The new Roccat Elo Air 7.1 wireless gaming headsets confuses me. In my mind, Roccat stands for exquisite German industrial design and craftsmanship. Few products epitomize this more than the company’s Vulcan 120 AIMO keyboards. A masterpiece of geekery, these keyboards are a stunning mix of steampunk design and high end components resulting in something that’s truly unique and unmatched. But that’s not the Elo Air 7.1 though.
The $199 Roccat Elo Air 7.1 wireless gaming headsets have all the requisite staples such as lag free 2.4Ghz connectivity, virtual surround sound and a detachable cardioid microphone. But it’s also one of the gaudiest and gamery looking headsets I’ve seen in years. Where other Roccat products go for sleek, polished designs the Elo Air are polar opposite.
Hell, they even have tacky RGB lighting on the ear cups because, reasons. The design is so different that I almost feel like Roccat just slapped their branding on a product from some lesser known brand. However, even the EPOS headsets look incredibly gamery but at least they sound and feel phenomenal. So how about the Roccat Elo Air 7.1?
Stay awhile and listen.
Roccat Elo Air 7.1 Gaming Headset Review
I’ve already ranted about how gaudy the Elo’s look so let’s get this out of the way first because it’s literally the worst aspect of these cans. The build is a mix of hard plastic with a metal spring holding the suspension headband. The plastic sits somewhere between black and grey which makes them look less than premium. The chunky ear cups make the Elo’s look absurdly wide on your head thanks to odd angled and articulating arms that connect to the headband.
These arms do allow for 90 degrees of swivel which lets the cups lay flat on your chest when you take them off and they also tilt vertically a little bit to conform to your head. On the outside of each ear cup are some RGB Roccat logos which get very bright, not to mention draw unwanted attention. The lighting is customizable and you can also just turn it off.
The handband is of the self-adjusting, suspension design similar to the one on the HyperX Cloud Revolver S. These evenly distribute the weight of the Elo’s on your head so they don’t feel as heavy as they look. But while I do love the convenience of these types of headbands, it does take away any control you have over the clamping force. In the first few days I could barely wear the Elo’s for more than an hour before my ears and top of head were in pain.
I had to really stretch them out to become more bearable. I’m so glad that the ear cushions were designed with memory foam cushions as well as Turtle Beach’s ProSpecs Glasses Relief System. Otherwise, the Elo’s would have been unbearable for us glasses wearing peeps. Even after two weeks of constant use, I can’t say that the Elo’s are a comfortable pair of headsets, especially compared to the Cloud Revolvers.
Controls and connectivity
Being a wireless headset, the Elo Air has all it’s primary controls on the left ear cup and surprisingly, nothing on the right cup. There are two volume dials, one for headset volume and another for mic monitoring. Annoyingly, they’re exactly the same shape and size which often led to me adjusting mic monitoring instead of volume.
Below the two dials is a mic mute button and the power button. An LED beneath the power button highlights whether the headset is connected, pairing or the power status. Lastly you have a USB-C charging port and the dock for connecting the removable microphone.
To connect to your computer, the Elo Air uses a 2.4Ghz dongle that works on Windows PC’s. This provides an excellent connection that is surprisingly short in range; fritzing around 15 feet from my computer. Additionally, standing near a Microwave oven causes interference; something I’d never experienced with other wireless headsets. So don’t make popcorn while on party chat.
Also worth noting is you can’t use the Elo Air’s in any wired mode so if you run out of battery or have a device that doesn’t support the dongle, you’re kinda screwed. Thankfully, the Elo’s have some good battery life. Roccat claims 24 hours on a single charge or a week of 3hours daily use which was exactly my experience.
The Elo’s would take me through two and some days before needing a charge. I typically use my headphones for about 12 hours each day for work and gaming with a lot of video calls. So most people will be plenty pleased especially if the Elo’s aren’t your primary headset that you use for work things. Your battery will last even longer if you turn off the ridiculous RGB on the ear cups.
Roccat has included automatic standby which turns the headsets off after a period of inactivity. This is a real battery saver except that my unit was overly aggressive and would shut down the headset even while I was actively using them. I eventually had to turn off the feature which Roccat says will be fixed in a future firmware update.
Gaming and media sound quality
When it comes to sound, the Roccat Elo Air 7.1 is just above average, neither wowing or disappointing either. The sound stage is narrow, keeping audio close to your ears but the dynamic range is good with present bass and clear high tones. The Roccat Swarm software gives you access to an EQ that has some presets for gaming or music listening. There’s also a Bass boost feature which honestly didn’t make any difference at all for me.
I’ve been playing a lot of CyberPunk 2077 and Doom Eternal lately and the Elo’s do a good job at rendering the game world around me. Night City is alive with conversation and action and I could easily pinpoint where all audio was coming from. Gunfire and explosions have enough presence but the Elo’s could use much more bass to really swing things.
An additional trick that the Elo’s have comes from Roccat’s recent acquired TurtleBeach and it’s Super Human Hearing. This is an audio mode that emphasises certain game sounds like footsteps while stripping others to give you greater focus and accuracy. It works as advertised but I was terribly underwhelmed by it.
In my testing, it made the overall sound too clinical, cold and uninteresting to enjoy. And since I’m not a pro CS:Go player, the benefits are lost on me but many people swear by SuperHuman hearing.
Music lovers will be ok with the performance of the Elo Air’s 50mm drivers. They cover 20-20KHz range with okay bass and clear highs. The sub-bass is there but the headset doesn’t go that low. I tested Hellwalker from Mick Gordon’s excellent Doom soundtrack. This track has some very deep sub-bass that only good headphones can render in a way that shakes your bones and the Elo’s just scraped by.
Last on the Elo’s spec sheet is my least favorite headphone feature; 7.1 virtual surround sound. I’ve not yet reviewed a single headphone that does this well and the Elo’s are no exception. Turning on surround sound in the Swarm software just makes the sound more echoey and pillowy rather than surrounding you.
The reality is headphones simply don’t have the physical number of speakers required for good surround sound. This is one of those things better left turned off.
The Elo Air comes with a detachable unidirectional microphone which plugs into the left earcup. It’s an understated design with a flexible stem that makes it easy to position. I don’t get why Roccat couldn’t just have the mic retract into the chunky ear cups when headsets like the slimmer SteelSeries Arctis 9X do so.
Anyway, it’s not the greatest mic out there. There is noticeable hiss and warping that gives an unnatural tone to my voice. It’s also poor at noise cancelling even when you adjust the levels in the Swarm app. You can listen to a sample below:
For the stalkers out there, Roccat has included a voice changer so you can mask your voice on those game chats. You can choose a male, female, cartoon or monster voice. Be warned though: I made the unfortunate mistake of going onto a work call with the cartoony voice still enabled. I was mortified when a colleague later told me how silly my voice sounded after the fact. It’s a gimmick and I’m not sure of the legitimate use cases for it but it’s there.
The Roccat Elo Air 7.1 are an average pair of headsets that aren’t to the standard I expect of a Roccat product; especially at the $200 asking price. The gaudy design and non-premium build could be overlooked if it was at least supremely comfortable and had great sound like the EPOS GSP 370. Sadly, they aren’t which makes them hard to recommend. Sure, they are among the cheapest 2.4Ghz wireless headsets but competitors like the HyperX Cloud Stinger and Corsair HS70 are much more comfortable and sound better. The Elo Air then, is a pass for me.
Roccat Australia kindly provided the Elo Air 7.1 headset to PowerUp for the purpose of this review.