SteelSeries is a brand best known for its PC gaming peripherals. However headphones, being what they are, plug into just about anything. With that in mind, this review of two SteelSeries headphones focuses on my use of them on my phone, tablet, 3DS, Vita, and Wii U; the devices that have a headphone jack most readily available.
The SteelSeries Flux In-Ear retails for around $49.99. It uses a standard 3.5mm tip, has three sizes of earbud tips, and it has a flat cord designed to not tangle. It also comes with a carrying pouch that can hold the Flux In-Ears, and a few other small accessories. The pouch is a nice touch for what’s being offered at this price.
The Flux In-Ear is designed to fit so snugly in the ear, that all outside sound is drowned out. I could not hear a word my girlfriend said while I had these on. Depending on your needs, this is either going to be a big plus or a big minus. If you need to hear some ambient sound while you game, this isn’t going to be for you. However, the ability to completely fill your ear while being comfortable is something I appreciate. I’ve used other in-ear headphones at this price point, but none have been as snug as this. The earbud is designed to go straight into the ear without curving around or anything, but surprisingly, it never feels like it’s going to slip out.
If you want a decent pair of headphones, and you want something more than cheap earbuds, but you don’t want to go to Beats By Dre prices, I’d have to recommend the SteelSeries Flux In-Ear. In fact, I would be completely fine with these if I didn’t have access to the next step up: the SteelSeries Flux In-Ear Pro.
The SteelSeries Flux In-Ear Pro retails for $129.99. You also get three sizes of earbud tips, but you also get a fourth tip made of memory foam. Squash them down a bit, and pop them in. The foam will expand to match the shape of your ear perfectly. I can’t tell you how perfect it is with my limited vocabulary that cannot express certain kinds of complex emotions, but it’s far and away the best fit of anything that has ever played sound in my ear. I forget they are there.
The cord that is comes with is also flat like the SteelSeries Flux In-Ear, but it’s made of a different material, closer to rubber that naturally resists tangling. These headphones have never knotted. Not once. I have packed them into very tight spaces in bags with reckless abandon, and they come out ready to go, perhaps crossed over each other once. It’s a convenience I never realized I needed until I had it.
If you look at the image here, you’ll see that the Flux In-Ear Pro has a different shape to them. Not only to the buds fit into your ear nicely, but the part attaching to the buds fits into the part of your ear next to the ear canal. It’s such a ridiculously snug fit.
One last feature of the Flux In-Ear Pro is its swappable cable. It can use either a 3.5mm jack, or you can swap that for a pair of plugs that connect to the headphone and microphone jacks of a PC.
You’ll notice that I haven’t talked about sound quality yet. That’s because I have very little experience reviewing both hardware and audio equipment. This will, therefore, not be a professional review in terms of acoustic principles or vocabulary. Instead, I’ll talk about my experiences with them, and try to pick out the differences between each pair.
I tried listening to music on my Galaxy S4 and watched Netflix on my Nexus 7. I played DJ Max Technika Tune on my Vita, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate and Resident Evil Revelations on my Wii U. I have to say with the regular Flux In-Ear earbuds, nothing seemed out of place or bad-sounding. Everything sounded clear and fine, and the earbuds fit nicely in my ear while still bringing a strong, heavy bass.
It wasn’t until I switched to the Flux In-Ear Pro that I ever noticed something was missing from the first pair. The previously-mentioned fit notwithstanding, the sound seemed fuller, with frequencies stretched out more. I heard parts of background music in Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate that I never even knew were there, after months of playing! I could hear the low, dim hum of the cruise ship Zenobia’s engines in Resident Evil Revelations, and the subdued parts of songs that I never even realized were there. After this revelatory experience, I went back to the regular Flux In-Ear, and felt like the sound was squashed and muffled, as if someone had taken an equalizer and smashed all the frequencies together a bit.
$130 might be hard to swallow, but for a perfect pair of in-ear headphones that can connect to anything you own, with a sound dynamic that lets you hear any part of it, it might be the excuse you need to get a premium pair of earbuds. Otherwise, $50 gets you a perfectly acceptable set, but one that has notable differences from the leading model.
Ted received the SteelSeries Flux In-Ear and SteelSeries Flux In-Ear Pro directly from SteelSeries for review purposes. He is allowed to keep the headphones at no cost to him.
Given the nature of our review system, we can only give one review score per article. Therefore, Ted decided to set the baseline at the SteelSeries Flux In-Ear Pro, which is getting a 10, as he can find no discernible flaws with it, and it makes things sound better than he ever knew possible. The SteelSeries Flux In-Ear is getting an 8 out of 10, for being perfectly serviceable and versatile, but with noticeable difference from the pro model.