Up for review today are a pair of wireless headphones from SteelSeries which are designed with gaming in mind. Not specifically mobile games, mind you, but consoles or PC’s, too. We’ve spent a few weeks playing with and listening to the Arctis 7; our review follows.

About

The SteelSeries Arctis 7 headset one of three models in the hardware maker’s premium line of gaming headsets. The Arctis 7 packs nearly all of the features found in the Arctis 3 and Arctis 5, yet it also comes with upgrades and improvements over the other two.

The Arctis line is an over-the-head line of headphones geared to gaming enthusiasts. Each of them is all about performance, comfort, and long-term usage. Because, think about it, you don’t want to buy new headphones all that often. You want to pick out a pair that work well and are there to help enhance your all-night gaming sessions.

First Impressions

A little bit sleek, and a lot bit stylish, the Arctis 7 look comfortable even in the box. Rounded edges, flat and modern colors, and a just-the-facts-ma’am design give the headphones a very hip look.

It’s pretty easy to create gaming headphones that have a gaudy or over-the-top design. This is the exact opposite of that. These might be geared toward console gamers, but we couldn’t wait to put these on and take in some music on our phone.

In the box

  • Arctis 7
  • Wireless Transmitter
  • Mobile/Console Cable
  • Micro-USB Charging Cable

Design

The top of the headphones feature a ski goggle-like headband which give it a gentle and evenly distributed fit. The elastic was stylish with a triangle print, and it feels great both in hand and on head.

The steel alloy frame is lightweight but figures to stand up much better than plastic. Good news for those of you who toss your controller down and rip your headphones off after getting pwned in a gaming session. The materials also signal the Arctis 7 will travel well and stand up over time.

The ear cushions have a very soft “AirWeave” material, which SteelSeries says is inspired by athletic clothing. They’re designed to stay cool and dry, even when you wear them for hours at a time. The outside of the headphones have a smooth plastic finish that makes it easy for you to adjust, put on, or take off.

The right ear cup houses the power button and a chat volume adjustment slider. Over on the left we find the standard volume slider, mute, a microUSB port (charging), a proprietary port that connects to a 3.5mm jack. It’s also on the left that we find the microphone. Retractable, it hides out of the way inside of the cup until you need it. When powered on, the mic lights up to show that it’s ready to go.

Connection

I did not realize it until I received them in the mail, but the headphones do not connect in the traditional Bluetooth sense. Instead of pairing to your phone or device in the Bluetooth menu, you plug in a USB dongle.

For consoles like the PS4, Xbox One, or Nintendo Switch, this is incredibly efficient. Stick it in the port and tuck the cable out of the way. After that, you simply turn on the headphones and it connects. Additionally, you can also plug the headphones directly into controllers via the 3.5mm headphone jack. It’s up to you as to how you want to go about connecting.

Moving over to mobile devices, though, you’ll have to go with the 3.5mm headphone jack. I would have loved to connect wirelessly through standard Bluetooth methods, but it’s not a deal-killer. The headphones are gaming-focused first. Given the buttons and microphone, these aren’t exactly the design we’d take out on a daily basis.

Additional Setup

Thanks to the SteelSeries Engine 3 software, listeners can customize and configure sound and equalizer settings. For gamers this could prove invaluable. Create various sound profiles for your favorite games and you’ll be able quickly hop into settings with the press of a button. Surround sound is incredible, especially when you tailor it to your exact liking.

Comfort

I’m not a hardcore gamer, but there have been plenty of times over the years where I’ve spent numerous hours in front of the TV. Having used earbuds, standard headphones, gaming headphones, and Bluetooth devices, I’ve never found something that’s truly comfortable that also delivers excellent sound. The SteelSeries Arctis 7, though, just became my favorite set of cans.

Over the last few weeks I’ve worn these numerous times, each at various lengths. I found them comfortable, clear, and generally very enjoyable. Whether it’s fifteen minutes or three hours, the Arctis 7 never get to the point where you want to pull them off. The cushions are soft and cool and do well to block out noise and distraction.

Sound Quality

The SteelSeries Arctis 7 sound as good as they look, if not better. Even without balancing and customizing, the out of box experience is excellent. Both stereo and DTS 7.1 surround sound are supported here so you’ll get every single detail in games.

Using the headphones for Skype was fantastic and was probably the most pleasurable way I’ve used the software. The same for watching YouTube on a laptop, listening to audiobooks, and other non-console usage. But, as you’d suspect things excel when you plug into a console and get your game on.

You don’t get the same customization or surround sound when connected to a phone, but the quality is still commendable. The headphones travel very well so I do plan to take these with me on my next flight. I’ll trade off the portability of earbuds or truly wireless headphones for the sound and comfort of the Arctis 7.

The sound quality of the microphone is equally good. Online chat and gaming with others proved to be just as clear and crisp for my friends and teammates. The mic includes a proprietary bi-directional design that helps cut out background noises.

Other Thoughts

Like other Bluetooth headphones and accessories, the Arctis 7 give users upwards of 30 feet of range. This is great for when you get off the couch between rounds and need to stretch legs or grab a soda from the kitchen. You’ll stay connected and able to communicate while moving about.

Battery life is rated at around 15 hours which I didn’t really test. Instead, I found myself charging up the headphones every 2-3 times I played games on the PS4. I did this each time I plugged in the game controller out of habit. I don’t like to risk low batteries when it comes to gaming; I hate to switch up in the middle of playing and hang cables out of my devices.

I did not notice any lag whatsoever. There are few things worse than audio that doesn’t sync up, especially when you’re involved in first person shooters with sounds coming from all angles. A fraction of a second could make all of the difference in hiding from a grenade and waiting for the next round to start.

Conclusion

At $150, the Arctis 7 is the most expensive of the SteelSeries line of headphones. Could you get away with the Arctis 5 or Arctis 3? That depends on your needs. If wireless is high on your list of needs, though, there’s really no other way to go.

PC-based headphones often omit the 3.5mm headphone jack; most quality wireless headphones are going to run this much or more, easily. This is an excellent marriage of the features that gamers care about with an extra nod for other users, too.

The Arctis 7 are incredibly comfortable to wear and they sound as good as anything else I’ve tested in this price point. They’re not the first pair I will grab when I go for a walk or head to the gym; the cord is a nuisance that I’ve come to avoid if at all possible. But, around the office, I really enjoy having these for pairing to a computer or laptop.

Gaming, though, is a no-brainer. These have become “dad’s headphones” and my teenage son is advised to leave them alone. I’ve found myself playing more often at night because the sound is so immerse and detailed. Instead of turning the TV down and trying to deal with sub-par audio, I throw these on.

When playing alone, it’s a blast. When playing with friends online, though, I have to watch how loud I get. The headphones drown out the real world sound and, if I get too excited, I’ll end up talking louder than necessary. Or, when a bomb goes off, I’ll make more noise than a grown man should. Then I risk the glares from my wife or the texts in the middle of the night telling me to keep it down. “Sorry, honey, I’m blaming the headphones. I forgot where I was and didn’t remember it was the middle of the night.