EVERY now and then I get a pleasant surprise with a review gaming headset, and the latest device to achieve that feat is the SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro for Xbox headset.
It’s a wired headset that comes with a Digital To Analogue Converter (DAC) – essentially an amp/external sound card – which I’ve never encountered on an Xbox headset before.
The sound quality from the SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro for Xbox is absolutely amazing and easily the best audio I’ve experienced from a wired Xbox headset. It’s clear, it’s sharp, and it’s really well balanced – plus you can fine-tune it yourself even further via the DAC.
The DAC itself is easy to setup and use; it has an LCD screen with the menu and info and it’s accessed using the large dial to its right, which also has a push-button built into it for selecting things.
The headset features 40mm neodymium drivers with a 38 Ohm impedance, and regardless of whether I was playing something like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Strange Brigade, Forza Horizon 5 or Unpacking, the sound was just superb and immersive in a way I’d only previously experienced with PC headsets, with an actual surround-audio experience and sounds appearing to come from different places.
I really can’t overstate just how good the audio experience is with this headset on the Xbox. The headset itself is also very comfortable to wear, even for long periods, and its brushed metal elements and finish add to the feeling of a premium, well-made product.
One of the features SteelSeries are spruiking with the Arctis Nova Pro for Xbox is that it will work with pretty much everything, including PlayStation 5 consoles, PCs, and the Nintendo Switch. I tested this and confirmed that yes, it does – and it works properly, as you’d expect, although the sound isn’t quite as good on the PS5 and Switch as it is on Xbox (it’s still very good, though!)
Sound on the PC was as good as the Xbox, aided by the SteelSeries Engine software which you might already have installed if you’ve got one of the company’s well-regarded mice.
The DAC connects via USB and in fact, can be connected simultaneously to an Xbox and a separate console. In my case, I had it hooked up to an Xbox Series X and a PlayStation 5, and it was great to be able to switch between the consoles and still get headset sound without having to do anything – or even take the headset off.
The criticisms I have of the unit are pretty minor – I don’t like that the microphone isn’t “retract to mute”, and can result in the dreaded “Inadvertent Hot Mic Situation” whereby you say something that you don’t want other people to here, except it turns out the mic is on and they did indeed hear you.
The earcup foam is that soft leatherette material I’m not a big fan of either – it’s not great in Queensland heat (yes, I know it’s winter now, but seasons change) and in my experience with it as headset material it will eventually start to deteriorate.
The cable thing isn’t as big a deal as I was initially expecting, although it’s definitely not going to appeal to anyone for whom cable management is a priority.
You’ve got not one but two cables here – one from the Xbox to the DAC, and one from the DAC to the headset – and it can be a trip hazard if you move around a lot when playing games (or, in my case, have kids who like to charge into the lounge and ask “Whatcha doin?” whenever I turn a console on), but if you’re within about 3m of the console or PC it’s not a dealbreaker and also means you never have to worry about batteries or misplacing a wireless transceiver.
As long as you’re OK with a wired headset, don’t need to be too far from your console, and remember to manually activate the mute button on the headset mic when not using it, you’ll find it hard to go past the SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro for Xbox, even with its premium price tag.
It is, without a doubt, the best-sounding wired Xbox headset I’ve ever used and the fact it works so well with pretty much everything just adds to the attraction of what is already a superb and highly recommended headset.