About the SteelSeries Arctis Nova 7
Here are the specs of the headset we tested:
- Cost: $179
- Style: Over-ear, closed-back
- Colors: Black, PC-Specific, PlayStation-Specific, Xbox-Specific
- Drivers: Custom high fidelity 40mm drivers
- Connections: 2.4 GHz over USB-C dongle, Bluetooth 5.0, 3.5mm
- Battery life: 38 hours (2.4 GHz), 26 hours (dual wireless)
- Device compatibility: PC, PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch, Mac, Android, USB-C iPads (2.4 GHz wireless); other iPad models via Bluetooth or 3.5mm analog; Xbox support only on Nova 7X model
- Microphone: ClearCast Gen 2 with retractable arm
- Virtual surround sound: 360° Spatial Audio, Tempest 3D Audio, Microsoft Spatial Sound
- Noise canceling: Bidirectional noise cancelation on microphone only
- Weight: 11.46 ounces
There are several versions of the Arctis Nova 7, including the Arctis Nova 7P for PlayStation consoles and the Arctis Nova 7X for Xbox consoles. Each version changes headband colors, but there are only two significant differences.
The Arctis 7P doesn’t have a ChatMix dial (opting instead for a Sidetone dial) because the PlayStation doesn’t support ChatMix. The Arctis Nova 7X is the only version that will work wirelessly with Xbox, yet it doesn’t lose support for other platforms. That broader support doesn’t come at an extra price.
What we like
The Swiss Army Knife approach to connectivity
A gaming headset can do so much more for you when it can go wherever you want it to go. That’s what SteelSeries’ Arctis Nova 7 manages to offer by having such broad compatibility with different devices. The 2.4 GHz wireless USB-C dongle delivers latency-free, high-quality audio to a ton of different platforms.
For those the USB-C dongle doesn’t support, you’re all but guaranteed to find another way to connect through either a 3.5mm cable or Bluetooth. Unfortunately, the USB-C port on the headset doesn’t carry audio-in as a fourth option.
The ability to connect to Bluetooth simultaneously with another connection—a trick SteelSeries dreamt up in the previous Arctis generation—also works great for scenarios where you want the audio from one device (say a Nintendo Switch or Meta Quest 2) but want to handle voice chat through your phone, computer, or tablet.
The design also continues the style established with the original Arctis series and refined by the updated Arctis Nova line. It’s a quality build that’s adaptable to various head sizes and shapes, while also elegant but understated.
With all of these connectivity options and a design that can go out into the world without turning too many heads, it’ll be easy to get maximum value out of these cans.
The sound quality
Audio quality can’t be lacking from a pair of headphones that cost more than $100, and it’s not for the Arctis Nova Pro 7. These cans kick out loud, impactful sound while maintaining the nuance you want for both listening to music and gaming.
The headset carries up the same speaker drivers as those found in the much cheaper Arctis Nova 1 and Nova 3. It’s not so much a discredit for this more expensive headset to be using the same drivers as it is a perk for those cheaper headsets to get them as well.
They do an excellent job presenting sound from the headset’s many sources. The Arctis Nova 7 doesn’t have a large soundstage, but it provides more than enough sense of space to pick up on where sounds are coming from in games.
The microphone isn’t half bad either. Despite using the same ClearCast Gen 2 model in the Arctis Nova 7, the Arctis Nova 1 and 3 both have a more comprehensive frequency response range (perhaps a wireless bandwidth limitation). My voice is still loud and clear over the mic, but it lacks the same fullness as the other headsets’ mics.
This microphone does support SteelSeries’ AI noise canceling feature in the SteelSeries GG app, which helps cut down on background noise, but it's a touch shy of pro broadcast quality.
The lengthy battery life
Wireless gaming headsets have one common bane: a short battery life. That’s not so much the case here. The Arctis Nova 7 headset features a 38-hour battery life while running on 2.4 GHz wireless.
SteelSeries doesn’t advertise a battery life for using Bluetooth, but Bluetooth tends to be a low-energy option, so it could go for even longer. The battery should last 26 hours when combining both forms of wireless connection simultaneously.
Getting a full work week or a ton of playtime is great for a single charge. Should you ever get caught out with a dead battery, the headphones will happily operate over an analog connection or can snag six hours worth of runtime from 15 minutes of charging.
What we don’t like
The overreliance on software
SteelSeries packs features into this headset, but half of them require SteelSeries GG to operate, and then a sub-app called Sonar to control.
That AI noise canceling for the microphone is limited to Sonar, which is also only available on Windows 10 and 11 PCs. Virtual surround sound can come through Windows, Microsoft Spatial Sound, or Sony’s Tempest 3D, but SteelSeries’ own virtual surround also comes through Sonar.
The ChatMix feature is handy for making on the fly adjustments between the audio levels coming from a game and from a chat app like Discord. But that is also tricky to set up in Sonar.
ChatMix on earlier headsets like the SteelSeries Arctis 9 wasn’t much easier to set up, but at least it didn’t require two layers of software to manage.
The wide-bodied USB dongle
The USB connector that enables the low-latency 2.4 GHz wireless connection of the Arctis Nova 7 is fairly small, but the body of the dongle itself is about four times the width of a USB-C port and extends in both directions.
It’s not so obtrusive when used on a Nintendo Switch, Android phone, or sticking out from an extender on a desktop PC. But if you’re using it with a laptop, there’s a good chance the dongle will block neighboring ports.
In my case, the dongle covers the USB-C port I have to use to charge my laptop. There are workarounds, but here’s hoping SteelSeries will shrink the USB dongles it uses in the future. The Razer Barracuda Pro isn’t a great alternative, but at least its USB-C dongle won’t block ports on both sides.
Should you buy the SteelSeries Arctis Nova 7?
Yes, if you want versatile headphones
The SteelSeries Arctis Nova 7 has your wireless audio needs covered at home and on the go, it won’t run out of battery often, and it can still run on an analog connection when it does. It’s portable and ever so slightly stylish. The sound is good enough for games, movies, music, and video calls.
You might get better battery life out of the HyperX Cloud Alpha Wireless (a whopping 300 hours), or go you could get the much cheaper Logitech G435, but you’ll miss out on wired and dual connectivity in both cases. Meanwhile, buying SteelSeries’ own, less expensive Arctis Nova 3 saves you a chunk of cash, but it lacks wireless connectivity altogether.
You can save a good deal of money if you’re looking for headphones that will serve a single purpose, but you’d end up spending a lot of money on different headsets that can do everything the Arctis Nova 7 can.
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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