Steelseries Arctis Pro +GameDAC Review
The headset industry is becoming more and more densely populated thanks to strict competition between the top names in the game. So, when we managed to get our hands on the Steelseries Arctis Pro +GameDAC headset combo, we were extremely excited to see what this flagship offering brought to the table.
Steelseries is one of the biggest names within the peripheral game, bringing high-performance keyboards, mice, headsets, and gaming surfaces to the ever-expanding marketplace. They started life off as a small operation making gaming surfaces for the occasional gamer but soon ramped things up. They now bring high-quality peripherals to the esports industry and its noble following.
The Steelseries Artis Pro +GameDAC is one of their flagship headset offerings. This thing comes to the table boasting an array of high-end features such as a standalone controller, excellent build quality, superb sound output, and brilliant aesthetics too. Today’s review will be putting the Steelseries Arctis Pro headset through its paces to see how it stacks up against some of the similarly priced competition.
So, with that in mind, let’s dive straight into it.
Below we have outlined the main specifications of the Steelseries Arctis Pro +GameDAC headset.
|Steelseries Acrtis Pro +GameDAC Specs|
|Headphone Frequency Response||10 - 40,000 Hz|
|Microphone Frequency Response||100 - 10,000 Hz|
|Microphone Noise Cancellation||Yes|
|GameDAC Frequency Response||5 - 40,000 Hz|
Inside the Steelseries box, we see:
- Steelseries Arctis Pro Headset
- PS4 Adapter
- Mobile Adapter
- User Manual
- Welcome Note
- Fantastic build quality
- Very comfortable design
- Aesthetically very pleasing
- Multi-platform versatility
- RGB lighting
- Excellent sound quality
- Clear microphone
- Higher-end of the price spectrum
- Might struggle to use these if you have a large head
Setting up the Steelseries Arctis Pro headset was fairly straight forward for the most part. Upon unboxing, the headset comes completely disassembled – as you would imagine. We opted to use the Arctis Pros with the PC which required the headset, +GameDAC, and two cables to link it together. Even though the Steelseries Engine software package was not necessary, we decided to download it anyway – just out of curiosity.
Once unpackaged, I started by linking the headset to the controller using the supplied cable. After that, I simply installed the USB cable from the GameDAC to the PC. The PC recognized the headset almost immediately, however, it did not download the software or change my Windows settings. I had to alter the default output to the Arctis Pro headset which didn’t take too much time but could fool some people if they’re new to computers.
After a few seconds, I noticed a tutorial had been preloaded on the GameDAC’s OLED display, walking me through exactly what the GameDAC offered and how to use it. The tutorial only lasted a few minutes but gave me a better idea of how to use it – pretty helpful really.
I had a little play through the GameDAC settings, found my desired EQ, and began using them to hunt down my enemy. A very easy setup process.
Starting with the headset, I have to say, they’re a little bit hit and miss for me personally. On the plus side, the Arctis Pro headset comes with very attractive over-ear earcups that have been equipped with an RGB ring around each ear. The RGB can be customized using the Steelseries Engine if you’re into that sort of thing. The outside of the earcup is designed using high-quality plastic and displays the Steelseries logo in small lettering on both earcups.
Steelseries decided against the more commonly used faux leather for the earcup padding and decided to go for a breathable Airweave fabric instead. I actually quite like the way the ear cushions look, it definitely separates the Arctis Pros from the competition.
The headband is made up using aluminum and steel which not only ensures this headset can withstand a decent amount of usage but also gives it a nice luxurious style too. The headset offers a one size fits all design, having said that, they have equipped the Arctis Pro headset with a ski goggle style woven headband that can be adjusted to suit varying head sizes. From an aesthetic point of view, I’m not a massive fan of the ski google strap if truth be told. However, a lot of the people in the office are, so it just comes down to personal preference.
Even though these are designed for gamers – coming equipped with a very efficient microphone. It’s worth mentioning that when the mic is not in use, it can be retracted into its housing. Once the mic is retracted, the headset takes on a much more general-purpose use aesthetic, making these the perfect all-round headset for most occasions.
Moving onto build quality, the Arctis Pro headset certainly feels both sturdy and robust. Steelseries made sure to use high-quality materials throughout the design of this headset to ensure it withstands the test of time – and the occasional rage outburst.
The headband is comprised of aluminum and steel meaning the design is both lightweight and sturdy – not to mention flexible. Furthermore, the Airwave fabric used on the earcups might not be as soft as faux leather, but it definitely provides a longer life span.
As far as negatives go, the plastic that covers the earcups is definitely an area that could be susceptible to damage and scratching if not handled with care. Having said that, the set we purchased has been through some fairly vigorous tests over the last couple of months and has held up surprisingly well.
Another area of this headset that could be damage-prone in the future is the small contoured piece that connects the earcup to the headband. This piece feels like plastic and can be seen bending when put under a bit of force.
The GameDAC itself feels extremely robust for the most part. The dial has little to no wiggle whatsoever, and the buttons all feel tactile and nicely housed. The screen also feels dense and offers very little bend when pressed with moderate force.
Comfort is an area (one of several) where I feel this headset excels extremely well. Let’s start with those earcups.
Now, while the Airweave breathable fabric that Steelseries used on the Arctis Pros isn’t as soft as faux leather, it still offers great comfort during long term usage. The fabric itself feels great on your head and doesn’t really provide any abrasion whilst in use.
Before using this headset, I actually saw the fabric earcups as a bit of a downside. I presumed that the fabric, paired with the over-ear design, would create a lot of heat on the ears. But that simply wasn’t the case. They felt light, easy to wear, and extremely comfortable at all times.
The ski goggle headband works pretty well in securing the Arctis Pro headset to your head and can be adjusted to suit your personal needs. The fabric used in this section of the headset isn’t the smoothest in the world, but it’s by no means the roughest, either.
Sticking with the headband, Steelseries has designed this headset so that it sits on the ears with little pressure on your head. Whilst the earcups do have a hugging feel to them, there isn’t any excess pressure that might be off-putting or annoying.
Ultimately, the comfort that the Steelseries Arctis Pro headset brings to the table is right up there with the very best.
So, onto the performance. This is the section of the review where we see how this headset actually performs in everything from day-to-day tasks to competitive esports gaming. Primarily, we’ll be looking at the sound quality of the headset, the microphone quality, what the headset feels like when in-game, and seeing what the GameDAC has to offer too. Having said that, we’ll be making note of anything else that we feel is worth a mention.
I was extremely impressed with pretty much every performance aspect of this headset. It really did go above and beyond what I was expecting from Steelseries. Gaming was a joy, music sounded crisp and exciting, and voice commands were clear and precise – everything an experienced gamer needs to take their play to the next level.
Like always, we’ll start off the sound section by looking at how this headset performs in a multimedia environment. I started off by playing several different genres of music through this headset, genres ranging from fast trance to slow rap (and pretty much everything in between). It’s safe to say I was very impressed right off the bat. One of the areas where I feel headphones lack a bit of meat and veg these days is the bass department. However, the first thing I noticed with this particular headset was how punchy the bass actually was. It wasn’t overly “boomy” like some of the bass-oriented headphones out there, but it definitely offered ample amounts of bass and I was quite pleased with the results.
The highs were equally as (if not more) impressive as the low-end frequency notes, sounding sharp and crisp. Melody lines stood out nicely, whilst guitar riffs cut through intense percussion and bass notes with ease. Having said that, this didn’t really surprise me as this is usually the case with headsets that are geared towards gaming – something we’ll touch upon shortly.
That leads us nicely into the gaming performance of the Steelseries Arctis Pro headset. The overall experience was extremely pleasing. I started off by firing up CS:GO, like always. I played deathmatch for about an hour then went on to play several competitive matches thereafter. I have to say, spatial awareness was definitely a highlight of this headset. I could easily (and accurately) pinpoint where the enemies were coming from, with grenades and smokes also being audible from the other side of the map – no exaggeration.
Gunfire sounded extremely crisp and sniper shots had a nice bass undertone that just added to the immersion of the overall experience. One of the issues I found when reviewing the HyperX Cloud II headset was that the bass was insubstantial, removing some of the immersion the gaming experience offers. Well, thankfully, that wasn’t the case here. The bass wasn’t overpowering, but it was certainly noticeable in the background – especially when grenades and powerful weapons were being used.
Like many gaming headsets, I always feel like the manufacturer sets the bass levels a little lower than you would expect from say, a headset tailored towards music. This is clearly a design trait that helps users with in-game spatial awareness – allowing them to pinpoint where footsteps and gunfire are coming from. And whilst that is great for gaming, it’s not always ideal for music or TV.
Luckily, that’s there the Arctis Pro headset’s secret weapon comes into play – the GameDAC controller. The GameDAC allows users to change settings such as EQ, audio quality, microphone levels, and volume, on the fly. This just makes creating the perfect audio experience all the easier when in use.
The GameDAC offers a bunch of cool features and settings that really do alter the user experience of this headset. For example, I was watching a movie using this headset a couple of days ago and wanted a little extra bass so I could really enjoy the action scenes. I simply entered the GameDAC menu, found the EQ settings and adjusted accordingly.
Inside the GameDAC you also have options to activate high-res audio, surround sound, alter the mix between chat and in-game volume, and the RGB as well. For the most part, the GameDAC worked an absolute treat. I actually thought it was going to be a bit gimmicky at first. Having said that, I actually used it fairly often and to my advantage.
The Steelseries Arctis Pro headset comes equipped with their ClearCast microphone which, for me, is still one of the best gaming microphones available to this day. The microphone on this headset is retractable and extremely flexible meaning you can find the perfect sitting position whilst gaming, then retract it into its housing when you’re done.
The quality of the microphone is very good and people have been known to use this headset for broadcasting on Twitch and YouTube with excellent results. The voice recordings sound crisp and clear, whilst producing an accurate representation of my actual voice. I didn’t have too many issues with sensitivity this time around and hardly got any complaints about breathing whilst in-game. I also experienced no noise leaking coming through the microphone either, which is always a positive in my book.
The microphone comes equipped with its very own RGB lighting zone which can be altered in the GameDAC or the Steelseries Engine application. You also have a microphone mute button at the back of the left earcup which was extremely handy as well.
Overall, the microphone is another great asset that this headset brings to the table. Not only does it sound great and comes with cool RGB but it also feels extremely durable and should stand the test of time.
Whether it’s a high-end mouse or a budget monitor, features play a huge part in the purchasing process of almost every hardware product out there. As for headsets, the same rules apply.
Luckily, the Arctis Pro gaming headset comes equipped with an absolute mountain of features that really does separate it from the competition.
So, without further ado, let’s jump straight into it.
One of the biggest features this headset comes equipped with has the be the standalone GameDAC.
The GameDAC is the Arctis Pro’s controller that allows users to alter audio settings such as volume, EQ, and surround sound, whilst offering a bunch of alternative features too.
For those new to audio accessories, the DAC is a digital-to-analog converter that enables the Arctis Pros to reproduce 96KHz/24-bit audio quality. What that means to the average joe is; higher quality, less compressed audio which is usually found in ordinary USB or analog connectors. Put in the simplest possible terms, better quality sound.
The GameDAC comes with a bunch of features geared towards gamers that can be found within its menu. To enter the menu, Steelseries has equipped the GameDAC with a large dial which doubles up as a volume control and menu browser. It has a large OLED display and user-friendly menus that can be navigated with no fuss, making it great for new and experienced users alike.
Hold the dial down for a couple of seconds and it fires you into the menu. In here you can fine-tune the volume, enable surround sound, choose your input and output sources, adjust the brightness, and even change the RGB as well. The GameDAC allows users to alter the EQ of the headset, giving them access to several presets and a fully customized option too.
Enabling the high-res audio input will disable some of the other features such as surround sound, however, it gives you access to 96KHz audio quality which is great for streaming high-quality audio files – ie, not YouTube.
Finally, users have a mixer built-in that allows you to alter the balance between in-game sounds and the voice communication application you decide on using. If you’re struggling to hear your teammates in Discord and don’t want to turn in-game volume down, no problems. Just enter the mixer and boost the microphone levels of your teammates.
Oh, and did I mention it showcases your in-game stats at the end of every round too?
DTS Surround Sound
As mentioned above, users have the ability to utilize what is better known as simulated surround sound. This is when the headset changes the internal sound queues to simulate more realism in terms of spatial awareness. I did use this whilst in-game and, whilst it didn’t make an enormous difference to the sound quality, it certainly gave me some additional queues during tense moments.
Simulated surround sound has been known to be a little gimmicky over the years, and I tend to agree for the most part. However, if done correctly, it can have a real impact on your gaming experience.
Stellar Build Quality & Comfort
Finally, the last aspect I’d like to give a quick mention to is the build quality and comfort. Let’s be honest, when you’re looking to buy a premium headset, you need to know it’s going to be comfortable and stand the test of time. Thankfully, this headset does both of these in abundance. We’ve already touched on both, but to recap, the comfort levels provided in this headset are right up there with the very best. Pair that with the excellent materials and build quality of this headset and you have a very good foundation for an excellent headset.
So, there you have it, our comprehensive review of the Steelseries Arctis Pro +GameDAC gaming headset. As we come to the end of our review, we like to round things off by giving our final impression of the headset and whether we feel its worthy of your consideration and cash.
Ultimately, this is a very good gaming headset. It comes equipped with a lot of features and benefits that you simply won’t experience from similarly priced headsets – even at over $200. The lightweight design offers an extremely comfortable user-experience, whilst the sound quality adds immersion and realism to almost any game or viewing scenario. The bass feels well balance with the highs and mids, giving the overall sound a well-balanced and rounded feel.
A lot of headsets in today’s market cater towards gaming by focusing on sound quality and comfort. However, the Steelseries have gone one step further here by adding the GameDAC to the mix. The GameDAC is what separates the Steelseries from its competition and adds a tonne of value to this already premium sounding headset.
Thanks to this little controller, I would be happy recommending this headset to almost any user who is willing to spend the money. The GameDAC offers on the fly EQ changes, surround sound options, high-RES audio support, and a bunch of other features too. Once you pair that with the comfort, sound quality, and aesthetics the Steelseries Arctis Pro headset offers, you have an extremely well- rounded, powerful gaming headset that is right up there with the very best.
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