Review
SteelSeries Spectrum 7XB Headset

By Jorge Figueiredo - July 27th, 2011

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I was quite pleased with the SteelSeries 5H-V2 MOH headset that I reviewed not too long ago. The unit had great sound and a high degree of comfort – perfect for use on my PC. However, not all of my gaming is done on a PC; I tend to partake in a fair amount of console-based entertainment

My home entertainment system is a fair distance from my couch (over twelve feet) and while a wired solution is decent, it introduces clutter and a tripping hazard. I wondered if there was a wireless solution available that was comparable to the 5H-V2 in terms of quality and comfort; apparently there is: the SteelSeries’ Spectrum 7XB Headset.

It is hard not to compare the 7XB to the 5H-V2. From a comfort perspective, the headsets are both stellar – the adjustable ear cups and soft foam padding fit very nicely over the ears without pinching (I have large ears); the foam also does a very good job dampening any incoming noise from around you. Ventilation is also built-in, allowing for a less sweaty listening experience (which is important for those marathon sessions*). The unit takes two AAA batteries; battery life is decent – I have been using the headset for two weeks, for up to two hours a day and it is only now that I am getting an inkling that I’ll have to replace the power source soon.

The 7XB’s retractable microphone is just like the mic on the 5H-V2: contained in the left earpiece, this input is easily deployed by simply pulling it out and is flexible enough to be bent into whichever position works for you. When it is not needed, it can be sent from whence it came by gently pushing it back into place. The 7XB also shares the 5H-V2′s ability to be separated into three parts for easy storage, thanks to the “connectorized” ear pieces.

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All of the controls are easily accessible.

It is here that the physical similarities end, though. The volume controls (“+” and “-” buttons) for the 7XB are located on the right ear-piece rather than in-line, and are easily found by the fingers. Three additional buttons are found on the same earpiece: “power” (obvious), “mode” (for a somewhat tailored listening experience) and “LiveMix” – for chatting. Between the two set of buttons is a subtle power and signal indicator that let’s you know (via light patterns) the status of your headset (powered/paired/unpaired, etc.).

The unit also ships with a USB-powered transmitter (4 Mbit/s bandwidth with intelligent frequency hopping) and a cord that enables you to link your headset to your Xbox 360 controller, enabling you to access LiveChat. Instructions say that you should plug your transmitter into one of your Xbox 360′s USB ports. However, being power conscious (every little bit helps), I hooked it up to a USB port on my TV, allowing it some reprieve when my system is off. RCA audio jacks are included with the 7XB (the pass-through style), but since I use an optical connector, I opted for connecting the headphone output of my receiver to the 7XB’s transmitter, enabling me to use the headphones with all of my consoles (chat only works with the Xbox 360 though).

Sound quality is fantastic. Each of the four audio modes serves its purpose well: Normal (sound is nice and even); Performance (high tones amplified, much like the 5H-V2 – gun reloads and footsteps are more easily detected); Immersion (enhanced bass for bigger-sounding explosions and gunshots); Entertainment (great for movies and music). I have tried all four of these modes and I have to say that they do as advertised. I watched the latest episodes of Naruto: Shippuden using the Entertainment selection and was pleasantly surprised to find that the 7XB had a nicer, fuller sound than my previous wired choice. I played Gran Turismo 5 using the Immersion setting and was treated to thundering bass as I powered my Murcielago down a track in Rome; this headset made my spectacular crash into one of the barriers an almost emotionally jarring experience). Performance mode came in handy while playing Call of Juarez: The Cartel and I used Normal mode for Boulderdash XL on XBL.

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Everything you need to start having ear-gasms.

LiveMix is SteelSeries’ solution to the frustration experienced while playing games online with friends. How often do you miss something in the game because someone’s volume is too loud; or perhaps you can’t quite hear what people are saying because the volume in the game just peaked. The 7XB will attenuate things so that there is a good balance between in-game audio and chatter over the airwaves from your gaming buddies. I was a bit skeptical when I first read about this feature, but after participating in some crazy on-line shooting with this feature I am a skeptic no more.

The SteelSeries Spectrum 7XB headset is a great piece of hardware if you’re looking to de-clutter your play area while not sacrificing sound quality. Great construction, portability and a bevy of other features make these worth the price tag (~$180 USD). I have to admit that I do experience the occasional signal glitch; it happens rarely and the duration is not more than a second – again: not really a problem given the sound quality and portability factor.

Click here to check out the Spectrum 7XB Gallery! ยป

* – Although, technically, you should be taking breaks periodically.

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