My search for the perfect gaming headset is finally over. Creative Labs’ latest Sound BlasterX H7 offers everything I ever wanted from a high-quality pair of headphones: sleek design, a sturdy build, uncomparable comfort, remarkable audio quality and, most importantly, affordability. Retailing at only $129.99, the H7 is the finest, and best priced, 7.1 headset I’ve used since SteelSeries’ Siberia 800.
Right out of the box, the H7 feels like a premium product. The design is a mix of elegant modernism and youthful playfulness. Its reinforced steel headband and aluminum architecture makes the H7 seem like it can withstand anything. The sturdy body is accompanied by a soft, leathery cushion headband and comfy ear cups. It’s especially exciting to discovered that Creative Labs has nixed all the shiny parts. The H7 is matte all around, which means no more fingerprints and smudges. For the most part, the H7 is aesthetically identical to the Sound BlasterX H5, save for the glowing X logo on the earcups.
At first glance, it’s easy to assume that the H7 is just a 7.1 surround sound version of the H5. While this is true for the most part, the surround sound integration in the new model is quite revolutionary. I test headphones on a weekly basis, and I’m relatively familiar with all the different surround sound emulation technologies out there, but the H7 immediately stands out as something truly unique. The surrounds sound quality is spectacular. The audio depth, clarity and richness are have no equal. When combined with Creative Labs’ revolutionary Scout Mode, the H7 transforms into a must-have gamer tool. If you play competitively, the Sound BlasterX H7 is going to become your best friend.
Like the H5, the H7 benefits from the same free software that Creative Labs provides to all of their products via their site. With the BlasterX Acoustic Engine Pro, users can make EQ adjustments and set custom modes for their listening preferences. The engine lets you tweak the surround sound intensity, crystallizer strength, bass, smart volume balance, dialog plus and it let’s you choose from numerous game-specific profiles that have been professionally calibrated for a select number of games.
I’ve gone through more than twenty games when testing the H7. I experimented with racing titles, shooters, horror games and even some rhythm titles. Playing every game with the H7 has been a transformative venture. Racing through the punishing courses of Project Cars is that much more immersive. You can hear the dirt being kicked up from the ground as you take sharp turns and fight your way through the crowds of roaring engines. Horror games are more terrifying than ever. Outlast, for example, already had great audio when playing in stereo, but with proper 7.1 surround sound, Outlast becomes an entirely new experience.
When I reviewed the H5, I praised the Scout Mode for being one of its best features, and the same holds true for the H7. Enabling Scout Mode enhances the surround sound in just about every way. Discrete details are amplified enough to stand out, but they never compete with the leading sounds. Everything sounds richer and crisper. Games with heavy environmental sounds can have an especially impressive impact on the listening experience. When you find yourself standing in the open fields of The Witcher 3 as the thunder devours your surroundings, you actually feel like you’re inside the game reliving everything as Gerald.
The rest of the H7 is very much identical to the H5. The H7 is the more luxurious model. I suppose my previous statement is somewhat true then. The H7 is mostly a surround sound version of the H5. Having said that, the surround sound benefits can’t be argued with. The difference between the H5 stereo and the H7 7.1 surround sound is gargantuan. It’s like stepping outside a cave into an open field. I can say this without any hesitation - The Sound BlasterX H7 is a phenomenal headset that any serious gamer absolutely needs as part of the gaming arsenal. As it stand, the H7 is the best gaming headset of 2016.
Review by: Tin Salamunic