal well even when I’m wearing glasses. The bass ports don’t seem to have a negative impact on isolation. The larger ear pads still sit flush against my face, so you should have no trouble with that aspect either. Comfort is in the top 1 percent, just like the Cloud, and most Bose and Sony models. Excellent. You can wear these while you play Diablo III all day and not be bothered by them.
The included Mic is not exceptional, but it’ll do the job. It’s detachable. The headset comes in a round plastic box that looks and feels like a well-built salad bowl. Weird.
The Sound BlasterX H5 is a great headset, and like the Cloud/Pro 80 it retails for about $99 bucks. It doesn’t come with the extra ear pads or case that you get with the Cloud line, but it does come with an extension/splitter cable for use with older PC sound cards. And the cable is detachable. That probably outweighs the lack of a case.
It also fits perfectly into the case that came with my CloudX headset, and I imagine it would fit just fine in the Cloud II bag as well. It should also fit any third party case that can hold the Pro 80. Because the frame size and shape is nearly identical. So, if you need to find a case it won’t be tough.
This headset is absolutely worth its price, and if you love soundstage, it might even be worth buying over the Cloud/Pro 80. I still slightly prefer the sound reproduction on the HyperX sets, but the H5 is no slouch, offering a different experience rather than one that’s objectively worse.
If you want to step things up a notch, you could go for the Sound BlasterX H7. The base headphone is identical, although the H7 comes with a USB sound card, the aluminum support forks are black instead of silver, and the X’s in the ear cups have red LED lights under them. The H7 is only 30 bucks extra, so if those extra things sound appealing, that’s a pretty good deal too.
And now, because no one ever demands them, the customary selfies of me wearing the headphones. The end.