The design of the 5XB reminds us a little of the SteelSeries 7H Gaming headset which we reviewed a while back. That said, there are some differences between the two. Firstly, the 5XB is finished in glossy black plastic, rather than matte, with bright green highlights. This makes it look a little cheap in comparison, despite the feel of the plastic being up SteelSeries’ usual level of quality.
Like the 7H, the 5XB has a closed-cup design, giving the headset an enhanced level of noise isolation. The cloth-covered foam ear pads on each cup make the headset comfortable to use for extended periods of time, despite not being quite as attractive and hard wearing as leatherette pads.
Inside each earcup there is a high-quality 40mm SCS driver unit with a frequency response of 16 – 28000Hz and an impedance of 40 ohms. Inside the left earcup there is a retractable microphone which has a frequency response of 75 – 16000 Hz, a sensitivity of -38dB and an impedance of 2000 ohms.
In a similar fashion to all their headsets that we’ve reviewed in the past, the 5XB has a large SteelSeries logo expanding across most of the headband. The headband itself is adjustable and has a leatherette pad for comfort. The headband can be dethatched from the earpieces on either side for easier transportation.
Arguably, the most important part of the 5XB is the Spectrum AudioMixer which lets you connect the headset itself to an Xbox 360. For those who already have a gaming headset and would like to use it with their Xbox without forking out for the 5XB too, the Spectrum AudioMixer is available separately for around £25.
The AudioMixer unit attaches to the bottom of the controller in a similar way to the standard Microsoft headset. On the top of the AudioMixer there is a microphone mute switch accompanied by independent volume controls for game sounds and chat. We are a little disappointed with the quality of the microphone mute switch which is of a sliding variety. If you don’t slide it quite far enough then the microphone stays active even though the green ‘on’ light is extinguished.
On the underside of the unit there is another sliding switch to enable ‘LiveMix’. LiveMix dynamically alters the chat and game volumes so you can clearly hear teammates over the game sounds when they speak by reducing the game volume.
The headset connects to the AudioMixer using two 3.5mm connectors for the headphone and microphone. Then, the AudioMixer connects to the XBOX controller using the 2.5mm cable, the XBOX using a USB cable and to the TV using a 3.5mm cable. In case your TV doesn’t have a 3.5mm connector, there is an RCA adapter included.
Even though SteelSeries have braided the cable on the actual headset, the AudioMixer cables all have a plastic shielding which seems like a bit of a mismatch to us. It’s a similar story with the connectors; the headset itself has gold plated connectors and the AudioMixer has silver connectors. This shouldn’t have much of an impact on audio quality, though.