It’s amazing how having good audio can affect your gaming sessions. Not only does it add to the immersion factor, but it can be the difference between making a kill and being killed. Your two options for audio are a set of speakers, or a headset. If you decide on a headset, then you have to figure out if you want a wired or wireless one. If I’m at my PC, I don’t really mind the wire, as I’m sitting right next to my computer anyway. However, I have no desire to run a cord all the way to my couch if I want to quietly play a game on my 360. Today we’re going to look the SteelSeries Spectrum 7XB wireless headset, which was designed specifically to work with the Xbox 360.
The 7XB has two major parts: the headset itself and the receiver. The headset is fairly lightweight, and features plenty of padding both at the top and around each ear cup. The leather ear cushions can be swapped out for a pair of cloth ones, but those have to be purchased separately. It is primarily black, with some gray accents and a SteelSeries logo on each ear. You’ll also find a white LED light that lets you know when the headset is powered on and connected.
On the left ear you’ll find a retractable mic. The mic can be moved around and positioned any way you like, rather than being stiff like you find on other headsets. There is also a port to plug into your 360 headset jack. On the right is a set of five buttons for power, volume controls and sound mixing. You’ll also find a compartment for your two AAA batteries hidden in the top of the ear cup.
The receiver itself is pretty simple. The back has a USB cable built-in, and a 3.5mm audio jack. There is also a volume dial. (You’ll want to keep this as low as possible, while still getting good sound through the headset. After the initial setup, you’ll use the volume buttons on the headset for adjustments.) Two LEDs on the front let you know when the device has power (from the USB cable) and when it is connected to the headset. The audio cable has 2.5mm jacks on each end, with an adapter for standard red and white RCA cables. Both RCA jacks have male and female plugs, allowing you to still connect them to your TV, if you wish.
One excellent feature that you’ll find is that the headset itself breaks down quite easily. Just below the top padding on each side is a release button. This detaches each ear cup, and a part of the band. You can toss these in a bag, and not worry that it’s going to snap because of poor positioning.
During my testing, I use the headset with an Xbox 360 at a range of between 4 and 10 feet away. The 7XB is rated for use at up to 30 feet away, and I was able to still get a signal at that distance, though when I approached the 30-foot mark, I did start to experience some audio loss. However, I found that as long as you were less than 25 feet away, the audio remained the same quality as when you’re right next to the receiver.
Speaking of audio quality, there are three different modes that you can select from. These are described as such:
For gaming you’re going to want to go with either Performance or Immersion. I found that most FPS seemed to work better with Performace, while other games I was more happy with the Immersion setting. Overall, both of these provided excellent audio. The 50mm drivers provided good clean sound, with just enough bass to make me happy. The only complaint I have is that they do only function in stereo, as opposed to delivering surround-sound.
One other feature I should make note of is LiveMix. If you’re playing a game online and want to chat with your teammates, you’ll want to hit the LiveMix button on the headset. This tells the headset to automatically adjust mix between the game and the voices of your teammates. When someone talks, it will immediately drop the volume of the game a bit, and increase the chat volume. Once it detects that the speaking has stopped, it will slowly bring the game audio back up over the next 1.5 seconds. This feature worked really well, and while the initial audio change wasn’t immediate, it helped immensely.
While these are not technically sound-canceling headphones, I will say that they do a great job of blocking out most other sounds. In fact, when you talk to your teammates, you’ll find that you can barely hear yourself talk. This can take a bit to get used to, and is only a minor annoyance.
Having a wireless headset for your 360 is a must. And from the others on the market I’ve seen, this would be my pick. The audio is nice and clean, with the ability to tweak it for different game and play styles. Also, being able to break them down and toss them in a bag is great. I do wish that they could have used the optical output, as I don’t like dealing with the hassle of connecting both the AV cables and HDMI to my 360. With a retail price of $180, they are salty, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find anything better on the market.