Audiophiles may raise their noses at the gaming community, but brands like Sony, Audeze, and Beyerdynamic have jumped into the category with both feet and it has already started to pay dividends for all of them. Gaming headphones represent 40% of Audeze’s sales so it is easy to understand why the aforementioned brands are so keen on market penetration. Sony has an obvious advantage over the rest of the competition as the manufacturer of the most popular console but that doesn’t mean that they can bank on PS4/PS5 owners buying their gaming headsets. The brand new Sony INZONE H9 looks to help change that situation.
Sony has introduced the INZONE H9 (also known as model WG-H900) to complement its PS4/PS5 gaming platforms and PC based games. When I first opened the press release package, my initial thought was that someone at Sony had to be a fan of David Clark Aviation Headsets from the 1970s; the domed white shell, boom mic attached at the bottom, and round cut-out around the hinge are strikingly similar to a set I used during flight training many years ago.
Internally, the H9 uses a dynamic driver; Sony hasn’t specified if it is a 38 or 40mm version with a PET film diaphragm, so we do see some newer technology in the driver, but it is still similar to the older aviation headphones from an industrial design perspective.
Beyond the rather vanilla (black and white) look though, the Sony INZONE H9 is quite different than those older aviation sets; the H9 only weighs 11.6 ounces, promises over 30 hours of battery life with ANC turned off, and integrates Tempest 3D technology for immersive spatial audio and a very sophisticated app.
The biggest innovation is an application that scans the ear (see video below) and adjusts the soundfield to the wearer to produce true 3-dimensional sound. Sony says the application adjusts the sound to the shape of the user’s ear so the user hears a 360° ring of sound instead of the typical left/right stereo arrangement.
This gives the Sony INZONE H9 an advantage in gaming as enemies can be tracked via sound even when not visible on screen.
A full control INZONE HUB app on the PC allows for tweaking of just about everything so if the scan doesn’t suit your tastes it’s a fairly quick process to adjust it.
Touch controls allow the user quick access to ANC and ambient mode so you can block out everything except the game or make sure you hear the call to dinner depending on the situation; a feature that many parents will like.
Controls and Connections
- Built-in earcup controls for Noise Canceling/Ambient mode, volume, power, and Bluetooth
- Adjustable game/chat balance lets you prioritize the game audio or your team chat on the fly
- Flexible bi-directional boom mic
- Flip mic to quickly mute your chat
- USB wireless transmitter with low-latency 2.4 GHz frequency signals
- Low-delay algorithm keeps your sound and picture synced together
- Wireless range: 30 feet
- Built-in Bluetooth 5.0 for hands-free calling and wireless music streaming with compatible devices
- Connect to both the wireless transmitter and to your smartphone via Bluetooth to quickly pick up a call and return to your game without interruption
Bluetooth interestingly supports SBC and AAC only. We had expected with Sony owning the LDAC codec, it would have been included, but with the H9’s gaming focus, almost no PC or console has LDAC support so it isn’t a huge loss in this case.
In addition to the Bluetooth the H9 supports USB connectivity and can be used while charging. There is also a USB dongle for Wi-Fi communication in addition to the Bluetooth connectivity which is similar to sets we’ve tested from Audeze Penrose and LucidSound (LS50X).
It will be interesting to test the H9 with the Xbox as Sony certainly has no love for the rival console; the market segment is so large that it would be very strange to see Sony exclude compatibility.
The $299 retail price is certainly not low but Sony has proven that it can deliver a superior gaming experience and the market seems to agree on that point. The big question now — can Sony deliver a superior audio experience as well and take a big slice out of the market. Gaming is a multi-billion dollar segment and it needs to deliver in a big way or its rivals in the gaming headset segment will.
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