SteelSeries Arctis Pro + GameDAC Review

SteelSeries Arctis Pro + GameDAC Review – Achieving the utmost in audio quality is the aim of SteelSeries’ new Arctis Pro range, thanks to a new driver design that more than doubles the existing Arctis range’s frequency response range. Most headphones and headsets have a frequency response range of 20-20,000Hz, while the standard Arctis series ups this range to 20-22,000Hz. The Arctis Pro, though, stretches the range to 10-40,000Hz. That’s the sort of level of fidelity normally only claimed by serious audiophile headphones.

 

At this point some of you may be wondering if there’s a benefit to such a range, given that human hearing can’t stretch much beyond 20-20,000Hz. Well, the answer is twofold. For one, the extended range is perceived by some people to be felt rather than heard, especially for powerful low frequencies from speakers. More importantly, the extra frequency range means manufacturers can ensure a more accurate, linear response in the frequencies we can hear.

Aside from its fancy new drivers, there’s no obvious difference between the Pro and the rest of the Arctis range. The overall styling is all but identical, with the same subtle stretched-circle earcup design, simple metal headband and elasticated strap. Instead, the differences are in the colouring. While the normal Arctis range has a variety of patterns on the elasticated bands and a prominent silver SteelSeries logo, here it’s just black, black and more black. The Arctis range was already good-looking, but the new all-black livery elevates its style even further.

Build quality is excellent too, with all the pieces and joints feeling solid and robust, and all the buttons and dials feeling well made. The elasticated band works wonders for distributing the weight of the headset over the top of your head too, and SteelSeries has slightly deepened the padding on the earcups, making the Pro more comfortable to wear than the standard Arctis.

The Arctis Pro isn’t wanting for features either. It includes a retractable microphone, a microphone mute button, a volume dial, the main proprietary audio input and a conventional jack input that means you can use this headset as a conventional passive pair of headphones.

Then there’s the optional GameDAC. This mini-USB sound interface includes a volume/control knob and OLED display, and can control some of the headsets features. As well as the main USB input that goes to your PC and the output for the headset, it also includes an optical input, a line-out jack and a line-in jack. It’s a really well-made little unit, plus it appears as two audio outputs in Windows, so you can assign chat to one input and in-game sound to another one, then mix the levels using the control knob.

It also includes a quality digital-to-analogue converter (DAC) with native 24-bit/96KHz audio support, enabling SteelSeries to slap the Hi-Res Audio label on this headset.

The Arctis Pro stretches the frequency range to 10-40,000Hz

However, this feature only works with virtual DTS surround sound turned off and without support for chat/game audio mixing, rendering it rather pointless in games.

Finally, we come to that all-important sound quality, and the Arctis Pro delivers on its promise, even without Hi-Res Audio. Comparing it with the already-good Arctis 7, the difference is like night and day, with a leap in clarity. The sound signature is also reasonably flat, so there’s no over- the-top bass muddying the sound, making for an accurate presentation in music and games. The DTS virtual surround works well too, and it’s handy that you can switch between surround and stereo at the touch of the GameDAC’s button.

Conclusion

The SteelSeries Arctis Pro is a fine gaming headset. It boasts clarity that far surpasses most alternatives, it looks great, is reasonably comfortable to wear and is packed with useful features. The GameDAC also makes for a great addition, although it certainly isn’t an essential. It might be expensive, but the Arctis Pro delivers on all fronts.

EDWARD CHESTER

SOUND 38/40

DESIGN 18/20

VALUE 32/30

VERDICT

A mighty pricey but mighty fine gaming headset that offers clarity far above the immediate competition.

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