Reviews
SteelSeries Flux In-Ear Pro

By Jorge Figueiredo - August 6th, 2013

fiepr-1

I have stated before that I generally prefer over-the-ear headphones to in-ear models due to their ability to block out environmental noise without being uncomfortable. There are always exceptions to the rule. I posted a review for a set of in-ear headphones a little while ago and I was pretty impressed with the quality and sound. Well, colour me impressed again: SteelSeries sent us a Flux In-Ear Pro headset and it sounds pretty amazing. Is it for you? Well, the price tag might scare you away – but it’s worth it to talk about how good it is and what comes in the box to help you with your decision either way.

Even if you didn’t know that the Flux In-Ear Pro sells for $129.99, it is evident right from opening the box that it is not just a cheap headset. SteelSeries’ presentation of their product in the packaging (as well as the packaging itself) makes you feel like they mean business. Included in the box are: the Flux itself, an extra connector for PCs, 1 set of Comply foam tips, extra silicone tips (in various sizes), 1 compact, a zippered case (with an internal mesh pocket and a small, detachable velcro strap) and product literature (quick start guide, comply tip guide, and a SteelSeries Sticker).

The headset is solidly constructed. The main cable is a fairly durable ribbon cable that is ends at two plastic ends. On one end, there are two thinner cables that connect to the earpieces (there is an in-line mic/remote on the left side). On the other end is actually a connector that allows you to switch between the single 3.5mm plug for connecting to a mobile device and a split connector that allows you to hook up your headset to a PC. The added benefit of this connector is that it can act as a quick-release, just in case your cable gets snagged on something. I have lost a few headsets this way, due to the fact that the stress tends to fall on either the earpieces or the cable attached to the 3.5mm plug. Also, thanks to the ribbon cable’s construction and manageable length, I didn’t have to spend half the time untangling the headset – it took a few seconds to set it up and I was ready to go!

The Flux earpieces are a little bit different from normal earbuds; the buds go in-ear (of course) while the cords are strung over the ears. It takes a little bit of getting used to, and it takes a little bit more time than just shoving buds in your ears – but it’s definitely worth the trouble as it ends up feeling quite comfortable. For those that have oddly-shaped ears (or just feel like making things easier), SteelSeries has included wire guides that you can snap on and help to hold the buds in place over your ear. SteelSeries has also indicated that if the user is just not comfortable wearing these with the cables over the ears, the earpieces can be worn like normal earbuds by simply switching the left and right sides with each other. That being said, the recommendation is to wear these with the cabling over the ear for maximum comfort.

fiepr-2
What comes in the package.

The default tips on the earpieces of the Flux Pro are made of silicone. These do a fairly good job of helping keep the buds in place while blocking out a fair bit of noise. However, for a really great experience, I would recommend swapping the silicone for the Comply tips. Constructed of comfortable, malleable foam, the Comply tips feel like earplugs. You just squeeze them a little, insert them in your ear, and wait for a few seconds while they expand to fit the shape of the opening. They are comfortable and do a great job of blocking enough outside noise to make a significant difference over the silicone tips (which are great to begin with). If you do some research, you’ll find that purchasing these types of tips will actually run you between $10 and $20 – which already shows you why the overall price is high. For me, the tight seal and light weight of these really made them easy to wear.

For the Flux In-Ear Pro, SteelSeries departed from the typical dynamic drivers and instead went with a balanced armature driver. Dynamic drivers use external air to produce sound; balanced armature drivers do not require external air, which means that they can be very small. The down side to a balanced armature driver is that the bass tends to suffer a bit. However, they can be tuned very precisely, giving the listener a very high level of accuracy without a lot of bulk (and with a surprising lack of distortion – even at higher volumes). The silicone tips do a decent job of delivering great sound quality and decent bass; but the Comply tips really manage to increase the bass a little bit by effectively forming a better seal in your ear. It’s certainly not going to be able to compete with some of the better over-the-ear headphones out there, but the range of sound and the clarity that are delivered will definitely surprise you given their small size.

I listened to a variety of music and played a number of different games (on a number of hand-held devices as well as my PC), and I was blown away by the results. Again, if you’re looking for a delivery that is heavy on brain-numbing bass, you’re best to move on. However, if you’re looking for fantastic sound quality and clarity, these are up there with some of the bulkier earmuff-style headphones that I have tried. When developers and musicians create audio, they do it in such a way as to maximize the listening experience. Having a sound delivery system that is precise and clear really allows the wearer to enjoy the sounds the way that the creator intended. Truthfully, I did miss the low end in some of the songs that I listened to – but these were songs that were meant to be “low” to begin with. Overall, my experience was one of great enjoyment.

fiepr-3
Fairly big sound in a small package.

Like most headsets that I have tried, the Flux In-Ear Pro comes with an in-line remote/microphone (the remote is for use with mobile devices). The sound on the microphone was great – even in a crowded area it did a good job picking up my voice and delivering decent audio quality for my test recording. The remote button functioned effectively and is easy to use. I find the remotes on some headsets harder to use than others. SteelSeries have opted to coat theirs in a layer of rubber, allowing those of us with sweaty fingers to operate the device without getting sweat inside the electronics. The only opening is the microphone hole.

So why bother with in-ear headphones versus the tried-and-true earmuff style? Given that these are primarily made for gamers, I would think the big reason is portability. Having something that is light and durable to lug around instead of something heavier makes a lot of sense for those who like to take their equipment with them. It also makes sense for commuters, especially considering the sound quality that these deliver. I spend at least an hour on public transit, so I like using the Flux In-Ear Pro because it is easy to stow when I reach my destination, the sound quality is good (especially with the Comply tips blocking out a lot of background noise), and it doesn’t make my ears sweaty.

So is this something that the average person might want? Probably not. With a price tag of $129.99, you have to be pretty serious about your audio and your reasoning to grab these. For gamers, these deliver big sound in a portable package. For audiophiles, these are a great alternative to lugging around massive headphones on the subway (they are also more subtle, making them less of a target for thieves). I maintain that the convenient size, the high production value, and the amazing sound quality all add up to something that is worth the money.

Click here to check out the SteelSeries Flux In-Ear Pro unboxing gallery. ยป

Comment away!

Please keep it clean. Unnecessary cursing will be removed.

Article comments by non-staff members do not necessarily reflect the views of Toronto Thumbs.


− two = 0