SteelSeries In-Ear, In-Ear Pro, Mobile Free Touchscreen Controls Review
I’ve been working with SteelSeries pretty regularly since PAX Prime last year, and they never cease to impress with their line of PC and mobile gaming peripherals.
Out of all the gadgets I have lying around at home, most of the ones I choose to use on a regular basis are SteelSeries products. This is not so much due to a lack of options, but rather a testament to the quality of SteelSeries. They may not make the most fancy peripherals with dozens of buttons and customization options, but they’re comfy and reflect a high standard of quality.
[quote_right]What I got a was crisp and clear sound with surprisingly deep, booming bass. It’s rare that I ever get to experience deep bass with earbuds, but wouldn’t you know, the In-Ear had some fantastic sound range that went as low and deep as any full headset that I have tested. Very nice indeed.[/quote_right]This latest batch of goodies I received are mostly for the mobile gaming space as opposed to the PC. I received the Flux In-Ear Pro Headset, the Flux In-Ear Gaming Headset, and the very unique SteelSeries Free Touchscreen Gaming Controls (NOT actually free of charge; you never know what people might expect in today’s day and age).
I mentioned a while back that in the realm of headsets and earbuds, I prefer to go with the latter. It doesn’t matter how comfortable a headset might be, I still prefer earbuds. In fact, up until I received the In-Ear Pro buds, my daily-use headset was the SteelSeries Flux which I loved, but I moved that to headset #2 the moment I received the In-Ear Pro. There was nothing wrong with the Flux…they just weren’t earbuds.
The downside to earbuds for most people comes down to two things: 1) comfort and 2) sound quality. The two earbuds I received (In-Ear Pro and In-Ear) were about as different as night and day even though they both hail from the Flux line of products. The In-Ear (MSRP $49) is your typical, no frills, standard earbuds. It comes with a 6mm driver that’s smaller than most competing driver, yet produces sound quality that is just as good, if not better. I tested them out with my usual suspects; Battlefield 3, Van Halen, and a variety of 3ds and Vita games.
What I got a was crisp and clear sound with surprisingly deep, booming bass. It’s rare that I ever get to experience deep bass with earbuds, but wouldn’t you know, the In-Ear had some fantastic sound range that went as low and deep as any full headset that I have tested. Very nice indeed.
Because of the compact design of the 6mm drivers, the In-Ear is able to focus more on fit and comfort. The In-Ear fits comfortably in the ear canal, and a somewhat larger silicone tip seals the ear nicely, delivering some pretty impressive noise cancellation. No, it’s not perfect; certainly not on the scale of some Bose headsets with actual noise cancellation tech, but for a set of earbuds, it wasn’t bad.
The In-Ear also comes with some goodies such as multiple ear tip sizes, a lovely carrying case, and a flat, non-tangle cord. I hate tangling. I like non-tangling. That’s all I can really say about that.
The star of the show is the In-Ear Pro earbuds. These are, hands down, the best pair of buds I have ever used. I’m not particularly picky when it comes to buds; I’m perfectly happy using my cheapo Skull Candy ones that I got at Target. However, I soon realized that the reason why I am not picky is because I was never given a chance to be. You get what you pay for, and in the case of the In-Ear Pro (MSRP $129), despite it’s rather pricey tag, it’s worth it.
The In-Ear Pro comes with a balanced armature driver that produces extremely precise sound. With other sets, the speaker inside the headset moves air to create the sound. The balanced armature driver requires no external air to produce sound. This makes the driver very small, and comes with the ability to be tuned very precisely. With this level of precision, the driver can recreate sound with an extreme level of accuracy. In layman’s terms, you’re getting spectacular level of sound quality not normally heard in most earbuds.
My test of Battlefield 3, Van Halen, and the handheld games were met with me being more than impressed. Evidently, the “awesome sound quality” of other earbuds that I was used to, even the normal In-Ear, were nothing compared to what I got with the In-Ear Pro. I might as well have been eating a Whopper and thinking it was greatest burger known to man without ever knowing that gourmet kobe beef restaurant burgers ever existed. Or even something like Five Guys or In ‘n Out. I am now hungry.
[quote_left]Perhaps my favorite features of the In-Ear Pro are the over/under wearing option, and the memory foam tips. As you can see from the pics of the In-Ear Pro, the design is somewhat unique. [/quote_left]Perhaps my favorite features of the In-Ear Pro are the over/under wearing option, and the memory foam tips. As you can see from the pics of the In-Ear Pro, the design is somewhat unique. This allows for the buds to be worn in the preferred “wire over the ear” wrap configuration, or the traditional “wire dangling straight down” configuration. The reason why over the ear is the better of the two options is because of the buds being more secure, and also because if you want to use it the other way, the left and right sides need to be switched. It’s not a HUGE deal, but sometimes it’s weird to be watching something go from left to right on the screen but hearing it from right to left instead.
The memory foam tips are the best part. I have nothing against the typical silicone tips, but they don’t always stay in the ear, and they are not form fitting. Have you used earplugs for swimming, or at a concert for noise reduction? The memory foam ear tips work exactly like that. Just squish the tips, pop them in your ear, and hold them in until they expand, effectively sealing off the entire canal. Now THAT’S noise cancellation.
Rounding out the features is a nice carrying case, swappable cable ends from the normal 3.5mm jack to a split 3.5mm headphone and mic jacks, and of course, the flat, tangle free cable. Like I mentioned before; it’s an expensive set of earbuds, but you get what you pay for.
Now, let’s move away from audio accessories and into mobile gaming controllers. A little while ago, I reviewed the SteelSeries Free Mobile Wireless Controller. It was awesome and compact. If something the size of a fat credit card is still too bulky for you, SteelSeries has a solution.
Enter the Free Touchscreen Gaming Controls.
This is a very simple, elegant, though limited solution. First off, you can’t really use it on a phone, except maybe something larger like the Galaxy Note. Even with that phone, a lot of the screen’s real estate is taken up by the “stick” and the buttons. The “stick” is hard to describe; it’s probably best if you take a gander at the pics and actually look for yourself. It is attached via a bevy of small suction cups to the phone screen, and then uses sort of a “floating” effect to hold and move the stick around. The buttons are little more simple, using mini suction cups to stick to the screen.
As far as performance goes, the buttons work beautifully while the stick runs into a few issues. Let me start by saying despite any issues, this is way better than playing with the phone/tablet’s touchscreen controls…the bane of my existence. Anything that provides tactile feedback is already leaps and bounds better that touch controls.
The buttons are great. Stick them on and don’t worry about them again. They feel just like regular buttons on a gaming controller and serve their purpose perfectly. The stick however, has some issues staying put. This isn’t a problem with games that allow the touch “stick” to appear wherever your finger rests, but for those with a fixed touch stick, it becomes a rather big problem.
The floating control sticks with the suction cups nicely, I’ll give it that. The problem is once you’re in the heat of things playing a game and you’re swooping that stick around, the overall unit has a tendency to slide all over the place, even sometimes sliding off the touch stick overlay completely. On more than one occasion, as it was sliding about, it would “activate” other directions that I wasn’t intending to use at that moment. Using less pressure doesn’t really help because the games often have a hard time registering any movement at all. It’s kind of a disappointing thing to see, especially since the buttons work so well.
Regardless, for $20, it’s hard to find a more simple solution. Games like Shadwogun, Sonic CD, Cordy, etc. all play very well with the controller, despite the stick sliding all over the place.
As you can see, once again SteelSeries has come up with some pretty clever solutions to mobile control issues, and again come up with some pretty great audio products. Go ahead and check them out at SteelSeries’ website.