SteelSeries has really made a name for itself in the past couple of years with a stellar line of peripherals PC and console markets. That push has continued this year with numerous products across all platforms. Recently I had the pleasure of spending an extended amount of time with the new SteelSeries Spectrum 7XM and have to admit, I came away impressed.
The Spectrum 7XB is the latest in the SteelSeries 7 line of high quality headsets. This time around though, the headset has been tailored to Xbox 360 users with features that aim to enhance their gaming experience. The 7XB transmits a high quality audio signal from your Xbox 360 system (or other connect devices) up to 30 feet away. That feature, combined with a retractable microphone, interchangeable earcups, and the ability to break down the set into pieces for travel come together to provide a enjoyable audio experience whether you are using it for gaming or some other purpose.
Sure, that sounds nice, but the important question is whether or not it works well in practice. It does work but let's take a look at the individual components and see how they add up to a most excellent sum.
Spectrum Transmitter box
The 7XB is powered by a small transmitter box that must be connected to a source audio device (like your Xbox 360). The small USB poweredbox, is compact and not overly intrusive to your hardware setup. The transmitted features and adjustable master volume control as well as LED lights which indicate both power and the connection of the headset. The audio input is delivered to the box via a 3.5 mm stereo jack in the back.
The device is designed to piggy back on the audio connection on your Xbox 360 or any other device with red / white audio cables via an included coupler, it also includes a short 3.5 mm audio cable which allows you to connect other types of audio devices. For example, my television features a 3.5 mm audio connection for output purposes which enabled me to utilize the audio portion of the 7XB headset for not only my Xbox 360, but also my PlayStation 3 and general television usage. This has become immensely useful for my late night gaming sessions since I have a wife and child sleeping just a few rooms away.
The transmitter box utilizes a 2.6 GHz radio signal to deliver the audio to the headphones which helped to eliminate any and all interference issues that other headsets incur. Now, it should be noted that some devices will still cause problems with the signal if they are located too close to the device, but that is an issue with science and not the product. You won’t want to place this directly next to something like a cordless phone base or perhaps a 360 wireless adapter. When it is close to those sorts of things you will experience an occasional dropping of the audio signal, but as long as it is not sitting next to them, the quality of the sound signal delivered to the headset is clear and strong.
The 7XB headset itself is designed to be super comfortable while both eliminating background noise and delivering a great audio experience. In terms of “comfortability”, the headset itself and it’s earcups are contoured to hug your head in a snug yet un-intrusive manner. The headset just “feels good” whenever I have it one. The included leather earcups, which can be interchanged with cloth ones which can be purchased separately, are designed to rest around your ears rather than on top of them. This is a major perk for me as I absolutely hate headphones that put pressure directly on your ears; that isn’t an issue here. The large openings combined with the thick leather cushioning also work in conjunction with the “snug-ness” of the headset to eliminate nearly all background and environmental noise near the user. When you have them on, you get the sound from your audio source and nothing else. There is a wide range of volume settings available though you do not have to have them turned up very loud thanks to the around-the-ear design incorporated. If you like to pump it up though, the option is there but you really won’t need to max it out in order to get a quality level of sound.
Speaking of the audio sound, every device that I used delivered crisp and clear audio all around. Primarliy, I used the headset for gaming and the 50mm audio drivers that the device used provided a detailed auditory experience all around. It also did a great job at integrating the chat audio of multiplayer gaming with the actual in-game audio. There is a “LiveMix” button on the side of the headset that can be pressed in order to automatically adjust the balance of voice audio with the game audio, which does an excellent job at leveling the mix between the two. If and when things ever got a little “out of sync”, a simple press of the button almost always fixed things.
The headset also features a couple of other buttons on the right earcup including volume up and down buttons as well as a power switch. The final button on the set is the “EXACTSND” button which will allow users to switch between 3 preset settings for 4 distinct uses. The three settings are:
- Performance: This setting is designed to enhance detailed, directional sounds in most games. Sounds such as footsteps, gunshots, and explosions are enhanced so that you get audio indication of which direction they stemmed from.
- Immersion: Music and environmental sounds are the focus of this setting, which aims to make the user feel “surrounded” by the audio.
- Entertainment: This mode is mainly for movies and videos as it emphasizes the bass levels of the headset.
The design of these buttons is perhaps my only complain with the headset. While the location of each of them is convenient, resting near the back of the cup towards the bottom, it is hard to identify the buttons quickly. They are designed to rest pretty much flush with the back of the earcup itself, which makes locating them on the fly difficult, let alone identifying which on is which. It would have been super beneficial if the buttons were both raised up from the surface a little more and perhaps given distinct shapes depending on their function. As they stand in the actual design, you have to memorize the order in which they are laid out and often “feel around” to determine “where” you are in order to press the one you want. This is something that you get used to over time, but it could have been a ton more user-friendly. I should also note that the headset runs on a pair of AAA batteries which last for about 20 hours of usage. Thankfully, they will shut them selves down after 5 minutes of not receiving an audio signal should you forget to turn them off.
The microphone included on the 7XB is located inside of the left ear cup. The uni-directional microphone slides in and out of the earcup with little to no resistance. You can position the mic easily as it is made form a flexible material which allows it to be positioned in nearly every direction.
The microphone only supports chat though Xbox live as the 7XB includes a connector which runs from the left earcup to the Xbox 360 controller, plugging into the microphone jack on the controller. The connection uses a thick, braided cord which ensures that you won’t damage the wire through normal usage. It has a good length on it too, slightly longer than the standard 360 headset which makes sure that you don’t feel tied to the controller, despite the fact that you actually are.
All of these components combine to bring excellent audio from nearly any source your desire. Though it can be used with nearly any audio device, it is built for the 360 gamer and is better suited to serve them above all else. The 7XB is really a stellar headset for hardcore gamers, especially those that like to take their gear on the road. The sound quality combined with the ability to quickly hop between optimum audio settings provide an excellent auditory experience each and every time I use it. I have never worn a more comfortable pair of headphones, which says a lot considering how many I have tried in my lifetime. I highly recommend the 7XB for those looking to get a little more personal with their gaming audio.