We’ll say it – the SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless Headset for Xbox is right up there with the best headsets on the gaming market. If it’s not the best, there certainly can’t be many ahead of it.
The thing is, it’s expensive, coming in at upwards of £320, but the build quality is nothing but superb, the sound is stunning and the overall feel is one of sheer delight. It’s helped by a brilliant little base unit which works as the brains behind it all.
But what if you can’t stretch the wallet to the £329 asking price that SteelSeries have set? Well, they have got you covered with other options; one of those being, their wired Arctis Nova Pro for Xbox. Again, it’s not a cheap headset, priced at £249.99, but it’s cheaper than the top-of-the-range wireless option and for the right situation, may just be a better call.
So what are the main differences? Well, there aren’t many, yet the headline mention must be that this one isn’t wireless. For many gamers – us included – that’s rarely an issue. Many may swear by wired over wireless, as a cable should, in theory, deliver a better sound. But on the flip side, being tied down can be enough to push some gamers over the edge.
We’re quite happy to run wired gaming headsets for our Xbox sessions, mostly as a single cable between controller and headset should rarely be seen as an issue. However, things are a bit different with what SteelSeries have produced with their Arctis Nova Pro – there is no cable between Xbox pad and what sits on your head. Instead the Arctis Nova Pro connects straight into a GameDAC Gen 2; on the face of it a similar base station to the Wireless edition, just with more angles. It’s that which is our main issue.
We’re primarily Xbox gamers and whilst we occasionally dabble in the worlds of PC, of PlayStation, of Nintendo Switch and even in the barren lands of Google Stadia (yep, we were right there with the Founders Edition), for the most part it’s the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S which powers our lives.
One of the reasons for that is ease of use. Dropping ourselves onto the sofa or a bed, kicking back in front of the big screen and falling into the various experiences that the Xbox eco-system allows means it’s our first choice for gaming. It also means that for the most part we’re sat nowhere near our console. If you’re using the SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro for Xbox, that is immediately an issue.
Wirelessly, there is no problem. In fact, for most wired headsets, there is little issue either. But the SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro for Xbox utilises a double cable system. The first plugs into your console’s USB-A port, with the companion USB-C straight into SteelSeries’ GameDAC Gen 2 base station. From there, it’s a case of 3.5mm-ing it from base station to headset in order to find all the audio you need.
In summary, you’re running a 5ft cable from console to base station, and then another similarly lengthed one from base station to headset. Sit at a desk with your console dropped next to you and the job is a good un. Sit more than ten feet or so away, on the comfort of your couch, and it’s a different story. You’ll either have cables criss-crossing your living room, a GameDAC laying on your bed, or some kind of contraption enabling a fix.
For this reason alone we’ve found the Arctis Nova Pro to be a slight pain to use. Granted, that may not be an issue for many, and we’ve certainly got ways to work around it – we could just sit closer for starters, or do away with the base station and plug straight into our controller, losing the joy and power the GameDAC brings – but it’s most definitely not ideal.
That is pretty much all that is lacking though for the rest of the headset is brilliant.
Got a setup that allows for it and you’ll find this excelling. The GameDAC Gen 2 is the brains and with a huge dial on the front and plenty of settings found within, you’ll be able to get this set up and working how you like. Your ears will thank you too, especially as you play around with the variety of equaliser settings and the like which are hidden deep into the settings. Better still, double USB-c’ing and making the most of the GameDAC’s line-in and line-out ports will mean you can pretty much connect this to whatever device you like, all without the need to worry about switching around cables as you go from one device to the next. It’s a well worked unit that ensures that the Arctis Nova Pro for Xbox will be left on your head as you move from gaming space to gaming space.
The standard wired headset is just as premium as the Wireless edition. Created out of the same steel headband and ComfortMAX suspension system that SteelSeries are selling this with, it’s going to sit on your head with ease. Massively adjustable through the push, pull and slide of the headband and then via a pop-and-push of the internal suspension, getting this to fit all sizes of head is easy. It’s helped that the cups then swivel and flex plenty enough too – if you want to sit this around your neck, you can.
The externals of the earcups can be flicked off and changed for SteelSeries’ coloured Booster Packs, which lets you inject some glorious hues to the otherwise all-black design, but mostly the Arctis Nova Pro is fairly bereft of fanciness. In fact, the cups only play host to two buttons – a mic mute and a volume dial – whilst the 3.5mm port sits on the underside of the left cup, as you look to attach it to that GameDAC unit. There’s no immediate Noise Cancellation or Transparency to play with.
Earcup wise and we’re on the same train. They are more than squishy enough and allow for extended use hours without any fuss nor bother, feeling great as the oval cups surround and caress the ears. We’ve always found SteelSeries headsets to be premium on the head – the Arctis 7X no more so – and that’s the case here too. In fact, if you’re looking for a headset that you can wear for many hours straight, this is one to consider.
To our ears, the wired Nova Pro doesn’t sound quite as good as its wireless brother – with a massive emphasis on ‘quite’ and full understanding that it may just have been the situations we were in. It doesn’t seem to be as bass rich and full as what the Arctis Nova Pro Wireless is capable of, yet it’s still easily up there amongst the best headsets we’ve had the pleasure of putting on our heads. If you’re coming in green you’ll not notice a jot of difference or any tinge of disappointment, but go from one to the other in a matter of minutes (something we have done through testing), you’ll possibly find this one comes up a teeny bit short. Reasons? Well, we’d guess this is down to the GameDAC handling the audio but as we’re always keen to point out, we’re humble gamers who know what a game should generally play, look and sound like; we’re not audiophiles looking to pick out every pinprick of detail.
Mic wise it’s all good too. This is the exact same mic that is found in SteelSeries’ other products and it’s one of beauty. Comms with party members are crystal clear and that is all you really need from a gaming mic – perfect comms as soon as you slide it out from the well defined housing, no matter how hot the action. This delivers that in spades.
£249.99 is not cheap and should you be spending that kind of money on a gaming headset, you’d need it to be near perfect in all situations. The SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro is not that, at least not for every eventuality, but it’s still a brilliant headset that will rarely disappoint. Due to the wired needs, we’d save this one for an office or small bedroom set-up as opposed to if you’re gaming in an open room, as then the double cable action will be negated. Find a space for the Arctis Nova Pro for Xbox in your life though and you’ll once again wonder how SteelSeries have done it. This is a great sounding, great looking, brilliantly well made gaming headset that is very nearly worth every penny.
But there is a problem and that is the fact that the SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro for Xbox is not the SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless for Xbox – and to us those wireless capabilities mean that is the ultimate Xbox headset that money can buy.
Huge thanks go out to SteelSeries for providing their Arctis Nova Pro Headset for Xbox for review. You can pick one up for yourself by visiting SteelSeries direct.