With the cellphone being more and more a platform for digital entertainment (games and multimedia), it’s just natural that the user would want a headset that is fit for gaming in a classic desktop/laptop configuration and also good for listening to music and making calls on a mobile device. Flux, the portable model from SteelSeries, is an answer to all those needs. It also features heavy rubber cables that don’t tangle up, plus literally over a thousand choices of customization. The product is sold in a regular version as well as a luxury edition, with some accessories. We received the luxury edition for our test, but first we are going to review the headset itself, and then proceed to analyze its accessories and performance.
The Flux is a mid-size headset with ear pads that rest on the ear rather than over the ear. The earpieces rotate on their axes and also bend on hinges at each side. The headband is made of flexible rubber so that it can accommodate larger head sizes.
There are no cables attached to the headset. Each earpiece features an audio jack, so the user can choose on which side he or she will attach the cable. To give a personal touch to the Flux, it’s possible to change the ear pads (on the inside there is the “Winning is Everything” slogan from SteelSeries, hidden from sight) and the side plates, which are held in place magnetically. The luxury edition comes with two black side plates plus a silver set with a circuit board design.
The headset comes with a set of two cables: one with an in-line microphone and two 3.5 mm jacks to plug into a desktop/laptop; and another with an in-line microphone and a play/pause button that works with a mobile device (iOS or Android). This one ends up on a single 3.5 mm jack. Both cables are encased in rubber, and the luxury edition set comes in orange.
Since both cables are not long, the luxury edition features an extension cord so the headset can be plugged into the rear of a desktop PC, which is usually farther from the user than a laptop on the table. The extension is thus unnecessary if he or she uses the Flux with a laptop or a cellphone in his or her pocket. The luxury edition also comes with a transport bag.
The Flux has mobility, versatility and customization as its main characteristics. It’s highly mobile because it can be bent. The rubber cables don’t tangle up, even if they are stuffed into a backpack or coiled around the headset itself. It’s versatile because it works with a desktop/laptop set up at home as well as with a mobile device; it goes from gaming to communications. And, in terms of customization, it’s possible to combine cables, ear cups and side plates to create 1,152 variations of the same Flux.
The headset is made for the user on the go, frequent travelers, and those who carry a gaming-grade laptop. It can even support a second listener; it’s just a matter of hooking up a second headphone to the spare audio jack on one of the ear cups, and the user can share audio with somebody else.
Speaking of audio, which of course is the most important thing about a headset, the Flux is a 2.0 stereo device. Thus it’s not capable of reproducing the full 5.1 surround mix of a game like Battlefield 3. That being said, the Flux features two powerful 40 mm drivers that deliver strong bass, and it has a high sensibility (118 dB) for middle and high tones. We’ll talk about that experience next.
[nextpage title=”Testing the Flux”]
Since the Flux is a versatile headset, the test went beyond just plugging it in and playing some games and music. At first, we tested its mobility, walking around the city listening to music and making calls. The cables were the main thing here – no more annoying knots inside a backpack or pocket. In busier environments, the omni-directional microphone had to be lifted near the mouth to better register our voice. (The gesture in itself ensured that we were not some crazy person talking to him or herself.) Listening to music was excellent; it performed wonderfully when we tuned in on Digitally Imported’s electronic music channels. The Flux became the official headset for our cellphone.
When we played games at home, we missed the sound immersion that a 5.1 surround sound headset delivers. However, there are those who claim that a 5.1 headset only simulates a surround sound environment, and nothing more. Be that as it may, it’s advisable to configure the setting of any game to a 2.0 sound mix (if available) to avoid cacophony. Even without the spatial nuances of a 5.1 surround sound mix, the explosions, the gunfire and overall action sounded great on the Flux.
Another minor issue concerned the in-line microphone. Lifting it to our mouths while walking down the street was perfectly normal, but we couldn’t do the same while playing games, when our hands rested on the keyboard and mouse. Playing alone at home, we didn’
t need to do it, but we missed a regular microphone when we had a fellow gamer playing in the same room and making too much noise. Of course the inclusion of an in-line microphone made the product sleeker and less weird to be used on the streets, without making the user look like Madonna or a telemarketer.
Despite resting on the ears and not over them, the Flux is very comfortable. The regular model comes with cloth-wrapped ear cups; the luxury edition features leather covering. Since the user can change the ear cups, here goes the tip to buy an extra pair just to work out and sweat on it. We played for hours on end, and also crossed the city by subway listening to music, and we felt no discomfort.
If the user is looking for a headset that is easy to transport and versatile to the point of being used with a mobile phone and as a gaming peripheral, the Flux is the right choice. The lack of 5.1 surround sound support is a matter of taste, but 5.1 headsets are usually very big to carry around and impossible to be used discreetly. The customization adds charm to the product, but the main feature of the Flux is the rubber cables. Only the in-line microphone is a minor gripe, but the calls were not hurt by it. The Flux is very comfortable for long periods of use.