I’ve been using the SteelSeries Arctis Pro Wireless for the past three months. Here’s what I think about it.
This is the first expensive headset I’ve ever bought. My previous ones were cheap wired headsets for like £20. This one cost about £300.
Here was my list of requirements:
- It’s for work and play, not something to take outside. I don’t like taking big bulky headphones outside.
- Wireless so that I can walk around my house when on a call.
- It shouldn’t sound shit when the mic is turned on. All the wireless headsets I’ve tried usually drop down to a shitty codec when the mic is turned on.
- Can fall back to a wired connection, so that I could have lower latency for games.
- I am not an audiophile, I only really know the difference between shit quality and acceptable quality.
So the Arctis Pro Wireless comes with a dock that you plug in to your computer. This provides a 2.4G lossless connection to the headset, so the audio quality is pretty great, even when using the microphone.
Sometimes I want to work from my sofa, so I can’t plug my laptop into the dock. No problem, it supports Bluetooth too. The audio quality when just listening to music over Bluetooth is naturally not as great as the lossless connection, but it’s acceptable.
Unfortunately, when using Bluetooth (instead of 2.4G wireless) it drops down to a low quality codec with the mic turned on, where my background music sounds like ass.
A redeeming factor here is that the headset can connect to both Bluetooth and the wireless dock simultaneously, and have audio come from both connections. I’ve used this a few times to listen to music from my PC (via the 2.4G wireless connection) while talking to people on my phone (via Bluetooth). When taking a video call from my sofa I can probably plug the dock into my PC, control Spotify remotely, and enjoy high quality background music that way.
The dock has a knob that lets you control volume and a bunch of other settings, like voice/game volume mixing. The voice/game mixing works by showing up as two audio devices on your computer, so you set Discord up to send audio through the voice audio device, and the rest of system goes through the main audio voice.
It is pretty clear that the voice audio device has a lower quality, low enough to want to just put all output on main device. Whatever, I kept voice stuff on the voice device anyway.
The dock has a display too. You can use the software to configure it to say different things, like the name of the song that is currently playing, or to display join/quit messages for Discord voice calls. The Discord voice calls feature is pretty useful, especially when you’re wondering who the fuck just joined or left the channel in the middle of a game or watch party.
The physical volume knob on the dock is a bit of a gimmick. I’ve only ever really used it to change certain settings from the dock on the first week I got it. Otherwise I normally adjust the volume using the wheel on the headset itself, or using the Windows Volume Mixer.
Using the Windows Volume Mixer to adjust voice/game balance is quite annoying since I need to click between the two audio drivers, so I should just get used to using the dock’s feature for this.
It’s annoying that you need to lean over and use the knob to change certain things, instead of being able to use the wheel on the headset. You can change the following things using the wheel on the headset (and it will show info on the dock):
- voice/game mix (“chatmix”)
- equaliser preset
- audio source (PC vs aux)
The dock has a back button too, which the headset doesn’t have, so that explains why the Settings menu doesn’t show up using the clickable headset wheel. They probably could have reused the headset Bluetooth button as the back button so that you had the same set of menus, but whatever.
The dock also has a hole in the side to charge the headset battery. Yep, it uses batteries! But like a thing phone-style battery, not AAA batteries or anything like that. The headset comes with a spare battery so I just always keep one battery charging while the other is in my headset.
Swapping batteries is really easy. There’s a magnetic cover on the outside of one of the ears, so if you need to swap batteries, you don’t need to fiddle around with switches or clips. You just need a fingernail.
I decided to opt-in to the beta, and that installed some special new iteration of the software with different branding. “SteelSeries GG”, it’s called.
It wants you to log in. If you don’t log in, it says it’s in “Limited Access” mode. But I think everything still works fine. I just don’t care about giveaways or sharing clips in my software that is just meant to configure my headset. Yes, there are two tabs full of ads (Home, Giveaways), one for screen clipping (Moments), and then one to configure your hardware (Engine). I guess the other tabs are more useful to kids (Giveaways) or people who are more bought into the SteelSeries ecosystem.
If I wanted to clip, and didn’t want to use OBS Studio for whatever reason, I’d try the Xbox inbuilt thingy, or my the AMD GPU utility software thingy. Not the software for my fucking headset.
There are no annoying noises like some robot screaming “LOW VOLUME” or a fucking annoying long wake up or shutdown charm. Just a beep when it goes on and off.
When it’s at low volume, it’ll just turn off with the regular shutdown beep. Ok, a bit of forewarning would have been nice, but whatever, it’s not really annoyed me. I just swap battery.
reddit says that SteelSeries is going down the shitter, and that these headphones break really easily. It’s been fine so far but I’ve not really been rough with it either. The only thing I’ve tried was to lie down on my side with it on but that got really uncomfortable so I stopped.
And I guess three months isn’t long enough for it to break, either. I also paid £20 for 3 years insurance. It’s probably not worth it but at least if it breaks I can make a claim.
It comes with active noice cancellation… I think? You can’t turn it off, but it’s nice so I’m not sure why I would want to turn it off. The ANC is a bit grainy though.
You can configure it to turn off automatically after some time of inactivity, and you can specify how long that duration should be. The annoying thing is that “inactivity” is determined by “how long since last mic input” instead of “how long since last noise”. On a handful of occasions it has turned off when I’m just listening to music and clicking around reading docs ‘n’ stuff. Usually it won’t turn off when I’m coding, I think because my keyboard is loud enough. Although it did turn off in the middle of a coding session once.
I don’t think I’ve installed the software on my work computer but it still works pretty well! Good Plug and Play support, I’d say.
It would be nice if there was a way to get it to use the regular laptop WiFi hardware instead of needing a separate receiver. I could probably try to hack that feature in, but even if I did, I probably wouldn’t be able to install that on my work machine.
It’s the pandemic right now, so everything is 100% WFH. I have no idea how any of these workflows will change once I start working in the office. I’ve never been into the office!
It would be overkill, but I could buy a second dock. I wonder if this headset will behave properly with multiple docks.
Or I could just only use Bluetooth. Half my team is remote and my team has a couple meetings with teams in other countries, so while video calls won’t be disappearing, I expect I’ll have fewer 1:1 video calls. I can probably survive without music for those meetings.
Re-evaluating the requirements
I’ve not used the actual wired connection yet, so I probably don’t need to worry about that for the next headset I buy. The latency is really unnoticeable with this 2.4G wireless connection.
I still care about not having a phenomenally shit audio codec when the mic is turned on.