SteelSeries Flux In-Ear Pro Review

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SteelSeries Flux In-Ear Pro
Added September 2013

Details: Single balanced armature headset for gaming and music
MSRP: $129.99 (manufacturer’s page)
Current Price: $100 from amazon
Specs: Driver: BA | Imp: 26Ω | Sens: 105 dB | Freq: 20-20k Hz | Cable: 4′ L-plug
Nozzle Size: 3.5mm | Preferred tips: stock single-flanges
Wear Style: Over-the-ear

Accessories (4.5/5) – Single-flange silicone tips (3 sizes), Comply foam tips, proprietary PC adapter, proprietary smartphone adapter/connector, cable guides, and semi-rigid zippered carrying case
Build Quality (4/5) – The plastic shells of the Flux In-Ear Pro look like a combination of the Phonak PFE and Brainwavz M3 designs. Above the y-split, the cable is of average thickness and features an inline microphone and single-button remote. Below the y-split, the cable is thick and flat, terminating in a proprietary 8-pin connector. From there, one of two included terminations can be used – a 4-pole L-plug form smartphones and other portable devices, or separate microphone and stereo audio plugs for use with a PC
Isolation (3/5) – Average for an armature-based set
Microphonics (4/5) – Good with over-the-ear wear, average otherwise
Comfort (4.5/5) – The fit of the Flux In-Ear Pro reminds me of Phonak’s defunct “Perfect Fit” earphones, which remains one of the most comfortable in-ears I’ve tried to date. The Flux Pro is a little larger but otherwise fits similarly. Though advertised as wearable either cable-up or cable-down, the earphone requires the channels to be swapped for comfortable cable-down wear

Sound (8.5/10) – The SteelSeries Flux In-Ear Pro is the company’s higher-end in-ear offering and is priced similarly to a number of other balanced armature earphones on the market. Overall, it is a good performer – well-balanced, with good bass depth and smooth, gentle treble. Bass extension and impact are rather impressive for a single BA – punch is about on-par with the HiFiMan RE-400 and MEElectronics A161P, though not quite as tight, and on bass-heavy tracks the low end definitely hits harder than one might expect from a single armature, exhibiting good depth and rumble.

The midrange of the Flux In-Ear Pro is nice and prominent – a little less clear compared to the Etymotic Research HF5 and HiFiMan RE-400, but still good. It is smooth and not overly prominent, with a slightly warm tone and no discernible grain. At the top, the Flux Pro is again smooth and refined – more so, for example, than the MEElec A161P. It sounds a bit duller than the MEElecs but the more forgiving treble presentation is likely worth the lack of energy for many listeners.

The presentation of the Flux In-Ear Pro is highly reminiscent of the Ultimate Ears 600. It boasts good width but only average depth and layering, especially when compared to higher-end sets. While wide, the soundstage of the Flux Pro is not as airy as that of the HiFiMan RE-400, for example. The less expensive Flux model, too, occasionally has the upper hand when it comes to soundstage depth and dynamics.

Select Comparisons

SteelSeries Flux In-Ear ($50)

SteelSeries’ two in-ear monitors are both impressive performers but the sound quality difference between them isn’t as great as the price suggests. The armature-based Flux In-Ear Pro is flatter and more accurate, with more prominent mids, less bass, and smoother treble compared to the dynamic-driver Flux. It is also more sensitive, requiring less power to reach listening volumes.

The cheaper Flux model, on the other hand, boasts more bass and appears to have better bass depth. In terms of clarity the two are very close, with the more prominent treble of the Flux sometimes giving it an edge in vocal intelligibility. That same treble can sound a little grainy compared to the Flux In-Ear Pro but overall the two aren’t far apart. The soundstages of both earphones are similarly well-rounded but the Flux can be a little more dynamic at times.

Logitech Ultimate Ears 600vi ($70)

UE’s only remaining single-armature model, the UE600vi, is a direct competitor of the Flux In-Ear Pro. It is one of my favorite single-armature earphones, offering a slightly mid-centric sound with smooth, refined treble. The Flux Pro has a more balanced midrange presentation – while more mid-centric than, say, the dynamic-driver Flux, it emphasizes mids less than the UE600 does. It also has a bit more bass impact and better depth – always welcome traits in a single balanced armature earphone. The downside of the Flux Pro favoring bass over the midrange is a slight drop in clarity compared to the UE600. The treble, too, seems to be a bit duller on the Flux while the UE sounds a little more crisp and transparent.

The UE600 has a source matching caveat, however – it prefers sources with very low output impedance. The Flux In-Ear Pro is less sensitive and has higher impedance, sounding more consistent between sources – a definite plus for gamers and others planning to use them with a variety of audio devices.

VSonic VC1000 ($137)

VSonic’s dual-driver monitor is a bright and crisp-sounding affair, offering a major sonic contrast to the warmer, smoother Flux In-Ear Pro. Compared to the impossibly tight VC1000, the Flux Pro sounds bassier and boomier, with a warmer tone and poorer clarity, especially in the midrange. The VC1000 also provides quite a lot more treble energy at the expense of being very unforgiving when it comes to sibilance and harshness. The Flux Pro, while more dull-sounding, sounds a lot smoother and doesn’t butcher poorly-mastered tracks.

Value (8.5/10) – The SteelSeries Flux In-Ear Pro is a solid single-armature earphone that accomplishes what it sets out to do, providing a balanced and accurate audio experience with a feature set that also makes it suitable for gaming. The over-the-ear form factor is comfortable and unobtrusive and the included PC headset adapter is a nice touch – I’ve only seen one other higher-end earphone ship with one (the MEElec A161P). Overall, while the Flux In-Ear Pro may not be as shockingly good a value as the regular Flux, it certainly delivers solid audio performance while asking little in the way of concessions.

Pros: Comfortable form factor; good overall sound quality; PC- and smartphone-compatible
Cons: Cable-down wear requires swapping left and right channels


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About Author

Living in the fast-paced city of Los Angeles, ljokerl has been using portable audio gear to deal with lengthy commutes for the better part of a decade. He spends much of his time listening to music and occasionally writes portable audio reviews across several enthusiast sites, focusing mostly on in-ear earphones.

12 Comments

  1. Legionarius on

    Curious as to whether or not you would still mostly recommend the Flux over the Flux Pros when the Pros are currently $79 (instead of 100). Are any performance gains worth the $30? Not a huge amount of cash mind you, just curious.

    I don’t spend a ton on IEMs (I have nice full size cans at home) for my go bag because kids, pets, and/or life tend to eat them up. I’m listening to music right now on the entry Flux buds, curious if its worth an upgrade since I can still return these.

    Thanks!

    • ljokerl on

      Well, the regular Flux in-ear can be had for $10 now: http://steelseries.com/us/products/deals/steelseries-flux-in-ear-gaming-headset so if you’re looking for value that still wins. The Flux Pro gives you a more balanced and refined sound and is well worth $79, but it’s not a night-and-day difference unless you’re specifically looking for these changes from the regular Flux (more mids, smoother treble, tighter bass, etc).

      • Legionarius on

        Thanks for the heads up on that! I started to get 2 pairs but noticed that its free shipping at the $30 mark, so getting 3 for $30 makes more sense than getting 2 for $29.95 (after shipping). I’m happy enough with the sound quality for my use case, which is typically listening to Spotify to, from, and at work. I paid $60 for the same set at a big box store yesterday so I’ll be returning those 🙂

        Love the site and I’l be coming back often.

        • ljokerl on

          Good deal. I keep wondering how long the $10 Flux will last…

          Thanks!

  2. Lord Sinister on

    Awesome, thank you very for the informative reply!!  I truly appreciate all your advice and I’m grateful for the work you’re doing for the Head-Fi community.

    Now I got some decisions to make, just not sure how I’ll explain spending few hundreds on an IEM to my wife. This will require some extra, extra planning.

    Just out of curiosity, what’s your real first name?  Feels a bit weird addressing you as ljokerl!  Hope I’m not breaking any rules by asking? Jeremy from CTC Audio mentioned to me your name when we met up but it slipped my memory already.  My name is Neil by btw.

    • ljokerl on

      It’s a pretty common one – Mike. But I honestly have gotten so very used to ljokerl online the I probably prefer it 🙂 Would be weird if someone called me that out in the real world, though.

      Good luck with your purchase, Neil!

  3. Lord Sinister on

    Hi ljokerl, this is a continuation from my recent post on the Fidue A63 review but felt it was more appropriate to post/ask here.

    My curiosity got the best of me so I opened up the brand new sealed Flux Pro package instead of selling (RMA replacement after cable broke again on 2nd dynamic Flux). It’s my first single armature driver, next to the dual armature Altone200, and I’m impressed by the overall sound quality. I finally fully understand and can relate to your descriptions/comparisons, and agree with the bass, impact & overall details these put out. That said, I want to venture more into the armature world (universal & custom) so can you please list some armature based phones (less than 10 if possible) that are more detailed, refined yet smooth/non-fatiguing but with more impressive bass quantity & quality? I’m willing to climb into the $400 – $500 price bracket but only if it’s a fantastic product. I’m guessing the 1964 EARS 1964-V3 is one I should seriously consider?

    Thanks again for all your help/guidance. I truly appreciate it!

    • ljokerl on

      Actually, as far as I know the Altone200 is a hybrid, not just a dual BA. It would be a poor representation of dual-BA earphones. Anyway, here are my suggestions, all with the baseline of being refined/non-fatiguing:

      TDK BA200 – doesn’t really fit your requirement for GREATER bass quantity but in terms of value for money among Flux Pro upgrades it’s the best. Excellent earphones for $200
      Shure SE535 – an alternative to the BA200 with a similar sound profile and Shure build quality
      InEar StageDiver 2 (SD-2) – an upgrade to the BA200, and one of the best universals I’ve tried. Still not MORE bass quantity than the Flux pro, but quality is certainly better.
      Westone W40 – I personally don’t like it as much as the SD-2, but it has a mid-bass hump that the SD-2 lacks, which puts the bass quantity closer to where you want it.
      Westone UM Pro 30 – a stage earphone that differs from the other here with its uniquely full-bodied and lush sound. Arguably a little flatter than the W40 but bass is still plentiful. Presentation is very forward and intimate, as tends to be the trend with stage earphones.
      EarSonics SM64 – among the bassiest of all the pure BA universals. Amazing bass punch and depth with very competent overall performance.

      Customs are difficult – there’s just not many that I’ve tried in that price range. The Custom Art Music One is the best match I can think of but it doesn’t really have more bass than the Music One. The 1964-V3 is a brighter, more exciting-sounding earphone tat doesn’t necessarily meet the non-fatiguing requirement. It’s certainly not nearly as smooth as the Flux Pro.

      • Lord Sinister on

        Awesome, thank you very for the informative reply!!  I truly appreciate all your advice and I’m grateful for the work you’re doing for the Head-Fi community.

        Ok, I got some planning to do know. I’ll let you know which I pick.

        Just out of curiosity, what’s your real first name? When I met the Jer from CTC Audio few months ago he mentioned your name while we were talking about this site but my poor memory can’t remember :(.  Feels a bit weird addressing you as ljokerl!  Hope I’m not breaking any rules by asking.  My name is Neil by btw.

      • Lord Sinister on

        Hi ljokerl,

        Took your recommendation and got the TDK BA200. I love them, especially over the Flux Pro as the overall SQ difference is quite apparent/superior, even at first listen. I actually find the bass on the BA200 a bit more enjoyable than the Flux Pro but still can’t determine specifically why yet as I’ve only been listening to it for about 30 minutes. Just wish BA200 had slightly more sub-bass presence to give it a touch more dynamic sound/feel but I’m wondering if the StageDiver SD-2, SD-3, SM64 and ….possibly my dream IEM…. the EarSonics Velvet {but o-dear-gawd….the price}, will satisfy that need/craving. I’ll probably shoot for the SD-2/3 or Velvet since it’s superior to SM64 and the price difference isn’t that far off. Just need to figure out how to explain that to the wife…lol

        Was going to keep the Flux Pro as I starting to get accustom to the SQ, loved the fit/comfort, but then I realize it was doing something I absolutely hate. They leak too much sound, even at 25 – 30 % volume, my wife can hear enough sound leakage to distract her in our quiet rooms and I generally listen at about 40%. So I gave them away to a co-worker and took advantage of the dynamic Flux In-Ear $10 sale.

        All in all, I’m enjoying rotating between my T-PEOS Altone200, Fidue A71, TTPOD T1E, T-PEOS H-150 and now the TDK BA200. Also got the Ostry KC06A and Topping NX1 Amp on their way so my ears will be enjoying the holiday break. Don’t even listen to Wooduo 2 and Piston 2 anymore.

        Anyways, sorry for rambling on. Thanks again for all your time and advice. Happy Holidays!!!

        • ljokerl on

          Nice collection! Glad you’re enjoying your new BA200.

          Let’s see… I would probably arrange the bass of the four I’ve tried like so:

          Quantity: SD-3 > SM64 >> SD-2 > BA200
          Quality: BA200 > SD-2 > SM64 > SD-3

          With > Being an incremental gain and >> being a sizable one. For instance the SD-2 only has a little more bass impact and depth than the BA200.

          In terms of the bass quantity to quality ratio, the SM64 is really high up there IMO. It’s not a perfect earphone, but bass is something it does very well. If the Velvet is even better, that would be very impressive.

          • Lord Sinister on

            Awesome! Thank you for listing those in order as I was trying to gauge the same based on their individual reviews/comparison.

            Also, ignore my comments regarding sound leakage on the Flux Pro. I tried the flange tips from the BA200 on the Flux Pro which reduced the leak by over 80% with better isolation. The stock tips of the Flux Pro, IMHO, are terrible.

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