SteelSeries Arctis 1 wireless gaming headset review

We took the SteelSeries Arctis 1 wireless gaming headset for a spin to see if it lives up to all the multi-platform hype.

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If you’re familiar with any of my previous hardware reviews, you’ll know that I’m on a personal quest to find the best PC-gaming peripherals around. Recently, this journey has taken me through stops with Razer, Sennheiser, and SteelSeries. Today, I’ll be looking at the SteelSeries Arctis 1, a wireless gaming headset that boasts multi-platform compatibility as its main selling point.

Pre-game show

SteelSereies Arctis 1 Wireless Gaming Headset

Opening the Arctis 1 package, gamers will be met with the headset itself, a USB-C wireless transmitter, a USB-A adapter cable, and a 3.5mm audio cable for those that don’t need to take advantage of wireless capability while PC gaming or prefer Xbox One. There’s also a detachable mic that is apparently Discord certified. That means Discord tested it and believes it’s a good headset for use with their app, essentially.

Being I’m a PC gamer, my first dip in the Arctis 1 pool saw me use the wireless transmitter and adapter cable to test the headset in its truest form, wireless. The transmitter itself won’t fit into a standard USB port on a PC, so the adapter is required.

The setup for the Arctis 1 involved first connecting the transmitter to the adapter cable, then plugging it into a USB port on my PC. Next, the headset needed to be connected to the PC through a second USB port in order to pair the headset with the wireless adapter. This also required the SteelSeries Engine 3 software, so that appears to be mandatory. The SteelSeries Engine 3 software was already installed thanks to my SteelSeries Apex Pro mechanical keyboard review, which streamlined the process a bit. Overall, the setup wasn’t as simple as the Sennheiser GSP 370 wireless gaming headset, but it wasn’t bad. Users should be ready to go in about five minutes, if not less.

Getting comfortable

One of the major factors in my choice of headset comes down to how it fits. Everyone wants a headset to fit well, but I’m often passing on quality options because they don’t fit my head while fully extended. This is not a problem with the Arctis 1. It’s the first headset I can recall in recent years that’s too big for me if I fully extend the headband. The elastic band that some SteelSeries headsets come with is absent, and I’m fine with that. I was never a fan of it and find the Arctis 1 more comfortable than the Arctis Pro + GameDAC that includes the elastic band.

The Arctis 1 earcups do fit over my ear entirely, which I prefer, but they don’t leave a lot of wiggle room. Then again, just as I have a big head, I have big ears to keep everything proportionate. The earcups should be fine for the average user. I looked high and low on the SteelSeries website and packaging to find out exactly what materials the pads were made of but found nothing. They feel more in line with a foam pad and soft cloth fabric, which I prefer over leather any day. I find my ears get hot with leather, so I was happy to see the Arctis 1 wouldn’t have issues there.

A headset for everything

The primary selling points of the Arctis 1 are that it’s wireless, and that it works with just about all devices you’d want it to. It’ll connect to PC, PS4, Nintendo Switch, and Android devices via wireless, and it works with its 3.5mm audio cable plugged into a PC or an Xbox One controller. I had to pair the headset with the wireless transmitter via the SteelSeries Engine 3 software once, but beyond that it can be plugged into a device and is ready to go. I was able to test it wirelessly on PS4 and Nintendo Switch and experienced no issues achieving and maintaining connectivity with either.

Missing from the party are phones made by the largest company in the world, Apple. The Arctis 1 will not work with newer iPhones, which is what I have with the iPhone XS Max, so I wasn’t able to test it there. If you use an Android device, though, there’s no reason to believe it won’t be a reliable option.

Bend but don’t break

My primary gaming time with the Arctis 1 was spent in Destiny 2. I wanted to test out PvP to get a feel for how good the sound quality was in a high-stress gaming situation. In that regard, everything was mostly how it should be. There was detail in the sound, such as hearing footsteps knowing instantly which direction they were coming from. The volume control on the left earcup was nice, allowing me to adjust on the fly instead of via in-game menus. My main gripe, though, was how everything sounded just a bit hollow. My main headset at the moment is the Sennheiser GSP 500, and the difference was noticeable.

The mic on the Arctis 1 is detachable, which is my preferred way to use the headset. My Audio Technica AT2020 is the only mic I care to use while gaming, but the versatility of being able to add or remove a mic to the Arctis 1 will benefit times I choose to play on my PS4. I had no gripes with the mic and made sure to let my gaming buddies know to shout out if they heard anything wonky. They did not. They could hear me fine and mentioned it sounded clear, and that’s all I expect from my headset mics.

The battery on the Arctis 1 is advertised as being up to 20 hours, and this can be tracked in the SteelSeries Engine 3 software like the GSP 370 through its companion application. Although I never put a timer to it, I would say 20 hours of use sounds fair. It’s enough that you’re not fussing with the battery more than once per week, which is more than I can say for my Astro A50s, which may very well be retired with the emergence of the SteelSeries Arctis 1.

Hitting the road

There are things I’m not fond of with the SteelSeries Arctis 1 wireless gaming headset. The main one is that the sound is slightly more hollow than other options I’ve tried recently. Secondary is that the earcups could be just a tad larger. Beyond that, though, the SteelSeries Arctis 1 wireless gaming headset carves out a nice little home for itself in what it does well. In a time when I could swap between two or three headsets depending on the platform I’m gaming on, the Arctis 1 offers me a single solution. I can quickly swap between PC, PS4, and Nintendo Switch with little to no effort. What it might lack in bass, it makes up for in comfort, ease of use, versatility, and a banging good price. If you need something that does everything, the SteelSeries Arctis 1 wireless gaming headset might be right for you.


This review is based on a SteelSeries Arctis 1 Wireless Gaming Headset provided by SteelSeries. The Arctis 1 is available in retail and digital stores now for $99 USD.

Managing Editor

Bill, who is also known as Rumpo, is a lifelong gamer and Toronto Maple Leafs fan. He is known for his guide writing and, unsettlingly enough, enjoys grinding out in-depth collectible articles. Tweet him @RumpoPlays if you have a question or comment about one of his guides.

Pros
  • Headband will fit your head, big or small
  • Soft pads on the earcups
  • Mic is clear sounding and good for voice chat
  • Compatible with many devices, most wireless
  • Easy setup considering its versatility
  • Good price for what you're getting in a headset
Cons
  • Lacking bass compared to other high-end options
  • Earcups could stand to be a tiny bit bigger
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