Sound BlasterX H7 Tournament Edition
“With customizable sound and impressive virtual surround, Creative’s Sound BlasterX H7 Tournament Edition is an upgrade worthy of attention.”
- Highly customizable EQ and surround settings
- Comfortable, even for longer sessions
- Can also be used for music or console gaming
- No confusing multi-ended cables
- Included USB cable is fairly short
- A tad pricey for wired-only headset in this class
Released last year, Creative’s Sound BlasterX H7 gaming headset impressed gamers with its sturdy build, comfortable fit, and immersive sound. With this new Tournament Edition, Creative has improved upon the design while keeping much of what made the original so easy to love. The sub-$150 market is a crowded one for gaming cans, and there are certainly other worthwhile options, but the Sound BlasterX H7 Tournament Edition is absolutely worth a look.
Out of the box
The original H7 came inside a pill-shaped plastic container that acted like a case for the headphones, something Creative didn’t choose to carry forward for the Tournament Edition. Instead, the headphones are fitted into a thin plastic mold inside the box. Underneath is a smaller box containing the detachable microphone, a USB cable, a 3.5mm audio cable, and the manual.
Depending on how you use the headset, setup can be as easy as connecting the 3.5mm audio cable to the inline remote and plugging into whatever source you like. If you’re playing on a PC, however, you’ll want to opt for the USB connection instead, which uses the built-in 24 bit / 96kHz DAC (digital-to analog converter). Once the headset is connected to your PC, you’re technically good to go, though you’ll want to download the BlasterX Acoustic Engine Pro and X-Plus Configurator software from Creative’s website to make use of all the digital features.
Features and design
If you’ve seen the standard H7, the first thing you’ll notice about the Tournament Edition is the updated look. While the red and black color scheme is still present, the backs of the ear cups now feature a brushed metal styling, complete with an X logo that glows red when the headphones are plugged in, and red highlights inside the ear cups. The overall look is eye-catching, though if you’re looking for a headset with a subtle aesthetic, you’ll want to look elsewhere.
The exterior design may have changed a bit, but fortunately Creative wasn’t intent on fixing things that weren’t broken. One of the best features of the H7 (and other Sound BlasterX headsets like the H5) is how comfortable they are, thanks to the earpads, which feature memory foam inside and leatherette on the outside. Combined with the lightweight build, the headset is comfortable to strap on for those marathon gaming sessions. The reinforced steel headband makes for a snug fit, but in our case, it was never tight to the point of creating discomfort.
The H7’s removable microphone has been redesigned for the Tournament Edition. While the original featured a puffy windscreen on the end of the mic, the resigned model is slimmed down for a sleeker look. The extension is just as flexible as ever, though, and can easily be pushed fully out of the way or removed entirely.
One of the H7’s smartest features was the design of the inline remote, and that stays the same for the Tournament Edition. The remote is attached to the headset, and boasts a Micro USB port and a 3.5mm jack, allowing you to insert whichever cable you need quickly instead of dealing with the cumbersome, multi-headed cable common in some designs. The remote features a built-in volume control, which works no matter what you’re plugged into, as well as a slider switch to mute the microphone and a multifunction button that can pause and resume music playback or answer and end calls when plugged into a phone.
For the Tournament Edition, Creative decided to pack in a redesigned 50mm FullSpectrum driver. This new model is designed for better clarity, and indeed that checked out in evaluation. The sound is crisp and accurate, both when using the headset for its intended purpose and when listening to music or watching a movie.
For its part, the mic sounds clear and does a good job of keeping out background noise. If you use the 3.5mm connection, Creative says the headset is tuned more for music, while the USB connection is more versatile for gaming use, thanks to Creative’s adjustable software.
Much of the magic of the H7 Tournament Edition lies in the BlasterX Acoustic Engine Pro, which allows you to set and tweak the 7.1 surround sound. In addition to EQ and surround sound settings, you can also control mic effects, allowing you to swap your gender, make your voice lower or higher, or even make yourself sound like an alien or robot. Other options are focused on those who take gaming seriously, like Scout Mode, which claims to allow you to hear further than you normally would, and game-specific audio profiles.
The sound is crisp and accurate for any application, from gaming to rocking out.
Many of the custom audio profiles are designed for competitive games like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Dota 2, but not all of them. There are several generic profiles like Shooter and Action/Adventure, as well as for single player games like Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain or The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.
The 7.1-channel virtual surround sound is impressive no matter what you’re playing, but the game-specific profiles don’t seem to make much of an audible difference most of the time. While voices and sound effects come from behind you and off to the side in The Witcher 3 when using its profile, they sounded just as immersive when using the Action/Adventure preset, or even the Default profile. Only setting the surround effects to off made a noticeable difference, with sounds suddenly bouncing from ear to ear when circling the camera.
As the “Tournament Edition” moniker implies, Creative wants its new headset to be used by pro gamers (and those who fancy themselves as such). As competitions don’t usually see you bringing your own PC, Creatives X-Plus Configurator software allows you to load a specific preset into the headset, which will then be set no matter what you’re plugged into. If you’re headed to a tournament, load in the Dota 2 or CS:GO profile with the software, and you’re good to go. This also lets you load in a specific profile for the PlayStation 4.
While you can technically use the H7 Tournament Edition with a PS4 by plugging into the USB port on the front of the machine, the short length of the included cable makes this pretty impractical. In our testing, plugging the 3.5mm cable directly into the PS4 controller sounded better than the USB connection anyway. When using the 3.5mm connection, the telltale footsteps of enemies in Horizon: Zero Dawn gave their position away easily, while USB connection was a bit less precise.
The Sound BlasterX H7 Tournament Edition’s combination of features, comfort, and captivating 7.1-channel virtual surround sound make it an easy recommendation for those seeking a comfortable and affordable wired gaming headset
Is there a better alternative?
We prefer the H7 TE to the similarly priced Sennheiser PC 373D. And while the sound isn’t quite as good as the Razer ManO’War 7.1, which has a more open and powerful sound, that headset is also larger and bulkier than Creative’s offering. On the other hand, the Logitech G533 wireless headset offers many of the same features of the H7 Tournament Edition for just $150 with no strings attached. However, its lack of alternate connection options such as a 3.5mm cable makes it less versatile than the H7.
How long with it last?
The aluminum headband and flexible construction mean that unless you’re unusually hard on it (or prone to throwing things in anger after a particularly painful loss), the headset should last a good long time. This is backed up by the cables, which are both tough and easily replaceable. The one concern is that the ear pads aren’t replaceable, but during our testing we didn’t see any signs of them wearing out.
Should you buy it?
Yes. If you’re interested in the more pro-focused features, or you want a headset that can be used for other purposes aside from PC gaming like listening to music or gaming on a console, the Sound BlasterX H7 Tournament Edition is absolutely worth the money.
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