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SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro review — The king of all Xbox and PC gaming headsets

A champion arises.

SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Headset
(Image: © Jez Corden | Windows Central)

Our Verdict

The SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro incorporates practically every feature you could ever want in a headset, but most importantly, it does it well. Sublime sound, next-level quality and construction, a feature-packed DAC, and connectivity with basically every device on Earth makes this headset simultaneously the jack of all trades, and the master of all trades.

For

  • Active noise canceling
  • Sublime and detailed soundscape
  • Feature-filled DAC
  • High-quality construction
  • Multi-platform capabilities

Against

  • High cost
  • SteelSeries app needs improvements

SteelSeries is one of the highest-profile gaming headset manufacturers out there, and remains a staple across some of our articles such as best Xbox headsets and best PC gaming headsets

SteelSeries headsets are generally well liked for their reliability and sound quality, alongside value for money. Their headsets hit all sorts of price ranges and user scenarios, whether it's headsets for Xbox and PC, or headsets that can do both simultaneously. 

For me, I've always found SteelSeries headsets to be a decent option worth recommending, but they have generally lacked that X factor or unique feature that might have led me to use them as a daily driver over competing solutions. I can firmly say that, this week, that has firmly changed. 

The SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro not only has that wow factor, but it also completely raises the bar and redefines the premium-end of gaming headsets across the board. This is a stellar, stunning product, that has supplanted all other headsets in my setup, across every user scenario. Here's why. 

Price, availability, and specs

(Image credit: Jez Corden | Windows Central)
Specifications

Freq. Response (Wired): 10–40,000Hz

Freq. Response (Wireless): 10–22,000Hz 

Active noise cancellation: 4-mic hybrid design with Transparency Mode Microphone 

Battery: 44 hours Wireless, 22 hours with Bluetooth

Wireless: Bluetooth 5.0, 2.4GHz wireless (45m range)

In the box: DAC wireless base, USB-C cables, 3.5mm audio cable, wireless headset, two swappable batteries

The SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro costs a rather astounding $350 for the wireless version, making it one of the most expensive Xbox and PC headsets on the market. The wired version is $250, although you'll naturally lose a lot of the multi-platform wireless functionality as a trade-off. 

Whether or not that represents value for you will depend heavily on how you plan to use it, given that it can essentially run on any and all devices that exist out there today. More on that below in the full review. 

As for availability, the SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro is available generally at all major electronics retailers, including Best Buy, Amazon, and so on. Right now, it's enjoying high stocks across every major retailer I've checked, but I suspect those stocks will run out quickly as word spreads about how damned good this product is. You can always check stock levels over at the SteelSeries (opens in new tab) official website, which provides links to retailers, while also offering sales directly in some territories. 

Hardware and features

(Image credit: Jez Corden | Windows Central)

The SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro is undoubtedly what I would describe as a "premium" headset, not simply because of its vast array of features, but also because of its obvious pursuit of quality. The materials, construction, comfort, ergonomics, and overall detail just bleeds premium, and immediately speaks to that high price point. 

Indeed, it's hard to venture far into this review without mentioning the fact this headset bundle costs $350 USD for the wireless Xbox version, but after spending a few days with the Arctis Nova Pro, I get it. And while we'll get to the audio quality in a minute, the vast feature set alone is almost impressive enough to justify that price tag. 

The Arctis Nova Pro comes with a digital audio controller, which sports a level of quality rarely seen among companies that put out these sorts of companion devices. The bright and attractive pixel-style display offers reams of information and is incredibly easy to use. A capacitive back button alongside a long-press dial serves as simple navigation through the DAC's menus. With the flick of a wrist, you can just adjust sidetone, volume, EQ settings, switch USB modes, and much more without having to dive into the SteelSeries GG software. 

SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro

(Image credit: Jez Corden | Windows Central)

Indeed, the SteelSeries GG software is probably one aspect of the package I'd like to see improved. Its chunky interface is crammed with ads for other products for one thing, but it's also a bit iffy when using the firmware updater. Initially, a mandatory firmware update failed when I first connected all of this up to my PC, and a cursory glance across Amazon reviews found that others had the same problem too. The failed firmware actually caused my DAC to stop functioning, too, to make matters worse. Thankfully, spam clicking the updater seemed to eventually force the firmware update through, suggesting that there may be some server issues on SteelSeries' end. If you encounter similar issues, I'd suggest that you keep trying until it goes through, but hopefully, SteelSeries will update its updater (lol) to prevent others from struggling with this. 

It's a minor gripe though essentially. Thanks to the DAC, you'll rarely have to use the SteelSeries GG software once you've tweaked its most powerful granular settings. You can use it to create a single audio stream for all of your sound sources for outputting to streaming software, but if you're just going to be using it for gaming, you probably needn't open it again after running that firmware update. 

(Image credit: Jez Corden | Windows Central)

Another area this headset does excel in, is its headset design. SteelSeries is generally well regarded for comfort and ergonomics already, but the Arctis Nova Pro takes it to another level. 

Airy and soft leatherette cups accompany a steel frame, complete with a floating headband. You can adjust the length between the earcup and the frame at will, and the wireless controls on each cup have good action, complete with audio feedback to denote activation. I find the headset to be incredibly comfortable even across long sessions in relatively warm conditions. The earcups don't get clammy despite the leatherette design, and while they are a little on the smaller side potentially, I didn't find the size to impede comfort in any way. The outward appearance is also very attractive, with a subtle but unmistakable SteelSeries design, with metallic accents on either side for a touch of flair. 

Each earcup has a range of controls for pairing, power, and the like. You can adjust volume both on the headset or on the DAC, but the DAC lets you mix the balance between the chat and game audio streams, to ensure that you will always be able to hear your buddies. There's also a mute toggle as well, complete with a notification LED on the mic itself. 

The mic sports active noise suppression, which I found worked really well during testing. It's also retractable, sliding snugly into the earcup for those times you don't need a mic at all. My one complaint with the design is the length, potentially. As someone with a moon face, I thought the maximum length on the boom mic was a tad on the short side, but it didn't impede sound quality on the other end for those listening, at least. Although it did reduce the volume of the side tone, which I felt was a tad on the quiet side even when maxed out. 

(Image credit: Jez Corden | Windows Central)

Where this headset truly excels on the feature side is its cross-platform capabilities. Bluetooth 5.0 lets you connect up practically any modern device, from smart TVs to phones, and you can feed that audio in simultaneously against either Xbox audio or PC. The DAC has two separate USB-C channels, too, which lets you connect an Xbox simultaneously with any other modern console, including PC. I had some issues using the microphone with Bluetooth while the Xbox was active, however, since it seemed like the Xbox took over master control of the mic in that situation. I found myself setting the headset to PC mode instead, and pulling Xbox audio from my TV using Bluetooth when I wanted to use Discord or take a work call. Bluetooth 5.0 is far better than the Bluetooth offered in most gaming headsets, and unlike almost every other Bluetooth and Xbox wireless combo headset I've used, there was no interference whatsoever while mixing multiple signals.

As a final added feature bonus, this headset comes with a detachable battery. This is unique among headsets I've used, and is awesome for a couple of reasons. Firstly, when the battery eventually dies (as all batteries do) replacing the battery will be simple and easy, rather than having to replace the entire headset as seen in some other products. Secondly, SteelSeries includes two batteries in the kit, and the DAC has a special charge dock to ensure that you've always got a battery charged up and ready to swap out when you run out of juice. This is a truly excellent feature, and something I didn't realize I needed until now. 

No matter how you plan to use this headset, it begs to be used. You can take it out and about listening to music on your phone, use it for work calls, mix gaming in, and go quiet while watching the TV. The SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro is truly the most versatile headset I've ever used.  

Sound quality

(Image credit: Jez Corden | Windows Central)

You can have all the features in the universe, but unless you have sound quality to match, the whole proposition falls apart. Thankfully, SteelSeries has outdone themselves when it comes to sound quality here, producing a soundscape that feels balanced and broad, that isolates all of those important sound details that may provide a competitive edge. 

Using the SteelSeries GG software or the DAC itself, you can adjust a range of EQ settings and levels to your heart's content. Furthermore, the Sonar sound menu also has a range of EQ presets designed in partnership with a variety of major games, from Valorant to Call of Duty. Unlike many other similar headsets, the SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro gives you granular control over the spatial soundscape too. I've found that some headsets often sacrifice realism to emphasize some crunchy sound cues like footsteps to provide a tactical advantage in shooters, with no option to adjust for situations where perhaps you're playing a singleplayer game. The SteelSeries GG software, however, lets you slide between a more immersive, richer realism profile, while also allowing you to adjust the sense of distance between you and the spatial audio cues. And it works tremendously well. 

(Image credit: Jez Corden | Windows Central)

The sheer volume of granularity when customizing this headset is a true sight to behold, and while the interface could be improved, the ability to tweak and customize and tailor every aspect of the experience is more than welcome. 

That being said, mountains of settings can be potentially intimidating for those who aren't interested or perhaps even used to it. It's often the case with headsets like this where I've felt manufacturers leave it up to users to tune settings favorably per experience. Thankfully, the SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro just felt great right out of the box, with minimal tuning and tweaking needed. I boosted up the sidetone a bit to my liking, and things like spatial sound aren't activated by default, but after making a few adjustments, I felt like it was more than adequate for practically every sound situation I threw at it. 

Music sounds detailed and rich when swapped to an audio profile, without muddying the details. Action games and FPS really grab a great sense of impact with this headset too, without sacrificing immersion. As mentioned, you can dial up tell-tale sound cues like footsteps and enemy movements at the cost of immersion, but you don't have to either to get a similar experience. You can balance things out to your liking, and set up profiles for specific games and experiences for adjustments on the fly. 

This is also one of the few Xbox headsets I've used with active noise canceling (ANC). It takes background noise taking place outside the headset, and filters it out by injecting a canceling soundwave in opposition, right into your soundscape. I was somewhat lucky while testing this, since not only was a neighbor attacking his hedge with a chainsaw yesterday, but we also had very loud and noisy hailstorms smashing my plastic extension roof. In both scenarios, the SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro effectively eliminated the racket, both from my headset, and from my microphone. Nobody in the Windows Central meeting was able to pick up on the fact I had a chap wielding a chainsaw right outside my window, which is potentially useful in these warm summer months when I don't fancy closing the window. 

The only real disappointment with this headset overall is probably the mic recording quality. While the noise canceling on the microphone is well tuned, its capacity for sound reproduction isn't great, as you can hear in the above clip. It's passable, though, and won't threaten your legibility while issuing tactics on Discord or discussing work stuff with your boss. But don't expect to be doing any content creation with it. 

The competition

(Image credit: Jez Corden | Windows Central)

I hate to say it, but I think right now, the SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro is without peer. There's simply no other headset on the market that does everything the Nova Pro does, and certainly no other headset that does it this well. The only comparable option quality and feature-wise is the Beoplay Portal from B&O, but considering that costs a whopping $150 more than this headset, while also doing less, there's not a scenario where I would recommend it over this. 

You really need to need everything this headset is packing to justify that $350 price, though. Do you need the Bluetooth 5.0 capability? Can you see yourself using this instead of your AirPods for outdoor use? Do you need multiplatform capabilities with two simultaneous USB inputs? Do you game on a desk, where the DAC could be in reach? Do you game somewhere relatively noisy where ANC might be a benefit? There are cheaper headsets on our best Xbox headsets roundup that sound almost as good that may be a more cost-effective purchase. 

If you do plan to use this headset for everything like me, though, I think it's more than worth it. 

Should you buy it?

(Image credit: Jez Corden | Windows Central)

This is a premium headset designed to be used in every aspect of your digital life, whether it's gaming, music, or even work comms. This headset truly does it all, but more importantly, it does it well. 

Who should buy this headset

  • Those who want a headset that can do everything: Xbox, PlayStation, PC, phones, laptops, Bluetooth, and beyond.
  • Those who game at a desk, and with the DAC actually in reach for easy use.
  • Those who don't mind paying a premium to get the best experience. 

Who should not buy this headset

  • If you're not going to use every feature, there are comparable wireless headsets that are far cheaper
  • If you typically game from a sofa far away from your Xbox, the digital audio controller has reduced value since it'll be out of reach
  • Those who want a content creation-grade microphone should probably steer clear too

I'm not afraid to say it: This, right now, is the king of all gaming headsets.

This is one of the only Bluetooth combo headsets I've used that doesn't introduce interference or echoing. This is the only headset I've used that has a hot-swappable battery, to ensure you're never unexpectedly without power. This is one of the only two Xbox headsets I've used that have ANC, and it's far cheaper than the much-overpriced Beoplay Portal, despite doing way, way more. With a sleek design, next-level comfort, stunning sound, precision adjustment options, and a powerful DAC to go with it, I'm not afraid to say it: This, right now, is the king of all gaming headsets.

Jez Corden is a Senior Editor for Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!