SteelSeries Arctis 1 Wired Gaming Headset Review

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SteelSeries might not be the oldest or most experienced company in the world. Companies like ASUS, Corsair and even Razer have been around longer than them. But in this digital world where things are always evolving rapidly, experience doesn’t have the same impact it once did.

PRODUCT INFO
Steel Series Arctis 1 Wire Gaming Headset
Manufacture Steel Series
Available at View at Amazon

Ever since it’s emergence, the company has always been focused on gaming peripherals, and they even have major partners in e-sports. These days, they are making mice, mousepads, keyboards, and headsets.

Speaking of headsets, If you are in the market for a new gaming headset, you’ll definitely end up sifting through dozens of options. It’s easy to end up being dazed and confused, especially for newcomers to the world of gaming headsets.

Plus, if you’re trying to find a good value or some actual bang for your buck, you’re options will be pretty limited. There is always some sort of sacrifice, especially in the budget area.

But apparently there is a new kid on the block, the SteelSeries Arctis 1. The Arctis 1 looks like a watered-down version of the Arctis 3 and Arctis 5. SteelSeries removed some of the features from those headsets, and the Arctis 1 was birthed as a budget headset. But is it really the budget champion it promises to be? Well, hopefully, this review should answer that.

The Unboxing Experience

When I first got the box on hand, I was actually pretty excited to open it up immediately. It’s not a boring black box with just a large logo on it. Instead, the whole box has this white and orange theme going on, for some reason. Personally, I think it’s pretty refreshing, compared to all those eyesore boxes out there. So far, it looks clean and minimal.

Front Side Of The Box

The front of the box has a picture of the headset along with the SteelSeries logo at the upper left corner. Right at the top, it says “from the makers of the best gaming headset”. They’re really proud of their achievements with their higher-end headsets. This is pretty apparent because the right side of the box shows all of the acclaims their products have gotten from various review sites. The left side shows the specs.

Back Side of The Box

The backside has all the rudimentary specs which you read on your own. It’s pretty much the basic stuff you’d expect. With that done, let’s have a look inside. The tab is easy enough to open from the top. After that, you have to pull out the plastic encasing which holds the headset. Personally I prefer a box that flips open, instead of how this works.

The contents inside the box are just the headset, removeable-microphone and a splitter cable for a mic. Keeping it simple, apparently.

Design And Build Quality

With the unboxing through with, let’s got on to the actual details. When I first pulled the headset out and got it in my hands, I was already a bit let down. Sure the headset looks sleek and clean, something I honestly prefer. But even for a fan of minimalism, it looks more generic than “sleek”. I like how the earcups are shaped, and the outside has a nice feel to it with the smooth plastic. Both have the logo outside, at the bottom of the earcup.

Let’s have a quick look around before we get into build quality. The left earcup has a volume rocker, and mic on/off switch. Personally I don’t like the placement of either of these. The volume rocker is too small, and the mic switch is just way too high up. The mic is detachable, which we’ll talk more of later.

After admiring the headset for what it was, I tried it on. I’m going to be unbiased here, but my disappointment can not be explained in words. The headset feels incredibly flimsy, just by moving around a bit I could hear a very slight creak in the hinge. I did a test of flexing the headband a bit, I did not like the sounds it was making in any way. I’d be incredibly careful with these, don’t throw them around after an intense rage quit.

Even the cable somehow feels a little cheap. I’m aware that most budget headsets have a rubber cable, but this one seems incredibly flimsy and can get tangled up quite easily as well.

Comfort

The “Air-Weave” padding isn’t all bad, to be honest

I’m positive that comfort is the main reason why the Arctis lineup is so popular. They use a different kind of padding compared to their rivals. While everyone out there is using leather ear cushions, SteelSeries is using a cloth type surface. They proclaim these as “Air-weave cushions”. Honestly, I think that’s a bit much. Sure, I love the padding and the way it feels. It’s a nice change coming from all those leather ear pads. It feels pretty good and hey, they don’t look bad either.

Initially, I was enjoying my time with this headset. The padding was comfortable, to begin with, but I started noticing something was off. After a few hours of binging Netflix, I noticed a lot of fatigue. This was because the headset wasn’t exactly adjusted properly.

The Arctis 1 uses a steel slider with rigid notches to find a perfect fit. So fine-tuning that is a bit difficult. Even after all that, I feel like the clamping force on this headset is just a bit too much. I tried adjusting it dozens of times, but the clamping force is definitely a bit much, even for a guy who has a larger head. At least the headband has a bit of padding, so the top has a better fit. Plus, the inside of the earcups looks cool, with this geometric triangular design.

Overall, comfort was a bit of a letdown, I was definitely expecting a bit more than this. I wouldn’t recommend wearing these for sessions longer than 3-4 hours.

Sound Quality – Music and Gaming

Okay if you’ve read this far, you might be getting the impression that I’m just bashing the headset for now, and I’ll rave about its sound quality. But trust me, I wish that was the case here.

Surely after the letdowns above, audio quality can save this headset. Spoiler alert: It doesn’t. Before I even get into the technical stuff, there are some basic problems we need to get out of the way. If you’re looking for it, you’ll hear a slight hiss at times when there’s no music playing. This problem existed with my phone, my PC and even with my PS4. Although, it’s barely noticeable and I had to focus to hear it. Still, this shouldn’t really even be an issue that exists.

Remember how I mentioned above the cable feels cheap? Well, my thoughts are solidified at this point. When I move the cable around a bit, you can actually hear the rustling sound and a bit of distortion when this happens. Not something you’d expect from SteelSeries.

Gaming Performance

Flat folding ear cups are always a major plus

Since this is a headset, most people will obviously be buying this for gaming. Overall, the Arctis 1 has a pretty simple neutral sound signature. The mids sound pretty decent, and the treble or higher frequencies aren’t all that bad either. Note how I say “not bad”, they’re not really good either. Honestly, the audio quality is just passable.

Now, what most competitive gamers look for in a headset is directional audio and a lot of bass. Well in terms of directional audio separation, there isn’t really a lot of it here. Sure I can determine the basic stuff, but I can never know exactly where an enemy is coming from. Comparing this to the Cloud Stinger, it has poor stereo separation and doesn’t do a good job of telling you where the footsteps are coming from.

Moving on, I am someone who prefers a natural and reference sound. I like to hear stuff the way it is made, but even then I do like some bass when I’m gaming. Well, the low-end practically isn’t even there on this headset. There is no kick or punchy bass, which is a major letdown for people who enjoy explosions and gunshots with their games.

What’s It Like For Music?

The on-ear controls are frustrating to reach, especially the mic switch

Oh my word, these are definitely not made for avid music listeners. If you’ve ever tried a pair of good headphones, I’m not even talking studio-grade, just a basic pair of good headphones, these will sound horrendous. I didn’t expect a lot from this headset in the first place, especially as an avid music listener. But even then I was disappointed.

Like everything else with this headset, the listening experience is just passable. I enjoy a lot of different genres, from bass-heavy hip hop to some soothing jazz. No matter what album or track I tried, I just didn’t enjoy my time with this headset. After a few hours, I switched back to my old headphones.

There just isn’t any real separation with music, a lot of the details are lost. The vocals sound great, but I had to listen really hard to pick up the instruments being played. I like to use tracks from Pink Floyd when testing out headphones because they have a lot of instrumentals. If you’re a fan of that kind of music, these are not good.

Even the max volume seems a bit low to my ears. Sometimes the separation was off as well. Again. the Arctis 1 is passable in a vacuum, but there are competitors that have better audio for the same price. The Kraken X has a better sound for most gamers, while the Cloud Stinger is pretty much a great overall headset. This comparison is important to make because that’s what makes this a comprehensive review.

Microphone

The included splitter cable isn’t of great quality, which distorts the mic audio

Even I am desperate at this point. Surely the microphone can’t be that bad. Well, I hate to break it to you, but this mic is straight-up bland. I called up a few of my friends in discord to test it out, they said they’ve heard better quality from a phone. This is just embarrassing at this point.

I also don’t like the length of the mic. It’s just way too short and doesn’t exactly reach close enough to your mouth. Maybe that’s why the mic quality sounds a bit distant. But, it doesn’t pick up background noise from my mechanical keyboard. Normally, that would be a plus point, but it’s not even picking up my own voice, so bittersweet I guess?

I’ve never been a fan of detachable microphones. I wouldn’t mind this if the mute switch was better placed, so I don’t have to put the mic away somewhere when I’m done. For people who aren’t careful, I can see them losing it. A retractable mic or a flip-up mic would have been much better. But to each his own, that’s just my opinion.

Mic Test

Conclusion

I don’t think I need to give my final thoughts on this headset. It was a serious letdown and disappointment, that’s all I can say. One thing I forgot to mention, the ear cups can be folded flat, but after a while, even that hinge started getting loose. So I don’t know how long this headset is actually going to last. The plastic also picks up grease quite quickly. Overall, I wouldn’t be disappointed if this headset didn’t have competitors. $50 isn’t a lot of money in the headset market, but Razer, HyperX and even Corsair have better products at this price point such as the Corsair HS30, HS50, Hyper X Stinger and Razer Kraken X.

SteelSeries Arctis 1 Wired Gaming Headset

  • Stealthy design
  • Air-weave ear cushions
  • Sub-standard microphone
  • Poor Audio Quality
  • Not the best in terms of comfort

Frequency Response: 20–20000 Hz | Impedance: 32 Ω @ 1kHz | Drivers: 50 mm Neodymium magnets | Connection Type: 3.5mm analog | Weight: 280.66g

VERDICT:The SteelSeries Arctis 1 definitely has a lot of potential in it. Sadly, it appears they were banking on the name to sell this, instead of actually overall quality. For $50, there are definitely better options out there.

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