When I purchased the SteelSeries Arctis 7 it was the most expensive and luxurious member of the entire Arctis lineup. These days the Arctis 7 Pro fills that spot. Still, some 12 months later, the Arctis 7 will still set you back a cool $120. What are you getting that justifies that price? For starters, you’re getting a wireless headset made from solid aluminum, a super long-lasting battery, and the amazingly useful ChatMix dial. As if that weren’t enough, they even managed to throw in respectable audio as a bonus.
- Headphone Drivers: 40mm Neodymium Dynamic Drivers
- Headphone Impedance: 32 Ω
- Headphone Sensitivity: 98 db
- Headphone Frequency Response: 20–20000 Hz
- Microphone Frequency Response: 100Hz–10000Hz
- Microphone Impedance: 2200 Ω
- Microphone Sensitivity: -48 db
- DTS Headphone:X 7.1 Surround Sound
- Rechargeable li-ion Battery (up to 15 hours of battery life)
- Closed-back, Over-Ear Design
- Retractable Bidirectional Microphone
- Wireless, USB and 3.5mm Connectivity
- 12 Meter/40ft Wireless Range
- Built-in ChatMix Dial
- Detachable 1.2m Rubberized Cable (4-pole TRRS)
- 1.5m Rubberized USB charging Cable
- Weight: 370g
- Hardware: 2018 MacBook Pro and an iPhone XS MAX (via Apple Dongle)
- Software: iTunes w/Bit Perfect
- Formats: 16/24bit FLAC and/or APLC encoded files.
- Streaming: Qobuz (FLAC 16-Bit / 44.1 KHz), Deezer Premium (320kbps)
- AMP/DAC: JDS EL AMP, JDS EL DAC, Apogee Groove
Packaging, Features, Build Quality, Comfort
- x1 Product Information Guide
- x1 Arctic 7 Wireless Headset
- x1 4-pole USB-Mini to 3.5MM Mobile/Console Cable
- x1 USB-Mini 1.5m Charging Cable
- x1 USB-A 2.4 GHz Wireless Transmitter
First off, you need to understand that a good pair of gaming headphones are going to be completely different than a good set of audiophile cans. A decent gaming headset requires things like hardcore durability, a plethora of features, and compatibility with a wide range of gaming platforms. I’m happy to say these tick off all the correct boxes. The Arctis 7 comes in either black or white and is laden with dials, buttons, and ports including a volume dial, the aforementioned ChatMix dial, a retractable microphone, power button, and a handy mute button for the built-in ClearCast mic.
How does all this stuff work? Surprisingly well, actually. SteelSeries claims a very respectable 15 hour battery life and a lag-free range of 12m/40ft. My not very scientifically accurate testing seems to validate those claims. I got crystal clear audio within 40ft of the transmitter and roughly 12-15 hours of battery life depending on how loudly I drove the headset. Also, the bidirectional retractable ClearCast mic delivers superb studio-quality voice quality and even features background noise cancellation. This feature comes in handy when you’re in the middle of a match and your overly aggressive dog decides now would be a fantastic time to maul the mailman.
Another cool feature is ChatMix. This handy feature allows you to use the headset dial to “mix” the perfect balance of game and chat audio. Want to drown out the chatter? No problem, dial up the game audio and dive in. Feel like chatting it up? Again, it’s as easy as dialing up the chat audio. Once you get used to this feature it’s hard to go back to a headset that doesn’t have it.
Connectivity is a bit of an odd beast. There are multiple ways to establish a wired connection between the headset and your devices. First, there’s the standard 3.5mm port (cable not supplied) which provides excellent sound, then there’s the fairly odd 8-pin Mini-USB to 3.5mm cable, and finally there’s a unique USB cable that officially supports MacOS/PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, HTC Vice, and Oculus Right. For wireless connectivity you are limited to the 2.4 GHz transmitter and the PC/Mac/PS4.
Finally, Arctis headsets feature a unique ski goggle suspension headband and ear cups covered in performance fabric AirWeave. The suspension system makes adjusting the headset a snap, and the AirWeave feels fantastic against the skin. I don’t think I’ve felt this kind of softness in any other headphones. All of this is great if the headset fits well. In my case, and I suspect a few others as well, that just wasn’t the case. I suppose my overly large head is at fault here. Still, I never felt truly comfortable wearing these. Sure, they stayed put, and the ear cups covered (barely) my gigantic, mutant ears, but I always felt as if they could have been just a tad bit bigger. Apparently, SteelSeries felt the same, as they have updated the 2019 range with larger suspension system and more comfortable ear cups.
Sound, at least when it comes to gaming, can be a competitive advantage. If you can hear your enemy coming before they hear you then you’re more likely to score that kill. The Arctis 7 comes with high quality S1 40mm speaker drivers that are engineered to produce audio with ultra-low distortion. Basically, this means you’ll hear more details with less noise. Even if you’re not a gamer you have to love that.
Now to the overall audio quality. The highs, while present, often tend to take a backseat to the surprisingly clear midrange and the totally thumping low end. That’s not to say that the highs are not there. They are, they just take a step back in the overall performance. I’ve heard the Arctis 7 described as warm and I agree with this assessment. The lack of clarity on the high-end is essentially where this “warmth” comes from. Is this a bad thing? It all depends. Do you like warm-sounding headphones? If so, these will suit you just fine.
Still, even with the lack of high-end clarity, these are by far the best sounding gaming headphones that I have ever heard. At one point I had them connected to my MacBook Pro and JDS EL AMP/DAC stack and I actually forgot that I was wearing gaming headphones. I went into this thinking of the audio quality of gaming headsets from the late 1990s and early 2000s. At some point manufacturers of gaming headsets stepped up their game in a tremendous way. Folks, you just don’t get any better of a recommendation than that.
- 40mm Neodymium Dynamic Drivers
- Excellent Midrange and Lows
- 15 Hours of Battery Life
- Retractable Bidirectional Microphone
- 12 Meter/40ft Wireless Range
- Super Lightweight
- Build Quality is Top Notch
- Unique Ski Goggle Suspension System
- Built-in ChatMix
Not So Good Things
- A clear lack of high end frequencies.
- ChatMix and Surround Sound are not available on PS4.
- DTS Headphone:X 7.1 only available on the PC.
- Those with larger heads might find the headband too small.
The SteelSeries Arctis 7 is, without-a-doubt, the best sounding gaming headset that I have ever personally heard. Are there better sounding cans out there? Sure, there has to be, but for $120 the Arctis 7 gives you fantastic audio quality and more features than you can shake a stick at. This one is a no brainer. If you’re in the market for a new gaming headset, then the Arctis 7 should be one of your top three choices. Check out the Arctis 7 and the other headsets from SteelSeries over Amazon.
Audio Fidelity Scorecard
Soundstage: 3.0 of 5.0
Bass/Lows: 4.0 of 5.0
Midrange: 4.0 of 5.0
Highs: 3.0 of 5.0
Comfort: 2.5 of 5.0