Just like with the other headsets there are the usual points to consider when checking them out, these are Gaming, Media and Comfort. In this case, we will be expanding the gaming performance tests to include Xbox gaming due to the headset being specifically designed with Xbox Live in mind. However, due Xbox orientated design, they have removed the ability to use the microphone when connected to the PC, just like the iPhone edition, so because of this we will not be testing the microphone quality on the PC. With the headset being wireless, we will also look at how long they endure for and the range.
Straight out of the box the headset can be connected to your Xbox or PC, without the need to install any drivers for the latter. In order to function correctly the transmitter must be connect via USB into the PC/Xbox along with the 3.5mm audio jack - for the Xbox, there is an adaptor provided. Once connected the headset needs to be synced with the transmitter (which is by default) with a push of a button on both the headset and transmitter. In order to use the mic with Xbox live there is an addition cable that connects into the Xbox controller via the mini USB port on the headset. There is also a switch to mute the mic on the cable. All of this was very easy to do, with no need to refer to the manual.
As usual, we will test the 7XB for several hours on both the PC and Xbox, with the Call of Duty: Black Ops on the Xbox and Counter Strike: Source and Battlefield: Bad Company 2 on the PC. Like all the other versions of the headset, the sound was crisp and precise on both platforms. Unlike the previous models however, the ExactSND button allowed on-the-fly changes to the sound quality that takes into account low, mid and high tones that provided much deeper bass - something very important for Bad Company 2.
When it came to using the mic the headset has a button that can optimise the audio/mic quality to suit ingame or Xbox live chat. This improved the quality of the audio when in chat and reduced it slightly ingame to reduce the bandwidth used - a very nifty feature.
Again, just like with the other headsets, we tested its performance across a wide range of songs. Just like the gaming test, the different keys and tones were very precise and crisp. The lack of bass on some settings meant the ExactSND button had to be pressed to cycle through the correct tone range to get the optimal quality.
Now this is where things got interesting, the headset’s volume level is independent to the transmitters, resulting in 2 different volume levels (3 if you include the PC’s volume levels). Upon enquiry as to why, this is what SteelSeries said:
The reason for including a volume control on the transmitter is that we don’t know what equipment that the transmitter will be plugged in to. It could be the TV output, the Xbox output, a stereo system, whatever. These could have different output levels and we wanted to be able to adjust the input sensitivity to deal with every possible input level.
Most companies wouldn’t account for this, so thumbs up to SteelSeries for thinking of it.
Comfort and wireless performance
Just like the previous models, the 7XB was tested over several hours of use, so like the others, the headset did get more uncomfortable the longer they were worn, due to the slightly too small ear cups. To avoid this, constant adjustments needed to be made. The buttons on the ear cup are not easily distinguishable from one-another, which meant there was some difficulty locating the correct button whilst wearing the headset.
As for durability, the 2x AAA batteries provided lasted about 10 hours, which isn’t bad considering the quality of audio you are receiving. However, the lifespan for the headset is strongly dictated by the quality of the batteries, as when lower quality batteries were used, the lifespan was drastically reduced to about 3 hours. So skimping out on the batteries is not recommended!
SteelSeries say the range of the headset is approximately 9m, which can vary depending on the structure of the building. For this review however, I was able to take a walk downstairs with the headset on, whilst listening to music, with hardly any interference or a drop in signal.