Review: SteelSeries Spectrum 7xb wireless headset
My love affair with Tritton has been no secret, but like all good affairs was it destined to come to an end? More importantly, who would end it? Having previously tried the various brands that we all love and champion I found Tritton to be the headset for me but one day a package arrived at my door covered in the SteelSeries branding – had my Tritton headset met its match?
The SteelSeries 7xb comes modestly packaged with subtle branding and key points which boast all the headset has to offer. Should you take your time as you eagerly get to what lies beneath, you may notice that the 7xb has been designed in association with four world champion gaming teams: SK Gaming, Fnatic Team, Evil Geniuses and Natus Vincere – like the understated packaging, the team logos aren’t in your face, they are placed at the opening flap of the box, well positioned so you take note of them when unboxing the 7xb.
I’ve tried many headsets and the two things that have struck me as being the most important is having the option to tweak the EQ and not becoming entangled in a mass of wires. The 7xb is not only wireless (powered by two AAA batteries) it also comes loaded with four different EQ settings that have been developed to give you the optimum sound experience depending on what type of game you are playing. The kit comes packed with everything you’ll need to get up and running, including batteries, although if you have a HDMI setup you’ll need an Xbox audio adapter to be able to plug the headset into the Xbox. The audio connects via a 3.5mm jack so you can plug it into your TV or anything else with a 3.5mm jack. The magic of wireless is all done through a small black box and if your entertainment centre is anything like mine, its size is certainly a welcome addition. The box is powered via USB, which is connected to the back of the Xbox, I did find that even when the console was off the lights of the 7xb wireless box remained on.
The headset itself is an absolute beauty. Decked out in a smart matt black finish with hints of silver, it is incredibly lightweight and extremely manoeuvrable so it should perfectly fit heads of all shapes and sizes. While the padding doesn’t seem very thick it is extremely ‘squashy’ which provides an extremely comfortable fit and didn’t make my ears overheat after long gaming sessions. The headset also breaks down into three pieces making transportation extremely easy, although if SteelSeries had designed 7xb with transportation in mind then they could have at least provided a carry case with the kit!
I’m not a big fan of circular earcups on a headset, I mean who has circular ears! The 7xb’s earcups are slightly oval and they fitted snugly around my ears, could this be the most comfortable headset to adorn my head? I think they just may be! The sound controls are all located on the right ear cup with the volume controls spaced slightly away from the power, EQ settings and LiveMix button. Making adjustments to the sound wasn’t a problem even though the only button that was recognisable by touch was the EQ button which has a raised nub. It’s just a matter of time before you learn where the buttons are.
There are four EQ presets that are described in the manual as:
Mode 1: Normal – No EQ settings
Mode 2: Performance – high tones are amplified
Mode 3: Immersion – Bass is enhanced
Mode 4: Music – perfect for movies, music or general games.
I do like a bit of bass from my games so I started with mode 3. On this setting the bass really thuds through the headset, which is particularly enjoyable to listen to with games that have a kick ass soundtrack like Battleblock Theater. Be warned though, the bass is pretty deep and some may find it a little too much. If you do find the bass too overpowering then mode 4 will be perfect for you. At first I couldn’t really differentiate between the two settings (maybe my ears were still thumping from mode 3’s bass) then I plugged in my iPhone – the music just came to life in mode 4. The bass is toned down a fraction and the treble is boosted making this mode perfect if mode 3’s bass is too much.
On the normal setting (mode 1) the bass still kicks in but at a far more comfortable level – although I did find the sound to be a little flat when compared to the other EQ settings. In mode 2 the highs are accentuated, the treble is set higher than the bass, and as the dominant sound effect it washes over the bass so games where the highs of the sound spectrum are more important, like footsteps of a foe sneaking up behind you, the 7xb proves its worth by giving you the drop on those sneaky buggers attempting to knife you in the back. Not even Black Ops II’s sound dampening could stop the 7xb from helping me for want of a better word, sound-whore.
The clarity of the sound that thumps through the 7xb is exquisite and it’s not until you crank the headset volume up to ear deafening volumes that the sound distorts – but you wouldn’t be doing that anyway! The headset retains your sound settings when powered off and the only downside to the wireless is the battery, it does last for over 20 hours but there is no battery monitor bar only a warning tone when the batteries are almost flat, so make sure you have some spares charging!
The last trick up the 7xb’s sleeve is an audio effect called LiveMix. When active, LiveMix reduces game sound slightly and increases chat volume accordingly so that your teammates can be heard clearly over the game sound. Not great if you are listening intently for enemy positions, but it’s a great option to have if you are struggling to hear your team mates, meaning you needn’t sacrifice either game volume or chat volume. With this much effort put into giving you full control over chat volume I was a little disappointed that the headset didn’t give you the option to hear your own voice in the headset. This did mean I was talking rather loudly as the 7xb blocks outside sounds rather well.
It’s not all about sound though, a great headset needs to have a great mic and the mic on the 7xb is rather awesome, it retracts from the left earcup and is easily stowed away when not in use. Never again will you lose your mic because you removed it from the headset! The mic doesn’t extend very far so there is the temptation to pull it further than it extends. I’m used to having the mic in front of my mouth so having it off to the side seemed a little strange, it’s almost like holding a phone up to your ear. Just because it’s not very long doesn’t mean it is any less reliable in fact it’s more responsive than some of the longer mics I have. When using the mic I even had to move it away from the side of my head as my voice was coming through loud and clear. The clarity of the mic is superb, the best mic I’ve used – many of my friends instantly asked if I had a new headset as I sounded a lot clearer.
Like most headset mics you need to connect it to your controller and the 7xb’s chat cable comes in at a healthy length but not too long that you become tangled. The cable itself is of a rope material making it unintrusive while gaming, aesthetically pleasing and less likely to tangle. The control puck enables you to tweak the voice volume as well as mute the mic.
Overall the sound of the 7xb is so vibrant and crystal clear it’s hard to deny the 7xb a place of greatness amongst headsets! Ok so it may only be a stereo headset and virtual surround sound would have been the icing on the cake, but for the sound it can output you shouldn’t snub it just because it’s stereo. I own a surround sound headset, a mighty good one at that but to be honest with the comfort that the 7xb provides, the freedom from wires and the fantastic sound it can output I’d have a hard time choosing between the two.
I for one am thoroughly impressed by SteelSeries and I highly recommend the Spectrum 7xb wireless headset, exquisite sound and the most comfortable lightweight headset that I have ever worn – quite simply if you’re after a headset, then the SteelSeries 7xb needs some serious consideration! It seems my Tritton 720+ has finally met a rival worthy of stealing their pride of place as my headset of choice and to top off this awesome package, the 7xb is modestly priced at just under £100 making it a headset that should be within your budget if you’re in the market for one, add an extra £5 if you need to get an adapter for use with HDMI.
Boasting superb EQ settings, it’s wireless and has had the experience of four world champion eSports teams poured into its development – the 7xb is a little slice of perfection!
Review: SteelSeries Spectrum 7xb wireless headset Results
What we liked:
Incredibly comfortable and lightweight
Exquisite sound clarity
Superb value for money
What we disliked:
You need to invest in an additional cable for HDMI setups if you want to plug it into your console
No option to hear your own voice
Wireless box remains on even when the Xbox is off