Detailed, spacious sound
Extremely comfortable fit
Merely average ANC
Console customization limited
Compared to its competitors, the Nova Pro is on the pricey side (our beloved Audeze Penrose X are $50 cheaper), but the extra cost is met with extra value. They aren’t as flashy as some competitors, but that also means they don’t look out of place if you take them out of your living room and into the world.
About the SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless
Here’s a look at the SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless specs:
- Cost: $350
- Style: Over-ear, closed-back
- Colors: Black (additional color accent booster sets available for $5)
- Drivers: Custom-designed 40mm neodymium drivers
- Wireless connections: Bluetooth 5.0, low-latency 2.4GHz
- Wired connections: 3.5mm in and out (cable included)
- Device compatibility: PC, PS5, PS4, Switch, Android, Mac
- Microphone: ClearCast Gen2 with fully retractable boom
- Battery life: 22 hours per charge
- Fast charging: 3 hours of play on 15 minute charge
- Virtual surround sound: 360° Spatial Audio, Tempest 3D Audio, Microsoft Spatial Sound
- Noise canceling: 4-mic hybrid design with transparency mode
- Weight: 338 g
In addition to the PS5/PC wireless version we reviewed, there’s one certified for the Xbox (also $350), and wired versions (both Xbox-specific and not) for $250. The PS5 version does not work with an Xbox since it lacks the necessary Microsoft security chip.
The headset’s layout is uncluttered, which makes finding the proper buttons easy. A smattering of controls are on the left ear cup—including power, mic mute, and a volume wheel—and only a Bluetooth button is on the right. Both ear cups have magnetic removable covers that hide a USB-C charging port and the battery (on the left and right, respectively). The microphone blends into the ear cup when fully retracted, and can be easily slid out with your thumb.
A base station is included that has an OLED display screen and control knob for navigating the menus. On the back are two USB-C connections—to connect with a PS5, PS4, PC, or Switch—a 3.5mm line out, and a 3.5mm line in. A charging slot on the right side houses the second (included) battery and keeps it charged and ready. The wired version’s base station isn’t as deep and tilts back so the OLED screen faces up at a 45 degree angle. It has the same connections, except the battery charging port is replaced with a 3.5mm headphone jack.
Our Arctis Nova Pro Wireless test sample for the PS5 was provided by SteelSeries for the duration of the review. The company also sent along a wired version for comparison.
What we like
From the first note of music of the Horizon Zero Dawn menu screen on the PS5, I knew I was in for a treat. Thanks to new custom-designed drivers, the Arctis Nova Pro delivers an excellent listening experience, even without EQ adjustment. When I entered into the world of Horizon Zero Dawn, the sound enveloped me and I was immediately drawn in. The sound field has great width, and I could easily place the location of lurking machines that surrounded me as I lay in wait nearby. Dialogue came through clearly and no line of Aloy’s story was missed.
On the PC, I joined friends for some digging in Deep Rock Galactic. The audio performance was equally impressive, with great placement of approaching bugs or the echoes of my party’s axes against rock. The retractable microphone picked up my voice clearly for my friends to hear with a slight accentuation to the higher frequencies. I adjusted the gain a bit in the SteelSeries’ Sonar PC software (which I’ll discuss more below) as the default gain setting was too high.
The Arctis Nova Pro handles music very well, too. Fiona Apple’s voice in “Extraordinary Machine” clearly sat front and center as the pizzicato strings and marimba of Jon Brion’s orchestration danced around, supporting the singer with round bass and nice spatial placement. Over Bluetooth, the treble was missing a small bit of sparkle, but it’s a very minor nit-pick.
The Arctis Nova Pro Wireless can connect to the base station via a low-latency 2.4GHz signal or to a Bluetooth source like your smartphone simultaneously, letting you listen to your own playlist while gaming. In this setup, the volume control on the headset is for the game audio while the music audio needs to be controlled by the source.
Comfortable fit for extended gaming
For long gaming sessions, a comfortable headset is of utmost importance. If there’s so much clamping force that it gives you a headache, it won’t stay on your head long. The Arctis Nova Pro provides just enough pressure to keep a good seal while remaining comfortable for a long session. I’m prone to headaches from headset clamping and never encountered an issue during my hours of gaming.
The thick leatherette ear pads offer nice cushioning that feels luxurious. During warm Los Angeles days, the headset could feel a bit warm, but I was never sweaty or uncomfortable. To accommodate different head sizes there are two adjustable options; each ear cup can telescope out about an inch, and the elastic headband can be set in one of three tension positions with plastic snaps (as opposed to the velcro used on previous SteelSeries headsets). The telescoping height adjustment is easy to move while still being firm enough to stay in place during longer sessions.
The Nova Pro’s overall size contributes to its comfortable fit. The earcups are not nearly as bulbous and ostentatious as many gaming headsets tend to be, such as the Microsoft Xbox Wireless Headset or the Razer Kraken V3. The pad has an oval shape that covers the ear well as opposed to a circular shape that can sometimes lead to a poor fit that doesn’t seal properly on some heads. The profile is also slimmer than previous Arctis models, for a more subdued look.
At 338 grams, the Arctis Nova Pro is around 90 grams heavier than high-end noise-canceling headphones like the Sony WH-1000XM4 and XM5, but it still comes in under the Audeze Mobius (338g) and the Logitech G935 (380g). That lighter weight in combination with the elastic headband and ample, yet not overbearing clamping force makes the Nova Pro one of the most comfortable headsets I’ve worn.
Customization galore (especially for PC)
The Nova Pro’s base station contains a bunch of adjustments. Within its menus you can change between sources, select EQ preset curves or customize a 10-band EQ, change ANC options and transparency levels, adjust sidetone settings and mic level, and set up the line out for either external speakers or streaming through your PC. Since my base station sits in my home theater cabinet where it connects to my PS5 and nearby computer, most of those settings for me were set-and-forget. Once I had everything configured to my liking, the ANC was the only setting I toggled, and that was easy enough to control from the headset’s power button.
PC control is even more in-depth. The Sonar software within the SteelSeries GG app offers a slew of different customizations. There are 26 EQ presets—six for music and the remaining 20 specifically tuned for different games including Destiny 2, League of Legends, and Roblox. You can also come up with a custom EQ curve using the graphic parametric equalizer that allows you to control settings of up to 10 different points, offering a near-studio level of control.
Spatial audio’s immersion can be adjusted with a slider to give more sense of sound directionality for FPS games, or more immersion for story telling. A second slider brings the distance of the virtual speakers closer to make the experience more intimate.
There’s a separate EQ for the microphone with six presets to help with your vocal clarity (or for kitschy effects like a walkie-talkie sound). If you’re concerned about the sound of your mechanical keyboard distracting your teammates, noise cancellation can be added to filter that out, and the same settings can be applied to your noisy friend’s keyboard, which works impressively well. It’s a near-comprehensive setup that lets you tailor your sound for optimum gaming.
Virtually infinite battery life
Additional batteries are nothing new to SteelSeries, or headsets in general, but an added feature this year is the ability to hot-swap them while playing without losing connection.
The headset holds a charge for eight seconds while the batteries are swapped out, and it’s a quick and easy change once you grab the charged battery from the base station. I was able to remove the headset battery—hidden behind the magnetic ear cup cover on the right side—and replace it with the charged one in under five seconds without taking the headset off. There’s a readout on the OLED screen showing the battery capacity from both the headset (when it’s turned on) and the battery charging in the base station.
What we don’t like
A premium cost
Even with all the features listed above, the $350 price tag is hard to ignore. It puts the SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless in the same class as the Audeze Mobius—one of the best sounding but also priciest gaming headsets I’ve used. It’s also $50 more than the HyperX Cloud Alpha Wireless and $100 more than the Corsair HS80 RGB (which is also wireless), both of which offer a lot of performance for a decent amount less.
Noise canceling is only average
While noise cancellation on a gaming headset is a premium feature, when it’s included I hope it’s of high quality—especially for $350. Overall, though, it’s only so-so. The low-end frequency performance (where airplane engine noise lives) is better than the more difficult to attenuate speaking range, but neither register compares to what Bose or Sony are capable of in the same price range.
To be fair, both of those deliver some of the best noise canceling you can get and the Arctis Nova Pro Wireless aren’t meant to be travel headphones. They’ll do a decent job cutting out the air conditioner, but don’t expect them to attenuate a conversation, or in my case a six-year old playing, in the same room.
Console customization is relatively limited
Using the PC software to adjust settings is far easier, and more robust, than with the base station when playing on a console. Control wheel navigation is a little cumbersome moving between options. Not surprisingly, the amount of options with the Sonar software is more in-depth.
As mentioned above, there are a plethora of headset adjustments that can be made within Sonar—such as chat noise canceling and game-specific audio curves—that aren’t possible when playing on the console. It is expected and normal for more functionality to come on the PC side of things, but when switching back and forth it does remind you of the extras the console skips.
Should you buy the SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless?
Yes, it’s one of the best wireless gaming headsets available
The SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless has everything you could want from a top-notch gaming headset. Audio performance (both from the headset and the mic) is excellent, it’s supremely comfortable for long bouts of gaming, can be adjusted to fit many head sizes, and there’s loads of customization available—especially when using a PC.
All of these features come with a price, and for many the $350 tag might be understandably out of reach. For a bit less, the Audeze Penrose X (and its non-X sibling) delivers similar, if not slightly better, audio performance thanks to its planar magnetic drivers. It’s not as comfortable as the Arctis, though. The HyperX Cloud Alpha Wireless is almost half the price with an incredibly long battery life and great sound, but it’s lacking connectivity options including Bluetooth and a 3.5 mm jack.
SteelSeries has shown up with another winner that very well might be the best headset the brand has ever released. Its price is enough to give anyone pause, but when it comes down to it, the Arctis Nova Pro Wireless is a worthy investment for gaming bliss.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.
Meet the tester
Editor, Electronics & Audio/Video@johntmhiggins
John is the A/V Editor for Reviewed. He is an ISF Level III-certified calibrator with bylines at ProjectorCentral, Wirecutter, IGN, Home Theater Review, T3, Sound & Vision, and Home Theater Magazine. When away from the Reviewed office, he is a sound editor for film and musician, and loves to play games with his son.
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