The SteelSeries Arctis Pro Wireless is a mighty expensive wireless gaming headset. With an MSRP of $330/£330 and availability as low as $270 on Amazon at the time of writing, it's more than twice the price of the SteelSeries Arctis 7 2019 Edition wireless headset ($110 on Amazon at the time of writing), which we gave our Editor's Choice award. What's more, the Pro Wireless package isn't new. The gaming headset itself has been around for a couple of years now, while the control box dates back to the Siberia 800, released back in 2014. Does the math really add up for the Arctis Pro?
Well, you could even argue that SteelSeries have been victims of their own generosity. When the Arctis range first released, there was a tangible difference in quality between the 3, 5 and 7 and the top-end Pro. In 2019 though, the lower-priced Arctis headsets all enjoyed a refresh which, essentially, brought them closer to the Pro spec. The Pro itself, however, hasn't been refreshed. The gap between models has in many ways been bridged.
The twist in the tale is that we'd still rather use the Pro Wireless than its cheaper stablemate, the excellent Arctis 7 2019 Edition. A handful of genuinely useful features, along with great dual wireless compatibility, discern it not just from SteelSeries' other offerings, but from the rest of the wireless headset pack.
SteelSeries Arctis Pro Wireless Specs
|Driver Type||40mm neodymium|
|Design Style||Closed back|
|Microphone Type||Bidirectional electret condenser|
|Connectivity||Wireless 2.4 GHz, Bluetooth 4.1|
|Weight||0.8 pounds (357g)|
|Battery Life||10 hours per battery (2 batteries included)|
Design and Comfort
If you've owned an Arctis headset before, you're familiar with the Arctis Pro's basic design, which is available in black or white. Instead of a headband that sits on the top of your skull with cushioning to minimize discomfort, the contact point across the top of this headset and other Arctis models is a 'ski goggle' elasticated band. The band's tension keeps the heavier aluminium headband suspended above your head. It really does work in practice, offering the kind of fit that didn't feel as instantly snug and comfortable as the HyperX Cloud but stayed put in such a way that I forgot I was wearing a headset as the hours rolled by.
There's just one downside to the Arctis ski goggle band design: its tendency to slacken over time. After a few months, all the Arctis models we've tried have that problem. However, the Pro Wireless (and the Arctis 7, which now uses the same band for the 2019 Edition) is slightly more durable, but I haven't had it long enough to know if it'll survive long-term usage. SteelSeries does sell replacement bands for $20/£20. You also have the option of customizing your headset with themed earcup cover and headband sets if tasteful dark gray doesn't do it for you. We do miss the ChatMix (a Siberia 800 feature that lets you balance levels between game and chat audio) thumb wheel from the Arctis 7 2019 Edition, where it's placed just above the volume wheel for the easiest possible adjustment. With the Arctis Pro, you have to control ChatMix from its base station. That's the only thing we'd change about the control layout.
The most standout feature of the Arctis Pro's design is the swappable battery system. This is a carryover from the Siberia 800, but in the intervening years since SteelSeries rolled it out, no other manufacturer -- to our knowledge, let us know below -- has released a similar system. There are two rechargeable batteries, one sitting in the headset powering it and the other in the base station being charged. Each carries 10 hours of charge, so when the battery in use depletes, you just need to pop the other out from the box, take the cover off the right earcup and swap them out, giving you another 10 hours of charge without the need to tether the headset.
The Arctis Pro's frequency response range is massive, ranging from 10Hz to 40KHz. It proudly announces itself the world's first hi-res compatible wireless headset, and although hi-res audio sources are still quite rare, this is a feature that justifies the high pricing. In lossless music and games featuring uncompressed hi-res audio files -- Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is our go-to -- the crispness and depth of sound was noticeable and hugely impressive. The extra quality was especially prevalent in the high end, where compressed audio tends to artifact and distort. Here we could audibly hear the space between the layers of sound, which is a beautifully immersive quality.
What we often find with hi-res capable headsets is that the demands of meeting those specs tends to drip down into higher sound quality in compressed audio sources. That's definitely true of this headset. Like other Arctis models, it doesn't overwhelm with low end in a show of sheer power, but instead produces a very natural sound. That makes it tremendously versatile across games, music and films without the need to swap between EQ presets, although such things do exist and they're easily accessible via the base station.
DTS Headphones:X technology makes an appearance here as in other Arctis headsets, with the transmitter base station offering a virtual 7.1 surround setup that can be turned on or off. Our complicated relationship with digital surround remains. In some applications it does help to pinpoint sound cues, but often it muddies them. Whatever you listen to, there's a brassy digital ring, however faint, across the soundscape, but we've gotten used to turning it on for CS:GO and PUBG, where generally there aren't dozens of competing sounds. Call of Duty and Battlefield aren't as well-suited since they produce a drone of explosions and gunfire. Sometimes it's worth enabling DTS in quiet, atmospheric games, like What Remains of Edith Finch or Gone Home --titles that really go to pains to put you in a particular time and place. In such games, digital surround sometimes adds to immersion.
The Pro Wireless can't magic away the limitations of digital surround, but it implements it as well as we've heard on the market while delivering truly rich and hi-res stereo sound. Our sole complaint is that the headset itself is rather quiet next to its peers. With Windows volume maxed out, we often ended up gaming at 75% volume on the base station, whereas we'd usually keep the output below 50% using other headsets.
And as for wireless connectivity, we've never experienced a dropout in all our time using this headset. The 2.4 GHz connection is totally lag free, and the added option of a Bluetooth connection means you can eliminate the possibility of dropout altogether. It also lets you pair with other devices around your home, such as smartphones and consoles, which is a real value proposition. We've used the Pro Wireless on long train journeys and found it to be a great performer. The only downside is that you'll have to carry around the extra battery if you want more than 10 hours of audio.
Features and Software
The top-end Pro Wireless has a long feature set, and a lot of it is housed in the transmitter base station. The visual design remains the same since its implementation in the Siberia 800, but it's a handy desktop companion all the same. With just two controls -- one button and a scroll wheel that can be depressed -- you can cycle between EQ presets, change the output source, adjust ChatMix, mic monitoring, surround sound, volume and numerous other granular details, like the exact brightness of the mic mute LED.
In practice we barely used the base station for much besides volume adjustment, ChatMix and swapping batteries, but performing any of those tasks was a breeze.
So we come back to our fundamental question. At more than twice the cost of other quality wireless gaming headsets like the SteelSeries Arctis 7 2019 Edition, is the SteelSeries Arctis Pro Wireless worth the money? While it certainly doesn't sound twice as detailed, or feel twice as comfortable, there's just so much functionality and smart design in this package that the Pro Wireless makes a convincing case for its price.
This isn't just a PC gaming headset; it's also a premium pair of Bluetooth headphones and a console solution too. It's brilliant for taking on a commute or long-haul journeys, limited only by the inability to recharge without the base station. And above all, it sounds great. It's a decadent choice, undoubtedly, but one you won’t regret.
Image Credits: SteelSeries
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