In our quest to find the best PS4 headset, we are now taking a look at the SteelSeries Arctis 7. As more pieces of the new Arctis series of gaming headsets are released from SteelSeries’ stable, we’re finding out that the company which used to only be made for gamers might actually have a shot at impressing the audiophile set too. But what is it exactly that sets these wireless gaming headphones apart from the hundreds of others on shelves today?
Read on in my SteelSeries Arctis 7 gaming headset review to find out!
Price: $149.99 on Amazon
Available: October 2016
Model: Arctis 7
Summary: The SteelSeries Arctis 7 are a nice-sounding pair of wireless headphones, that also happen to have a whole mess of gaming features tacked on at a relatively cheap price.
What We Liked
- Good sound for a wireless headset
- Full-featured gaming options and chat controls
- ClearCast mic was clear and easy to understand
What We Didn’t
- Battery life less than advertised
- Red mic light was annoying
SteelSeries Arctis 7 Wireless Headphone Specs
|7.1 Surround Sound|
Other than a steel alloy headband and a few more ports on the side of the headset, you’re not going to find a whole lot of differences between the design of the wireless Arctis 7 and its wired brother the Arctis 5, which we reviewed last month. The cups are identical in design to the Arctis 5, aside from the lack of RGB lighting – so if you want a pair of cans you can use to light up your next LAN party, y0u might be better going with the 5 instead.
If you’ll remember in my review of that top gaming headset, I talked about the myriad problems I had with getting the adjustment of the ski goggle strap to fit in a way that wasn’t so tight that it hurt, but also not so loose that the headphones lost bass when I was talking, eating, or moved my head too quickly.
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The Arctis 7 does several things different than the 5 in this regard:
- The first is the way the secondary steel alloy headband is shaped, in more of a square than the high arches of the plastic headband on the 5. This gives the headphones more lateral pressure, and a better grip point so they actually press against your head with enough force to keep themselves tight, but not uncomfortably so either.
- The second is the weight of the battery, which can be annoying in some headsets but I actually think works to the benefit of the Arctis. Balancing the proper weight on wireless headsets is no simple task, but SteelSeries has just about nailed it on the Arctis 7.
- Last is the “full-wrap” headset strap, opposed to the half-wrap that comes on the Arctis 3 and 5. With the strap looped around both parts of the headset the tension point is easy to set to your liking, making for a nearly perfect fit every time.
Overall the upgrades make for a much better fit, and longer-lasting comfort throughout. I found I could easily wear the headset for eight or more hours at a time, only needing short breaks in between to give my matted hair a quick tussle and talk on the phone.
Just like the Arctis 5, the Arctis 7 comes with an in-line retractable microphone, onboard volume rockers, the option to connect through either USB or a 3.5mm jack, and runs Dolby 7.1 Surround Sound (Windows-only) in games that support it. Unlike that model, however, the Arctis 7 can also go completely wireless over the 2.4GHz wireless spectrum, if you so choose.
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The volume of the headphones can be controlled either through the volume rocker on the left ear cup, or by switching between voice/music using the rocker on the right earcup. Other features of note include the hard mic mute button tucked away behind the left earcup, as well as the micro-USB port used to charge the headset’s battery, which claims a 15-hour life during regular usage.
The Arctis 7 uses the 40mm neodymium SteelSeries S1 drivers to power its sound, the same the company claims are available on their top of the line $300 Sibera 800 headphones. To test the performance of the SteelSeries Arctis 5 headset, we burned the drivers in over a period of 30 hours using various types of music played through both FLAC and 320kbps sources, as well as dozens of varied games and movies.
Although tinny and a little too crisp for my tastes when I first put them through their paces, after the drivers had a little time to settle in the soundstage of the Arctis 7 really started to open up. The whole concept of the Arctis line for SteelSeries is to shake up the notion that gaming headsets can’t have good sound without costing an arm and a leg, and I’d say for the most part they’ve achieved that here. Bass response on the Arctis 7 was the only space where it was lacking, and could definitely have used more tuning to lock it in. This is also a common thread among most wireless headsets though, as a high bass response burns battery more quickly, so designers need to find a middle ground between the two and I still think the Arctis walks that line well enough.
I’m an especially big fan of the choice to go with 2.4GHz transmission over Bluetooth, which means the headphones retain 99% of the sound quality you’d get if you went with the wired mode, and quite a bit more if you were stuck on the Bluetooth aptX standard. I couldn’t tell much of a difference in quality when listening over the 3.5mm jack or the USB, but on the whole I think the Arctis line lives up to what it’s trying to do in making solid sound more affordable for the average gamer.
The range of the Arctis 7 is rated up to 40ft of distance, and I was easily able to walk up and downstairs before losing signal without any problem. The ClearCast mic performed better than last time, perhaps due to some tweaking I did in the SteelSeries software after the fact to remove distortion and get the clearest performance possible.
Last was battery life testing, which lasted a little less than what SteelSeries quotes, but not by much. In the 30 hours we tested the headset we had to recharge it a little more than twice, which averaged out to about 12 hours of usage per charge (which itself took about two hours from dead to full).
We’ve already written about the SteelSeries 3 Engine in two previous reviews, and most of everything we both liked and disliked about it remains unchanged (aside from the lack of RGB lighting configuration, which the Arctis 7 doesn’t have).
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Here is where you can twiddle with the equalizer and voice settings. Everything was pretty standard fare as far as we were concerned, but then again it’s hard to innovate on the software of gaming headsets when the basic functionality of the hardware has stayed the same for so many years up until this point.
SteelSeries Arctis 7 Review: Wrap-Up
If you’re a budding audiophile but also an avid gamer (or vice versa), the SteelSeries Arctis 7 is a worthy investment considering all the bonuses you get for the $149.99 pricetag.
The Arctis 7 makes up entirely for the sins of its cheaper brother the Arctis 5 with a headband that actually fits the way you want it to, and doesn’t weigh you down throughout the day. The rated 15-hour battery life may have only really been closer to 12 and the red “mic off” light is still just as annoying as ever in a dark room, but other than that if you’re looking for a cheap, above-the-grade sounding pair of cans with moderate bass response and crisp highs, then the SteelSeries Arctis 7 is the choice for you.
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