Roccat Elo 7.1 Air Gaming Headset Review
The best wireless PC headset under $100
NOTE: Roccat graciously sent me a final retail version of this headset to review at my discretion alongside marketing assets and technical information. I don’t receive a kickback if you decide to buy one, and none of the links in this article are affiliate links. I wasn’t sponsored to write this, and I had full editorial control over this article.
Until last week, I’d never tried a Roccat product. I had no particular reason for this, I simply just never got around to it.
Now I feel silly. This headset blew past all of my expectations.
Roccat has a reputation for providing high quality gaming peripherals at a competitive lower price point. In late 2019, they merged with Turtle Beach. The Roccat Elo headset lineup is the first audio gear to come out of this acquisition, featuring a mix of Roccat’s industrial design and Turtle Beach’s audio technologies and ear pads.
The result is an incredible value for the money. It combines excellent comfort, features, and sound quality into a headset that I’ll happily continue to use after posting this review. It’s my new go-to recommendation for PC headsets at the $99 price point, and it’d take a real beast to knock it out of that spot.
The Roccat Elo 7.1 Air (official web site here) is a wireless, closed back RGB gaming headset targeted primarily at PC gamers. It’ll technically work on other platforms, but you’ll need Roccat’s Swarm software on Windows to get everything out of it. It retails for an MSRP of $99. Battery life is rated at 24 hours with the lights off. It has more features than basically any other gaming headset I’ve tested at this price point.
Inside the box you get the headset itself, some setup information, a nice 2m USB cable, and a removable microphone.
In a rarity for cheaper wireless headsets, the Elo 7.1 Air has full RGB lighting on the ear cups, with support for Roccat’s AIMO intelligent lighting synchronization system. There’s also a two-mode virtual surround sound system, which is easily configured without fiddling with Windows control panels since the headset always appears as a 7.1 device. The included software EQ ships with a variety of presets, including a balanced mode that smooths out the gentle emphasis of the headset’s tuning and provides a reasonably accurate listening experience for the audiophile-inclined, and a variety of other fun options. You can even tune the sensitivity of the microphone and activate digital mic noise cancelling.
My previous now-defunct recommendation at this price point was the HyperX Cloud Stinger Wireless. Although the cheaper “Core” version of that headset recently got surround support on PC, it doesn’t offer RGB lighting, has a shorter battery life, and doesn’t offer any kind of EQ settings.
Roccat also sells two lower-priced versions of this headset. The $69 Elo 7.1 USB trims the wireless support but keeps the other features from the Air model. The $49 Elo X Stereo uses a standard wired 3.5mm connection, and trims out frills like RBG, surround sound, and software EQ, delivering a pure audio experience that’ll work with any platform. I’ll have a review of that model out soon.
SOUND QUALITY/VIRTUAL SURROUND
When I put on the Elo 7.1 Air for the first time, I was floored by how good the sound was. Sure, it has some extra oomph in the upper bass and the treble on its default tuning, but overall it pumps out clean, accurate sound that’s much better than I was expecting.
In fact, this is one of the best-sounding gaming headset I’ve ever listened to. If you turn on the “balanced” EQ option, it gets quite neutral, flattening out some of the small bumps in the sound signature, which is perfect for music fans and critical listeners. However, I like the gentle thump and the enhanced treble energy of the default tuning. It’s really great for gaming. The powerful, clean bass gives explosions and other impacts a fun thump, and there’s enough spatial detail for pinpoint directional listening.
The sound here competes proudly with other popular $99 gaming headsets like the HyperX Cloud Alpha, and the full EQ means you can tweak and refine it to your heart’s content.
Roccat offers two different virtual surround modes: “Clarity” and “Balanced.” The Clarity mode is free of any kind of room simulation artifacts, offering a gentle “reference-mixing-room” style of surround sound, while Balanced pushes the channels a little further away and introduces some gentle reverb to give the impression of sitting in a nice living room setup.
Both modes sound great, and accurately place 7.1 audio from games all around your listening position. They’re not quite as dynamic as Windows Sonic, Dolby Atmos, or JBL’s QuantumSURROUND, all of which offer height channel support, but as virtual 7.1 systems go this is still excellent. I preferred the straightforward sound of the Clarity mode and used that for a good chunk of my four day onslaught of listening tests.
Turtle Beach’s “Superhuman Hearing” mode is also available here, and it’s mainly for folks playing a lot of competitive shooters, rather than for general gaming or music listening. It drops away large chunks of the sound spectrum, focusing entirely on the range where footsteps noises and other positional cues usually reside. It works surprisingly well, and I had fun messing with it for a while, but I mostly listened with this mode turned off as I preferred the full, rich sound the headset is capable of.
The Elo 7.1 Air fit me perfectly from the first moment I put it on. Its suspension headband is soft and perfectly tensioned to make the 345g weight balance naturally on my head. The clamp is tight enough to keep it in position but loose enough to be comfy. And the cups have enough swivel that they should fit well on almost any head shape.
At first glance, the pads on the Elo 7.1 Air look a little weird. They have a contoured design, where the top and bottom each protrude out a bit more than the center. The bottom edge is also heavily sculpted, with a prominent edge along the rear. All of this sculpting is quite brilliant, because it helps the pads to seal against my head better than traditional flat headphone pads.
The padding itself is a fast-rebounding memory foam, and although it’s not quite as plush as the padding on HyperX’s models, it still gets the job done. The center of each pad features a soft groove of special squishier foam padding that helps them seal correctly around glasses, which Turtle Beach calls the “ProSpecs” system. This is a wonderful feature I’ve loved on Turtle Beach headsets in the past, and that I’ve only ever seen Razer copy. I wish every headset pad accommodated glasses wearers like this.
The angled drivers provide plenty of room inside the cups for my ears, which aren’t touched or pinched in any way by the headset. The moderate clamp and stiffer-than-average pads mean that the headset doesn’t quite “disappear,” but it’s completely comfy to wear for multi-hour sessions.
The excellent seal of the sculpted pads helps with isolation and sound response as well. These isolate slightly better than I was expecting, and my glasses don’t impact the bass delivery here as much as on some other headsets.
I have a larger than average head, and it’s such a relief when a headset fits well the very first time I put it on. The contoured pads on the Elo 7.1 Air give it an extra boost over most of the competition.
Both the build and design of this headset are more functional than stylish, and that’s okay with me. The aesthetics are as much “nineties studio headphone” as they are modern gaming headset, with the RGB lights the only thing here that screams “gaming.”
The plastics used in the ear cups and support yokes are the only evidence that this is a cheaper-than-average product. They’re not bad at all, but basic, with a matte finish and unremarkable feel in the hand. The headband is made of a nice metal, and headband pad is finished with nice stitching. The rotation joints for the ear cups are smooth and nicely damped, giving their movement a nice slow premium feel. This is something I wish more gaming headsets would implement.
If you move your jaw while the headset is on, you might hear a small creak as the spring loaded headband adjusts. And yes, if you tap the metal headband while you’re wearing the headset, you’ll hear a metal ping noise. I have no idea why anyone ever does this, but I thought I’d mention it for the one person out there who will ask.
Stepping up to higher-priced headsets will get you fancier builds and material choices. But this headset has everything you need in the build department, and nothing you don’t.
The battery life is rated at 24 hours with the lighting off, and I exceeded that by about two hours in my testing, hitting the 26 hour mark at forty percent volume. With the lights turned on, I get about 15 hours of use. That’s excellent for this price! The headset recharges over USB-C, unlike certain Bluetooth models I reviewed recently, and Roccat includes a nice 2m USB cable finished with their logo and a smooth rubber coating.
Wireless range isn’t top tier but still pretty great. I can get about thirty feet away with a couple of walls in the way inside my apartment before the sound breaks up. I don’t ever play PC games this far from my PC, and in the same room it worked excellently with no noticeable lag.
The tiny wireless dongle is the only way to connect this headset to anything, with no backup wired connection option or Bluetooth available. While those are both nice features to have, at this lower price point I can’t hold it against the headset especially when the rest of it is so good.
On the back of the left ear cup are two volume wheels, one for overall volume and one for mic monitoring. The internal amplifier is plenty loud, and I found I was more than comfortable listening around 40 percent depending on how dynamic the game was. There’s also a handy mic mute button that’s easy to find. The power button is quite small so you won’t ever accidentally hit it.
RGB is as full-featured as you could ask for, with a few different effects to choose from, and I like the asymmetric design of having the Roccat text logo on one cup and their cat insignia on the other. It also supports their AIMO lighting system, which will sync smart automatic lighting across all of your supported peripherals. This is great especially if you’re planning on streaming while wearing these, or if you just like fun lighting effects.
The Swarm software presents a whole big pile of options, and alongside the sound and comfort, this is the standout thing about the headset. I can’t think of another wireless headset priced this cheaply that offers so many bonus features done so well. The Corsair Void series attempted that, but with much worse battery life and questionable sound performance.
Mic performance is right in line with the rest of the headset: solid, and better than I expected. In addition to a welcome sensitivity adjustment, the mic also has toggleable digital noise cancelling. It also offers a silly voice changer called “magic voice” that I didn’t really use or find a need for. This feels like a throwback to much older gaming products, and you might have fun with it for a few minutes…or it might irritate your friends.
I love everything about this headset. The more I used it, the more it impressed me. It doesn’t have quite the same plush build or design of the HyperX Cloud II Wireless, but it costs fifty dollars less…and comes with RGB support, excellent sound and comfort, and a much larger suite of software controls.
If you’re looking for a PC-focused gaming headset and you want to spend $99, this is the new best place to start. It’s priced competitively and it offers an impressive and comprehensive suite of features, alongside sound quality that’s great for music and movies in addition to games. If you want the flashiest design you’ll have to look elsewhere, but if you want the biggest list of features and raw performance for your money, this is a perfect choice.