SteelSeries is arguably the premier gaming peripherals brand thanks to a suite of products that have taken awards and been showered with praise from both consumers and critics. A couple of months ago, SteelSeries refreshed their popular Arctis headphone series with the Arctis Nova Pro range (wireless and wired), with the wireless variant introducing Active Noise Cancelling, dual batteries, and a host of improvements but coming with a price tag of $649, making it one the most expensive gaming headsets on the market.
I’ve been using the Nova Pro Wireless for a little over two months, and given the cost I really wanted to put it through its paces before giving a verdict on whether it’s worth the price of admission. Prior to using the Nova Pro, the Arctis 7X was my go-to gaming headset – I called it “the best gaming headset I’ve used to date” in my review, meaning that the Nova Pro Wireless not only had big shoes to fill but a big price to justify.
Let’s not beat around the bush though – the Arctis Nova Pro Wireless is the best gaming headset available right now.
The Arctis Nova Pro Wireless is sexy and stylish
Supporting dual connectivity, the Nova Pro Wireless can connect to either a Windows PC, all current consoles or an Android device via the wireless DAC (digital to analog converter) and another device, such as an iPhone, via Bluetooth. For those who want to kick it old school, you can still connect to a controller or device with a 3.5mm audio cable. The only catch with compatibility is that it comes in two models: one that supports Xbox consoles, and one that doesn’t. I was lucky enough to snare an Xbox-supported model so I was treated to an all-you-can-hear buffet.
Straight out of the box, the Arctis Nova Pro headset looks sexy and sleek, with its mostly black design complemented by a graphite-tinged headband and removable earcup plates. The headband is made out of flexible steel that feels unbreakable. One of the best things about the unit’s design is that it doesn’t scream gaming headset, so you could easily wear it in the office, on public transport or at your local café.
On the back of the left earcup you’ll find buttons for powering the unit, turning the mic on and off, the volume wheel, the 3.5mm port, and on the front is the retractable mic, while the right earcup is home to the Bluetooth button. With the buttons nicely spread out, controlling the headset with the unit’s button was intuitive and didn’t feel like I had T-Rex arms.
One of the complaints I had with the Arctis 7X was its micro-USB charging when a lot of devices had already made the move to USB-C. Thankfully, the Nova Pro series utilises USB-C charging, with the port underneath the left earcup plate, and the battery located underneath the right plate. Removing the plates is easy, and swapping the battery out can take less than 20 seconds once you get the hang of it.
A nice spread
When it comes to battery life, each battery will give you up to 22 hours of charge and having swappable batteries is an absolute game-changer. I can’t give you an exact figure on how long each charge lasted from my own use, but each battery charge lasted a long time, sometimes more than a week depending on my usage. Honestly, this thing is like Mr. X from Resident Evil 2 – it does not die. The battery life is reduced slightly if you utilise Bluetooth connectivity, but it still provides a juicy amount of charge.
I’ve always said that comfortability is just as important as audio quality in any headset, and it’s no surprise that the Nova Pro is super comfortable whether worn for 15 minutes or three hours – it’s easily one of the most comfortable gaming headsets going around.
Unlike the Arctis 7X which used Airweave ear cushions, the Nova Pro earcups use leatherette-covered cushions that feel just as great on your ears. The only downside is that leatherette material can deteriorate faster if things are frequently getting hot and sweaty, and it looks like SteelSeries doesn’t have replacement cushions available just yet, although I assume they won’t be too far off.
The popular ski goggle headband remains, although it’s been tweaked slightly. Instead of a strap that you adjust, the ski google band has three different size settings for tightness that you choose by clipping the strap into place (like the back of a hat), whereas the fit of the headset is done by simply adjusting the headband to suit your noggin’.
No matter what game you’re playing, the audio quality is full of detail and beyond impressive
SteelSeries headsets have always had excellent sound quality, and honestly I didn’t think they could outdo the Arctis 7X but here we are. Backed by 40mm neodymium drivers, the Nova Pro series has a total volume sensitivity of 93 decibels and supports Microsoft’s Spatial Sound, as well as the PS5’s 3D Tempest Audio.
It’s hard to put into words just how good this headset sounds. Games like Resident Evil 2, Resident Evil Village, and GTFO whose subtle atmospheric soundscape felt extremely immersive, with every zombie groan, gush of wind, and enemy shootout creating incredible tension. Engines in Gran Turismo 7 sounded as powerful as if you were in the driver’s seat, and weaponry in first-person shooters such as DOOM Eternal and Battlefield 2042 had a thumping kick to them, while every kick, punch and cowabunga in TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge alongside the slapping soundtrack sounded totally tubular. No matter what game you’re playing, the audio quality is full of detail and beyond impressive.
Returnal was a great test for the PS5’s 3D Tempest feature and it sounded even better than I was told it would, with the game’s atmosphere and soundtrack creating adding to the compelling nature of the gameplay loop. The Sonar software on PC further allows users to engross themselves in the aural experience, which we’ll talk about in a minute.
I also gave the headset a solid workout listening to music and again the quality was outstanding. Breaking Benjamin’s Simple Design is usually my first guinea pig and that passed the test with flying colours, with crunchy guitars, solid bass and crisp vocals. Other bands such as Time, The Valuator, Caskets, Starset, and Don Broco all impressed, while music with a ton of bass had a solid thump. Even the orchestral sounds of the Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars sounded clean and warm.
Active noise cancelling (ANC) has become quite popular in a lot of modern headphones, although it’s still rare in gaming headsets. SteelSeries has thrown its hat into the ring and the Nova Pro Wireless’s offering is admirable but not without its faults. It does a decent job of blocking out general quiet background noise such as another TV in the house or people talking in neighbouring rooms, but struggles with louder noises such as a vacuum cleaner in the background or typing on a keyboard. There’s a Transparency Mode for those who don’t want to go full ANC, which will allow users to hear some of their surroundings. Overall, it’s a neat addition and one that can heighten immersion for the player, but there’s better ANC out there.
Stop looking at my cans, my eyes are over here
The Arctis Nova Pro Wireless is powered by a DAC that allows users to tinker with a bunch of options and is also where you’ll store and charge the spare battery (on the side). Connecting to your PC and console via USB, the DAC has an OLED display where you can see details such as input and volume levels, the connectivity type in use, and both charge levels. On the front there’s a large knob that is used to control the volume and to navigate the options menu, as well as a touch-enabled back button, while on the back there are two USB-C ports, one for PC, consoles, and other devices, and one for Xbox, as well as line in and line out inputs.
From the DAC, users can select the input and connection type, play with audio options such as EQ settings, ANC settings, mic volume, as well as line out settings. Probably the only criticisms with the DAC are that when it is connected to your PC your keyboard’s volume controls are rendered useless, which can make altering the volume cumbersome. The other slight nuisance is adjusting the settings when the unit is connected to your console while you’re sitting on the couch, with the DAC likely a short walk away on your TV stand.
I’ve never really been crash hot on headset mics, with the majority of them sounding a little tinny for my liking. The Nova Pro’s utilises the company’s ClearCast Gen 2 retractable bidirectional noise-cancelling mic that provides relatively clear audio. It’s fine to use for gaming chat but it’s not a mic I’d use for podcasting and content creation.
The front and back of the DAC
If the Nova Pro series is SteelSeries’ new Batman, then its new PC audio suite, Sonar, is its Robin. Sonar allows users to tailor their settings to suit their playstyle, with users able to play with a slew of options such as EQ settings, spatial sound settings, mic settings and more, as well as individual volume levels for game, chat and mic audio. Best of all, the majority of the Sonar software works for any audio output (your speakers for example), so it’s not exclusive to the SteelSeries range.
Each category (game, chat and mic) can have its own EQ setting, and there are a ton of presets available for some of the more popular games such as Fortnite and Escape From Tarkov. When it came to EQs, I found that Movie: Immersion was great for the games I play and Music: Punchy hit the sweet spot when listening to tunes.
If you have a headset that supports spatial audio then you can really increase the immersion. The Sonar software lets players adjust the spatial sound settings between Performance (FPS games), Immersion (story-driven experiences), or a mixture of both. You can also play around with the distance settings which can really bring you closer to the action. GTFO was the game I played the most to test the spatial sound settings, and if you’ve played the game before you’ll know how tense it can get. Tinkering with the settings ramped up the immersion and tension to 11, with the sounds of any nearby Sleeper really making me feel amongst the action.
It may take a bit of fiddling around to find what suits your listening needs, but the Sonar suite is a fantastic offering and is a great asset for PC players.
Sonar, so good
It’d be remiss of me to not discuss the price, because let’s be honest, it’s not cheap. Compared with other high-end gaming headsets, such as the Bang & Olufsen Beoplay Portal (which I also reviewed) which sells for $840, the Arctis Nova Pro Wireless is excellent value at $649 considering all the bells and whistles it brings to the table. Unfortunately not everyone is going to be able to afford the Nova Pro Wireless or want to drop $649 on it, and I get that, and you can still score a great headset on a budget. However, if you can spare the cash, it’s a great investment.
Make no mistake about it, if you want the best gaming audio experience then the SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless is the headset for you. Its audio quality is the best out there, it has exceptional comfort, two juicy 22-hour batteries that ensure you’ll never run out of charge and customisation options for days with the Sonar Audio Suite. It’s the complete package. It may cost a small fortune, but as the old saying goes, “You get what you pay for” and the Arctis Nova Pro Wireless is worth every cent.
Review units supplied by the manufacturer