Over the last few months I’ve run through a gauntlet of high-end wireless headsets from various makers, weighing the pros and cons of each and trying to find something I can make use of long term. My latest adventure saw me testing the Arctis Pro Wireless from SteelSeries, the most expensive headset listed on their website.
Follow the instructions
The SteelSeries packaging for the Arctis Pro Wireless was easy to handle, which is how it should be. What surprised me immediately was how many components were in the box. These included the headset, base station, four cables, microphone windscreen, spare battery and the product information guide. It was apparent right from the start this wasn’t a plug ‘n play situation, so I headed straight for the instructions.
Thankfully, the instructions were quite clear, with dedicated blurbs to help users connect to their PC or PS4. As a primarily PC gamer I spent most of my time testing on that platform, but had no trouble getting the headset connected to the PS4. It was nice that the SteelSeries Engine 3 software was already installed on my system from my Sensei Ten mouse review and Apex Pro keyboard review, saving me a step. While I do value PC peripherals that function without software, it’s becoming mandatory to install for firmware updates and advanced configuration.
When it was all ready to go, I had a single cable connecting the base station to a USB port on the back of my PC, and the headset itself. The base station had a few basic options, but its value is mostly in displaying battery charges and quick volume adjustments. The rest of the cables were put back in the box for safe keeping. I turned on the Arctis Pro Wireless headset and all system were good. I simply needed to set the base station to PC and both input and output audio was functional.
Durable to a fault
Once everything was working, I spent time getting a feel for the headset and how it was built. In the past I’ve praised SteelSeries for the durable physical design of products, but I’m not sure it applies to a headset the same way it does a keyboard or mouse. Don’t get me wrong, the Arctis Pro Wireless is a solid piece of hardware that’s beautifully crafted, but it lacks versatility. You can’t extend the actual headset to adjust the fit, only the ski-goggle headband. After reviewing several headsets in recent months, including the SteelSeries Arctis 1, I can say the Arctis Pro Wireless is the least comfortable I’ve tried. I do have a larger head, but it’s uncommon for headsets to fall into the “uncomfortable” column with me. Normally I just adjust the set to be slightly larger and all is well.
The discomfort continued with the ear cups, as they were on the small side. I was able to negotiate a fit but, like everything with the Arctis Pro Wireless, I had to seek comfort out rather than be greeted by it the moment I put the headset on. It’s like trying to find the one remaining firm spot on an old mattress.
The sound of excellence
The performance of the Arctis Pro Wireless was what I expected from a headset that retails for $329.99 USD ($419.99 CAD). I tested this set across multiple activities, including gaming, music, television, work calls, and even extended use on Discord with friends. At no point did I lose wireless connection with the base or experience any hiccups. The headset was only a foot from the base, but wireless can have wonky moments with any device, as we all know. There were no such moments with the Arctis Pro Wireless.
Where the Arctis Pro Wireless surprised me the most was with its battery. I’d say the battery lasted about 10 hours give or take, but the key is there are two. One battery can be docked and charging with the base station while the other is used in the headset. Swapping them takes only seconds and involves popping the ear cup cover off and making the switch. This system is a massive strength of the headset, as players can charge their headset batteries without ever having to be tethered to the base station or PC.
As for in-game sound, the Arctis Pro Wireless again put on a great performance. I tested it in Monster Hunter Word and The Long Dark, giving me a good range of sound environments. Monster Hunter World can be loud and busy, and the Arctis Pro Wireless handled it flawlessly. Where it shined, though, was The Long Dark. That game uses sound in subtle ways, such as the creaking of trees, crunching of snow, or the footsteps of an animal. It was crystal clear with the Arctis Pro Wireless, and I’m not sure I’ve ever enjoyed the sounds of The Long Dark as much as I did with that headset.
It helps that the SteelSeries Engine 3 software offers extensive customization options, including presets like gaming, studio, and cinema. There’s a fully customizable equalizer, plus dialogue and bass enhancers. I was able to fine tune the sound exactly as I wanted it, increasing the bass for listening to music and then dialing it back for gaming.
Hitting the road
To say I’m torn on the Arctis Pro Wireless headset from SteelSeries is an understatement. On one hand, it provides incredible sound quality and clever charging that prevents usage interruptions. It’s a solid piece of hardware, but that’s part of its downfall.
For people with smaller (or even average size) heads, the Arctis Pro Wireless is fantastic. The issue is there are a lot of people with larger heads and, when it comes to headset comfort, compromises are tough to make. If the band digs into your head, or the ear cups feel too small, it can push sound quality to the back burner. In fact, sound quality can suffer if it sits poorly on your head.
The takeaway for me, is that despite some discomfort, the quality of the sound and other features make me want to keep using it. Despite its faults, I want to keep using the Arctis Pro Wireless, which says a lot about how good its actual audio performance is.
SteelSeries Acrtis Pro Wireless
- Clever battery design and charging
- Excellent sound quality
- Relatively easy installation for PC and PS4
- Stable 2.4Ghz wireless connection
- Ample configuration options via software
- Crystal clear sound quality over wireless
- Ear cups could be too small for some users
- Headband isn't adjustable for larger heads
Bill Lavoy posted a new article, SteelSeries Arctis Pro Wireless review: So close
btw these are awesome and fix the "earcups are too shallow" issue -
That's pretty cool, but $300+ USD and $400+ CAD, another $20 isn't something I'm looking to drop. They look amazing, though.
Ah well yea I wouldn’t by the pros over the 7s (which woot has recently at $80) anyways. But I did splurge on the pros I would still absolutely spend the extra $20 for these.
But if* I did... dumb phone.
I missed that sale. Hope it pops up again.
Threadjack: I received a set of Bose quiet comfort 35s (II?) Bluetooth headphones and they won't connect properly with the atheros bt chipset in my main rig. They pair but won't "connect" so I can't choose them as an audio output 😪
They connect up fine with my old Lenovo laptop. 😒
Anyone have experience with this and resolved it?
I have the Arctis Pro Wireless with custom ear cushion things. It's amazing.
It's a really good headset, but it's just a tad small for my head. Oddly, the Arctis 1 fits because you can adjust the headband. Just need the best of both worlds now.