MY REVIEW OF THESE IS NOW LIVE! ← — — Click here to read it!
UPDATE: Added in some more details, thanks to this blog article from Steelseries’ audio product manager Brian Fallon. It’s a great read!
The Arctis line and I have had a mostly-good relationship…except for that one time I loathed the snake-oily way the Pro was marketed and went a little overboard.
Upon actually reviewing it, I found that the Pro transcended its marketing, and it was a great headset for anyone looking at products in the high-end price bracket.
One of my favorite features was DTS Headphone: X 2.0. Even though I think the placement and use of that colon is the worst.
Building on the success of the original DTS Headphone: X, the 2.0 version added depth to the sound field and support for true 3D sound object rendering.
The depth system allows game sound to come from either far away or close to the player, using volume cues in the existing soundtrack to simulate this movement in 3D space. And 3D audio support essentially allows the audio to be mixed in real-time by the DTS processor, matching it to your headphones based on the raw data from the game.
It’s a very good, convincing 3D headphone audio system…though it still has some weird lingering artifacts you’ll have to adjust to, with a slight hollowness to its sound at first. This hollowness comes from the bass being pushed off into its own fake subwoofer channel, which is a little alarming at first if you’re used to traditional headphone sound.
When the Arctis lineup first launched in 2016, it came with the original version of DTS Headphone: X if you bought the 5 or the 7, and included Steelseries’ custom surround software on the cheaper 3.
The Arctis 3 2019 isn’t so lucky, with its old surround software completely stripped away in favor of Windows Sonic support. That’s honestly a totally fine move.
Significantly, existing Arctis 5 and 7 owners can also upgrade to DTS Headphone X: 2.0 via the Steelseries software.
Also new in this 2019 Arctis lineup is a mild visual refresh. Gone are the sharp angles and funky colors that adorned the default headbands of the older models, in favor of a simpler shades-of-black strap that mimics the industrial look of the Arctis Pro. Just like on the pro, some of the wacky lines are there if you get up close, but they blend into each other and the rest of the headset.
Additionally, the Arctis 7 is getting the new more curved Arctis Pro metal headband instead of its original, strangely flat-looking model.
This brings the whole lineup more in sync…but I sort of miss the funk. It was fun, and helped the lineup to stick out a little.
Hopefully Steelseries will continue to sell the fun optional colorful headbands in their store…though I do wonder how many people actually bought those add-ons.
The ear cushions have been thickened slightly, to prevent your ears from touching the insides of the cups. I never had much of an issue with this on the original models thanks to their angled drivers, and I have even more room inside the Pro…but hopefully this new foam helps those who didn’t like the original pads.
As to the sound, in the article linked above Brian says they’ve boosted the bass response a bit. I’m cautiously optimistic about this? The original Arctis line has one of the brighter responses in the gaming headset market, with just a little bit of oomph in the midbass to bring in some rumble. If the additional bass response is below that hump, it’ll be great. But if it’s in the same range…things could get muddy.
I discovered this refresh completely by accident, and just wanted to share it. I sometimes spend my idle moments browsing headphone web sites, because that’s the sort of person I am.
If you’re looking to buy a non-Pro Arctis today, I would 100 percent advise you to try and get the 2019 version. Hopefully these boxes will show up in your local stores soon, so make sure you don’t accidentally grab the older model. DTS Headphone X: 2.0 is a big upgrade if you care about virtual surround, and right in line with the Dolby Atmos headphone system quality-wise. And having new pads is great.
You might as well get the latest if you’ve waited this long, right?
I don’t need another Arctis in my life. I currently have a white Arctis 3 in my closet and an Arctis Pro on my head right now.
However, I am totally planning to review the Arctis 5 2019 Edition in the near future, because I can’t resist an update of a product I love.
Incidentally, I also think adding a year number to headphones is a great idea. Most headphone lineups are a mess of different model numbers that don’t always indicate their relative quality, even within their own product family.