Balanced sound. Functions both wireless and wired. Customizable with different headbands and earpads.
Bass isn't particularly powerful.
- Bottom Line
The Steelseries Arctis 7 wireless gaming headset combines solid audio quality, flexible connection options, and a comfortable fit at a reasonable price.
The Steelseries Arctis 7 features just about everything you could want in a wireless gaming headset. It's comfortable, stylish, features a 3.5mm connection for use with wired devices, and sounds very good. At $149.99, it also offers tremendous value for the price. You can get a headset that feels and sounds slightly more luxurious by spending twice as much for the Astro Gaming A50, but the Arctis 7 is an excellent pick for the price, and our Editors' Choice.
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The Arctis 7 looks surprisingly squat for a gaming headset, thanks to its flattened metal, unpadded headband. A thick elastic strap that runs between the ends of the headband keeps it lifted above your scalp. The strap can be tightened or loosened thanks to a hook-and-loop fastener that keeps it wrapped around the headband. This is the only way to adjust the fit—there are no telescoping sections between the earcups and the headband like on most headphones and gaming headsets.
The over-ear earcups are large and oval, with black plastic around the sides and textured black rubber panels on the back. The thick, well-padded Airweave (a thin, mesh-like fabric) earpads help make sure your ears don't heat up over long play sessions.
Both the earpads and the elastic strap can be replaced with aftermarket alternatives from Steelseries. You can get a set of earpads covered in soft velour for $14.99, for instance, the same price as replacement Airweave earpads. You can also get three different designs of elastic straps for $14.99, including the yellow-and-pink Crushed Dawn, blue-and-white ThankYouX, and monochrome Lauren Asta. While the headset comes with both a micro USB charging cable and a proprietary-to-3.5mm audio cable, no carrying bag is included; that's another $14.99 purchase.
The boom mic is a capsule at the end of a flexible arm built into the left earcup. When not in use, the arm retracts into the earcup so only a part of the capsule sticks out. The left earcup also holds a micro USB port for charging, a proprietary port for wired use with the included 3.5mm cable, and a 3.5mm port for daisy-chaining headsets together along with a volume dial and microphone mute button, all located along the side. The right earcup holds the power button and game/voice mix dial, parallel with the volume dial and ports on the left earcup.
Connection and Microphone
The wireless transmitter isn't a small, USB-key-shaped adapter like you get with many wireless gaming headsets. Instead, it's a small, black plastic puck on the end of a four-foot cable that terminates in a USB plug. A tiny indicator light sits on top, under a glossy Steelseries logo, and a pairing button sits on the left. A 3.5mm port rests on either side of where the puck attaches to the cable, providing line-in and line-out connections so you can use the headset wirelessly with your smartphone, tablet, or any other device with a 3.5mm connector. It's a useful option seen in headsets like the Logitech G933 Artemis and Astro Gaming A50.
The Arctis 7 works wirelessly using the included transmitter with PCs, Macs, and the PlayStation 4. You can also use it with the Xbox One through a wired connection, plugging the headset cable into the gamepad's 3.5mm port.
Voice chat both in and out of games is solid thanks to the Arctis 7's boom mic. Test recordings of my voice were clear and easy to hear, without noticeable popping or too much sibilance. The very flexible boom arm makes it easy to get the microphone in the best position.
Steelseries claims the Arctis 7 can last up to 15 hours before you have to recharge it. This is in line with most PC-based (non-Bluetooth) gaming headsets. Just remember to plug it in when you're done playing and you won't run out of power.
Games sound well-balanced through the Arctis 7. I played Overwatch using the headset on a Razer Blade Pro, and the subtle differences between various players' weapons came through very clearly. Bass isn't quite as powerful as it is on the Logitech G533, but the slightly flatter response means higher frequencies, like voice cues, are easier to make out.
The mechanical game/voice mixing wheel on the headset makes it very easy to bring out team chat in competitive matches, or completely ignore it when playing casual rounds with irritating teammates. The dial is responsive and smooth, and a tactile notch in the center position lets you easily return to a 50/50 mix without looking at the headset.
No gaming headset can produce authentic surround sound due to the acoustic limitations of headphones and the use of stereo drivers, but the Arctis 7 makes a laudable attempt at imitating it. Like many high-end headsets, the Arctis 7 simulates 7.1-channel surround sound by adjusting the mix between each ear's audio driver. The result is good left-to-right positioning, but little sense of whether audio sources are positioned in front of or behind you. I could hear action in Overwatch sweep accurately from left to right and back as I turned, letting me determine fights around corners. I couldn't distinctly tell if I was being snuck up on versus being approached from the front, though. This is standard performance for most headsets with simulated surround sound.
The Arctis 7 handles music with deep bass capably. When playing our bass test track, The Knife's "Silent Shout," the headset doesn't distort even at maximum volume. It doesn't doesn't quite hit the head-rattling thump the Logitech G533 can produce on the same track, but it's still a good showing.
For most genres, the Arctis 7 offers a sculpted sound that brings out high-mids and highs. This is clear on Erasure's "Chains of Love," where the vocals and higher synth notes have enough edge to stand out in the mix, against the steady low-end thump of the drums (which don't overwhelm the track like they do on the G533).
The high frequency sculpting serves rock and metal very well. The vocals in Quiet Riot's "Metal Health (Bang Your Head)" stand squarely in the front of the mix, sounding clean and prominent against the guitar and bass riffs. The steady beat of the high-hat is perhaps just a bit too prominent when it usually almost vanishes into the mix, but it's a minor complaint for an exciting sound that does the hair metal classic justice.
Comparisons and Conclusions
The Steelseries Arctis 7 is an excellent wireless gaming headset for an impressive price. At $150, it comes in under the Logitech G933 Artemis, the Astro Gaming A50, and even the Skullcandy PLYR 1, all while offering very good audio performance across the board and the option to use different headband and earpad designs. It easily earns our Editors' Choice for its value.
If you'd like to save more cash, consider a wired headset like the Logitech G231 Prodigy. For half the price of the Arctris 7, you get very good audio performance and a 3.5mm connection you can use on the go with your smartphone, tablet, or handheld gaming device.
By Will Greenwald Senior Analyst, Consumer Electronics
Will Greenwald has been covering consumer technology for a decade, and has served on the editorial staffs of CNET.com, Sound & Vision, and Maximum PC. His work and analysis has been seen in GamePro, Tested.com, Geek.com, and several other publications. He currently covers consumer electronics in the PC Labs as the in-house home entertainment expert, reviewing TVs, media hubs, speakers, headphones, and gaming accessories. Will is also an ISF Level II-certified TV calibrator, which ensures the thoroughness and accuracy of all PCMag TV reviews…. More »
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