Sound Blaster Evo Wireless review: Bluetooth headphones for gamers

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It isn’t often that you find Bluetooth headphones for gamers, but that’s exactly what you get with the Creative Sound Blaster Evo Wireless. They cost a fair chunk of change at £50, so we’re hoping for great sound and solid build quality in addition to the flexibility offered by a triple-mode 3.5mm, USB and Bluetooth headset. We put ’em to the test, and here’s what we found!


Pros

  • Comfortable and light
  • Flexibility of 3.5mm / USB / BT
  • Thoughtful cables & case
  • Sounds great over 3.5mm or USB
Cons

  • Bluetooth sound quality is subpar
  • Battery life could be better
  • Brash gamer-style design
  • No noise cancellation / isolation

Summary and score

score2-200The Sound Blaster Evo Wireless offer good flexibility, with dependable performance on phones and PCs alike. There’s a lot to like here — easy NFC pairing, pretty cables and a cool gamer aesthetic — even if fundamentals like Bluetooth sound quality, mic clarity and battery life aren’t as strong as we’d hoped. Ultimately, the Evo Wireless is a solid jack-of-all-trades.

Support XSR: Buy for $393.00 from Amazon.com
 

Features & Specs

  • FullSpectrum™ 40mm drivers
  • aptX & AAC Bluetooth streaming
  • One-tap NFC pairing
  • Cinematic virtual surround on PC or Mac
  • HD Voice support
  • High quality dual microphone array

 

Design

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The headphones are made in that familiar brash gamer style – red and black and chrome – but they’re not too ostentatious that they can’t be worn in public (I hope).

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They sit on your ears without completely enveloping them, so you can still hear a bit of your surroundings – which is handy if you’re out and about, but less good when you’re trying to clutch in Counter-Strike. The fit is comfortable and the headphones light, so you can wear them for a few hours at a stretch without discomfort.

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The right can has the controls, with a large multi-function button, a smaller power / pairing button, a free-spinning volume control wheel and smaller skip track buttons. It’s worth noting the skip track controls only work during Bluetooth mode, not in 3.5mm mode. Both cans light up in red when turned on, and go blue when pairing. There are also a pair of microphones here, for voice calls and talking to voice assistants.

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The thin band sports a small sausage of padding at the top, and can be expanded by about an inch and a half on each side, revealing a metal-topped frame. The cans can rotate side-to-side, about 90 degrees in one direction and about 30 degrees in the other. They also fold just above the start of the cab, giving you the ability to fold them up a bit (or have them sitting face-up to serve as impromptu speakers).

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The SB Evo Wireless come with a small box, inside which you’ll find a carrying case, a 1.2 metre 3.5mm cable and a 1.8 metre micro USB charging cable (but no AC adapter). Both cables have an eye-catching red colour, which fits the theme well (and look sweet with my red Android phone). The drawstring carry case is a little cheap feeling, but certainly gets the job done. There’s also some literature, which I didn’t feel compelled to read.

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Testing

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So, big question first: How do these headphones sound? The answer depends on how you’re connecting them to your audio source. The Bluetooth connection is fine, but it sounds a bit flat and you don’t get the richness you’d expect from high-end headphones. The lower end is weak, and mids are a bit muddy.

Audio quality rises substantially over the 3.5mm or USB connections. Particularly for phones that lack aptX support (hello, iPhone), you can easily hear the difference. The sound feels richer and louder, with extra detail evident in quiet moments. Still, the added convenience of going wireless largely outweighs this loss of quality in my eyes.

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The built in microphones proved passable for talking to Siri and real life human friends, although the lack of a boom makes these weaker than most gaming headsets. If you’re going to be talking to your mates on TeamSpeak a lot, then a good desktop USB mic or webcam would be a wise investment.

One area where these headphones excel is in flexibility. You can connect to smartphones and tablets via Bluetooth (with one-tap NFC pairing), to a PC via USB or to older devices like iPods or stereos over the ubiquitous 3.5mm jack. Of course, these are only suggestions — you can easily use whichever connector you prefer.

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The Evo Wireless fit my head well, sitting securely without being too overbearing. I could definitely feel them on my ears after a few hours, but that’s par for the course for me. More padding (and a larger cup) would have made these more comfortable, but they weren’t bad by any stretch of the imagination.

The build quality of the headphones was good, but not exceptional. The plastic construction doesn’t provide a lot of confidence, but they held up without suffering damage over our two week test period. The band feels relatively strong thanks to its metal insert, but I’d be wary of truly thrashing these headphones.

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One issue I found was that the headphones didn’t automatically turn off or disconnect from my phone when no audio was playing. I charged for for a few hours, used them for about 20 minutes while washing the dishes, then found they were nearly out of battery when I went to use them later that evening.

I tried to remember to turn them off after use on subsequent occasions, and things improved slightly. After a full charge, I got about six hours of battery life from the headphones.

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The Sound Blaster Central app on iOS and Android is seemingly feature-bare, offering little more than crummy music player and alarm clock. Improved functionality is present on PC with the Sound Blaster Evo control panel. Anyone with a modern Sound Blaster sound card will be familiar with the layout and features on offer in the computer version, which includes various effects, listening modes and mic options.

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Wrap-up

The Sound Blaster Evo Wireless are a solid set of headphones for a full range of situations. While a single-purpose headset is likely to provide better performance – a dedicated Bluetooth headset could be lighter, a PC gaming headset could offer better noise isolation — the combination here is compelling. If you want to buy one headset that can do it all, without breaking the bank, then the Evo Wireless is a good choice.

Support XSR: Buy for $393.00 from Amazon.com

 

About William Judd

Editor-in-Chief for XSReviews. Find me @Expert_Will or on G+.

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