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ASUS STRIX 7.1 headset review

To test the ASUS STRIX 7.1 headset, I used it as my main audio source for a week, which included several multi-hour gaming sessions – listening to a number of different musical genres and watching a couple of movies using it. Throughout, I took into consideration the comfort, audio quality and VOIP capabilities.

When it comes to gaming, the ASUS STRIX 7.1 does an excellent job of relaying information based on where things are thanks to the surround sound capabilities. When explosions are going off and bullets are whizzing over your head, it is all well represented and that helps immerse you in the action. The bass is substantial enough that you get a good sensation of the ground shaking beneath your feet as the shells land, but the audio remains clear so dialogue does not get lost in the mix.

This headset really does come into its own in games that are specifically designed to make use of positional audio. Take Alien: Isolation as an example. I played through a few sequences of the game, being chased by androids, stalked by the Xenomorph and the impact was fantastic – my heart was pounding all the time. It is an excellent game for giving you a feeling of presence (especially with the Occulus Rift enabled, which is how I have been playing through the game) but it is nicely enhanced by the accurate placement of noises around you.

Using a real surround sound headset versus one that just simulates gives a much better feeling of something really being behind you, which can be a terrifying experience. Sure with a standard stereo headset you might get a feel that that scream came from somewhere generally on your six, but the STRIX 7.1 gives much more accurate placement and it really aids immersion.

This is especially something that is important for Virtual Reality titles and it is why Oculus VR has implemented its own audio solution for the Crescent Bay (and likely consumer) version(s) of the headset – because accurate audio can make a game so much more real.

It is worth noting that the sound “spectrum” profiles which ASUS lets you select when gaming make a massive difference to how the headset sounds. They are essentially pre-baked EQ options and they can change how a game sounds quite dramatically. Make sure you choose the correct one, or have a play to see which you prefer when using this headset.

Turning the “spectrum” off however, engages the stereo-only-mode for the headset, making it more geared towards music listening.

As cool as the lighting on the headphones looks, it feels a bit redundant since you are the only one who cannot see it

In regards to audio quality, the STRIX 7.1 is equally capable. High and low frequencies are well presented, with an ability to produce bass notes that are tight, focused yet with plenty of impact. Cymbals and other high frequency instruments are beautifully represented, giving this headset an impressive sound profile for music – even if it is classed as a ‘gamers' headset.

One downside however, is that compared to other headsets we have tested in recent months, the absolute maximum volume of the STRIX 7.1 with the ‘amp' setting enabled, does seem somewhat limited. The volume level should satisfy most of the audience reading this, but if you like listening at the highest volume (close to potential ear damage levels) you might find the maximum setting  lower than you would want.

The STRIX 7.1 is a comfortable headset to wear for long sessions. The earcups are thickly padded and cushion your head all around, enhanced by its sheer size. I do think it might get a little hot wearing it in a warm environment, but at this time of year in the UK this is not exactly a problem.

All is not perfect however, and I need to comment on the plastic frame. It creaks a lot when moving . When you are sneaking away from a Xenomorph, with the volume cranked right up this is something you do not really notice. However, I think that is more telling of the game's engagement rather than the headset's design. If you are just listening to some quiet music while browsing the web, moving your head to look around occasionally or switching your gaze from one monitor to the other, it can become quite irritating.

Quiet Rift titles would likely have similar issues and it is something I hope ASUS fixes in the next generation of the headset, as it is one that was present in the original STRIX Pro.

The Command hub is versatile and gives you all of the usual options for adjusting headset volume and settings, without needing to resort to back-end software. This is a quick and easy way of doing things that makes it possible to do it in game without the need to tab-out. The fact that it takes up so much space on your desk may be problematic, but I like it.

VOIP is excellent and your voice comes through loud and clear with no background hiss to be heard. There's environmental noise cancelling for your mic feed too, so any background noise should be filtered out to keep your teammates from getting annoyed by your loud mechanical keyboard. You should barely hear it too, as the ENC setting on the control hub should filter that out too.

You probably will not hear much either, as the STRIX 7.1 does a great job of cancelling out any background noise for you too. Thanks to the earcups being foldable as well, if they do not quite cover your ears correctly, you can adjust them at will, or place them on your chest when not in use by folding them all the way out. That said, due to the size of the headset, I did find this compressed my neck a little.

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