We recently reviewed the SteelSeries 7H headset for iDevices and found it to be one of, if not the, finest headsets on the market. With outstanding sound reproduction, build quality, design and pretty much anything else you can think of, the only drawback was its single-focus upon Apple products.
A little earlier we'd reviewed the SteelSeries 5XB, a headset for the XBOX 360 which had good audio and was only really let down by the rather large amount of cables involved in getting it to work with all the XBOX features.
If only there was a way you could combine the excellent audio of the 7H, the ability to use it with our XBOX 360, but not have the same amount of cable spaghetti...
Enter the SteelSeries 7XB. A wireless 360 headset based upon the SteelSeries 7H. Sounds like just the ticket.
Thankfully the main headset is, at least in specifications, identical to the 7H which should ensure that the sound quality is of the very highest standard. The wireless box is compact and the 30 foot of range should be more than enough to ensure a trouble free gaming experience.
Let's take a look shall we.
As with all SteelSeries products the packaging is excellent. If there is a downside it's only that the XBOX 360 logo, naturally important, does spoil the flow of the box a bit. But aesthetics are a matter of taste so it's not the end of the world, especially as we're pretty sure the product will be good.
With a fair few elements contained within the box it's not a surprise to see the whole interior is encased within a plastic shell. Once this is disposed of we have the 7XB themselves. The design is very similar to the 7H, which can only be a good thing.
In fact a cursory glance and you'd say these were the 7H. We have a light headset with very robust build quality and serious comfort. The recessed microphone doesn't get in the way if you're planning to merely use the headphone element. In fact the only clue these aren't the same as we've just reviewed comes on the right earpiece which has a slew of buttons we'll get to on the next page.
We've seen a few 360 headsets over the last couple of months and they have all used the same method to get the audio from the XBOX 360 to your headset. The 7XB has a very different way of going about it as we'll soon see.
The headset to controller uses the same mini plug that we saw on the iDevice model. Despite being free of a retaining mechanism, we can assure you that even the most head-swaying person wont find it slipping out at the wrong moment.
Up Close continued
The right earpiece has all the important buttons. We have a + and -, which control the volume. The power switch does exactly what you'd expect. Next to that is the ExactSND button which switches between three pre-programmed equaliser settings. One is for the best directional audio clues, the next is a balanced setting and then finally one with enhanced bass for movies and music. Finally there is the LiveMix button which adjusts the sound balance so that the voices of your team-mates/enemies are placed higher in the mix for easier listening.
Whilst the 7XB only comes with one set of ear cushions, they are removable for easy cleaning and a set of cloth ones are available from SteelSeries for a small outlay.
The Microphone is a typical SteelSeries design, being retractable, flexible and yet always remaining where you've put it.
The Wireless connection is phenomenally easy to set up and the box draws its power from the USB port on the XBOX 360 itself. To connect the headset to the pad we have a high-quality braided cable with the standard mute toggle.
Normally a wireless headset has some extremely fiddly method to install the necessary batteries. The 7XB however has a touch of design genius by placing the battery compartment below the main frame of the headset. A simple flap enables battery installation and once they're on your head nobody would be any the wiser.
The primary benefit of the wireless design is the simplicity of installation and the reduction of cables it allows. You can use the supplied RCA adaptors to intercept the standard signal from a component cable or you can just use the 3.5mm jack and take off the headphone port of your television. Given that nearly all HD TVs have a headphone we're using that method today.
So the USB cable goes in the front of the 360, the 3.5mm cable goes in the TV, and with the batteries in place in the headset and the headset plugged into your controller, you're ready to go. If that sounds achingly simple it's because it is.
The SteelSeries 7XB performs very well indeed.
Audio reproduction is excellent. When we reviewed the 7H a fortnight ago we were astounded by the clarity of the audio across the whole range. Bass was tight and deep, mids were clear and the highs were smooth.
The transition from a standard type of headset into one designed for wireless gaming has been handled perfectly by SteelSeries. Often when you change the purpose of a product away from how it was originally conceived, a little something gets lost in translation. The 7XB most definitely doesn't lose anything. The audio is as brilliant as ever.
Comfort, despite the little extra weight brought about by the wireless technology, remains outstanding. You really could wear these all day, even if you wear glasses, without having any strain at all.
The LiveMix works well at helping your team-mates instructions, or your victims whines, cut through the cacophony. Equally the ExactSND definitely makes a difference when watching movies, an area that some gaming headsets with their mid-range focus don't perform so well in.
Finally the wireless is very good indeed. With so many items being wireless these days there is always the worry that you'll get crossed signals or lose connection at a vital moment. The 7XB has none of these problems with the signal remaining rock solid throughout all of our testing.
There is however a price to pay for this convenience. The cheapest we can find the SteelSeries 7XB is around the £140 mark. Now whilst the 7H is a bargain at £70, the 7H for iDevices about right at nearly £100 given the premium Apple products always command, this is heading towards 'expensive'. Sure it's got Wireless which naturally incurs an extra expense but this is twice the price and we're just not sure the convenience is worth paying double the standard headset.
Let there be no doubt, it IS brilliant. If you want the very best XBOX 360 headset, this is it. In a 'money is no object' world everyone should own a SteelSeries 7XB. If it was my money though I'd put up with the hassle of the few extra cables and a small reduction in sound quality and get the SteelSeries 5XB for £60.
Even with that hefty price-tag the SteelSeries 7XB is an exceptionally high quality product with great comfort, ease of use and most importantly sound reproduction and deserving of our Silver Award.
Thanks to SteelSeries for supplying the 7XB for review. Discuss in our forums.