Roccat ELO 7.1 Air & X Stereo Headset Review – Turtle Beach Audio, Roccat Design Aesthetics
Roccat ELO 7.1 Air/Roccat ELO X StereoSeptember 14th, 2020
Roccat has put out some beautiful hardware lately. I looked at both the Vulcan 121 keyboard and Kain 202 mouse earlier in the year and came away incredibly impressed. And now it seems Roccat have combined their design aesthetics and engineering talent with Turtle Beach's headset pedigree, as Roccat's new ELO series, the 7.1 Air and X Stereo headsets, are a wonderful fusion of what people love from Roccat's products and quality audio performance.
One of the most attractive parts of Roccat's offering here is 7.1 surround sound included in the ELO 7.1 Air - something not often seen for this price point, with the range of feature the headset has otherwise. Did they cut corners, or is this headset truly as good as it seems? Can the X Stereo headset live up to the quality of the 7.1 at less than half the price? Let me answer those questions for you.
In regards to the 7.1 Air, the functionality is clear from the marketing. The headset plugs into your PC with a USB dongle and once paired, you are ready to play. The X Stereo is a similar experience, with both headsets boasting 50mm drivers that sound excellent whether you're listening to music, watching movies, or, of course, gaming. Both headsets have a good balance of immersive bass and clear treble that helps you to distinctly pick instruments out of a song mix or footsteps in a first-person shooter.
The 7.1 Air is primarily meant to be used on PC, but the USB dongle can be plugged into a PS4 or Nintendo Switch for instant compatibility, and of course, the wired X Stereo headset is compatible with any device that includes an aux port, including all modern consoles. If we're looking at key differences between the two, then we're looking primarily at the software which powers them. The 7.1 Air's drivers sound clearer, and the software-supported 7.1 surround sound really does deliver an excellent spatial audio experience, one which can be easily convincing. The X Stereo meanwhile feels very, well, stereo, with distinct left and right channels, nothing more, nothing less. Add into the mix the fact that Turtle Beach's trademarked Superhuman Hearing only makes an appearance on the 7.1 Air, and that headset is a standout - you can read more about Superhuman Hearing in my review of Turtle Beach's Elite Atlas Aero headset.
A nice addition to the 7.1 Air is the selection of buttons and toggles on the headset itself. There's a dedicated volume wheel - always appreciated - and another volume wheel purely to adjust the volume of mic monitoring. This is excellent as it ensures you won't be raising your voice unnecessarily while chatting with friends and teammates online, and this is all in addition to a mic mute button. The X Stereo only features a volume slider and a mic mute button, sadly lacking mic monitoring entirely.
But this is a good opportunity to praise the microphones included with both headsets. They appear to be exactly the same, are fully detachable, and all of my friends and colleagues who have heard me use these microphones have had no complaints, and find the audio to be clearer than most of the headsets I use. This still isn't up to the standard at which you would record voiceover or run a professional streaming career, but for chatting with friends, this is great.
Design is where Roccat shines, and it's no different here. I adore the strong, sturdy headrest design - I think it looks stylish and feels comfortable. These headsets don't extend and retract, instead, the flexible headband rests on your scalp, and the sturdy steel prongs above it hold everything in place. I do feel that this might make the headset too unwieldy for children with small heads, but for adults - anyone with a full-size head - this is wonderfully comfortable and stylish. Though it does have a funny quirk: when tapped or flicked, the steel headband resonates like a tuning fork. This isn't too distracting, though I did chuckle when someone I was chatting to heard it while I was adjusting my headset.
I think the overall aesthetic design of both headsets is excellent, however, the RGB lighting will be divisive. Only the 7.1 Air includes RGB lighting on both sides of the headset, illuminating the Roccat logos. This is of course a part of Roccat's AIMO technology and can be synchronized with any other Roccat RGB gadgets you might have. Personally, I find this to be a little too much, it takes the headset from being aesthetically clean and professional to a little bit too "gamer." If that's the aesthetic you want, then you can't complain, but if I were to be wearing these in public or in the office, I like the understated style of the X Stereo better. Other than that, both headsets look and feel pretty much identical: they're sleek, stylish, and one is just a little too flamboyant, perhaps.
Having said that, I can't help but feel comfort was slightly sacrificed for the 7.1 Air. At the higher price point it's situated at, I would expect some extra features for comfort. Both headsets include the same memory foam cups, which are comfortable but aren't as soft as others I've tested, and the soft-plastic cover on the cups has the tendency to feel a bit sweaty or sticky after long sessions. I would've liked the 7.1 Air to come with some slightly more cushioned padding at the higher price point, but as it stands it's acceptable, not excellent.
At first, I thought this was going to be an obvious David VS Goliath situation between these two headsets. On paper, the 7.1 Air has more features than the X Stereo, and the software support is better. But despite those early judgments, I have to swallow my pride a little bit and admit that I was wrong. While the 7.1 Air is clearly the premium option here and will be very attractive to many gamers, the X Stereo includes very compelling audio quality, retains the same stylish design, and comes in at a much cheaper price.
If you're using your headset for hours a day and you can't stand to be tethered to your device, the 7.1 Air is a natural choice. The software will deliver excellent audio quality and the microphone will work great from meetings over Zoom or casual chats over Discord or PSN, with mic monitoring ensuring you don't shout at friends or bosses. The X Stereo meanwhile is an excellent option if you're on a budget but still want good audio quality whether playing games or listening to music.
Again, the Roccat ELO 7.1 Air is the clear choice if you're looking for a premium experience, and at £89.99 it's competitive even with Turtle Beach's own headsets. And at £39.99, the X Stereo offers a comparable audio experience at less than half the price - nothing to complain about. Either choice will give you an excellent gaming experience at their respective price points and will be a great way to experience upcoming games.
Review units provided by the manufacturer.
The ELO 7.1 Air is an obvious choice for gamers that will be getting a lot of use out of their headset, but if you're on a budget then the ELO X Stereo offers the same solid design aesthetic at less than half the price. Whichever headset you decide to use, you'll have an excellent audio experience whether you're playing games, watching movies, or listening to music.
- Stylish design
- RGB lighting, if you like that kind of thing
- Easy to use
- Compatible across many devices
- The 7.1 Air could've had softer ear cups
- RGB lighting, if you don't like that kind of thing
- Still unconvinced about surround sound headsets in general