Sony Inzone H9 : New wireless gamer headset with active noise reduction

Sony Inzone H9 Full Review

Sony is getting into the business of creating gaming headsets outside of its PlayStation brand with the arrival of the Inzone H3, H7 and H9. And it's the latter that we're putting to the test today. With multiple connections, active noise reduction and independent chat and game management

Does the Inzone H9 live up to its promise and price?

Priced at €299, the Inzone H9 represents the top of the range of this new series of gamer headsets sold directly under the Sony brand and not under PlayStation, which is more accustomed to HiFi or nomadic audio headsets, with some fine references such as the WH-1000XM5 that we recently tested. 

Sony Inzone H9 Full Review

This change of brand brings above all a broadening of the targeted platforms, as well as of the integrated functions. We still have to check if everything is in its place, with a real comfort of use and a sound quality that meets our expectations. The verdict will be in a few lines.

Design and Finish: Some doubts about the solidity

All plastic, the Inzone H9 presents itself to us like a modern aviator's headset, with a rigid headband and two curved earpieces that Jacques Villeret would not disown in La Soupe au Choux (Editor's note: OK Boomer). The colour scheme, between black and matt white, is nevertheless elegant and obviously reminds us of the Pulse 3D model released with the PlayStation 5, even if the aesthetic comparison between the two headsets stops there.

Sony Inzone H9 : New wireless gamer headset with active noise reduction

The size adjustment is easily done via two slides placed above the earpieces and allows the headset to adapt to adult heads with a good margin for the largest, while it is a little big for smaller skull diameters. So be careful if you want to give it to a teenager or a child, it may fit large. Better to try it out first. In any case, the Inzone H9 is a comfortable helmet that offers a fairly firm head fit, without being too heavy, with a weight that does not create a peak at the top of the skull.

The large, padded earpieces, suitable for wearing glasses, have a soft plastic finish reminiscent of leatherette, but with a slight softness that is pleasant to the touch. This material has been tested during some particularly hot days, proving in passing its lesser capacity to manage heat and perspiration by not offering enough ventilation for long games. 

New wireless gamer headset with active noise reduction

The soundproofing they do offer is fairly light, however, and hardly prevents any external sound from entering the helmet. This is the task of the active isolation, to which we will return later. And since the ear cups are mounted on a ball-and-socket joint offering 140° of horizontal rotation and 20° vertically, they easily fit against the head, encompassing the ear, and allow the headphones to lie flat around the neck or on the table once you're done with them.

While the overall finish is flawless, we have some serious doubts about the solidity of this Inzone H9, which, from the start of our usual torsion tests, showed some worrying cracks, both in the headband and the ball joints. And now it cracks every time you put it on your head or take it off. Given the price, you'll understand our concern.

A multi-platform headset that handles its world well

There are two ways to connect the Inzone H9: either with the supplied USB dongle, which offers a 2.4 GHz radio connection, or with Bluetooth 5.0. These two connections can be combined, so that two different sources can be used simultaneously. A console and a PC or a console and a smartphone, for example. This makes it possible to differentiate between the game in progress and the chat or streaming, while keeping the possibility of having both simultaneously on the same platform. Note that the autonomy of the headset obviously depends on the number of connections used. Count on 35 hours at 80% of the volume in Bluetooth or in 2,4GHz, 5 less if you cumulate both, and still 5 less if you also use the reduction of ambient noise.

Sony Inzone H9 : New wireless gamer headset with active noise reduction

The USB dongle offers two modes, accessible directly from a small switch that offers two positions: PC and PS5. The first position works surprisingly well on PS5, PS4, Windows PC or Mac, offering the latter two two stereo input channels, one for general sound and one for chat. The second position also works on the above platforms, but limits its capabilities to a single stereo channel, and does not allow Windows PCs to use Sony's software, the Inzone HUB. In both cases, the audio conversion offered is in 48 kHz 16 bits, and you will find neither multi-channel operation (5.1 or 7.1), nor high definition audio management.
To manage all this, the Inzone simply offers two sliders: a wheel on the left to manage the general volume and two buttons to balance between chat and game. 
The latter only applies to computers, as this function is managed directly from the console OS menu on Sony platforms. As for the general volume, it applies directly to the headset and not to the OS used, so that it is up to the PC, the console or the smartphone to apply its own volume with the limit imposed by the wheel. A system that makes it very easy to mix sources without having a bunch of buttons to manage from the headphones.

Ambient noise reduction for gamers

The Inzone 9 is equipped with Active Ambient Noise Reduction (ANC) based on two additional microphones located in the centre of the ear cups. The headset offers 3 modes, accessible from a dedicated button: the passive mode, which does not modify the sound isolation of the earpieces, the "Noise Reduction" mode, which applies a phase opposition on the incoming sounds to cancel what the microphones hear, and the "Ambient Sound" mode, which corrects the natural isolation of the earpieces so that the world outside the headset can be heard better.

We know that Sony has mastered this technology, its WH-1000XM5 (like its predecessors) being the benchmark of its kind in the mobile headphone market. But here, don't expect such quality of operation. If on the whole the effects are rather well managed, the three modes having a real interest, they are accompanied by some inconveniences. 

Sony Inzone H9 : New wireless gamer headset with active noise reduction

Starting with the ANC, which adds a significant hiss to what the player hears. 

This noise is very discreet if you are listening to music or playing, but it is clearly audible during silent phases, even though the noise reduction is clearly inferior to what the brand usually offers.

The same slight murmur can be heard in "Ambient Sound" mode, although the headphones do not really succeed in correcting the passive isolation of their earpieces. We certainly find some of the highs lost, but the directionality of the sounds, their precision, takes a big hit. At the same time, 

what do you expect from a gamer headset at this level? 

If the performance of these functions is not at the level of a WH-1000XM5, it's also because the Inzone H9 is not a mobile headset, and both the noise reduction and the ambient effect proposed here are enough to improve the gaming conditions, either by isolating the player correctly, or on the contrary by allowing him to hear what's happening around him. These features are therefore welcome, in the state they are in.

The sound: bass forward and some imbalances

The Inzone H9 is a headset that sounds great as soon as you put it on your ears to play. A good precision in the treble allows for a nice reproduction of details in play, while the bass gives it a go to round out the whole, and the result is pleasant if not transparent. In fact, this good impression, which is mainly asserted in games and in front of a film, is to be qualified when listening to music where the headphones also reveal imbalances within the different frequency ranges. In the highs, a very active hump around 12 kHz is faced with a clear dip around 4.5 kHz, while the bass shows a dominance around 100 Hz, while the frequencies below 50 Hz and above 300 Hz regain homogeneity.

These two humps give rise to a few aberrations, a few distortions, for those who know their source well, and it is quite possible to correct them from the equalizer under Windows ... but without this having any influence on the Bluetooth input or on the use with a Sony console. Indeed, at the moment, there is no software support on PS5 or PS4, and therefore no equalizer at hand to apply these corrections. Given the dual connection with Bluetooth, a small application dedicated to Android and iOS equalization would have been welcome.
Because Sony offers us to download an application on our smartphone, but to activate the 360 Spatial Sound Personalizer, an in-house spatialization effect. 
This application then asks you to log in (or create an account) and, as with the WH-1000XM5, to take a picture of your ears to create an auditory profile. Except that, beyond the interest of creating an ear profile from a photo, which could be relevant, the spatialization effect itself does not bring much. 

Not that it's unpleasant, but its modification of certain frequencies, such as the addition of a few reverberations and other phase shifts, is in no way dynamic and creates absolutely no effect of depth. Fortunately, the headphones are compatible with the PS5's 3D effects or the various binaural modes included in the games.

We still appreciate the fact that the headphones offer a good reserve of power (beware of the ears of the youngest) and that they retain all their qualities whatever the listening level. However, the comparison with the market's top players remains a little tense for the Inzone H9, which struggles to compete with the Epos H3Pro Hybrid or the Steelseries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless, two models in the same price range that offer superior audio quality.

A microphone that lacks precision

Let's finish the tour with the microphone test which, for the time being, is quite disappointing. Nothing to say about its mechanical quality, the ease of positioning and its mute function when the microphone is in the up position, but the sound it picks up is far from satisfactory. 

The voice is muffled, metallic, lacks presence in the treble and therefore precision. It's good enough for chatting, as the intelligibility is good, but for streaming it's clearly below our expectations.

Let's acknowledge the ability of the automatic gain to adapt the volume according to the power of the voice which, when using the Windows application, avoids peaks for your listeners, even if you clearly raise the tone.

Conclusion: A disappointment for such a high price

Let's face it, we were clearly hoping for more from Sony's new top of the range gaming series. As we know, the manufacturer knows how to make very good headphones, both at the lower end of the price range and at the higher end, and we expected the Inzone H9 to find its place in a market so full of good references. 

Unfortunately, with a launch price of €300, the headset comes to us with too many flaws. Starting with its construction, which, after a few tests of light bending, already shows points of creaking and fragility.

We also note the sound quality to our ears, correct but inferior to the references of the genre, the in-house spatialization which does not bring anything despite a rather complex procedure, the sound of the microphone which is not at the level, points which, at this price level, are rather stain. 

The Inzone H9 is not a bad headset though: its ANC is of a decent level, its dual wireless connection is welcome and its Windows application provides some interesting features. But is it enough to stand on the podium against the H3 Pro Hybrid, the Nova Arctis Pro Wireless, or the Astro Gaming A50? Well no, clearly not.

Opinion about Sony Inzone H9

The Sony Inzone H9 represents the top of the range of the brand in terms of multiplatform gamer headsets. The finish is good, the sound quality is decent, and the ergonomics are simple and easy to use. The headset provides the promised features in terms of ambient noise reduction, even if we shouldn't expect a level equivalent to what the manufacturer deploys on its best nomadic headsets, or with its dual dongle + Bluetooth connection. However, there are a few shortcomings that make us regret that the price is too high: an unsavoury microphone, a fragility that we can tell from the first few minutes of the test, and a sound comparison with the competition that is already in place that is not really to its advantage. The Inzone H9 is therefore a decent headset, with good ideas, but its few flaws prevent it from being placed among our favourite references in a price range where mistakes are unforgivable.

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