Page 3 - Subjective Audio Analysis
As with all the audio products we review here at APH Networks, it takes quite a bit of experience and training of the ears before we can begin making a fair judgment. Even for the best of audiophiles, it can be hard to produce an exact and accurate evaluation of a product without a thoroughly familiar product to use as simultaneous reference. While I will not claim to be the reviewer of all reviewers for headphones, I can say quite a few other computer review sites have editors lacking in training for reviewing anything audio related. Give them anything and all you will get is some vague description of “awesome bass, amazing midrange, nice treble, no muffles, 10/10”. Do not get me wrong; there are knowledgeable audio reviewers out there on respected online media outlets, but they are far and few. There are no true objective measurements for audio sound quality. As the reviewer, however, I will put the ROCCAT Elo 7.1 Air through a series of subjective tests to try to come up with the most objective rating as possible. The audio tests were conducted with the Elo 7.1 Air wireless adapter plugged into a USB port on my computer.
After over 100 hours of break-in time -- well above the typical required period -- we put the ROCCAT Elo 7.1 Air to the tests. All tracks are uncompressed or high bitrate audio files. Equalizer settings were manually set to flat for testing purposes. For gaming, I played VALORANT, League of Legends, and Genshin Impact. First-person shooter games are probably the most crucial games to test these headphones, as gameplay can heavily rely on hearing additional sounds. The other games have aspects where audio is useful, but this is less of a factor.
Starting at the lower end, the bass for the ROCCAT Elo 7.1 Air felt a bit strange. On one hand, I found the bass to be decent in providing a good amount of kick. Instruments like electric basses and cellos were emphasized for a good amount of movement and groove. However, it felt lacking in the lowest parts of the low end, which made the overall bass quite boomy or hollow. In games, this should still do fine since the mid- to upper-bass range is emphasized enough so users can hear sounds effects like footsteps and explosions. For music, I found the bass to be alright overall, but I think it could have been improved for better definition and roundedness.
In the midrange of the ROCCAT Elo 7.1 Air, I heard good accuracy and a generally flat output. Male vocalists and instruments, like guitars or pianos, were heard with clarity and provided energy. Acoustic instruments were reproduced naturally with good resonance and fullness. There was a bit of warmth carried over from the high-bass into the low-midrange. In gaming situations, the midrange is not as important, but it is still useful for identifying different lines, other sound cues, or communicating with your teammates.
In the trebles, the ROCCAT Elo 7.1 Air felt a bit less emphasized, so higher end vocals felt a bit lost in the midst of everything else. Unfortunately, with the boosted high-bass and flatter midrange, the trebles felt a bit darker due to its lower emphasis. As we move to the highest end of the trebles, the high-end rolled off a bit more. Sibilance was heard in "S" sounds with a bit of harshness. In gaming situations, the treble regions are again important to gamers so they can recognize different sound effects like glass breaking. Overall, the sound signature of the ROCCAT Elo 7.1 Air felt a bit dark with a boosted upper bass, generally flat midrange, and a slightly less emphasized treble. This is a bit atypical compared to other gaming headsets.
In terms of soundstaging, the ROCCAT Elo 7.1 Air felt a bit closed-off with a lacking width. The Elo 7.1 Air offered a good amount of direction, which made the imaging of these headphones quite solid. However, it also felt cramped. This is in part due to the closed-back design, but I think there could have been changes made to improve the overall width and depth of sound. The virtual 7.1 surround sound made the sound unnatural, especially for music. There are two settings, Clarity and Balanced, and both of them notably alter the sound signature to simulate a larger sound environment. I do not generally find these virtual effects useful in games, but thankfully the excellent directional image without the virtual modifications was already a plus for the Elo 7.1 Air.
When it comes to layering, the ROCCAT Elo 7.1 Air was acceptable for gaming circumstances. All of the sound effects were audible and clear. In complicated music, the Elo 7.1 Air struggled a bit more to keep all of the details clear. Frequency separation was average, as the boosted upper-bass blurred into the rest of the ranges. Transitions between the three frequency ranges was also a bit of a mixed bag. The peak in the low midrange was combined with dips in the low treble range that reduced detailing in these regions. In terms of cleanness, the audio reproduced by the ROCCAT Elo 7.1 Air was mostly clean, but there was a bit of distortion noted at higher volumes. I also noticed a bit of digital noise or choppiness randomly but regularly during the operation. While this is not a big deal, it happened more often than I would have liked.
Despite the closed-back nature of the ROCCAT Elo 7.1 Air, the headphones do leak a bit of noise when worn. This is partly because it is a bit tricky to get a good seal on your ears. Furthermore, external sounds leaked in quite a bit, especially for lower noises or ambient voices. I think ROCCAT can do a bit to improve on their sound isolation characteristics.
As for the microphone quality, I utilized Audacity to record and exported the captured audio as an MP3 file. From this recording, you can hear the microphone on the ROCCAT Elo 7.1 Air easily picks up your voice. You can also adjust it easily to make it closer or further away from your mouth. I did notice a bit more of a digital compression with the recorded sound and the lacking bottom end made the sound a bit more unnatural. For in-game communications, this should do just fine, but I would recommend a different microphone for professional recording or streaming. For fun, I also tested out the four ROCCAT Magic Voice filters that applied a different effect. While these are artificial filters and you probably will not use them, they could be useful for a quick joke.
1. Introduction, Packaging, Specifications
2. Physical Look - Hardware and Software
3. Subjective Audio Analysis