Audio Autumn treks on, and today we look at Steelseries’ premiere gaming headset, the Arctis 7 featuring wireless DTS 7.1 Surround Sound. SteelSeries has been on a roll this year, so when we decided to focus in on headphones, we knew we had to reach out. The last SteelSeries headset I used, the Siberia 800, was a high water mark in my gaming headset experience. Does the Arctis 7 live up to those lofty standards?
- Connection: Wireless, USB dongle, 12m/40ft range
- Headphone Frequency Response: 20-20000Hz
- Headphone Sensitivity: 98dB
- Headphone Impedance: 32 Ohm
- Microphone Frequency Response: 100-6500Hz
- Microphone Pattern: Bidirectional
- Microphone Sensitivity: -48dB
- Microphone Impedance: 2200 Ohm
- Microphone Location: Retractable
- Noise Cancellation: Yes
- Weight: 370g
With specs down, let’s start with what makes this headset special. The first thing you’re likely to notice is just how stylish it is. Compared the most gaming headsets, the Arctis 7 looks remarkably fashionable. The headphones are available in black and white, and the black one were were sent makes expert use of contrast. There exposed headband is made of brushed aluminum and is paired with a patterned ski-goggle strap that looks stylish and is comfortable to boot. The earcups are a matte black with a gray logo and rim. There’s no RGB like on the Arctis 5. The entire package looks good and, dare I say, more classy than most other gaming headsets we come across.
In fact, not only is the Arctis 7 fashionable - especially for fans who aren’t into the RGB craze - I can say that it also feels like the most premium headset we’ve looked at so far this month and for me personally, ever with the exception of my V-MODA Crossfades. The exposed in aluminum in the headband might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but there’s no mistaking the added durability it offers. Following it down to the hinge, we find that the earcups are attached via a sturdy joint at the top and not all the way around the housing, giving it a unique design that doesn’t seem to make it any less durable in feel. The lack of framework works to draw the eye to the housings themselves.
The rear of the ear housings is covered in a soft-touch material that’s rarely found on headphones. It’s akin to what you’d find on a mouse but feels slightly more slip resistant. Going around to the other side, the ear cushions are a memory foam with a stitched cover and none of the questionable leatherette usually found in this price bracket. These cushions create a nice seal without completely blocking out the outside world. The material is also breathable enough to keep your ears from sweating, even over long gaming sessions. Like all closed-back headphones, they will build up some heat.
The headset is a little on the heavier side, but not so much that it caused me to fatigue wearing it. The weight also lends to the premium feel of the headset.
In games, the Arctis 7 is more than up to the task. The 40mm S1 drivers get sufficiently loud and, by default, have a fairly balanced profile with only a slight boost to the low end, a common feature of gaming headphones. The Steelseries Engine 3 (SSE3) software allows you to choose a number of different EQ profiles for different types of content between movies, music, games, and spoken word. I enjoyed the “Immersion” preset the most, which raised the levels across the board, bringing out both the higher and lower frequencies. The drivers powering the Arctis 7 are the same found in their most expensive, $300+ models and have the same excellent reproduction abilities.
The Steelseries Engine, used with the USB soundcard dongle, also allows you to enable DTS virtual 7.1 surround sound. Steelseries worked with DTS to develop a customized surround solution specifically for the Arctis. With DTS on, the sound stage immediately widens, boosting the immersive audio of your games. The downside is that positional tracking becomes much harder to pinpoint. In Battlefield 1, I often heard approaching footsteps only to whip around and realize that they were my own. In single player games, the widened sound stage is excellent and definitely gives you a great sense of open space. In competitive titles, though, stereo sound offers better positional tracking where it matters most.
The dongle also offers a more functionality than most by featuring both a line-in and line-out port. Steelseries definitely developed the Arctis 7 with streamers and broadcasters in mind, as this allows you to feed a second audio source into your ears and output what you’re hearing to a mixer or other device. The headset also features a nice chat mix roller for balancing game and line-in audio as well as an audio sharing jack to daisy chain headsets.
The Arctis 7 also features Steelseries’ stellar ClearCast mic. Wireless headsets often fall short in the microphone department, but Steelseries just has a winner here. There is very little compression in the voice quality and the noise isolation is just excellent for the amount of compression that does occur. With two toddlers in the house, I tend to have a lot of background noise. The Arctis does a superb job of cleaning that up. Here, have a listen:
The main downside to the Arctis is that USB is limited to charging only. It seems odd that you can connect it via USB and the PC will simply not recognize it. You can wire the headset, if your PC has a single headphone/mic jack or you have a splitter, and it will result in an even higher microphone quality, but doing loses the DTS surround sound feature. The headset has a 15 hour battery life - the Siberia 800 spoiled me with swappable batteries -- so I personally don’t feel it’s worth the trade
To conclude, I’d like to end with what has come to be one my favorite quality of the Arctis 7: this headset is comfortable; easily the most comfortable I own. The ear cushions are just fantastic, and even though the band looks like it would grip tightly, it really doesn’t. Steelseries did a great job of making the Arctis 7 a headset worth choosing over the competition in more ways than one. It’s too bad the DTS surround doesn’t track positional audio better, but at the end of the day, even that is personal preference. This is an easy recommendation to make.
This product discussed in this article was provided by the manufacturer for the purposes of review.