Steelseries Arctis 7 Wireless Headset Review
Published: 16th May 2017 | Source: Steelseries | Price: |
There is a huge amount to like about the Arctis 7, and a few things that are niggles to a greater or lesser degree depending upon your personal tastes.
The packaging is of a very high quality with a sturdy construction and a design which hints at that you'll find on the headband of the Arctis itself. The three cables are a good length and the instructions are clear and cover every feature of the headset, both things which aren't always the case. The headset itself is extremely light for a wireless number, with none of the weight that you might associate with a battery driven device. This lightness combines with the excellent design to produce a headset you could wear every hour of the day without fatiguing. The ear cushions are large, deep, but soft and airy. This helps keep your ears cool and spreads what little weight there is evenly across your head. Similarly the headband is thick enough and supple enough to spread the load yet further. In short, we've rarely come across a more comfortable headset.
Sound quality is, at the default settings, very good. There is an airiness to the sound which you wouldn't normally experience in a closed back headphone design, aided by the fairly open foam in the ear pieces. This does mean that a little bit of sound bleeds out when you're listening at high volumes, so it isn't the kind of headset to secretly wear in church or hoping that the person sitting next to you doesn't hear what you're listening to. But the whole audio spectrum is well catered to with the midrange being particularly robust. The microphone is one of the best we've experienced. It's not too easy to get it to sit where you want, but once you have it has none of the background noise problems or frequency peaks on your plosives that you might get from lesser microphones.
The wireless side of things is just about as good as it gets. The claimed 15 hours battery life is pretty close to the truth - we achieved 13 constant hours from a full charge - which is more than enough to last a long journey, Netflix boxset or a heavy gaming session. Of particular note is the range. This is the first wireless headset we've reviewed where we could wander to the darkest corners of the office and not lose signal or have the headset endlessly change channels. If you're streaming some sport, waiting for your next battle to start, or just listening to music, you can stroll off to the loo or get a drink without interruption. Fantastic.
There are a couple of negative points though.
Probably the smallest is the design of the headband. It's a bit gaudy for our tastes and none of the extra ones Steelseries sell are any better. Yes it's on your head so you can't see it, but we'd rather have had a black one by default with more lurid ones an option, rather than garish and more garish being the only options. Also the way that the headset is designed you can't attach the TrackIR Pro Clip to it, irritating if you are heavily into head-tracking. Of medium problems is charging. Like most of you we've got loads of things that use a micro-USB cable for charging, PS4 pads, phones, wireless speakers etc etc, and not all of them charged the headset. Even plugging it into the PC didn't necessarily charge it, unless it was turned on. But if you're not playing audio it automatically turns off. Hmm. Maybe it was a configuration thing, but we found the most reliable way of getting it to charge was plugging it in whilst in use, which negates the wireless side.
A far more significant problem though is the sound quality when you adjust it at all. By default the headset sounds amazing, with the bass frequencies being perhaps a little quiet for our tastes. The moment we tweaked it in the Steelseries Engine software it was really really easy to thin the sound right out. Even adjustments which should fatten it up led us down the path to "thin gutless" sound. Again, this is solved by not fiddling with it, but by doing so you're negating another option, and we know that sound, more than anything else, is a matter of personal taste with some people loving the chest pound bass and some preferring soaring highs. It is as if the Arctis has been designed to work with the default settings and very little else. Fortunately those defaults are great, but still.
What we end up with is a headset which is very nearly brilliant but just falls at the last. It's light, supremely comfortable, great battery life and fantastic wireless range. It sounds great if you don't fiddle but pretty awful if you do. We also don't quite understand why the cheaper Arctis 5 has RGB lighting but this doesn't. If all you want from a headset is for it to be wearable for long sessions, lets you get up and walk around and you like the sound scape is comes out the box with, then you'll love it. For everyone else, try before you buy.
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