Steelseries Flux Headset review £79.99

13th Dec 2012 | 16:50

Steelseries Flux Headset review

An excellent option for the gamer on the go

TechRadar rating:

4 stars

Like:

Comfortable; Durable; Built-in splitter; Concealed mic; Tangle-free cords;

Dislike:

Average audio quality; No in-line volume control; Dull looking; Luxury set a questionable value;

Introduction and Design

If you own a high-end laptop, chances are you relish your gaming mobility. Being able to haul that puppy from house to house, from MOBA tournament to FPS showdown is exactly what you paid for.

So what else do you need in your bag? Definitely a mouse, maybe even a slick mousepad. How about a headset? You need something that can localize enemy footsteps, and stand up to being shoved in a case with your Razer Blade or Series 7 Gamer laptop.

Steelseries Flux headset review

That's exactly what the Steelseries Flux was designed for. A durable, comfortable headset with a chat mic built into its heavy gauge rubber cables, it'll keep up with the on-the-go gamer, and help him keep up with his team.

At a reasonable $99/£79.99 for the basic set (Luxury version comes with extra accessories), it's hard to argue with the Flux. Spend a litte more on a bulkier headset and you can get some more auditory oomph - the Sony DR-GA100 and Creative Sound Blaster Tactic3D Wrath come to mind - but not one that's going to travel light and take a beating like the Steelseries Flux. And thanks to in-line pause/play controls and a hidden microphone, it can double as a decent pair of headphones without making you look like a telemarketer.

Design

Other than the box's suggestion to "Flux yourself," the first thing you'll notice when unboxing this new headset by Steelseries is how springy and malleable it is. Built with several points of articulation, it's made to stretch and flux-tuate.

Steelseries Flux headset review

The Flux doesn't fold up so much as curl into a fetal position. It's not only easier to toss it into a bag, it's more durable this way. Reduced clearance means there's a smaller chance something will crush and snap when you kick your laptop bag down the street.

The cords are made for travel too. The thick rubber they're encased in doesn't tangle easily. We routinely jammed them in pockets or bags, only to pull them out ready to go. It's also great that they can disconnect completely from the Flux, so there's no chance of them snapping off in a port.

Steelseries Flux headset review

Aesthetically, the Flux is a bit bland. It's available in either solid white or black with matching cables. You can spice things up, thanks to swappable magnetic faceplate on the ear pieces, but that requires further investment. Steelseries sells plates and ear cushions of different patterns and colors on its website.

Features, Fit and Audio Quality

Features

The Steelseries Flux headset has two audio jacks, one on each earpiece. This way, you can switch sides, depending on where your machine's audio jack resides. This is great for keeping cables out of the way of your mouse.

Steelseries Flux headset review

The basic Flux set, which goes for $99/£79.99, comes with two different cables. They're both made of the same high quality rubber, but one has an in-line mic mute switch, and the other has a pause/play button that works with an iPhone 5 or Android phone. The Flux's mic is also built into the cable.

The best part about the dual jack setup is that it lets you share audio with a friend. A pal can plug his earbuds, headphones, whatever, into the spare port and the two of you can enjoy some Spotify music or giggle at a YouTube video. Of course, this tethered-to-the-head setup requires you to be almost hip-to-hip, depending on how long your buddy's cables are, but it's perfect for an airplane seat. This make the Steelseries Flux an even better choice for frequent travelers.

Steelseries Flux headset review

The soft, padded ear cups are also removable. They come off easily, but putting them back is enough of a challenge that you won't want to do it often. Steelseries also sells spares, in case something were to happen to yours, or if you simply want a different color.

It should be noted that the standard flux cables are too short to comfortably reach the back of a gaming rig. The standard cables are fine for a laptop or smartphone, but if you're going to be using the Flux with a desktop, you'll want to spring for the Luxury set, which comes with an extension cable.

Steelseries Flux headset review

The Luxury set also comes with an extra pair of faceplates for the ear pieces, and travel bag to tuck everything into. However, at $129.99/£104.99, we're not sure if these extras warrant the extra coin. We'd say the most important accessory is the extension cable, and you can get a third-party one on Amazon. Also, the cables in the Luxury version come in a traffic cone orange that's less than subtle.

Fit

Thanks to a light grip and soft ear cups, the Steelseries Flux is a very comfortable headset. Anyone who's spent long hours gaming or watching a movie with phones on knows that feeling of achey, smooshed ears.

Steelseries Flux headset review

This is definitely not a problem with the Flux, which has one the gentlest touches of any on- ear headset we've worn. We spent hours watching DVDs and playing games while wearing the Flux and never experienced any discomfort, nor did they slip off while we lounged around or walked down the street.

However, they're less than ideal for exercising or doing household chores. Given the travel-ready design, hidden mic and smartphones compatible in-line controls, you may be tempted to let the Flux double as travel headphones. While the fit is good enough for walking around town, running or moving your head up and down while, say, washing dishes or using the treadmill, will cause them to slide around to an annoying degree.

It's too bad the Flux is not more gym-ready, since the removable ear cushions would make it possible to keep a separate pair for sweating in at the gym. Unfortunately, the Steelseries Flux just isn't designed for that.

It is designed to be a comfy, durable headset that fits any head. The stretchy build of the Flux fluctuates, easily conforming to any dome, large or small, while retaining an excellent degree of comfort and stability.

Audio quality

The all important section, how does the Steelseries Flux sound? Pretty good, we'd say, given the size of the headset. While there's not a lot of range in the mix, there's a surprising amount of power, thanks to the industry standard 40mm drivers crammed into Flux's compact earpieces.

The most important thing for a gaming headset might be sound localization, which helps you determine where enemy bullets are coming from, hopefully before its too late. While its no 5.1 surround sound headset, the Flux gets the job done.

Testing them out with some Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, we could quickly identify enemy footsteps, preventing terrorists from getting the drop on us too easily. It took the larger, more chaotic showdowns of Battlefield 3 for us to realize what we were missing with the Flux, compared to a much more expensive 5.1 headset like the the Tritton Pro+ or the Astro A50. The Flux certainly beats the former for comfort and ease of use, though.

Steelseries Flux headset review

The Flux headset is also surprisingly loud. It can crank out explosions and tunes at levels that'll make your next ear check up at the doctor rather interesting. Things do tend to distort at the highest levels, and levels of bass the Flux puts out won't satisfy hip-hop purists, but there's enough for the average music consumer streaming his music off Spotify or Pandora.

Finally, the in-line mic proved capable. Our online teammates never had trouble hearing us. When we used it for phone calls with an iPhone 5 and HTC Droid DNA, our friends reported crystal clear sound. The cable mic did occasionally drift under our chin, where it would pick up some breathing, but the twin audio jacks made it easier to rearrange.

Verdict

The Steelseries Flux has a durable design, comfy fit and some truly thoughtful features. While it's likely the best travel headset currently on the market, serious and sedentary games would be well served with a more expensive 5.1 investment. However, if you're picking up a second set of cans for travel, or just want to save some cash, you can't go wrong with the Flux.

Steelseries Flux headset review

We liked

It's obvious that a lot of thought went into the design of the Flux. Options like dual audio jacks, a built in splitter and in-line controls make it a versatile device that's a good value for the money. While they're not terribly stylish, you wouldn't be embarrassed to wear the Flux around town as headphones.

It's also extremely comfortable, with a light, cushioned grip that won't slide off your head except with vigorous activity.

It's durable and built for travel. The way it curls up to protect itself means you can jam it in a backpack without a second thought, and the heavy rubber cables won't tangle up in your pocket.

The audio quality is reasonably good as well. You're not going to find a headset at this price that sounds much better than the Flux.

We disliked

While the audio quality is good enough for average music fans and gamers on the go, it's not spectacular. Professional gamers and serious audiophiles will find it below their standards.

We also wish there was a cable with inline volume control. That would've made the Flux truly excellent for listening on the go.

Finally, it's just not that great looking unless you spend more on faceplates and ear cushions. Speaking of spending more, some very useful accessories, like the cord extension, are only in the more expensive Luxury version.

Verdict

The Steelseries Flux headset is an excellent travel headset and a very good, Jack-of-all-trades product. It's great for hauling around to LAN parties, and if you often find yourself with a fellow traveler watching DVDs on a plane, the compact design and built-in splitter are absolutely ideal.

Steelseries Flux headset review

For something durable and comfortable that travels well, look no further than the Flux. However, if you want truly great sound and are willing to spend the money on something more delicate, consider a full 5.1 headset.

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