SteelSeries Arctis Pro + GameDAC Review

From IGN - March 13, 2018
By Matt Elliott

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Like a basketball player after a year of college, the SteelSeries Arctis line of headsets has finally turned pro. SteelSeries is adding three new headsets to its Arctis lineup, and they are all "Pro" models -- two wired and one wireless. All three models leapfrog the $150 Arctis 7 and are now the company's flagship headsets. What separates the wired Arctis Pro models from the rest of the lineup depends on the specific model, and the model I am reviewing here is the wired SteelSeries Arctis Pro + GameDAC (See it on Amazon), which costs $249.99.

It offers an external GameDAC module that delivers high-fidelity sound along with easy access to settings and controls. Above it is the also-new $329.99 Arctis Pro Wireless, which lacks the GameDAC but provides lossless, lag-free 2.4GHz wireless audio along with Bluetooth. Both headsets are physically the same, and differ only how they connect to their external boxes (among other small differences). Finally there's also a vanilla "Pro" model that's wired and without the gamedac, or wireless connectivity. It sells for $179.99.

The Arctis line already boasted a professional-grade design, with premium materials and a comfortable fit, so its not surprising that the Arctis Pro headsets dont feature a radical redesign. In fact, theyre nearly identical to the previous Arctis models, from the large oval earcups, ski-goggle-strap headband, and soft-touch coating on the surfaces.The overall design is notably understated, particularly since some gaming headsets go for an aggressive, attention-seeking design. The only spot of color on the all-black design are the customizable LEDs that form a ring around the outside of the earcups.

Along with the soft-touch coating on the earcups, the headband features a matte, gunmetal finish that lends the headset an air of quality and sophistication. The headband and the hangers that connect it to the earcups are not plastic but metal for added durability. Despite the use of actual metal (a rarity in the headset world), the headset is fairly light, weighing just 12.3 ounces.

Unlike most headsets that use a telescoping mechanism to adjust for size, the Arctis line uses a ski-goggle-esque cloth band that loops around the headband. It stretches a bit to create a comfortable, suspension-aided fit on your head, and a Velcro fastener lets you adjust the fit somewhat. As with the Arctis 7, I wished they offered a greater degree of adjustment. With the headset at its largest setting, the headset still felt a bit tight on the top of my head and against my ears. The earcups can be rotated when not in use so you can rest the headset around your neck during breaks in the action. However, just like when it's atop your head, the headset feels a bit tight and constricting when resting around your neck. Ive got no complaints about the earcups themselves. They are covered in an extremely soft fabric that SteelSeries calls AirWeave. Its soft and breathable and makes long gaming sessions comfortable and cool.

On the back of the left earcup are easily accessible volume controls: a volume dial and a microphone mute button. The mute button is cleverly designed; it sticks out a bit more when the mic is muted so you can tell just from touch the status of your microphone. If youd rather a visual cue, theres a customizable LED light on the retractable microphone itself that lights up when its muted. Below the volume controls on the left earcup are two jacks -- one for the cable that runs to the GameDAC module and a 3.5mm audio jack that you can use to share audio with another headset.

What gives the Arctis Pro is professional-level sound is the GameDAC. Its a USB module with its own sound chip that offloads the audio processing from the DAC on your PC, Mac or PS4 for high-resolution audio. It also has an OLED screen that displays all the settings you can adjust. From the GameDAC, you can use an equalizer to select from among three presets or customize your own audio levels. You can also enable DTS Headphone:X for virtual surround sound, adjust the sidetone level for the microphone, and set the microphone volume. The GameDAC also lets you choose a color for the headsets LED lighting. The GameDACs screen is easily navigated with two buttons and a dial.

The Arctis Pro works right out the box on a PC, Mac or game console without the need for any additional software. Inside the box youll find an optical audio cable, which youll need for the PS4 or Xbox, and a mobile adapter so you can connect the headset to your phone, tablet, or Xbox controller.


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