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The SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless is the last headset you will ever need
Despite a steep asking price, the SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless beautifully blurs the lines between all-platforms gaming headset and everyday headphones.
For years, I’ve been looking for a wireless gaming headset to usurp the almighty staying power of my trusty long-in-the-tooth SteelSeries Arctis Pro Wireless. And despite reviewing a bunch of headphones and gaming headset contenders since buying the Arctis Pro Wireless, they always found their way back onto my noggin and around my ears. That is until SteelSeries sent me an Arctis Nova Pro Wireless X to review (the 'X' is for the Xbox version; though all Arctis Nova Pro Wireless headsets are functionally the same, the Xbox version is the best for reasons outlined below).
How much does SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless cost in Australia?
Let’s not mince words. The SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless is pricey. Like, Sony WH-1000XM5 or Apple AirPods Max (from a retailer, not Apple) expensive, with an eye-watering $649RRP. If you don’t need wireless, go with the cheaper SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro ($499RRP). Either way, these prices are above what you’d expect to pay for most high-end gaming headsets and most of the way to buying an admittedly hard-to-find next-gen console. Still, the rest of this review will outline why they’re absolutely worth the investment if you’re not put off by the steep asking price.
SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless setup and compatibility
For those who’ve shopped for cross-platform headsets in the past, you may have noticed a trend. It’s relatively easy to find a gaming headset that’s compatible with Xbox and PC (like the Xbox Wireless Headset) or PlayStation and PC (like the Razer Barracuda X), maybe with Switch and mobile compatibility thrown in for either, but it’s seemingly impossible to find a gaming headset that works with everything. Cue the entry of the SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless.
Whether you’re a PlayStation devotee, Switch player or PC gamer, buy the Xbox version of the SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless. Why? Because it gives you the option to use the headset with every platform you own, may own or, hell, the ones you encounter at other people’s places. It even comes with the two USB-A to USB-C cables you need to make it work across platforms.
There’s a dedicated USB-C port on the back of the DAC for Xbox (only on the Arctis Nova Pro Wireless X), and then you use the one marked ‘USB’ for PlayStation and PC. I was thrown by how effortless it was. The manual says the DAC comes pre-synced with the headphones, and this was 100% accurate in my tests. After a couple of DAC clicks, I was ready to use it on PC. And I was ready to play just by connecting a USB-C cable to a corresponding port for my Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 tests.
The DAC is compact and light enough to effortlessly shift it between PC and consoles which, if you’re anything like me, have permanent USB-C cables dangling out of them to charge controllers. Connecting to Switch was as simple as holding down the Bluetooth button on the headphones for a few seconds, and the same is true for mobile devices. Switching between Bluetooth and 2.4GHz DAC wireless devices is one tap on the power button, which also is the same button used to cycle between active noise cancelling (ANC) modes.
Speaking of control simplicity, those familiar with contextual play buttons on noise-cancelling headphones will be right at home with the SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless. Tap the Bluetooth button once to pause or play, tap it twice to skip a track and three times to replay a track.
SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless comfort and design
I was initially saddened to see that SteelSeries had opted to follow the leatherette-earcup trend of other headphone brands, though I feel this helps with noise isolation and passive noise cancelling. In comparison to the soft fabric cushioning of the preceding Arctis Pro Wireless, the Arctis Nova Pro Wireless have a firmer fit, both around the ears and with the headband.
Gone are the free length positioning options of the Arctis Pro Wireless, replaced instead with three fixed settings on a similarly soft internal headband. It’s a bit of a pain to shift positions—you have to really push the band in hard to lock everything into place—but once you find the right one, you won’t need to shift it again (and that rigidity means it shouldn’t pop out of place). To really nail that perfect fit after setting the headband, just lower or raise the right and left earcups.
There are some bits of hard plastic that jut out within the middle of the earpiece, which are two of the ANC mics. That may sound painful, but you should never notice these with the right headband fit. The only minor comfort issues I had were before I properly configured the headband to fit my noggin. Outside of that, I’ve been using these headphones exclusively during everyday work and evening gaming sessions, and they’re always comfortable.
In terms of physical controls, it’s a mix of DAC and physical earpiece options. The volume dial, microphone mute and power are easily reached and well spaced out on the left earcup, and the Bluetooth button alone on the right. I couldn’t figure out a way to easily access the mix for voice and playback levels, and I found the slimline DAC tricky to use at first.
Compared to the Arctis Pro Wireless, this new DAC boasts a larger wheel for volume and menu navigation, which doubles as a button. Admittedly, it took me way too long to realise the seemingly aesthetic circle on the DAC screen is actually a back button (it was a physical button on the Arctis Pro Wireless DAC).
Is the SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless worth buying?
Whether you christen the SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless with music, movies or games, you’ll immediately understand the appeal. And that’s before you dive into the Sonar settings on PC. The SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless pumps out full-bodied audio and, assuming you opt out of the EU volume restriction during initial DAC configuration, it’s capable of extreme volumes.
I’m someone who likes audio loud, and I mostly hovered around 50% volume, particularly for the big explosions from games like Hell Let Loose. On PC, it’s absolutely worth tinkering with the audio settings via Sonar. Despite being in early access and requiring a (free) SteelSeries account to use, this is where the power of the SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless looms even louder. You can reportedly use Sonar with other headsets, including non-SteelSeries cans.
Sonar is separated into Mixer, Game, Chat and Microphone tabs. Mixer lets you tinker with the playback/chat mix, mic output level and overall master volume. Chat and Microphone look identical, but there’s an equaliser as well as noise reduction and other features to truly personalise how outbound and inbound chat sounds. On the microphone front, my regular Discord crew immediately complimented the audio quality of my comms, particularly in comparison to the lacklustre Epos H3Pro Hybrid.
Like the Arctis Pro Wireless, the SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless features a retractable microphone, except this newer version has way better quality, algorithm-driven noise reduction and it tucks fully away. The overall look of the SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless has an understated gaming aesthetic, meaning you can wear it outside as everyday headphones or inside for epic gaming sessions. It helps that the batteries boast 22 hours apiece: have one on charge in the DAC and the other in the headset. Effectively, there are only seconds of downtime between battery swaps, and you can even charge via USB-C (behind the left earcup cover) if you want to use noise-cancelling headphones with 40+ hours of battery life when you’re away from the DAC.
Back to Sonar, I had a lot of fun playing with the audio presets. Everyday music sounded best for me on the Music: Punchy option, and while there are game-specific configurations, the FPS Footsteps preset was so good it felt like I was cheating with how far away I could hear enemies approaching in Hell Let Loose. This also had the added benefit of deeper bass, which makes gunshots and bombing runs sound like nothing else before, adding a deep level of immersion to gameplay.
It gets even better once you activate Sonar spatial audio, which offers sound accuracy that fans of competitive multiplayer are going to love. Given the volumes these cans can pump out, passive noise cancelling should be enough for most people, but there’s also ANC. This is particularly useful for those using the SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless as everyday headphones, and the results in my basic noise-cancelling comparisons were only marginally behind the Sony WH-1000XM4s that I use all the time.
The SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless is a very expensive gaming headset. But that investment gets you a truly multiplatform gaming headset and a pair of headphones that are as at home outside for everyday use as they are in the home for epic gaming sessions. The versatility is next-level, the audio is sublime and configurable, and the microphone not only doesn’t suck, it’s actually great. If you want to buy a pair of top-of-the-line headphones that you can use with everything, you should absolutely consider the SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless.
How we review gaming headsets
We factor in price and connectivity when reviewing a gaming headset, then put it through the motions of testing during hours and hours of gaming and everyday use. This also lets us determine the battery life and extended comfort of a gaming headset, as well as garner feedback on how the microphone sounds over Discord when playing with others.
Everyday testing includes video calls and music playback, and we favour headsets that are more than single-function devices. In fact, the headsets that tend to score the highest are those that marry big sound (including oomph-tastic bass) with all-day comfort. Wired and wireless gaming headsets are generally more closely compared in their respective connectivity categories, except where there’s crossover for things like comfort and sound performance.
Then we take a look at the nice-to-haves. Companion software isn’t necessarily a dealbreaker if it’s average, but it can help elevate the usefulness of a headset. We also appreciate easy-to-reach physical controls for the main functions on a headset.