The new ASUS Fusion 700s
Any benefits over the 500?
One of the first reviews I ever did for Guru3D (in fact, it might have been the first) was Asus' then-new Strix Fusion 500 headset. A high-end unit that offered connectivity only over USB, complete with RGB, a solid set of drivers and touch controls. I remember liking it a great deal, even though I wasn't able to get the RGB working nicely. There was, however, another higher end player in the lineup. That is what I have here today, the ROG Strix Fusion 700's. They add some more functionality into an already pretty decently feature packed headset. This, however, will not come cheap, with the Fusion 700 coming in very close to the 200 GBP mark. Elsewhere, the product is listed for a whopping 289 EUR (Amazon DE), and 219 USD (Amazon US). That, putting it mildly, is a lot of money. Like, really a lot. That is dangerously close to some 'audiophile' headsets, so we will have to see if the additions have... well, added anything, to the listening experience on the Fusion 700s.
Naturally, we must take the time to - as always - make the point that reviews of peripheral devices such as audio, mice, keyboards (and basically anything you can think of that has some potential subjective element) are subject to an inherent bias of opinion and personal preference. I will always lean toward, for example, keyboards that feature a tactile switch over a linear one. It's what I prefer, though that is not to say that I cannot like keyboards with linear switches (see my review of the MSI GK80 Vigour). Please bear this in mind when reading the review. I will, of course, do my best to be as objective as is possible when it comes to sound quality.
Most, at this point, will be wondering what may differentiate two products that derive from each other but have a near £50 GBP price delta. Well, I wondered this as well. Luckily, Asus has a very handy compare & contrast feature on their site for just this reason. Scrolling down our impromptu versus mode, we see a couple of standout items. The first is that the 700's can now, apparently, play nice with both Xbox and mobile devices. I cannot test this in the case of the Xbox, but in terms of mobile connectivity, one cannot find a male 3.5mm headphone jack to regular USB-A adapter. Anywhere. Hence...
The 700's also feature some level of Bluetooth interconnect... aha, there is our price hike. The inclusion of Bluetooth allows the 700s to act as wireless headsets proper, as well as interface with those mobile devices previously touted. For sure, if I am paying close to or beyond 200 GBP/USD/EUR for a headset, then you be damned sure I expect wireless capability. Sure, some more expensive headsets do not, but they are - or at can be expected to be - almost exclusively in the 'audiophile' category. There, you get the best of the best in terms of audio quality, but connectivity is pegged back. Speaking of pegged back, you won't find a 3.5mm jack on the 700's, so keep that in mind.
The rest of the hardware, however, is copy/pasted directly from the Fusion 500's. That means we get the same 50mm Neodymium drivers, as well as the much-lauded ESS 9018 DAC and Sabre 9601K Amplifiers. For those that aren't in the know about what these pieces of jargon may do... a DAC (Digital to Analogue Converter) is simply an audio solution that uses inbuilt algorithms to alter produced sound, supposedly providing better sound quality. Standalone DACs come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from sub 100 GBP/USD USB solutions, all the way to near prohibitively expensive 500+ GBP/USD products. Then again, anybody in the enthusiast circle of any product 'ever' should well know that things can get expensive quick. There is a reason, for example, that the console gaming market is so profitable. Even at launch, next-generation consoles may well still use slightly or current mid-range graphics processing chips. It's still a major upgrade on what was available, e.g. Playstation 3 to PlayStation 4, but will nearly inevitably lag behind what is available in the PC space. Naturally, if you want something faster than a console, you're going to have to pay.
Getting back to the 700's. The copy/pasted hardware over from the 500's leads me to believe that the audio experience will be near identical, if not the same. Potentially Asus have further fine-tuned the inbuilt DAC/Amplifier for a 'better' experience, but as we know, 'better' is highly subjective. We see a return of RGB capability here, as well. Asus' own Aura software will be providing control for it, as before. Those that read my review of the 500's will remember that I did have some trouble getting this software to play nice, so I'm hoping some maturity and time will lead to a better experience in this department. Leaving aside software reliability, the RGB was exceptional on the 500's (when it worked), so I have no qualms about pre-suggesting it will be equally as pretty here. In terms of location, the trailing edge of both ear cups houses two separate RGB strips that can be configured to flash/pulse/wave... basically, anything your heart desires.
To finish off this intro, we see identical specifications in terms of Impedance, frequency response, and the same goes for the specifications on the inbuilt uni-directional microphone. This doesn't surprise me, at all. I could never call the audio experience on the 500's 'lacking,' by any stretch of the imagination. You could look at this in a couple of ways. The first being 'if it's not broken, don't fix it.' That's a statement I somewhat agree with, and from a business perspective, it makes sense to re-use what is already proven to work well. However, some may view charging a fair bit of extra money for some more compatibility and inbuilt Bluetooth/wireless as taking the proverbial, somewhat. However, given that you're already conceivably spending 160 or so on the 500's, is an extra 50 GBP really a big step? I'm not sure about the EU price, to be honest. I would put that down to some sort of pricing error, or limited stock price hike?
Next, we will go over the 700's unboxing and basic specs. In the case of the latter, it'll look very familiar...