For this 'Xmas review special' I am going to be looking at the SteelSeries 7H USB Pro Gaming headset. This USB edition comes complete with a virtual 7.1 surround sound usb sound card! Alot of sim racers use headsets for many reasions, keeping the Mrs calm (she may not want to listen to a V8 growling of F1 car screaming all evening!), comms (Teamspeak/skype etc) and the fact that a headset hides all the background distractions that most households have (Screaming kids / Mrs / phone / doorbell lol!), but most of us use pretty cheap, basic headsets. Well today I am going to be putting a top of the line bit of kit through its paces and see if it is really worth the 'extra money!' First Impressions : First off, the 7H oozes quality, even the display packaging looks impressive! Once out of the box, the headset feels light, but sturdy and well made. The finish is excellent and right away your eyes are drawn to little details such as the braided cables, gold plated connectors and dark chrome finishes. The next thing is just how small the USB sound card is (8x3x2 cm approx), again, nicley made and finished with a high quality cable. Overall, it bought a smile to my face as I unpacked it and started to examine it! Specs / Techie Bits : Here's the techie blurb Headphones Frequency response: 18 – 28.000 Hz Impedance: 32 Ohm SPL@ 1kHz, 1 Vrms: 112 dB Cable length: 1 + 2 = 3 m (9,8 ft.) Jacks: 3,5 mm Microphone Frequency response: 50 – 16.000 Hz Pick up pattern: Uni-directional Sensitivity: -38 dB Soundcard USB: 2.0 Surround sound: Virtual 7.1 Equalizer: 12 channels Jacks: 2 x 3,5 mm (USB cable included) Operating systems: Win XP/Vista/Win 2000/Win 98/Win ME (I should add that the headsets work fine on Win 7 32/64 bit also) Features : This litle rig is PACKED with features! I'm going to cover the headset first, then the sound card. Headset : The first thing to mention is the 50mm drivers, thats pretty big for a headset and assures great bass and solid acoustics. The next thing is the fact that this headset can be flat packed!! (see the pics above) this is quite a handy feature, making the set very easy to pack for trips etc! The rig also comes with a second pair of inter-changable ear cushions offering either a closed cup (Making outside sounds almost completely inaudable) or a pair of open cups alowing for easier 'outside' listening. On the headset lead is a little control box that allows you to adjust the volume and/or turn on/off the mic. Now the mic is excellent, instead of the usual, cumbersome 'boom' the 7H uses a cleverly designed 'flexable' pull out mic. When its not in use, simply push it back into the ear cup and its right out of the way! A really nice touch that shows just how much thought has gone into the ergernomics of the design. USB Sound Card : Physicaly, the sound card is small as I said earlier, its a pretty simple thing, plug n play USB with two 3.5mm jack sockets to connect the headset to. But its what goes on inside this little gem that makes it magic! Boasting a 'virtual' 7.1 surround sound proccessor, the sound card promises much. The first hint of the power of this little unit becomes more obvious once you have installed the drivers. This software suite is really quite powerful, there are numerous input options, you can move individual 'virtual' speakers about to enhance the surround effect, a ten channel equaliser, a mass of 'special effects' and even a Karaoke option! Comfort : This is one area the 7H really proves its worth. If I'm honest, I usually find wearing headsets tiring and they can become uncomfortable after a while, but the 7H is suprisingly comfortable. With a good range of adjustment, very soft leather ear and headband cushions and swiveling ear cups this set fits really well and its light wieght makes it easy to wear for long periods. Sound Quality : Okay, this is were it all counts, you can have every fancy feature imaginable, but if the sound quality isnt there its all for nothing! Well, before I even started to get to grips with the multitude of adjustments that the software allows I just had to play some bassy 'tunes' to test the rig out. Oh boy, frankly, I was stunned! My Itunes collection NEVER sounded this good before on ANY setup, yet alone a pair headphones! The bass is deep, clear and PUNCHES, midrange is upfront and crystal clear offering superb vocals and the high end does not dissapoint either, offering up crisp and suprisingly well deffined trebble high's. Now I started to play with the softs, Dizzee Rascal's bonkers seriously LEAPED out of soundstage when I was emulating 7.1 surround! Again the clarity and punch of the bass along with the surround effect made old tunes sound, well, new! So much so infact, I failed to recognise the intro's to some of the songs on my favorite play list!!!!!!! Right, I think I have covered the fact that the 7H's are rather good for music! So it was time to fire up rFactor and get in the 'simpit' and see what its like in game. As far as I'm aware, rF and most current sims only support 2 channel sound, but once again the soundcard worked its magic delivering superlative sound quality and giving that 'surround effect' flawlessly. Its worth using the powerful features of the drivers, with a little bit of time you can create the ideal sound setup to suit your prefference. Its very intutative and easy to use. The mic delivers real solid, clear and definable vocals. Mr Vickers and I tested it out on Skype and the verdict was an impressive thumbs up (Although Mr V was still his usual garbled, uninteligable self with his £3.99 Tesco headset loool) Its been proven many times over that in simracing one of the most important, if not THE most important thing for 'immersion' is sound! The 7H's have made my cockpit feel a bit more real and deliver astounding accustics Nuff Said................... You can find the SteelSeries website HERE its well worth a look Value : 91/100 At 129.99 Euro's, cheap they are not! But my god you get some serious sounds in a very high quality rig! and remember there not just for sim racing, you will love them for all multimedia options, film, music etc! Functionality : 99/100 Outstanding audio and surround effects Quality : 97/100 Top of the line stuff, wonderful design, superbly executed RD Rating: 287/300 Top end price, but top end performance, stunning sound! Buy One?? : Its a big investment, but if you have the spare cash its worth every penny I would like to thank Casper Mejlholm from SteelSeries for his kind assistance in making this review. More items from SteelSeries to be reviewed very soon, so keep your eyes peeled!