I have never considered myself to be much of an audiophile (well at least since I turned 19 and finally grew out of car audio equipment). I have never owned a set of floor speakers or receiver for my house as I always said that it was a waste of money. I mean, every TV has a set of speakers right? How much can you really be missing by not having a decent home theater setup? Oh how far from the truth was I. And all it took was a set of headphones from SteelSeries to prove me wrong.
The SteelSeries Spectrum 7xB wireless Headset for the Xbox360 showed me just how much I have been missing out on. I setup the system and immediately put in Halo Reach to get the full experience from this headset as it also has a microphone to use for online communication. The headset made a difference for me right away. I have easily put over 50 hours into Halo Reach’s online mode and I was hearing things that I didn’t even know where there. The floor boards were creaking on the Reflection map. The wind blows through the trees on Powerhouse and you can hear foot steps even when you are crouched down. I had no idea that a high quality headset could make this much of a difference not only for competitive online play but for your overall experience with the game itself.
Just for good measure, I threw in Darksiders to get an idea for how the headset would work for single player games and it was more of the same. Then I switched it up and started watching some movies on Netflix. Yep, you guessed it. More amazing sound quality from movies that I have been missing out on over the years. I really can’t say enough about the quality of the audio that these things put out. You really need to hear it for yourself to get the full experience.
The headset and connecting cable from the headset to the Xbox controller are very high quality items as well. The headset has soft, leather wrapped cushions that fit very nicely around your ears. I used them for 2 hours straight at one point and I never got uncomfortable or any signs of sweat around the cushions. It also appears that SteelSeries has resolved some complaints about the 5xB set with the connection plug to the actual controller. The new plug still fits very tight but it now sits flush with the rest of the controller. The 7xB also offers 4 different modes for the “Live Mix” feature over the 5xB which only has 2 settings. The Live Mix option allows you to pick the best mix for in game audio and voice chat with your teammates.
My complaints about the headset come with the new wireless functionality. It is a great upgrade to not have to be tied to your TV or Xbox but the range leaves something to be desired. The range is listed at 30 feet but I couldn’t get much farther than 20 feet away from the control unit (which gets its power and is connected to the Xbox via USB) before the audio started cutting out. This wasn’t much of a problem for me since my Xbox is in a small room but if you have it in a living room or man cave, you better be ready to cozy up nice and close to your TV.
The other issue that I had with the setup of the wireless control unit is for how it gets the audio from your TV. For those of you using component cables this will not be an issue as the kit includes an RCA splitter that allows you to plug right in through the left and right audio connections from the component cables. For the rest of you, who like me, are using an HDMI cable, things get a little more complicated. Since you cannot get just the audio from the HDMI cable, you have to remove the RCA splitter and plug directly in the headphone jack for your TV. Again, maybe not such a big deal unless you, like me, have your TV on a wall mount and your headphone jack is in the most inconvenient place ever thought of. Plugging into the TV headphone jack also means lots of plugging and unplugging so that you can hear the TV through any speakers other than the headset. The other option is to purchase an additional adapter from Microsoft to split the audio at the Xbox. For the $189.99 price tag on these, I shoudn’t have to purchase additional adapters though. I guess if you look on the bright side, this means you can also use the headset to watch TV late at night without having to worry about bothering your significant other.
Overall I have to say that I really liked this headset. Setup problems and all, this has worked out great for me. You get some great audio coming through a high quality set of headphones which allows for a better overall gaming experience. I have also been able to take advantage of some early morning and late night gaming without having to wake up the rest of my household to hear whats going on. Looking beyond the short comings with the wireless range and setup options, this is a very high quality unit that I do not have a problem recommending to anyone that wants to improve their overall gaming experience by adding some high quality audio equipment.