Solid connectivity options
Good surround sound
App required for full functionality
Mic makes some voices sound “distant”
SteelSeries is a force to be reckoned with and supplies gamers with a multitude of peripherals. The SteelSeries Arctis 7 is a mid-tier headset that includes a Discord-certified microphone, good battery life, and wireless connectivity. Let’s see if it differentiates itself from the over-saturated gaming headset market.
Who should get the SteelSeries Arctis 7?
This versatile gaming headset is for gamers of all varieties who need an no-fuss wireless pair of headphones. It works effectively on PC and Playstation 4, with some limited functionality on other consoles such as the Nintendo Switch and Xbox One.
What’s it like to use the SteelSeries Arctis 7?
Anyone familiar with the SteelSeries family of headphones will feel right at home with the SteelSeries Arctis 7, as it borrows much of its design from the SteelSeries Arctis Pro. Each model features a lightweight aluminum headband support and suspension headband. The Arctis 7 ear cups’ yokes are slightly offset to contour with the natural slant of the human ear, and the plastic finish has a matte texture, rather than the Pro’s glossy veneer.
The headset was extremely comfortable to wear during long listening sessions, but most users will have to take a moment to adjust the elastic tension strap. This brilliant mechanism is great for bespectacled listeners, as it lets each user dictate how much pressure is placed around the ears where the arms of glasses frames rest. To really optimize comfort, though, you should replace the earpads with something less rigid. For those without glasses, hold onto the ear pads as long as possible because they’re quite breathable.
Gamers must download SteelSeries' software to enable 7.1 surround sound, which is a huge bummer.
Onboard controls rest along the bottom of the ear cup housings. The right ear cup hosts the power button and a toggle that lets users alternate between the game and chat audio channels (e.g. Arctis Chat and Arctis Game when using the headset on PC only). The left ear cup includes a volume dial, 3.5mm and microUSB inputs, four-pin ports, and a microphone mute button. It also conceals a 10cm retractable microphone that can flex any direction.
The Arctis 7 doesn’t afford many accessories
SteelSeries includes a USB transmitter for connecting the headphones to a device, a 3.5mm cable for connecting to a phone or controller, and a USB charging cord. The headband is also replaceable, which elongates the overall life of the Arctis 7 headset.
How long does the battery last?
The company claims a 24-hour battery life with a recent firmware update, but SoundGuys’ SteelSeries Arctis 7 review cites 16 hours, 32 minutes of playtime on a single charge. You may be able to get closer to the 24-hour mark if you prefer quieter volume levels. An LED indicator on the power button turns yellow when battery levels are between 20-49%, and red when it gets below 20%. It takes a couple hours to charge the headset back up with the included USB cable.
Benefits of surround sound in gaming headsets
Surround sound is more than just a great way to market a gaming headset: it serves a purpose in the gaming world and can improve a gamer’s experience by recreating a realistic sense of three-dimensional space. The SteelSeries Arctis 7 boasts 7.1 digital surround sound using DTS Headphones:X 2.0 technology, the same tech used in the Pro model, making it a great pick for shooters like Fortnight and Overwatch.
When testing, footsteps were rendered clearly, and it was easy to identify their directionality. If you’re not one for shooters and play games like Draugen or Assassin’s Creed, you may not feel surround sound is markedly beneficial.
How do you connect the SteelSeries Arctis 7?
This is a straightforward setup process: it connects using a 2.4GHz wireless RF USB dongle, which avoids latency issues that plague Bluetooth technology. This transmitter affords a 12-meter range, which held true during testing. Sure, versatility takes a bit of a hit, you can’t just open your phone’s Bluetooth menu and connect to the Arctis 7, but it’s worth it for gamers when every second counts.
You can also take the analog approach with the headphone jack cable for connecting to an Xbox One controller or undocked Nintendo Switch. When listening by wire, you lose access to software features like multiple audio channels.
How to use SteelSeries Engine software
This gaming headset uses SteelSeries Engine 3 software to let users customize their experiences. You can toggle between surround sound and stereo listening, adjust the audio dynamic range, and make advanced adjustments to specific frequencies’ loudness. Gamers who want a bit more oomph to their explosions may want to boost the bass frequencies through the software. Although Engine 3 is easy to use and well designed, it’s a major bummer that it’s required in order to enable 7.1 surround sound.
Gaming headsets tend to emphatically emphasize bass notes, but that’s not a good thing. Doing so makes it hard to hear relatively subtle sounds like footsteps and your teammates’ voices. Fortunately, the SteelSeries Arctis 7 sidesteps this extreme exaggeration, but doesn’t sound neutral by any stretch of the imagination. Low frequency noises like explosions and car crashes are still gently amplified; in extreme instances this can make it hard to hear footsteps, but this is a rare case.
SteelSeries did a good job with the Arctis 7 when it comes to blocking out background noise. It can’t outperform noise-cancelling headphones but distant chatter and outside foot traffic was rendered null during SoundGuys‘ testing.
Does the microphone sound good?
Microphone quality is par for the course when it comes to gaming headset mics: low-frequencies are slightly attenuated, which can make male vocals sound slightly “distant” or “muffled.” The other side to this coin is that slight bass de-emphasis can combat something called the “proximity effect;” this is when bass notes are made to sound too loud and distorted when a speaker gets too close to a microphone.
SteelSeries Arctis 7 microphone demo:
Should you buy the SteelSeries Arctis 7?
Gamers who want an all-in-one solution that reproduces fine audio quality for a reasonable price will thoroughly enjoy the Arctis 7. It’s one of the more comfortable options available and has a great low-profile design for users who don’t want their headset to scream “I’m a gamer!”
The Arctis 7 is a great all-around headset that looks handsome and performs well.
Our resident gaming expert, Sam Moore, much prefers to use the SteelSeries Arctis Pro + GameDAC to the company’s Engine 3 software, but the Pro model costs $100 more. The Arctis 7 really affords a lot for the price and will last quite a while given all the replaceable parts. Gamers who need a good budget pick should consider the SteelSeries Arctis 1, which is very similar albeit less comfortable. Alternatively, you can look over at the HyperX line of headphones, specifically the Cloud Alpha which offers similar sound quality.