Sound can be an extremely underrated part of video games and much media. We love the pretty visuals, and obviously for gaming the gameplay has to be right, but a good or bad soundtrack, along with the mixing of sound effects and dialogue, can be the difference in whether you’re immersed or turned off by a game or movie. The sound design in a game like Returnal propelled it into our Game Of The Year conversation, so getting this right changes everything. Steelseries is in the business of changing everything, and they’ve done it again with the new Arctis Nova Pro series of headsets that just launched (and are available at Steelseries.com). We got our hands on them, so let’s get right into why these are one of the best headsets money can buy.
Opening the box, you’re going to find the Arctis Nova Pro Wireless headset (inside a nice carrying bag), the Wireless Base Station, two USB-A to C cables, a 3.5mm audio cable, and two lithium ion batteries, one that’s inside the headset already. Everything is pretty normal with what you see, but there’s a premium quality to it you’ll notice almost instantly. The Arctis Nova Pro headset itself is super sexy, with different shades of black along the plastic, metal, and faux-leather meshing into an eye-catching device. It reminds you of why people buy Beats headsets; they just look good. You also have several on-headset controls: your on-off switch, mute button, Bluetooth, and a volume wheel. Before we move from here- there’s no info about it yet- but given the comfort band and metal ear cup plates are removable you’d imagine Steelseries has plans to offer customizable pieces to personalize your headset, and I’m looking forward to that possibility.
Continuing on with the Arctis Nova Pro itself, it remains a standard in comfort for headset makers everywhere. It fits perfectly on my head, and even being new there isn’t a lot of wear required for maximum comfortability. This begins with the comfort band, one of my favorite parts of most Steelseries headsets. It keeps the top of the headset frame off of your head, which leads to an almost weightless feeling. The ear cups, while hefty, still feel good over your ears. Considering I have pretty large ears, I can confidently say most are going to have a comfortable experience. I could go on, but if you’ve ever worn a pair of Steelseries headphones you already know that you can’t go wrong with how comfortable this brand is.
As far as features go, the Arctis Nova Pro is packed with them. This one can connect with your PC, PlayStation 4 and 5, and your Switch through the Wireless Base Station. Beyond that, it also features Bluetooth connectivity and a 3.55mm port along with the cable, meaning you’ll be able to use it with mobile devices, your Xbox, or even the Steam Deck. Even better is the Bluetooth is able to be used simultaneously, meaning if you’re like me and your wife likes calling you in the middle of a gaming session, you can use the Nova Pro to answer the call, even if you’re using it while frying n00bs in Call Of Duty. Or dying like a n00b in Call Of Duty. The designers at Steelseries decided to take this idea a step further of using your Nova Pros how you want with a dual USB connection in the back, allowing you to connect multiple devices to your Wireless Base Station. I can’t really take maximum advantage of this function, my PS5 and PC are in different rooms, but if you game in one area it’s a nice addition that can be adjusted as easily as clicking a button on the Wireless Base Station.
Something somewhat new for me to work with is the Wireless Base Station. This isn’t just your connection to your console or PC, the Wireless Base Station is your control center for your Arctis Nova Pro. When connected, you have several indicators on the display, battery life, volume, your left and right earphone levels, which device you’re connected to, and so on. Clicking the control wheel gives you access to your chat/game mix, and a long press brings up a deeper set of tools and settings to change your experience. This includes things like an equalizer, changing to your second connected device, active noise cancellation (Nova Pro Wireless only), and line out settings. Truly, I’m still learning a lot on what some of these different options offer, but the wealth of control you have at your fingertips is astounding.
Since I brought up active noise cancellation, I want to drop a quick blurb on it. The Arctis Nova Pro Wireless model is the only one to feature it, but it’s a game changer. A four mic system removes outside sounds, and optimizes what you hear inside the ear cups. That sounds like a bunch of gibberish, but it’s exceptional when in action. Let me explain; I put these on while downstairs at my desk, messing around with settings. I do my work close to our HVAC system, so I can always hear when the air kicks on in the house. Until I clicked into the settings and turned it off, I didn’t realize that it was cutting out pretty much everything, including canceling out the HVAC entirely. Once you have a game, movie, or music going in these, you’re only going to hear that, allowing you to concentrate fully on whatever you’re trying to listen to. It’s a level of immersion that allows you to pay the fullest of attention to what you’re doing without outside distraction. They’re actually helping me right now as I type this up; I’m listening to Hulvey and can’t hear my red switch keyboard in the slightest.
As we’ve talked about so far, sound is incredibly important, and the Arctis Nova Pro handles their part in it masterfully. Now, they aren’t going to make Nickelback sound good, but they can draw out the best from what’s there. I’m a musician, so I have a trained ear that allows me to listen a little closer and pull out what I’m looking for. Even when lesser headsets are all that’s available I’ve been able to use them and pick up what direction enemy footsteps are coming from and the like. The problem with those headsets is that they generally just amplify the sound to give you those details, so everything is just loud and you have to figure it out from there.
I say all that to say this: the Arctis Nova Pro might be the quietest headset I’ve ever used. That sounds like an insult, but from someone like me it’s actually the highest compliment. As I explained in the last paragraph, many headsets throw sound at you and expect you to be able to go from there. The best headsets give you detailed sound without all the extra fluff, and the wizards at Steelseries have done that with the Arctis Nova Pro. I actually had to double check everything, because I’m so used to having to crank up my headsets to find the little details, but with this one I can sit at half volume and actually enjoy what I’m hearing. For instance, I’m picking up even more than I used to; at 3/4s the volume I was able to hear an enemy climb a ladder around me in a match of Call Of Duty: Vanguard. Little moments like this can mean a loss or a victory, and my win percentage might go up just because of the Arctis Nova Pro.
Not only does the Arctis Nova Pro provide incredibly tuned audio, the spatial sound you can enable through the Sonar software (which we’ll talk about soon), and this version’s compatibility with PlayStation 5’s Tempest engine is awesome. I brought up Returnal at the beginning for a two-fold reason, to stress the importance of audio design, but also to lead into how Steelseries maximizes that benefit. Returnal sounded great on my Arctis 1’s, that’s for sure, but the immersion was even more evident with the Nova Pro’s on my ears. In Returnal, the world is so alive, and the combination of audio buffett and the Dualsense make you feel like you’re there with Selene on Atropos. The rain has always been a highlight of the experience in Returnal, and it’s only intensified, with the pinpoint accuracy of the raindrops around me felt through the controller and heard in my eardrums.
Beyond immersing yourself in a single player game, or utilizing the extreme detail to win in multiplayer, the Arctis Nova Pro’s may just become something I use daily for music. I put most headsets through the gauntlet of game and music, and with the latter I haven’t wanted to stop. Now, everything sounded good at first, but when I jumped into the Sonar software and changed my equalizer over to a music preset, everything suddenly changed. Imagine all the details I talked about before, but applied to music.
What impresses me the most is how the same quietness that exists in the game sound is still here, using the superior tuned audio of the headset to take you on a musical journey. Where I really see it is the bass. Unless you go with big drivers in your headset you won’t always get the full spectrum of what bass can add, and even then it becomes another volume issue; with louder not necessarily equalling better. The Arctis Nova Pro’s had me experiencing the detail of the bass which made it feel impactful, rather than my brain rattling from the severe amplification of it. Arguably my favorite song is “Composure” by August Burns Red, and after listening to it via the Arctis Nova Pros, I don’t know that I want to listen to it a different way ever again.
The sound important to you comes through the ear cups, but the sound important to your teammates comes through your mic. The ClearCast mic the Steelseries designers came up with in the past has always been great, and that tradition continues with the Nova Pros. Something cool this one adds is a noise canceling receiver similar to the ones used in the active noise cancelation to aid in removing background noise. It works perfectly as far as I can tell, with no extra stuff leaking through. In addition to the noise cancellation, the mic also features sidetone like the Arctis 7P+ we reviewed does, allowing you to hear yourself to keep you from screaming at the top of your lungs when chatting with the squad. The only thing you’ll want to do is mute if you’re only listening to something- the sidetone does continue to pick up and could interfere with your musical or single player experience otherwise. Some other fantastic settings; you can adjust sidetone via the Wireless Base Station, as well as raise or lower your microphone volume. This comes in handy, especially if you’re in the middle of a Search and Destroy match and your team isn’t hearing your callouts. The designers even went a step further when it comes to aesthetics, with a similar, retractable design as previous models, but that sinks into the headset so it’s barely noticeable.
All of this doesn’t matter at all if your headset can’t keep a charge, or if you’re limited by the capacity of the battery, and Steelseries has a perfect answer for anyone afflicted by these issues. For one, the battery life should last you all day, advertising 18-22 hours of use on a single charge. Secondly though, one of my many favorite things about this headset is having a swappable battery. There are two batteries in the box, and your Wireless Base Station doubles as a charging area, with a port similar to one you’d push an SD card into ready to receive your battery. Because of this choice, you’re able to charge one of your batteries while the other one is being used, meaning if you run out of juice you’ll be instantly back in the game after a quick swap. It’s really as easy as popping off the magnetic ear cup plate and changing the battery. This also raises the life expectancy of your headset; no built-in and sealed away in a compartment battery means if you have an issue with or a battery dies, just buy another one and you’re good to go. Given the pricier nature of this headset, I really appreciate that choice from Steelseries.
Since we’re on the topic of price, we might as well go ahead and speak on what may be the only detractor for this headset. The Arctis Nova Pros weigh in at a whopping $249.99, with the Wireless model we’re reviewing a full Benjamin more at $349.99. Yes, these are ridiculously expensive, but let me assure you, the Arctis Nova Pro completely justifies the price point. This headset falls in line with other high end headsets in its space, like Astros A40 and A50 line, but, in my opinion, exceeds them in quality. If you’re shopping with a lower budget in mind, Steelseries has a bunch of fantastic entry models, but if you want the best, you’ll have to pay for it. It just may be a tough pill to swallow when it’s nearly as costly as the console you may be using it on.
Before we get out of here, we have to talk about Sonar. I spoke only briefly about it in our Arctis 7P+ review, but I came away impressed with what it could do, especially as a beta platform. While it’s still listed as such, paired with the Arctis Nova Pros I can see where Steelseries is going with one upping the competition. It’s more than just an equalizer, this is striving to do for you what existing services like Dolby Atmos and Windows Sonic do, with more features and an emphasis on gaming. Sonar has its opening mixer area, and you can mix your audio for different devices (e.g. if you use a separate microphone from your headset). Where it sets itself apart is Steelseries drive to give you the tools to master your audio with extreme precision.
This is found in the EQ settings, but there’s not just a single panel for it. For the first time gamers are going to be able to adjust their game sound, their chat sound, and their microphone sound, and people, it works. From the Parametric EQ, to the presets, to the spatial 7.1 surround sound and noise gates, everything performs effectively to give you an audial boost. Going in and being able to make sure my game sound was specifically calibrated for what I was playing or make myself sound less nasally in the chat is an exactitude I didn’t know I needed, and I’m unsure I’ll be able to game without. You can even modify and clean up your teammates’ voices, which is something I don’t think any of us were thinking about, but is so useful in practice.
As mentioned in the paragraph about music, it even influenced that, giving me the perfect equalization to make music I’ve been listening to for over a decade sound fresh again. The presets are honestly phenomenal, and the team at Steelseries has worked with several eSports pros as well to give you the absolute best you can get, from reducing the sound of the flashbang in CounterStrike because of it’s painful nature, to allowing you to hear the gulps from a Slurp Juice in Fortnite in order to find an opponent. This level of fine tuning is available to everyone with functionality via any headset on a PC (launching completely free as of the time of this writing), but I’m willing to guess the detail is even better if you’re using the Nova Pros. Any way we can get this in app form so I can take it with me via my phone Steelseries?
Steelseries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless
The Steelseries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless headset is the ultimate headset. The more I use it, the more I love it, and the better it continues to get. It has so many bullets in the chamber, with the exceptional comfort and style Steelseries is known for, the versatility of its 2.4GHz and Bluetooth connections, extraordinary battery life and Wireless Base Station control center, and its outstanding audio quality that is only enhanced by the superb Sonar software. It’s pricey, but you’re paying for the best, and the Arctis Nova Pros are without a doubt in that category.