We have always been a fan of the gaming-oriented products produced by SteelSeries. From the 5H headset first tested on Tom’s Games to the Siberia v2 we tried last year, the company always releases quality products, and that’s what we expect with the new 7H USB headset.
If you go to the SteelSeries website, you will find two 7H headsets, one is a USB version and the other only uses 3.5mm plugs (and is $30 less expensive). The USB portion of the 7H is simply a USB dongle included with the 3.5mm headset, which also comes with 3.5mm extension cords, a second set of fabric earpads (the ones attached to the 7H in the box are leather, so take your pick), users manual and a SteelSeries sticker. The 3.5mm cable connects to the headset via USB and completely detaches, similar to the quick-release on the Turtle Beach Z2.
From a design standpoint, the 7H looks like a SteelSeries headset, with the soft black coloring accented by plastic silver strips on the cans and headband. The headset breaks down into three pieces like the 5H v2, and has a similar hide-away mic that tucks into the left can. Unfortunately, the 7H is not nearly as comfortable as the Siberia or 5H v2 we tested in years past. In fact, this is by far the least comfortable headset in the roundup, as the headband is very stiff and feels constricting. This stiffness also goes down to the cans, which press a little too hard against the side of the head. This makes long sessions of CS or TF2 pretty uncomfortable, so big-headed buyer, beware!
The 7H is a tale of two headsets, for sure. When we used the 7H as a 3.5mm headset, the mic quality was excellent, the positional audio was perfect and overall, the audio was a pleasant experience. The lack of bass wasn’t as noticeable as on the Z2 or Specialist headsets, but it could have been better. When we used the USB dongle, the mic quality went from excellent to ugly. There was a steady stream of static and noise in the background, which remained even when we made the room virtually silent. Our Counter-Strike test subjects were none too pleased with the change, either. The dongle did make the headset louder, and thus the bass more present, however. While the 3.5mm experience was great, the USB dongle has a definite and negative impact on the 7H's sound quality score, especially since it costs an additional $30.
As for console compatibility, SteelSeries makes an Xbox 360 adapter ($9.99), which seems to be similar to the Turtle Beach offering. We did not test it, so we cannot comment on its performance, but if it works as advertised, then the $10 should be worth it.
The 7H has some shining moments and some dark spots, but at the end of the day, we have to ask: Why? For us, there isn’t any noticeable positive difference between the 5H v2 and 7H, with the exception that the cable completely detaches from the headset. The 5H v2 USB costs $30 less than the 7H USB, and based on our experiences with both, we would choose the former over the latter in a heartbeat. Any improvements that SteelSeries claims to have made have fallen on deaf ears. That said, the 7H still has above average audio quality and excellent mic quality (when you throw away the USB dongle). Overall Score - 3/5