Steelseries Arctis 7 Wireless Gaming Headset Review: Master of All Trades?
The Steelseries Arctis lineup of gaming headsets hit the market with a surprise launch last year. I reviewed the Arctis 5, which had no major faults at all. It’s still one of the best headsets you can buy for $99.
When I switched to Mac, I lost not only two thirds of my Steam library, but also the ability to make proper use of all the Arctis 5’s features. In particular, the DTS Headphone: X surround sound relies on Windows. I ended up giving away my Arctis 5.
But I always knew I’d be back.
Now that I’ve switched back to Windows for my main home PC, I decided it was time for a new gaming headset to celebrate. I was curious if the ~$149 Arctis 7 could recapture the magic of the Arctis 5 in a wireless format.
The answer is yes!
Aside from some extremely minor quibbles, you’d be hard-pressed to get a better wireless gaming headset for the price. Just like the Arctis 5, it stomps all over certain competitors. Like Logitech’s new G533, just released for the same $149 price point. The G533 is completely baffling in a world where the Arctis 7 exists, and I don’t think you should buy Logitech’s new offering.
The Arctis 7, on the other hand, is completely worth the price. Time for details!
Just like the other two Arctis headsets, this uses Steelseries’s most expensive headphone drivers, which used to be reserved solely for their $300 wireless headset. This is still such a smart decision. The sound is tuned by default for a balanced, neutral, slightly bright response. You’ll notice a gentle focus on high-end details and less bass emphasis than you’re used to, if you’re coming from most other popular consumer headphones. It’s a sound that can seem a little unexciting at first, but after your brain adjusts it’s pretty impressive. It’s more of an “audiophile-esque” sound than most gaming headsets shoot for.
Soundstage is open and airy for a closed-back, thanks in part to the special AirWeave ear cushions. Imaging and placement are great even in regular stereo, a must for gaming. The AirWeave cushions provide a good balance of decent isolation, and a more natural soundstage than the average closed-back.
Steelseries now has leatherette and velour ear cushion options available through their web site for $20. I haven’t heard these personally, but I imagine the velours would be more open and airy, and the leatherette cushions would be bassier and more isolating. That’s usually how this goes.
Wireless audio is impressive-sounding, and I believe Steelseries’s claims of “lag-free” transmission. Sampling rates and bit-depth are limited to something around standard CD audio, but that doesn’t have a massively negative impact on sound quality.
If you’re looking for boomy, powerful, impressive, chest-thumping sound…these might not do it for you. But if you like clarity, detail, and the notion of neutral/accurate sound, this is a great choice in gaming headsets.
In Windows, you can use the free Steelseries Engine software to EQ these to your heart’s content, and add a ton of bass or blast your ears out with treble. It also comes with some sensible presets to get you started. They EQ pretty darn well.
Also in Windows, you can make use of DTS Headphone: X, which remains the most impressive virtual surround sound system I’ve ever heard. Headphone surround is not for everyone, but if you’ve never tried DTS Headphone: X (or the nearly-as-excellent free Razer Surround) you might have fun giving them a shot!
The Arctis 7 is the best-built of the Arctis line. The 3 and 5 are both made out of a tough composite plastic material. The 7 adds a fully metal headband into the mix, and slightly sturdier ear cups.
Like the other Arctis headsets, the 7 features a suspension headband made out of ski goggle strap material. This is still perhaps my favorite headband on any headphone. Using ski goggle material is a brilliant idea. It’s durable, stretchy, and was designed to go around heads in the first place.
The strap on the Arctis 7 wraps all the way around the headband, instead of just hanging underneath from hooks like on the 3 and 5. This gives the 7 a bit more of a premium designer look, makes it easier/quicker to adjust with just one point of movement, and allows the headband to sit a little bit closer to your head.
In a lot of the artwork and early promotional material, the metal headband on the Arctis 7 is quite rounded…but the actual headset has a flatter headband. This means it’ll stick out a bit at the sides of your head, but it also gives the suspension strap more room to work. This startled me at first. I thought my headband was broken or bent in some way, but it’s as intended.
The ear pads are made from athletic shirt fabric, and Steelseries calls them “AirWeave” pads. The fabric gives you more isolation than most velour pads, but still breathes much better than leatherette. Your ears won’t get super warm and sweaty inside them, which is great for long listening sessions.
Flat headband aside, the design here is exceptional. They don’t fold down but the cups will fold flat. The cups are angled perfectly to fit around your ears. Also, thanks to this angle, when you put the headset down on a table, the retractable microphone and the control buttons/wheels won’t get smooshed into your desk. A great touch.
The headband and ear pads are easily washable. Yay!
Comfort! Yes! This is still probably one of the most comfortable headsets ever created by humans. Featuring a suspension headband system that Steelseries promises will fit comfortably on any head, the Arctis 7 delivers comfort that will carry you through a whole day with zero issues. The headband is a breeze to adjust and fit on your head, without any fiddly movements or tweaks to get it in a comfy spot. You just shove it on your head and go.
The ear cups are soft and plush, and have nice big openings. They are barely noticeable around the ear. Clamping force is the perfect balance of grippy and nice.
I have a big stupid head, so comfort is so important to me. Just like the Arctis 5, these deliver in spades. If comfort is your thing, you’ll love these. There are other comfy headsets on the market, sure, but these get there with such a neat mix of new design tweaks that it makes me hopeful for the future of headphone design.
The Arctis 7 connects wirelessly to PC, Mac, and PS4 through a little puck-shaped dongle with a standard USB cable and plug running out of it. The cable means you can position the small puck out of the way if it bugs you. I was kind of bummed at first that it wasn’t a small memory-stick-esque receiver, but the puck is pretty flat and small. Also, the puck includes line-in and line-out ports. So, you can wire another device to it with your own cable, and it’ll transmit audio from that wirelessly to the headphones. You can plug your speakers into the line-out port, and it’ll switch to those whenever your headphones are off. Kinda cool!
Wireless is the biggest reason you’re paying a little extra for these over the 3 and 5 models. It’s good! The battery is rated for about 15 hours, and I’ve had no issues with transmission. They don’t support Bluetooth, only their puck dongle, so you can’t get wireless audio out of your phone.
Sadly, the ear cups don’t light up like those on the Arctis 5. I know that’s a silly thing to miss since you can’t see the lights when they’re on your own head, but I’m a silly person and I like lights.
Fortunately, unlike some other stupid headsets mentioned below, the Arctis 7 includes a standard 3.5mm four pole cable that you can plug in to use them wired without the battery. This cable allows you to use the mic on your phone. It allows you to plug them into a console controller and use them for game and chat audio. It’s great! The cable has the same proprietary connector that the modular cables on the Arctis 3 and 5 use, so you can interchange the cables if you go crazy and buy more than one product in the lineup. Along with the audio cable port, there’s a micro USB port for charging and updating the firmware. You can still use the headset while it’s plugged in and charging.
A plethora of controls awaits you on the backs of the ear cups. There’s a smooth, perfectly attenuated volume knob, which works in both wired and wireless modes. There’s a mic mute button that also turns a little red light on at the tip of the mic to show you it’s working. There’s a game/chat balance knob that only works in wireless mode. There’s a power button which also shows you the current battery life.
The microphone is the same great noise-cancelling mic featured on the other two Arctis models. It’s ever-so-slightly tinny in its response, but it’s crisp, clean, and blocks out outside noise really well. It’s much better than it needs to be for gaming, and you could probably do some basic voice work on it if you had to, no problem.
The Steelseries Engine software allows you to get in and mess with all the additional settings. You can turn on sidetone for the mic. You can EQ the audio. You can activate DTS Headphone: X. It all works well and it’s not a resource hog.
Comparison with the Logitech G533
Okay. I haven’t used the new G533.
HOWEVER I used to own its more expensive big brother, the $200 G933. The 933 features Logitech’s new G drivers, wireless and wired functionality, and DTS Headphone: X. It also has one of the ugliest designs I’ve ever seen in a headphone. It’s monstrously huge, the ear cups don’t isolate well at all, the bass is completely lacking, it had software problems from day one…the list goes on.
The detents that hold the cups in place on the G933 would constantly slip as I tried to put them on, forcing me to readjust over and over. It had a chintzy, cheap feeling, like it could fall apart at any moment. I loathed it. I returned it. I didn’t even write a review.
The G533 is $149, just like the Arctis 7. It inherits all of the flaws of the G933 and cuts a bunch of features. It still has the big ugly design. It features wireless audio on Windows with DTS Headphone: X…and that’s it.
You can’t use the G533 on any other device. You can’t use the G533 in wired mode, because it doesn’t even have a port for a wire.
This is insane.
Do you want to pay $149 for a comfy headset you can use with everything? (The Arctis 7). Or do you want to pay $149 for an ugly huge headset you can only use with Windows? (The G533).
I think that choice is pretty clear. And it’s the perfect example case of why the Arctis 7 is so great. Sorry to pick on you Logitech, it’s true.
I still love your mice and keyboards.
EDIT: Oh no Logitech. I no longer love your mice and keyboards. What are you doooooooooing?
The Steelseries Arctis 7 is a great, well-performing, comfy wireless headset that’s priced just right and has the flexibility to work with almost any device. It has a great design. It has a great mic. It has great wireless audio. It has the best virtual surround algorithm.
It doesn’t have RGB lighting. If you want that, then the $99 Arctis 5 is a better choice. If you don’t care about wireless, I’d step all the way down to the $79 Arctis 3, where you’ll still get the same sound quality and comfort.
The Arctis 7 is clearly the top of the Arctis line, but it gets there by adding features to the already-great base models. This is the right way to do it.
When the Arctis line first launched, I said that other headset companies should be scared. No product has been this disruptive in the headset market since the HyperX Cloud.
Having now tried the Arctis 7, I stick by this sentiment. The Arctis 7 is a great balance of price and quality, with an unmatched comfy headband. Logitech should have cancelled the G533. It’s an objectively less-featured product that sells for the same price. The Arctis 7 matches the feature set of the more expensive G933, and outclasses many of Turtle Beach’s wireless headsets. Heck, it competes well with a lot of non-gaming audio products. Put it on your list if you’re shopping wireless gaming audio! Thanks for reading.
If you’re into gaming headsets and want something a little more bassy, check out the HyperX Cloud II or the Razer Kraken V2. They are both in a similar quality bracket…though neither is wireless. If I had to pick one of these three, I’d still go with the Arctis 3, 5, or 7 due to my slight preferences for its headband, comfy fit, and sound signature.