Sound BlasterX H7 Gaming Headset Review: Like an H5, with a DAC stuck to it
The H5 and the H7 have technically been discontinued, and replaced by “Tournament Edition” versions. These new versions are slightly cosmetically altered, and Creative claims the driver tuning is different, though they’re using the exact same drivers. So, unless I find out something significant has changed, consider these two reviews mostly applicable to the newer Tournament Editions.
The H7 is available for a steal at retailers that still have stock. It’s normally $120 but I got one for $70. Like the H5, it’s a great headset, though it has one quirk that I don’t like as much. I’m going to abbreviate these categories a bit since both headsets are nigh-identical.
The H7’s sound signature has a focus on the mids and highs…strange for a gaming product! Bass is present, but relaxed and just a touch underdone. I wonder if the Tournament Edition’s new tuning changes this? You can boost the bass up with the included USB sound card and Sound BlasterX software, and you might actually want to do that. The otherwise- balanced sound is probably good for hearing things like footsteps, but the low end might seem a little lame compared to other headphones you’ve used. I like how they sound, and if you’re a detail hound looking for a gaming product, these will serve you well.
Soundstage is wide and great, and nicely pulled apart, especially for a closed headphone. It’s not quite in Beyerdynamic territory, but it’s close!
Just like the H5, the H7 is top-tier for comfort. The headband and ear pads are plushly padded with memory foam. The ear cups have plenty of room inside for your ears. I have to wear them extended out all the way, but I have a big head. You should be able to wear these all day, no problem. They heat up a little bit, about middle of the pack as far as ear heat goes.
The build here is nigh-identical to the H5, but with black forks holding the ear cups instead of silver ones.
Now we get to the thing I don’t like as much. I get why they did it, but still.
The key differentiator between the H5 and the H7 is that the H7 has its own built-in DAC/Amp. You can connect this via USB to your computer. The electronics for this are in a small dongle…which is permanently attached to the headphones.
Now, even though the fully removable cable was one of my favorite things about the H5, the extended functionality of the H7 outweighs this permanently attached dongle thing. For one, you can use either USB or 3.5mm analog to get audio into the headphones…and neither port is proprietary! Yes! Any standard micro USB cable or 3.5mm audio cable will do the trick. Creative includes nice cables for both opti0ns in the box. The standard nature of these cables makes up for the dongle being stuck to the left ear cup forever.
How is the DAC/Amp included in the H7? Really good! It’s almost as fully-featured as Creative’s standalone gaming amp products. It has high-res audio support, and a full suite of DSP effects for surround sound gaming and other audio enhancements. Also, the X’s on the sides of the ear cups light up red in USB mode, and you can make them pulse if you want to. The software is really easy to use, and the sound is as crisp and clean as you’d expect from a standalone DAC.
In analogue mode, the H7’s sound identical to the H5’s.
The included mic is detachable and of average quality. The volume knob on the dongle is decent, and the mic mute switch works well. There’s also a play/pause button on the side of the dongle, a great touch! You don’t get any case or extra ear pads like you do with the HyperX Cloud products.
So, it’s a bit of a bummer that the included DAC here is permanently attached to the headphones…but Creative makes up for that with non-proprietary connections, providing support for just about any device out there. If you’re looking for a supremely comfy all-in-one solution for audio with both analog and USB digital connections, the SoundblasterX H7 is a great choice. If you can find the older non- Tournament Edition still kicking around, it’s an even greater deal, but even at full price these are a solid value.
Just know going in that you might want to boost the bass a little with the included software. In analogue mode, they’re going to be a touch less bassy than most other options on the market.