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SteelSeries Spectrum 5XB Review

SteelSeries Spectrum 5XB Review

Manufacturer: SteelSeries
UK price (as reviewed): £58.79 (inc VAT)
US price (as reviewed: $84.99 (ex tax)

Getting the SteelSeries Spectrum 5XB out of the box is likely to inspire mixed emotions. You’re likely to be excited (yay my new headset is here) but as soon as you get them in your hands you’ll be wondering if they’ve forgot to add some components at the factory.

This is because the 5XB is an extraordinarily light headset, which is both a good and a bad thing. It makes the headset comfortable to wear for extensive periods as there is barely any weight there for your head or ears to support, but it also means that the headset feels insubstantial.

It’s a bit of a strange criticism, but you’re likely to be left feeling slightly cheesed that you’ve just shelled out close to sixty notes for something that doesn’t feel like there is all that much to it, especially compared to other headsets such as the Corsair HS1 or the Creative Tactic Sigma. The plastic that the headset is made out of doesn’t feel particularly sturdy either.

SteelSeries Spectrum 5XB Review SteelSeries Spectrum 5XB Review
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You’ll probably also be slightly shocked by how short the audio cable attached to the headset is - it measures less than a metre. This shock should be short lived though as you’ll soon find that SteelSeries bundles a long extension cable with the headset. This cable is important to the 5XB as it adds the Xbox 360 support that SteelSeries is so keen to tell you about on the box. This arrangement has some benefits to it – you can use the short cable when leaving the house and pairing the 5XB with a MP3 player and the longer extension cable when at home gaming.

Unfortunately for PC gamers though it means you’re stuck with the silly bulbous Xbox 360 adapter that plugs into the console’s controller hanging half way along your audio cable. This is far from ideal, especially when you realize that the adapter also requires power from a USB port to function. The adapter also introduces some noise to the sound input line as the headset produces an annoyingly constant hiss when plugged in via the extension cable. This was annoying when sitting on the Windows desktop or at silent points in games.

The headset’s microphone can be found handily concealed in the left hand ear cup. We found this design preferable to the more normal boom microphone as it meant we could use the headset while out on the move without looking like a prize idiot.

SteelSeries Spectrum 5XB Review SteelSeries Spectrum 5XB Review
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The sound that the 5XB puts out is pleasingly beefy, though it’s skewed noticeably towards the bass end of the scale. This is great for gaming as it makes games feel immersive and powerful; explosions, shots and gear changes had a pleasing fullness to them.

Orchestral or acoustic music on the other hand feels a little muddy and confused. It’s not a complete deal breaker - we’d still be happy to use the 5XB on a daily basis to listen to music - but it’s disappointing at this price point. At least the headset has plenty of volume on tap though; we rarely needed to take it past half volume.

Conclusion

The Spectrum 5XB is clearly aimed at gamers; it excels in the punchy bass ranges that games favour so much and it’s comfortable to wear for extended periods of time. Unfortunately though this means it lacks balance when doing something other than calling in mortar strikes in Bad Company 2.

The final kick in the teeth for PC gamers is the need to use the Xbox 360 extension cable when at your PC thanks to the short length of the standard cable. This introduces annoying distortion to the sound input and is bulky too. As a result the Spectrum 5XB is only worth looking at if you specifically need a headset that can work with your Xbox 360 and your PC. For everyone else the Razer Carcharias or Creative Tactic Sigma are better buys.

Specifications

  • Cup type Circumaural
  • Connection Wired, 3.5mm mini-jacks with 3.5mm mini-jack + USB extention
  • Driver(s) 40mm
  • Frequency response 75Hz to 16kHz
  • Impedance 40 ohms
  • Sound
    30 / 40
  • Design
    19 / 30
  • Value
    20 / 30

Score guide
Where to buy

Overall 69%

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