Turtle Beach’s more esports-oriented brand Roccat has been putting out PC gaming accessories for years, including gaming headsets. Now it’s got a new line of headsets aimed at a slightly more competitive crowd. The Roccat Elo 7.1 Air is currently the highest-end product of the batch, offering wireless audio, bright LEDs, and surround sound.
However, there are an absolute ton of gaming headsets that offer those features—does this one set itself apart?
Editor’s note: This review was updated on January 14, 2021 to include a link to our guide on gaming headset apps.
Who is the Roccat Elo 7.1 Air for?
- Gamers looking for something affordable that covers all the bases.
- At-home workers who need something with a microphone that will last all day.
What is it like to use the Roccat Elo 7.1 Air?
The sub-$100 gaming headset space is arguably the most competitive part of the whole market. And like most of the best options in, the Roccat Elo 7.1 Air offers the full slate of features you’d expect from a decent gaming headset, but it doesn’t exactly break new ground.
Visually, this is unmistakably a gaming headset. A great big colored LED Roccat logo sits on the left headphone. The headset’s metal suspension frame curves in a wide arc above the headband, and despite the fact that it’s built to automatically adjust to different head sizes, the headphone hinges still curve outward rather oddly. However, while it’s aesthetic decisions are rather typical of the market, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
The Roccat Elo 7.1 Air is a very comfortable wireless gaming headset. The suspension band rest with just enough tension to feel secure without being too tight. The ear pads are made of memory foam covered in leatherette, and feature softer foam in areas most likely to interact with glasses, so bespectacled gamers shouldn’t run into as much discomfort as usual. Leatherette is still a little stiff to get a great seal around a pair of glasses, and the headset lacks the tension to really force the issue, but it shouldn’t be too much of a problem for shorter sessions.
Actually using the headset is pretty straightforward, with a couple caveats. The Roccat Elo 7.1 connects to your Windows PC or console of choice via 2.4GHz USB RF dongle, and all you need to is plug it in and turn it on. The typical array of controls sits on the left headphone—there’s a power button, mic mute button, and dials to control volume and sidetone/mic monitoring. Rather frustratingly, the sidetone dial and the volume dial are exactly the same shape and right next to each other, so expect to accidentally adjust the wrong thing when making changes in the middle of a game (at least at first).
If you want access to additional features, the headset supports Roccat Swarm, the company’s requisite PC desktop app. Swarm brings access to 7.1 virtual surround sound, as well as more granular controls for headphone EQ, LED light color customization, mic settings, and more. It works, but frankly the app is laid out very poorly, and even getting something basic like a clear battery reading takes some hunting. The microphone options include a setting called Magic Voice, which, it turns out, isn’t actually geared toward to enhancing mic output at all, but rather distorting it pretty severely—the results are pretty outlandish (more on that in a bit).
Like most gaming headset apps, Roccat Swarm isn’t necessary for basic functionality. If you don’t care about surround sound, I wouldn’t bother installing it in the first place. Many people will probably download it, check the surround sound box, and never touch it again—it’s certainly what I wanted to do.
How is the battery?
Roccat claims the Elo 7.1 Air can last up to 24 hours on a single charge, and in our testing we found that pretty much the case. At a consistent output of around 75dB, the Roccat Elo 7.1 Air lasted just over 23 hours, 30 minutes on a single charge with the LED lights shut off. With the lights on, the headset fared considerably worse, narrowly coming up short of 16 hours. Even the low result is hardly bad, but all the same, expect around a 30% drop in battery performance if you’re intent on shining bright.
Gaming with the Roccat Elo 7.1 Air
Playing on PC, the Roccat Elo 7.1 Air offers a pretty solid, if unremarkable gaming experience. It’s comfortable, even over long periods of time, and it never struggled to maintain a steady audio connection. Extended pauses or periods of silence did make the headset shut itself off to preserve battery, but that’s a good thing, even if it feels inconvenient to have to turn your headset back on after walking away for a few minutes.
The headset handled the varied sounds of games like Hades and the recently re-released Halo: ODST easily, and the surround sound worked well in Overwatch. On PlayStation 4, connecting was just as straightforward as on PC, and though surround sound wasn’t available, the Roccat Elo 7.1 Air still managed just fine outputting stereo for games like Dauntless and Marvel’s Spider-Man.
How does the Roccat Elo 7.1 Air sound?
The Roccat Elo 7.1 Air offers pretty accurate audio output for a gaming headset. There’s a drop in output in the sub-bass range (20-60Hz), but otherwise sounds are reproduced with relatively the same loudness. This is hardly an audiophile’s headset, but it doesn’t distort anything too badly.
In music, frequency response like this should be fine for just about everything, but bass-heavy tracks may sound a little less impressive. In the David Essex classic Rock On, everything sounds accurate except for the bass guitar, which really sets the tone of the song. The bass guitar sounds much less clear than it otherwise would when the other instruments start.
In game, you shouldn’t run into any issues with frequency response like this. The Roccat Elo 7.1 Air avoids the trap many gaming headsets fall into by not boosting the bass to brain rattling levels. The under-emphasized bass shouldn’t be an issue either—explosions, gunfire, and other low, rumbling sounds are always going to be the loudest elements in a given scene or moment. Just know you shouldn’t have any trouble recognizing the sounds of footsteps in Valorant during a firefight.
While its sound is reasonably accurate, the Roccat Elo 7.1 Air sports some of the worst isolation performance I’ve seen from a gaming headset.
Virtually all of your surroundings remain audible while wearing the headset. It’s typical for non-noise cancelling headsets to minimally affect low-frequency sounds, but sounds higher than 1kHz are normally reduced much more than what’s shown.
This poor performance is due to the minimal headband tension and ear pad density. Even if the headset feels more comfortable, people with glasses should expect worse performance than this, because the frames prevent the ear pads from completely sealing around the ear.
If there’s one thing that saves the experience, it’s that the Roccat Elo 7.1 Air is clearly designed for use solely at home. This headset only works via USB, so taking them out and about isn’t exactly an option. Basically, you won’t get much isolation from any kind of sound, but you probably won’t run into much distracting sound anyway.
How is the microphone?
The Roccat Elo 7.1 Air microphone offers pretty standard audio output for a gaming headset. Like many others, this mic features dramatically de-emphasized bass and mid-range sound, up to around 600Hz. This means people with deeper voices will come through a little distorted, as the bassier parts of their speech don’t output at the same volume as other equally loud aspects. This can lead to tinny-sounding audio.
As I mentioned above, the Roccat Swarm app offers a few rather unique microphone settings to tweak how you sound. The Magic Voice option features presets you can toggle to dramatically change your voice, the options are Male, Female, Monster, and Cartoon. If the names weren’t a giveaway, these don’t fix or even improve the EQ settings of the microphone. Rather, they’re filters to completely change the way your voice sounds. Some might even find them a little insulting—the Female filter is almost identical to the Cartoon filter, and they both make you sound like one of Alvin’s long-lost chipmunk cousins. Listen for yourself:
Should you buy the Roccat Elo 7.1 Air?
If you’re looking for something wireless under $100, you should look at the Roccat Elo 7.1 Air. Maybe don’t only look at it, though.
The Roccat Elo 7.1 Air is fine gaming headset, to be sure. For $99, it’s impressive that you get such good battery life, surround sound, and wireless audio, all wrapped up in such a comfortable frame. However, plenty of gaming headsets at or around the same price do things better.
If you’re looking at this for the price, and wireless audio is really what you care about. The SteelSeries Arctis 1 Wireless is the same price, has better battery performance and more accurate audio, and it works on every platform but the Xbox One (no surround sound though). If having something affordable with lots of features is what you’re after, the Razer BlackShark V2 is the same price, and even though it’s wired, it sports fantastic isolation, super accurate sound, and a better microphone, along with a full software suite of features.
If you’re more interested in a console centric headset, there are definitely better options. The HyperX Cloud Flight S is more expensive, but it’s better in just about every way, and it offers surround sound on PlayStation 4 and PC. The PlayStation Gold Wireless Headset is also a solid option if you want something cheaper, though it’s microphone is pretty poor.
The Roccat Elo 7.1 Air is perfectly fine gaming headset, but compared to the wealth of remarkable options at the same price, you might be better served looking elsewhere.