About the SteelSeries Arctis Nova 1
- Style: Over-ear, closed-back
- Colors: Black, white, PC-specific, PlayStation-specific, and Xbox-specific colorways
- Drivers: Custom high fidelity 40mm drivers
- Connections: 3.5mm in only
- Device compatibility: PC, Mac, PS5/PS4, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch, Android, iOS
- Microphone: Retractable, bidirectional noise cancelling
- Virtual surround sound: Supported
- Weight: 8.3 ounces
The Arctis Nova 1 sits at the bottom of SteelSeries’ new Arctis Nova lineup. It carries the same speaker drivers and ClearCast Gen 2 mic as the Nova 3 and Nova 7, producing comparable audio chops at a lower price. The headset sticks to the basics in other regards and ditches wireless and USB connectivity, as well as RGB lighting.
The headset comes in a handful of colors, changing little details like the headband to fit with the color schemes of different platforms (e.g., green for Xbox). As the Arctis Nova 1 relies on a strictly analog audio connection, the different versions are only aesthetic changes that don’t impact platform support.
The SteelSeries Arctis Nova 1 has the most subdued design language of the new Nova lineup. It still features the same stepped ear cup backs that mark the Nova cans from the original Arctis headsets, which have mostly flat backs with a taper around the edge.
The microphone arm benefits from the flat edge as it tucks away flush when not in use. There’s no indicator light or sidetone feature on the mic, so it’s tough to know whether it’s on or muted without memorizing how the mute switch works or feeling the subtle difference between it being pressed down and popped up.
The Arctis Nova 1’s headband is still a ski goggle-style elastic band stretched underneath a simple plastic band. The combination is comfortable and flexible. There’s length adjustment and a 90-degree swivel to the ear cups. The ear pads keep the breathable AirWeave fabric found on most other Arctis headsets, including the Arctis Nova 3 and 7 and the former top-dog, the Arctis Pro Wireless. SteelSeries’ current top of the line headset, the Arctis Nova Pro, uses leatherette instead of AirWeave fabric.
The left ear cup holds the headset’s 3.5mm audio connection, volume dial, and mic mute switch, which comprise all of the controls. The headset uses a four-foot combo cable for audio output and mic input, and SteelSeries includes a five-foot splitter.
There’s little to knock about the audio performance of the Arctis Nova 1. At $60, these cans can jam with the best in their class. Audio comes through crisp, with a decent balance of bass, mids, and treble that makes for lively music, impactful movies, and valuable situational awareness in games.
The soundstage isn’t wide, but it’s not so cramped I can’t get a sense of where enemies are approaching from in Overwatch, and music doesn’t wear me down after a while like it can with an overly tight soundstage.
A good mic is even rarer than good audio on cheaper headphones. The ClearCast Gen 2 mic on the Arctis Nova 1 lives up to the reputation established by the generation before it. My voice is bright and clear when using the headset. Background noise is also picked up, but it’s at a low level that doesn’t interfere with my voice thanks to the passive bidirectional noise cancelling.
Should you buy the SteelSeries Arctis Nova 1?
Yes, they’re simply worth it
The SteelSeries Arctis Nova 1 headset isn’t terribly special, but is lightweight, comfortable to wear, and provides all the audio performance you could hope for from a sub-$100 gaming headset. Everything from the comfort and fit to the sound quality passes muster.
Without jumping into upper-echelons of gaming headsets, paying more under $100 for something like the Razer Kraken V3, will likely just net you additional customization features without a corresponding bump in audio quality. You can make the leap to wireless with the Logitech G435, but sacrifice compatibility and microphone quality. If sound and budget are your primary concerns, you’ve got a winner in the Arctis Nova 1.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.
Meet the tester
Mark Knapp has covered tech for most of the past decade, keeping readers up to speed on the latest developments and going hands-on with everything from phones and computers to e-bikes and drones to separate the marketing from the reality. Catch him on Twitter at @Techn0Mark or on Reviewed, IGN, TechRadar, T3, PCMag, and Business Insider.
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