The Asus Strix 7.1 is a premium, multi-channel gaming headset that packs in five drivers in each ear piece for true 7.1 surround sound. Coupled with a desktop volume controller that can also take audio inputs from other sources such as games consoles and you have a truly versatile and highly capable gaming tool.
Oh, and the earcups have glowing eyes in them…
The Strix 7.1 headset is no shrinking violet. Large, angular, touched with flashes of orange and with great big glowing orange eyes in the earcups, it’s quite the sight. The earcups even have an eyebrow shaped section that means this headset really does look like some sort of menacing owl when the earcups are folded flat.
There is a touch of subtlety in that the rest of it is mostly black but for the most part this is a headset that means to be seen.
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While there is a nod to portability in the earcups being able to fold flat, it’s a token effort. Flat or not this thing still takes up the same space as a dinner plate and is a good couple of inches thick when laid flat. What’s more the cable isn’t removable. In fact that’s an instant black mark to our minds as it means the headset is ruined if the cable gets damaged. Removable ones ensure you can simply swap in a replacement.
Although nearly all plastic, overall build quality is decent with big chunky pieces used throughout. The leather-covered padding of the earcups and very-stretchy headband is ample and plenty soft enough too.
Along with the headset itself comes a desktop volume control. This follows the same design ethos of lots of angles and orange lights. It’s well built too, with a decent heft to it. Combined with three large rubber feet on the underside and you have a unit that generally stays put, unlike some flimsy lightweight volume controllers that just get dragged along by the headphone cord.
As well as giving you an easy way to adjust volume, the desktop unit is also the heart of this headset. It can be used to adjust the balance of the surround sound speakers (front, centre, side, back, sub) as well as turn the lighting from ‘on’ to a breathing effect and switch between different sound spectrums – EQ settings, basically.
These are all adjusted via the front selection dial and a top-mounted digital volume dial, with surrounding lights used to show the selection or level. It’s a simple but effective system, though a more prominent marker on the front dial would be useful to tell which settings you’re adjusting.
Four buttons along the front also allow you to choose between 7.1 channel audio and conventional stereo, switch on the in-built amp to boost volume, turn the mic on/off and engage the speakers.
The latter option is for switching to a second sound source. This can come either straight from an HDMI source or via the quad-jack to HDMI converter included with the headset – the idea being you can hookup a games console and enjoy surround sounds without disturbing the neighbours. The headset can receive either stereo, 5.1 or 7.1 audio signals with the side drivers turned off for 5.1 output and the side and read drivers turned off in stereo mode.
The headset itself also attaches via an HDMI cable, again emphasising how it would be completely ruined were the cable to be damaged – this would be no easy fix.
As for connecting to your PC, the volume controller is also the sound card so connects via two USB plugs.
Looking again at the headset, each earcup packs in five drivers to create its surround sound effect, with each earcup having a ‘center’ and sub driver of its own, as well as front, side and rear.
You might think the eye pattern would correspond to the driver arrangement but that isn’t the case – the design was inspired by them, perhaps, but doesn’t incorporate them.
A detachable microphone slots into the left earcup and thankfully it uses a standard 3.5mm jack socket so can be replaced by an alternative if the original is lost or doesn’t suffice.
There’s also a microphone in the USB hub which is used in conjunction with the headset mic to offering background noise cancelling.
Setting up the Strix 7.1 is a breeze with Windows instantly recognising and installing the controller as a 7.1 speaker system that shouldn’t need any configuring. If you want to listen in stereo mode rather than surround you can just tap the 7.1 button on the controller and it’ll flip to a normal stereo presentation.
Likewise, if you want to switch to another source, it’s just a button tap away, while the dial surround-balancing system works really well – we were setup and ready to go in no more than a couple of minutes.
Sadly, we were less taken with the ergonomics of the headset.
For a start, we’re never fans of folding earcups on large headsets as they just make the headset unwieldy, with the whole thing flopping around and being far more difficult to put on and remove as well as find a secure place to lay them when not in use.
More importantly, though, the earcups themselves aren’t all that comfortable. Understandably they’re fairly large so that all the drivers can be squeezed in but we just find them a bit too cavernous, resulting in them moving too freely on our ears.
There’s also no means of adjustment, with them instead relying on the stretchy headband to find the right balance. However, we found they sat just a little low for our liking.
The earcups also don’t pull out very far meaning you have to squeeze your head in to get them on, plus they do creak quite a bit if you move your head.
Thankfully the padding and headband are reasonably gentle so there’s no long term discomfort from any pressure points. The large volume of internal air also means your ears don’t get too sweaty.
In terms of day to day stereo listening the Strix 7.1 are definitely a step up from your average gaming headset but don’t blow us away when it comes to music.
Bass is as high in the mix as you’d expect for a gaming headset, and there is an impressive depth to it here, thanks to those separate sub drivers. It also comes over without muffling the rest of the presentation making for a fairly easy-going fun sound that still has detail.
There’s definitely a lack of top-end sparkle, though, and the mid-range is just a little low in the mix. The result is that cymbals fizz rather than shimmer and vocals sound a little flat.
All told, they’re adequate for music but nothing special.
It’s switching to surround mode where they really come alive. While the overall sound quality doesn’t change, the surround presentation is excellent. Movies are far more immersive as sounds dance around you while gamers are given a distinct competitive edge as it becomes much easier to pinpoint the direction sounds came from.
As ever with surround sound in games, the audio balance can be a little off, with things like character footsteps and the rocket jump sound in Titanfall sounding like they’re coming from behind you rather than… well, from you. Largely, though, these are a big step up from stereo headphones when it comes to hearing the virtual world around you.
As for the noise cancelling microphone, it does an excellent job, delivering clean, crisp audio. We also particularly liked the mic arm which can really easily be bent to whatever position is needed.
The Asus Strix 7.1 is a great gaming tool that brings impressive surround sound to both PC and console gamers. Its accompanying desktop controller is also a useful and easy to use addition.
The headset isn’t the last word in sound quality, particularly for music, but for the price it’s about the level we’d expect given all the other features you’re getting here. Plus, the surround sound experience is excellent.
However, we didn’t find the headset particularly comfortable and it had an annoying habit of creaking. Also, we’re always wary of headsets that don’t have removable cables. Headphone cables break – it’s just a matter of time – and the system used here would be nearly impossible to replace it the worst were to happen.
That, and we just aren’t into having glowing eyes on the side of our head.
Don't think the Asus Strix 7.1 is for you? Then check out out Best Gaming Headsets roundup.
The Asus Strix 7.1 is a great surround gaming headset that will be a great addition for gamers that don’t have a surround-sound graphics card and do also have their console next to their PC. In one unit it’ll provide surround sound gaming for both. However, we’re just not that into the styling or fit and we’ve concerns about spending so much on a system that doesn’t have easily replaceable cables.