In order to look good, you may have to sacrifice comfort and practicality.
That’s the case with the SteelSeries Arctis 3 and Arctis 7 headsets. They both pump out high-quality audio, which is something SteelSeries has developed a reputation for with its other headsets. The headsets also have a striking design that makes them attractive as a piece of fashion. But as with the Arctis 5, its analog and wireless cousins just don’t fit as well as many of its competitors.
The Arctis 3 features a wired 3.5mm connection, and it is available now for $80. The Arctis 7, meanwhile, is a lag-free wireless headset, and it is available for $150. Both support 7.1 headphone surround sound, and both have a “ClearCast” retractable microphone. And I like these features at those prices, but I just wish the thing would sit still on my melon.
What you’ll like
They sound great
The Arctis headsets do well in variety of audio scenarios. When it comes to gaming, the 40mm drivers stayed crisp across a wide spectrum even at loud volumes. In Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds, I could distinctly hear a jeep driving around outside my bunker while a pair of gunfighters fought to the death with a pistol and an assault rifle somewhere off in the distance. The headphone 7.1 surround sound really comes into play in situations like this, and it really came across as realistic and natural. And this, of course, also aided me in hearing incoming attackers so they wouldn’t get the jump on me.
Since it is a powered wireless headset, the Arctis 7 does sound a little fuller than the Arctis 3 out of the box. When a gun goes off, for example, it explodes on both the high range as well as the bass. But other than that, both sound excellent. And if you plug the Arctis 3 into something like a SoundBlaster USB sound card, it’ll have a similar fullness to the 7.
They are sleek
Beyond the sound quality, the best feature of the Arctis headsets is how cool they look. I’m someone who likes to own one headset for everything. You’ll get better audio if you go out and spend a lot of money on dedicated earphones for music that have a bold style that you can wear out of the house. But the Arctis headsets are pretty enough that you’ll have no qualms about donning them to go run errands or around the outlet mall.
They have a flat, cylindrical design without a lot of superfluous juts and outcroppings. It’s a futuristic, minimalist design that I think makes the Arctis headsets look better than nearly anything else in this market space.
What you won’t like
Comfort is the only thing holding back the Arctis headsets. While most over-the-ear headphones grip your head to remain snug and in place at all times, the Arctis 3 and 7 are far more loose. This means that they ride around back and forth on your head, which is annoying and distracting.
If I look up, down, left, or right, I’m going to feel the Arctis headset move. It will slide over my hair, and I’ll have to either adjust it or shake my head back until the earphones fall back into place. The 7 does sit more secure than the 5 or the 3, but it still falls off my dome if I look down for too long. For me, this makes them difficult to use. Now, that’s not to say you’ll have the same experience — as it turns out, heads are all different. But this is something you have to pay attention to.
SteelSeries has done a lot of great things with the Arctis headsets. They look awesome and sound wonderful, but I can’t recommend them unless you try them on for yourself. If you can get them on your head and find that you like the way they feel, then you should go for them because everything else here is solid.
SteelSeries provided GamesBeat with sample units for the purpose of this review.