New SteelSeries Arctis Pro headsets deliver supreme comfort and superior sound
SteelSeries may demand a high price for the new Arctis Pro headsets, but they're worth every penny.
SteelSeries released two new headsets as part of the Arctis Pro family. The Arctis Pro + GameDAC is billed as the first Hi-Res certified gaming headset and it rocks a Digital Audio Converter (DAC) and amplifier unit. The Arctis Pro Wireless replaces the DAC with a transmitter and cabling with two rechargeable battery packs. Here's how these headsets bring incredible sound to games.
About this review
SteelSeries sent us two review units, one Pro Wireless (opens in new tab) and the Pro + DAC (opens in new tab). The suggested retail price at launch is $329.99 and $249.99, respectively.
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SteelSeries Arctis Pro specs
SteelSeries has packed some serious audio tech into these new headphones to really bring quality sound to games.
|Category||Arctis Pro + GameDAC||Arctis Pro Wireless|
|Sound||DTS Headphone:X v2.0||DTS Headphone:X v2.0|
|Frequency||10Hz to 40KHz||10Hz to 40KHz|
|Materials||Lightweight steel headband|
Aluminum alloy hangers
|Lightweight steel headband|
Aluminum alloy hangers
|Battery||-||Two removable (20 hours total)|
|Driver||50mm neodymium driver||50mm neodymium driver|
|Volume control||Headphone cup|
The highlight of the new Arctis Pro line is the Hi-Res Audio certification for the Pro + GameDAC model, though both can hit frequencies of up to 40,000Hz, way beyond what the human ear can capture. These are serious audio tools for gamers with clear sound and excellent levels of comfort. And both command high prices.
Classic SteelSeries design
The look of the new Pro line headsets shares similar features to other Arctis headsets, which isn't a negative as I believe the Arctis headphones are some of the best-designed gaming cups out there. Taking full advantage of premium materials and the ski-band design, SteelSeries continues to make some of the most comfortable headphones to wear during long gaming sessions.
Both the Pro + DAC and Pro Wireless are almost identical in design, the only difference being a few extra buttons on the latter (for Bluetooth and wireless connectivity) as well as the lack of RGB lighting. The former has a small DAC amplifier unit while the Pro Wireless has a transmitter. I'm not a fan of lighting on headphones, but I can see how the Pro + DAC matched with a keyboard and mouse using Prism would look cool at a LAN event.
SteelSeries, much like other manufacturers trying to hit the high-quality audio market, utilized huge 50mm neodymium drivers, wrapped up in soft Airweave earcups. Thanks to the ski band and soft cushions, the Arctis Pro headsets never feel heavy, nor tiring to wear. I never felt as though I needed to make some adjustments on the fly.
Aplifying Hi-Res audio
Testing both headphones on PC, the Pro + DAC was hooked up to the motherboard using USB, which was then passed through to the headset using the supplied USB cable. Hi-Res Audio was selected in the DAC configuration screen, which is an awesome tool to have at hand. Not only does this small screen show valuable information like volume and the sound output on left and right channels, but it also houses all manner of options that means you can customize the headset without downloading SteelSeries Engine.
As for the Pro Wireless, the transmitter unit plugs in via USB and the 2.4G lossless connection is utilized. Not once did the sound drop out or connection interrupted. Connecting the headset to the phone via Bluetooth or 3.5mm cabling was also a breeze.
The batteries for the wireless model can be swapped out by removing the magnetic cup plates. The transmitter unit can hold and charge a single battery at a time. A final note on the user experience with either the DAC or transmitter is the available passthrough to speakers using a 3.5mm cable — it takes but a moment to switch between headphones and speaker without having to change a thing in Windows.
A retractable boom microphone is present on both models. The microphones can be configured to show a red LED when muted, which aids with streaming and muting certain channels.
SteelSeries Pro delivers beautiful sound
Hi-Res may be viewed as a marketing ploy but these headphones don't disappoint. The sound produced by the Pro + DAC headset with Hi-Res audio enabled is stunning. The same goes for the wireless model. There are a few drawbacks to the Hi-Res setting on the Pro + DAC, however, and enabling it will disable chat mix and surround sound.
The audio is crisp, clear and enjoyable. It's about time headsets have made the jump to the truly premium level of audio playback.
The big 50mm drivers, paired with the ESS Sabre 9018 chip, deliver excellent output levels with low distortion. Bass feels as heavy as it should without overpowering, and positional cues are more accurate, all helping to improve situational awareness in games. Exceptional sound isn't required to enjoy gaming but if high fidelity audio is what you seek with support for gaming with a built-in microphone and handy features, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better alternative.
SteelSeries Pro is a must-have for serious gamers
The Pro + DAC by SteelSeries is a fantastic upgrade for any gamer looking to enjoy truly high-quality audio. The experience will be wired and tied to a PC to get the most out of available sound, but that's a price many see worth the cost of being able to wander around freely. RGB lighting is a nice touch, and the DAC amp unit makes the headset a breeze to configure and use.
If you wish to go all out and cut cables in the process, the Pro Wireless is as good as you can get from SteelSeries. It may not be Hi-Res certified like the Pro + DAC, but the audio quality is right up there, and it has Bluetooth support and a great battery swap system. The only setback for both models may be the price, but you get what you pay for when it comes to great audio.
- Sleek design.
- Solid DAC and wireless transmitter.
- Hi-Res audio.
- Don't fold up.
The Pro Wireless (opens in new tab) and the Pro + DAC (opens in new tab) retail at $329.99 and $249.99, respectively.
See at Amazon (opens in new tab)
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Rich Edmonds was formerly a Senior Editor of PC hardware at Windows Central, covering everything related to PC components and NAS. He's been involved in technology for more than a decade and knows a thing or two about the magic inside a PC chassis. You can follow him on Twitter at @RichEdmonds.
No negative for being incompetible with XB1 unless you get the lowest-tier model (with no wireless and no DAC)?
Why are thre still new devices with Micro-USB? Especially on Headphone, only choise you have is JBL E55 with USB-C.
It WOULD make sense to just move one, but it's also not much of a sticking point, to me. MicroUSB is still quite readily available on many devices and cables in many households because not everyone updates their tech frequently enough to be on Type-C as a primary connector for devices yet. Plus, with this thing, you're mostly running wirelessly off batteries that charge in the DAC base, so you shoulodn't need to use the microUSB connector much at all (vs. my Arctis 7, which has just a built-in battery and needs charged over microUSB).