The quality of Steelseries headsets finally given a chance to have an impact on the XBOX
Readers of this site will know I am quite partial to the headsets that Steelseries sell. This is because they tend to bridge the gap between price, quality and performance very well. However, until now I have only been able to experience these headsets with my PC.
Enter the Spectrum 5XB.
The Spectrum 5XB is 2 products in one. The first is the Headset (the actual 5XB). The second and most important part is the Spectrum mixer. This is what allows you to use the headset with the XBOX and is just a little bit magic, but more on that later.
All in all, this is a very good package.
Let’s start with the Headset. The 5XB is based on one of Steelseries’ other headsets, the 5H. Whilst not the newest of their products, it is still a very good quality piece of kit, easily a match for similar products in the price range (Around £70 at time of writing). With its striking black and green colour scheme, retractable microphone and ear covering cans, this certainly stands out. The headphones are powered by 40mm speakers, which whilst not as good as those in the 7H, should not disappoint. The audio quality is excellent. Clear highs and mids and decent (though not earth shattering) bass. Playing Call of Duty: Black Ops with these on is a joy. Whilst not surround sound, they certainly provide a good enough soundscape to give near perfect directionality.
The build quality, as you would expect, is also excellent. The headphones have a soft cloth padding that surrounds your ears, so place no pressure them. The headband is also padded, and does not make you feel like your head is in a vice. Overall, I found you can wear these for many hours with no discomfort or unpleasant sweating! The headset can also be broken down into 3 pieces for easier carrying. Not essential, but nice to know it is there. The cable is surrounded with a tough braid. This means that it is not only strong, but seems to tangle a lot less. However, some may find that there is extra noise created when the braid rubs on clothing. I didn’t, but I do know of people who have found it to be a problem. The lead is also quite short, not a problem for use with the XBOX as it is plugged into your controller, but does make them a little harder to use with other devices such as a PC.
In the left headphone there is a retractable and flexible microphone. A feature that appears on all of the current Steelseries headsets, it is still a welcome addition here. It allows you to position the microphone just where you want, as it is not fixed on a single pivot. In use the microphone provides clear replication of your voice, with minimal background noise.
So the headset is very good, if not the best available. But that is just one half of the whole. The other half is the Spectrum mixer.
This little gadget is what makes the package such a worthwhile purchase. Plugging into the peripheral port on your controller, the Spectrum is what lets you use your headset with the XBOX. Now, I have to be honest. It is not the most elegant of solutions in this new wireless world. Running from the Spectrum is a lead. This lead splits into two leads. One plugs into a free USB port on your XBOX for power. The other runs round to the back of your TV and connects to your left and right auxiliary out ports (if you have them). The spectrum then takes the output from your TV, which is just the normal sound from the game, with the Xbox LIVE communications output you would normally get with standard headsets.
Let’s just get the bad bit out of the way. If you have a wireless controller, this will kind of make it pointless. You have to have a lead running from the controller and have to use a USB port. If you can deal with that, read on!
The Spectrum mixer has a few controls on it. On the top is a switch to mute the microphone, very handy if you don’t want the world to hear everything going on in your room (and god do I wish more people used mute!). On the sides are controls for adjusting the volume of the TV input and the XBOX Live input. But it is underneath that you find the control that makes this device stand out. The LiveMix switch. Once this is enabled, the Spectrum will begin to dynamically alter the two inputs. When you are playing your game, as soon as someone starts to speak, it slightly lowers the games volume, meaning you can hear the voice far more clearly than you would just using a standard communications headset. Once the voice chat is over, it raises the games volume again. It is all very subtle, but having played with and without it enabled, it does make a big difference to how much of the voice chat you hear clearly.
Another bonus from adding the Spectrum Mixer, is it gives you a standard set of headphone and microphone ports on your handset. This means that should you not be crazy about the supplied 5XB headset or should it get lost or stolen, you can use any standard headset. Great if you happen to have a Siberia headset lying about the pc!
All in all, this is a very good package. The supplied headset is easily good enough for all but the most hardened audiophiles. The Spectrum mixer is great and the LiveMix mode makes it very simple to just set and forget about. If you can forgive the fact it will add a lead to your probably wireless set up, and will limit you to sitting within about 12ft of your XBOX, then this will make a great addition to your set up.
- 40mm speakers
- Impedance: 40 Ohm
- Frequency: 16-28,000 Hz
- Cable: 1m Braided
- Jacks: 2* 3.5mm
- Retractable microphone: 75-16,000 Hz, unidirectional
Gold Y Award
The Bad: Needs a lead from the controller to a free USB port AND your TV. 5XB headset is not best that Steelseries do.
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