Review: SteelSeries Spectrum 5XB Headset

SteelSeries recently released the Spectrum lineup to their comprehensive catalog of gaming headsets.  The Spectrum lineup consists of two headsets, the Spectrum 4XB and 5XB headset.  Today’s review covers the 5XB headset, considered by most as the “big brother” to the 4XB headset.

During my review session, I used the 5XB headsets for roughly 80 test hours on various platforms, not just the Xbox 360.  I listened to music, used it for the laptop, and of course played on my Xbox 360.


  • Monday Night Combat
  • Halo Reach
  • Gears of War 2

I, like so many others, have been anticipating the release of the SteelSeries Spectrum headsets.  SteelSeries has quite an extensive history working on the PC audio experience, the companies first, focused Xbox 360 experience is an important one.  If you are interested in purchasing these headsets or want to know my thoughts, you’ll want to continue reading on to my full review below.

Video Review

Design and Durability

At first glance, the SteelSeries Spectrum 5XB headset appears to possess an extremely simplistic, standard design, but there are some very unique qualities in this one.  One thing you will immediately notice is that the 5XB headset is a light weight headset.  The wired headset;s color scheme features a base black design with lime green accents and well-placed SteelSeries branding.  The top band features a cushioned piece that sits comfortably atop gamer’s heads with “XL-sized” ear cushions for each ear.

Perhaps one of the more complex design qualities lies within the detachable, travel friendly aspects of the headset.  As seen in the pictures below, the Spectrum 5XB headset, can be dismantled into three pieces for the gamers that are constantly on the move.  The retractable microphone, a quality I loved in my Siberia Neckband Review, is back for the Spectrums.  There’s no change here, I still love the microphone.

From a durability standpoint, the 5XB appears to be up to the challenge.  One of my main complaints with most headsets is that they break because of their lack of flexibility.  The 5XB’s are flexible and the double braided nylon cords, typically seen in the SteelSeries mice, provide some assured longevity to the headset.  Pulling and bending the cords won’t be an in issue with the headset.

Sound Quality

The focus on this section will be geared towards the new USB powered, Spectrum Audio Mixer.  Those familiar with other Mixamps out there should know that the Audio Mixer is the SteelSeries version of an Xbox 360 Mixamp.  It provides separate audio volume control for game and voice sound.  Audiophiles should be clamoring with glee that this headset empowers you with the ability to maximize what you hear in-game. Plugging the Audio Mixer into your Xbox 360 controller provides you full access to it’s capabilities.

I have mixed feelings about the Audio Mixer’s bulkiness.  The added weight on my controller is just noticeable enough to annoy me, but not to the point that it messes up my game. The unit is slightly larger than the input for the Xbox 360 microphone with separate game and voice controllers on either side of the Audio Mixer.  I found the sound quality to be rather good, but not spectacular.  Remember, you are dealing with Stereo Sound here and receiving the maximum sound quality from a fiber optic solution is sorely missed.

The bass is not all overbearing, something I think too many gamers look to as a “must” for gaming headsets.  While listening to music on the computer I did find that not having extra bass was a touch unpleasant, but for gaming it played out well. Game sounds were good enough to hear enemy footsteps and to readily identify directional game sound (gunshots, explosions, grenades).  Voice communication was also up to par — my teammates could easily hear me and their voices came through crystal clear.  Those wondering, I used the Spectrum 5XB on several videos and commentary and was satisfied with the quality.

Live Mix

As SteelSeries states, the Live Mix is their “secret sauce.” I think the function works well enough to provide a seamless user solution for balancing voice and game sound.  The majority of gamers will probably like the automatic adjustments that seem to come at just the right times in order to hear your teammates.  The volume levels are adjusted on-the-fly so as big explosions are happening all around you and your teammates are barking out commands, the Audio Mixer makes it so you can hear them.

I did notice, however that Microsoft’s recent update to the audio codec automatically adjusts the chat volume when other people are speaking.  It doesn’t necessarily hinder the Live Mix feature, but it takes away some of the hype.

For the Spec fanatics:

Headphones Freq. response: 16 – 28.000 Hz
Impedance: 40 Ohm SPL@1kHz, 1Vrms: 110 dB
Cable: 1 m / 3.28 ft.
Jack: 3.5 mm

Microphone Freq. response: 75 – 16.000 Hz
Pick up pattern: Uni-directional
Sensitivity: -38 dB
Impedance: 2K Ohm

Pros and Cons


  • Lightweight – You can wear it for hours with no ear fatigue
  • Durable and Travel Friendly – Definitely MLG compatible
  • Live Mix Works – In team based games, the live mix is great
  • Great Price for the product ($89.99)


  • The small cord on the headsets
  • Catered specifically for the competitive/hardcore crowd
  • Live Mix is only useful in multiplayer

End of the Day

The Spectrum 5XB headset is not for everyone.  SteelSeries caters towards the “Professional Gaming” crowd and this headset definitely exemplifies that notion.  The headset does have several design mechanics that are enticing for those that frequently ask me, “What headset will not break?”  It is affordable, durable, and the Live Mix feature works well for online gaming.  Competive gamers, specifically those playing first-person shooters, should seriously consider the 5XB.  As a competitive gamer and former MLG Pro this headset ranks well among the many headsets I have used in the past. Those interested can check them out at the SteelSeries online store.

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