As time moves on the gap between different technologies is ever shrinking.
Whereas once your mobile did phone calls, a Walkman provided your audio and a Filofax was your planner, or even more recently where your mobile did calls and email, an iPod sorted your music needs and your laptop did all the larger jobs, these days it's nearly all handled by a single device.
This presents special challenges as you no longer require a pair of headphones solely for music, but rather one that can handle every type of media the very latest gadgets can throw at them.
Regulars of OC3D will know how highly we rate SteelSeries' range of headphones and headsets. Almost without exception they provide the perfect combination of clarity and comfort. Now if only you could have this quality but with the ability to control your music playback or answer a phone-call.
Enter the SteelSeries 7H for i Devices.
Being based upon the top of the line SteelSeries 7H these are positively bristling with features. So much so that we've got three pages dedicated to highlighting them all. For the minute though, here are the numbers.
So let's move on and take a look at the 7H shall we.
Up Close - Packaging
Packaging for the 7H is of the very high quality that we've come to expect from SteelSeries. The whole front of the box opens allowing you a closer look, but obviously today we shall just dive right in. We never tire of the design from SteelSeries as the box has everything you could desire without cluttering the whole experience up with peripheral badges and things.
Once you've opened the box we have yet further proof of the premium nature of the 7H. No flimsy plastic and sticky bits of card here. The 7H are well protected within a specially designed furry housing, with plastic covering all the possible points of contact between the headset and the packaging. Even the cable, normally an afterthought in these matters, is retained by a plastic clip ensuring you don't have to tug on it and therefore over-stress it in the removal process. It's the little things that make all the difference.
And here it is out of the box and stripped of its protective film. Let's move on to page three and get a close look at the various features of the 7H for i Devices.
Up Close - The Headset
Most of the 7H is made of very high quality plastic. Anyone who has experienced a high-end item will be aware of the difference between the kind of plastic that frozen food comes in and the type used in a Mercedes or similar. The 7H definitely is of the superior type. The headband has the SteelSeries logo embossed in the top. Comfort for the top of your head is handled by a soft leather bar which really handles what little weight there is with aplomb.
The hingest between the cups and the headband are again of a high calibre. There is a lot of movement to ensure the cups themselves fit perfectly on a variety of head shapes, without it ever being wobbly or similar undesirable traits.
The left ear piece certainly has a lot going on. As always the microphone is on the left hand side and typically for SteelSeries its recessed in nice so it's unobtrusive when not in use, but easy to grab when you have to make/answer a call.
At the lower end is the connector for the remote control cable. Whilst it might initially seem strange to not have the cable hard-wired, it means that if some accident should befall the cable it's a very quick replacement without needing to return, or even purchase, the whole unit. The devil is in the details.
Quality has always been high with SteelSeries microphones and so it's understandable that this, the highest of their range, continues their adherence to excellence. Because it folds away so neatly you haven't got a giant lump stuck to your head when not in use, and when extended it is flexible enough to go wherever you place it, but sturdy enough to stay there.
Up Close - Control
What would be the point in a headset designed for portable devices if it wasn't capable of breaking down into an easily portable manner? The SteelSeries 7H has two little clips just below the headband that with a little pressure can dismantle the cups and allow the it to reduce down to a more manageable size. The design of these deserves particular praise. There is absolutely no chance at all of them ever becoming loose even with repeated use.
Speaking of which, the 7H comes with a choice of pads for your ears. It comes equipped with leather ones for maximum sound isolation, but a set of foam ones are supplied if you've a preference for the comfort that they provide. A gentle pull and they come off revealing the speakers which are doubly protected to safeguard them from an errant finger when the pads are off.
Reattaching them is simplicity itself. On the pad backs you can see a small orange dot. Align that with the orange dot at the top of the speaker and it all clips into place snugly.
Finally the cable contains the remote which allows the 7H to control any of the Apple devices without removing them from wherever they are kept.
As you can see from the multi-pole 3.5mm jack the 7H handles audio output, microphone input and the remote features. The remote itself is a three-button affair with the plus and minus handling the obvious louder and quieter side of things and the middle button, here designated by the SteelSeries logo, handling everything else via multiple presses.
A single press will answer/end a call or play/pause your audio. Press it and hold it and you can decline a call or, if you're already in a call, allows you to end the current call and switch to an incoming one. A double press will skip forwards to the next song. A double press and hold will fast forward. Equally a triple press skips backward a song and a triple press and hold rewinds.
Although it seems a lot if you think of one press as start stop, two as forwards and three as backwards then it takes a couple of minutes to be utterly familiar with everything it can do.
Quality and Ease of Use
No need to beat about the bush here, or even leave you wondering for a moment. The quality of the SteelSeries 7H is impeccable. Every single thing about them is designed without compromise.
The packaging is the first hint that you've purchased a premium item and the 7H leaves you in no doubt at all. The box is seriously rugged and the internals are outstanding. The 7H are kept snug in a purposely designed soft plastic container, with non-residue plastic coating any potential points of contact making certain that the headset is in perfect condition. We've seen a few headsets where the cable, not the easiest thing to pack in the world, is stuffed in wherever it will fit and requires a certain force applied to it to remove it from the packaging. Here we have no such issues with the cable coming out smoothly and without any stress upon it.
Making an item that you can take apart, without compromising the solid nature of it, is always tricky. If you build it too rugged then it wont come apart easily and will be frustrating to use, yet build it to be easily dismantled and it will quickly become wobbly in those places you don't want it to be. SteelSeries have nailed the sweet spot between those two extremes perfectly. Very little force is required to change the ear covers or take the 7H apart for easy transportation, yet when its put back together it feels as crisp as it did the first time you took it out the box.
The remote is simplicity itself to use and the benefits of being able to control your audio and telephony without needing to endlessly remove your iPod/iPhone from your pocket cannot be overstated. Anyone who has put their iPod on shuffle and gone "skip, skip, skip, this one, skip, skip" etc will know how frustrating it can be. With the 7H you just double tap the logo on the remote and you're on to the next song. Fantastic. Equally answering and ending a call, putting one on hold or ignoring it altogether couldn't be simpler. If you've never experienced using an in-line remote in combination with your Apple product, you're really missing out.
Comfort is second only to audio quality in the desirability stakes, and the 7H's are incredibly comfortable. Even though the sponge ear pieces are designed to be the comfort pair, the leather ones are soft enough that when combined with the light weight of the unit and the excellent headband padding you can wear these all day without any fatigue at all.
All these fancy tricks and prodigious build quality would be meaningless if the audio reproduction was anything other than stellar. Thankfully, but unsurprisingly, the audio is glorious. I've used a pair of SteelSeries 5H as my iPod headphones for months and these blow them away. No element of the soundscape is compromised or overly emphasised. Bass is tight and enough to make your fillings tremble, yet the mids are still crisp and clean with lovely glassy highs. The microphone is up to the normal high SteelSeries standards.
Given my plethora of superlatives regarding the build quality and comfort of the 7H the highest compliment I can give is that the audio itself is the most impressive part of the 7H. It truly is fantastic.
It's rare that we get a product that hasn't got any little niggles to spoil things. Even searching really intently for a quibble, there are none. The SteelSeries 7H are staggering. Even though the price is at the premium end of the non-audiophile headset market the product is so brilliant that they're almost a bargain. Especially when you compare the price of the 7H to any official Apple audio item, and the SteelSeries totally trounce those in every department.
One of the easiest OC3D Gold Award winners we've seen.
Thanks to SteelSeries for supplying the 7H for iDevices for review. Discuss in our forums.