"This is the best sounding in-ear product below $250," SteelSeries' Chief Marketing Officer, Kim Rom, told us between songs. "I'll go on record saying that." Rom was talking about the firm's new Flux In-Ear Pro headset, and had similar words for the brand's foldable on-ear Flux cans. The earbuds and their full sized companions are part of the company's "freedom to play" campaign, and it has the utmost confidence in them. Rom even told us the foldable Flux headset lasted 90 minutes in the firm's "soccer test," a SteelSeries tradition that plays out exactly like it sounds: international football with consumer electronics. Our hands-on was decidedly less rough.
We didn't need to punt the on-ear Flex headphones to feel how durable they were -- the set bent, twisted and folded to our will without nary a crack or creek. The same flexible headband that makes the set nimble keeps it comfortable, as well -- firmly holding this editor's oversized noggin without squeezing the life out of it. We didn't spend enough time between the headset's breathable ear cushions to give it a completely thorough listen, but our brief session was smooth and distortion free. The headset comes with a pair of interchangeable cables, one designed specifically for a PC, and another for Macs and mobile devices. The cables can be plugged into either ear-cup, which opens the other ear's jack to be used as a passthrough for sharing the sound.
SteelSeries' bendable on-ear cans folded down to a respectable size, it's true -- but they won't fit in your pocket. Those In-Ear Pro buds will, however. Rom pulled out an early prototype of the sound-blasting earplugs that was fit with electrical tape and bright orange colors that we were assured wouldn't be part of the final product. Despite the headset's rough edges, it was fully functional, and featured a proprietary cable connector that, much like its on-ear counterpart, will let users switch out jacks specifically designed for PC, Mac or mobile devices. That swappable cable claims to be tangle free, too, as evidenced by the jumbled mess of wire our presenter pulled from his pocket and simply "shook free" of its rat nest with a flick of a wrist. The In-Ear Pro's black silicon ear tips crush and expand like foam earplugs, handily blocking ambient noise by shaping themselves to your ear canal -- and potentially soaking up leftover earwax in the process. Just keep your ears clean and you'll be a happy camper.
We didn't have time to treat ourselves to an extended ears-on session with either of SteelSeries' new headsets, but we weren't disappointed with what we heard. No distortion, no tinny overtones, but, then again, no booming bass either. We'll have to spend more time with these sets' before awarding them the respective category crowns Kim Rom assured us they deserve, but they certainly aren't off to a bad start. Both sets sound fairly rich, and pump out their respective sound waves in compact, portable and durable packages that are completely comfortable to wear. Audiophiles with clean canals can stick it in their ear this November to the tune of $129.99. More into on-ear headphones? You can pick up your new earmuffs for a penny less then $100 in early October.