ASUS ROG Theta 7.1 Review
‘Are surround sound headsets worth your money?’ This is the question that always divides the gaming community as some gamers will argue that a surround sound headset offers a clear advantage and enhance their gaming experience, while others claim that it is nothing more than an overused marketing gimmick. Most gaming headsets that feature ‘surround sound’ don’t actually offer a true surround experience, instead they rely on software to artificially create the virtual surround sound effect. In reality, you cannot produce true surround sound from only two drivers and this is why most manufacturers have adopted virtual surround sound as their preferred method; but not ROG — ROG has bucked the trend of fake virtual surround sound and is able to deliver true surround sound thanks to their new ROG Theta 7.1 gaming headset.
Instead of your traditional 2 drivers (1 per each earcup), ROG has included 8 discrete Essence drivers (4 in each earcup) that can accurately reproduce each audio channel and deliver true surround sound that gamers demand. But at an RRP of over $500 AUD, does the ROG Theta 7.1 warrant its imposing price tag? Or more importantly, is it worthy of its flagship title as ROG’s prestigious gaming headset? Let’s take a look and find out.
As soon as you open the box, there is no denying that ROG is out to impress — ROG has delivered an unboxing experience worthy of a flagship product. It all begins once you slide the cover off and open up the box and you are suddenly met with the ROG Theta 7.1 headset resting proudly on its pedestal — almost like it’s awarding you for purchasing this headset. This trend continues as you finally get your hands on the headset, and honestly, I couldn’t help but be impressed. The Theta 7.1 is big, bold, and sexy (much like myself), and gives off a sense of arrogance that you don’t usually associate with headsets. It is everything you would expect from a flagship product and I haven’t even put the damn thing on my head yet!
Now that ROG has gotten you in the mood for more than just gaming, it is quite obvious that the ROG Theta 7.1 is extremely well designed and built. The mixture of faux leather, metal, and plastic all combine to create a premium look to the product. The sharp lines and oversized D-shaped ear cups add an aggressive and flamboyant look all whilst not compromising its premium look. This approach is continued with the subtle RGB integration of two ROG logos in each ear cup. This illumination almost goes unnoticed as instead of blinding you with RGB illumination, ROG has taken a more subtle – almost professional – approach with its RGB effects by not taking any attention away from the overall design of the headset.
The adjustable headband has the standard ‘Republic of Gamers’ embedded into the black plastic housing that protects the metal core of the headband. This not only adds strength to the headband but also contrasts nicely to create a classy premium look. A nice addition to the headband that I personally love is the redesigned padded support. This padded support is no longer directly attached to the headband and instead, is free from the plastic headband itself. This is somewhat similar to SteelSeries‘ ski-goggle headband design as this allows the padded support to mould to the shape of your head rather than being bonded to a piece of plastic that has no movement.
The headband is attached to the earcups via metal gimbals that provide 90-degrees of movement for each ear cup. This means you can quite easily put the earcups flat on the desk when not in use if you don’t happen to own a headset stand. Speaking of the earcups, your ears are in for a treat as the oversized D-shape earcups are huge, comfortable, and finished in matte plastic with an RGB illuminated ROG logo on the side that looks fantastic.
As good as this all sounds, it wasn’t exactly my first impression. Once I saw the faux leather (protein leather as ROG are calling it) material featured on the earcup cushions, I was disappointed — Why? Leather earcups look great but they’re the catalyst for heat and sweat; two unwanted effects of gaming headsets, but I quickly learnt I should never doubt ROG! The leather finished is only for aesthetics as it is only featured on the outer edge of the ear cup and in fact, doesn’t come in contact with your ears at all. The rest of the ear cup is finished in a mesh-like breathable fabric that is both soft and you guessed it; breathable. In case this isn’t enough for you anti-leather fans, ROG also include a spare set of fabric only earcups that don’t feature the leather edge at all!
I’m not sure if ROG is fans of The Simpsons or not, but I was seriously impressed with the Theta 7.1’s speed holes! Unfortunately, I soon realised that these speed holes do not make the headset go faster, but are rather subtle ventilation cutouts that help dissipate the hot air trapped inside each of the earcup’s housing. Why is this you may ask? Well, thanks to the addition of 6 extra drivers (8 in total — 4 in each earcup), the excess heat generated by the increased electronics mean that ROG needed to be creative when designing the headset to ensure optimal performance and comfort. The good news is that it works as I found the Theta 7.1 to be as cool as any gaming headset I have used, but not as fast as Homer’s car.
Moving onto the onboard controls of the headset, well, there isn’t a great deal to explain. The controls consist of a simple PC/NB and PHONE toggle switch and microphone volume rocker switch that are both located on the left ear cup. The microphone volume switch doubles up as a microphone mute button (press rocker switch in) and can also disable the RGB illumination by holding the button in. A 3.5mm auxiliary jack is also featured on the left ear cup that is used for connecting your bendable microphone but other than that, that’s it!
As you would expect from a big headset that features everything but the kitchen sink, it is on the heavy side – 590g to be precise. This is a significant increase over other premium headsets such as the SteelSeries Arctis Pro (353g) and the Roccat Elo 7.1 USB (374 g), but believe me when I say that this weight is misleading. The
nerd’s engineers over at ROG have done an incredible job designing the Theta 7.1 as the weight distribution of the headset is flawless and honestly feels as light as any of the two mentioned above.
There is a pretty significant drawback of the design, and that is the dual cables connected to each ear cup. This is a byproduct of the increased number of drivers as this means more power is required, more power means more cables are required to increase the current-carrying capacity. The good news is that each of the earcup’s cables connects to a splitter, so only one cable (USB-C) goes back to your PC.
Now, the annoying part is that each of the cables going to the splitter is actually thicker than the cable that connects to your USB port. Why? I can’t explain this other than to increase the durability of the cable. These thick cables are also quite short as I found that the cable tends to rest just under my chin or on my neck. This was quite annoying at times where I would fidgeting around during gaming, look at my phone, 2nd screen or just general horizontal/vertical head movements, This isn’t an issue when you’re deep in concentration during a gaming session, but when you are listening to music or working and tend to move around a bit, the cable management of the Theta 7.1 can become annoying.
On the topic of cable management, another issue I have is that the USB-C cable, or lack of as it is only 1.2m long. To combat this ROG has also included USB-C to USB-A extension you can increase the overall length of the cable to 2.2m, which is long enough for PC gaming but not great for consoles and may put some gamers off.
With 8 individual drivers (and 1 virtual for bass), the ROG Theta 7.1 has been designed to be one of the premier gaming headsets on the market. The clarity and more importantly, sound accuracy, is s amongst the best I have heard from a gaming headset and doesn’t disappoint. ROG has branded its eight neodymium magnet driver setup as Asus Essence with each ear cup made up of 4 drivers that can actually be viewed if you remove the ear cup (highly recommend doing so). The front driver is 40mm in size while the remaining 3 (centre, side, and rear) come in at a respectable 30mm. These drivers produce an impressive 20 to 40000 Hz frequency range that focuses on sound definition and clarity. Unfortunately, the choice of including a virtual driver for the subwoofer means that the headset’s low end tends to suffer in comparison as the lack of bass is noticeable.
If you have read my review of the SteelSeries Arctis Pro + GameDAC then you will know I am a huge fan of lossless audio, so it should come as no surprise that I couldn’t wait to test out ROG’s custom home-theatre-grade 7.1 DAC and listen to some Hi-Res audio. What makes this DAC so unique is that, unlike other true 7.1 headsets that use a single amplifier to power their drivers, ROG’s custom DAC uses four ESS 9601 headphone amplifiers to deliver a much bigger sound stage with pinpoint placement of sound effects and clarity that needs to be heard to be believed. This is great for FPS games where you can pinpoint subtle noises such as footsteps that help create a level of awareness and immersion that most headsets can only dream of.
Unfortunately, the lack of low end means that the ROG Theta 7.1 struggles to reproduce the same level of quality for music. Even switching the output to effectively 2.1 stereo (using the PC/NB and PHONE toggle switch) fails to reproduce the same prestigious experience you get while gaming. This is a shame as thanks to its USB-C connection, connecting the Theta 7.1 to your mobile phone is quite easy, but thanks to due to the sheer physical size of the headset, not to mention the lack of a carry case, it is probably a good thing that the Theta 7.1 is a gaming beast and not an all-round alternative for gaming and music on the go such as the ROG Strix Go 2.4.
In case the audio performance wasn’t enough of an attraction for you, ROG has also included the world’s first AI-powered noise-cancelling microphone. ROG has captured and analysed millions of hours of in-game chat recordings to build its AI that actively removes background noise and prioritises the voice input of the user. It’s not perfect but it does reduce unwanted background noise such as keyboard clicks and your
annoying wife and kids family. From my understanding, this is the extent of the AI learning involved as the Theta 7.1 itself does not capture any data itself and use this for further AI learning. It would have been pretty amazing if you could set up your Theta 7.1 to analyse your own voice and background noises, then use this data to continually learn what noises to suppress and what noise to prioritise based on the user.
As good as this AI technology is, it is let down by its very ordinary microphone. The quality of this unidirectional microphone is well below the standard set by the rest of the headset. On paper, it should be a decent microphone; 100 – 12,000 Hz frequency response, and a -54 dB microphone sensitivity, but during my testing, it simply failed to live up to other microphones included on other flagship headsets. If you’re like me and own a decent desk microphone, then you have the luxury of simply unplugging the microphone from the and have the best of both worlds.
ROG’s Armoury Crate has come along way since taking over as ROG’s all-in-one software solution. Sure, it still has its issues but it feels that ROG are constantly working on improving its functionality, resource comsumption, and interface. Armoury Crate provides a number of options to tweak both the sound output and microphone input of your Theta 7.1 headset, not to mention that important RGB illumination configuration. There are several EQ preset profiles including multiple sub-presets for multiple music genres that I thought was nice tough.
For all you audiophiles out there, there are a few options that you will love such as adjusting the bit rate and sampling rate of the headset thanks to the Theta 7.1 being Hi-Res certified. As for the microphone, Armoury Crate provides numerous options such as enabling AI Noise Cancelation, True Voice and the Noise gate.
What can I say about the ROG Theta 7.1 that I haven’t already said? It is one of, if not, THE best gaming headset on the market. It is one of the few gaming headsets that features true surround sound thanks to the use of not 2, not 4, not 6, but 8 individual drivers that when combined with ROG’s custom home-theatre-grade 7.1 DAC, is able to deliver an unmatched gaming experience. There are one or two weak chinks in its impressive armour; a fixed cable connected to each earcup, a subpar microphone, and of course, that $550 AUD price tag, but all this is forgiven the moment you jump into a game, crank up the volume and enjoy the pinpoint accuracy and incredible clarity that the ROG Theta 7.1 has to offer as the new king of flagship gaming headsets.
ASUS ROG Theta 7.1 Review
- DESIGN - 90%90%
- PERFORMACE - 99%99%
- COMFORT - 96%96%
- VAUE - 87%87%
Forget fake surround sound, do yourself a favour and experience the true surround sound experience that the ASUS ROG Theta 7.1 provides — I promise you that once you have the real thing, you’ll never go back!
For more on ASUS, check out our previous coverage.