If you’ve read my past headset reviews, you’ll know that the SteelSeries Siberia series has been my ‘go to’ headset over the past few years, with my Siberia v2 still going strong after over five years of use. While the Siberia series continues to evolve and improve, SteelSeries has decided to release a new suite of headsets – the Arctis.
Coming in three flavours to tailor your own budget, the Arctis range begins with the Arctis 3 (£89.99 RRP), the base analogue model that doesn’t compromise on features, as all headsets in the range feature 7.1 Surround Sound. The Arctis 5 (£109.99 RRP) packs glowing RGB illumination, DTS X support, the addition of a USB connection and ChatMix (a feature that mixes between chat and in-game audio). Finally, we have our review headset, the premium model in the series, the Arctis 7 (£159.99 RRP). This headset features everything that the Arctis 5 has, with the main addition of wireless connectivity, and the loss of RGB illumination.
Our Arctis 7 review sample comes in a sleek stealth black colour. Its design come across as a very clean and mature headset that doesn’t look like a toy full of gimmicks. The loss of RGB illumination from the Arctis 5, not only helps to improve on battery life, but I also feel it would have tarnished the overall look and appeal of the headset. Its simple Danish design packs subtle silver lines around each ear cup, while the silver metal band gives the headset good strength that complements its very solid overall build quality. Your £160 goes a long way here, with every material that’s used feeling like it will serve you for many years to come.
The patented AirWeave fabric on each ear cup is a great choice over traditional premium leather/pleather coverings. It helps reduce the likelihood of hot, sweaty ears and you know the leather will not end up cracking and flaking off with age. The Arctis line are over the ear headsets, and the room inside is good enough for the majority of ears out there; not being too big to lose audio positioning, and not too small to find that the padding presses onto your ears. It’s nice and comfy and the foam used also does a good job in deadening any outside noise coming in and also any audio from leaking out at high volume.
The comfort continues with a rather unique addition to the Arctis line. It’s headband features a full wrap ski goggle suspension band that wraps around the main headband. This creates a comfortable contact point on top of your head that functions just like the suspension band found on the Siberia line. This fabric ski google band may seem like a low-fi alternative solution, but it surprisingly works very well, and it also gives a greater amount of adjustment than the Siberia line allows. If you wish to customise the look of headset to your own taste, there are plenty of additional fabric colour bands you can buy. There are a few fabric bands that retail for £11.99 (RRP), including a leather option for £49.99 (RRP) for that additional premium touch.
Connecting the Arctis 7 is simple. You have the choice of a direct connection cable to a 3.5mm jack, which allows you to connect to mobiles, tablets, Xbox One joypads etc. This in turn will not use up the headset’s own battery, so your headset isn’t completely useless when it runs out of charge. You can also connect the Arctis 7 directly via the 1.5m USB cable, and this is also how you’ll pair and charge the headset. Yes you can play and charge at the same time too.
The third option is wireless, via the bundled USB receiver dongle that you plug into your laptop, desktop or console’s USB port. I plugged in the receiver into the front of my PS4’s and the console simply connected and switched over to the headset, seamlessly. Once the headset is powered on, I was soon hearing everything from Sony’s console. Range depends on the layout of your home, with line-of-sight range of around 10 metres, and just a few meters if you have any thick walls between you and the receiver. Hopefully you’ll be playing games less than 10 meters away from your display or console, so this shouldn’t be too much of an issue overall.
So how does it sound? On first impressions, I found the headset to be lacking in the treble department. Adjusting the equaliser to compensate for this helped a lot, with music, but that’s only if you’re able to do so with your audio source. With games, the lack of treble may not be as important as bass for example – an area that the Arctis 7 serves up in spades. For a wireless headset, the Arctis 7 is impressive. SteelSeries claims that the Arctis 7 has ‘lag-free wireless connectivity’ and I can concur that claim. There is no background hiss either, which has been an issue that I have always encountered with wireless headsets costing more than this one. This is a great achievement and it makes the Arctis 7 a really good headset for not only listening to games, but also listening to movies too, where there are always quiet periods in the audio.
Unless the audio source features the latest Binaural technology, surround sound in headsets never seem to impress me over a positioned speaker system. So for me, the featured 7.1 Surround Sound with DTS X support seems a waste. However if you do not have the luxury of a 5.1 to 7.1 surround sound system, or noise is an issue with neighbours, then this headset may get you as close as you can get to a surround experience.
Like the Siberia series, the Arctis line features a retractable microphone. This one goes further with the claim of a ‘Best mic in gaming’ microphone. There’s no need to detach the microphone when you’re not gaming or heading outside, simply push it back into the ear cup when you’re not using it and it makes them look like a traditional pair of audio headphones. Recorded audio sounds clear and crisp. Muting the microphone is as simple as depressing the small switch located on the left ear-cup, whilst the ChatMix dial on the right ear-cup allows you to balance your audio between in-game and voice chat programs.
The Share Jack is another a feature on the Arctis 7 that I’ve not seen featured on most gaming headsets. This simple 3.5mm port on the left ear-cup allows you to daisy-chain and share what you’re listening to with another pair of earphones. For someone that does this whilst watching films on an iPad on the plane, this is a great feature that comes bundled with the headset and removes the need for a separate audio splitter cable.
My time with the Arctis 7 has been highly enjoyable. For the price you may not be able to find any better. There’s a lot packed into this smart-looking headset. Audiophiles might want to take a listen before you buy, as the lack of treble might be a deal-breaker in the music department, however for gaming this headset delivers in spades. The headband may appear like a style gimmick, but its function is solid and it allows for increased adaptability and comfort. This early on, I’ve yet to see how long its battery life lasts and how solid its build quality is with daily use, but as long as SteelSeries continues to support its replaceable ear cushions, bands and cables, I am sure the Arctis 7 will serve your ears for many years of gaming.