There are more and more options for gaming headsets. All of them offer different levels of equipment, comfort, materials, sound quality and voice transmission, as well as additional functions and capabilities. If you abstract from all the qualities of the flagship models, what will remain for the basic ones? In today’s review, we will get acquainted with one of the cheapest models of SteelSeries – Arctis Nova 1, and on its example, we will see the necessary minimum components for gaming headphones.
SteelSeries Arctis Nova configuration
Basic headsets almost never had an advanced set. Arctis Nova 1 is also equipped with only the necessary, where with the headset the user will see only branded stickers, a short cable with a combined 3.5 mm connector, and an extension cord with a double connector.
Optionally, of course, you can purchase replaceable ear cushions, and if necessary, a carrying case may also be required. A neat stand will be important at the workplace. In addition to the cover, the manufacturer has branded accessories. Of course, the cost of the “hanger” is almost half of the cost of the headset itself. You can buy a branded “hook”, which is mounted under a table.
Design and usability
Almost all current models of SteelSeries headphones are now called Arctis, but they are divided into lines. Nova models have a similar design, but differ functionally. At the same time, the “youngest” model looks no worse than the top models. And it is unlikely that it will be inferior in comfort. For starters, the Arctis Nova 1 can be chosen in black or white. Both look neat, although black will be more practical to use.
The headphones are made of plastic, but the design is well thought out and there are no creaks even with “extreme” deformation of the hoop. Ear cushions are made of fabric. Other variable options offer only leatherette, although velor is also available for more expensive “neighboring” models. Subjectively, the standard ones are quite comfortable so that the user does not have to spend money on additional ear cushions. Spending several hours wearing them was no problem during testing. Fatigue from the weight did not happen at all, the whole headset weighs 236 grams.
But the shape itself and the possibilities of setting the case also played a role. Here, the user has many options for adjusting the position. First, the size can be adjusted by removing the headphones from the hoop. Secondly, there is a fixing elastic under the hoop, which is fastened on the head. It can also be customized. Having experimented a little at first, the selection of a comfortable position did not take more than 5 minutes. There was no need to return to it later.
Although it is not very convenient to adjust the elastic band under the hoop, which can be annoying if the headphones are used by two, say, children with different head sizes. But this is hardly a frequent case.
Rotating cups that can be turned 90° add convenience. This will allow you to comfortably put the headset on your neck during a break. Also, in this position, the headset can be much more conveniently placed in a backpack if the headphones are traveling somewhere with the user.
The microphone on a flexible leg is hidden in the left earpiece. It’s more convenient than taking it off and plugging it back in when you need it. During use, it is easy to place it in the desired position, the leg is well fixed. At other times, the hidden microphone cannot interfere at all. Of course, there could be design issues over time, but given the company’s track record, it’s unlikely to happen anytime soon.
In general, the basic model is completely satisfactory. Headphones are comfortable and pleasant to look at, so the design does not cause unnecessary worries in basic matters. The only question is the size. For users who need the largest headset sizes, this one may be too small. Of course, comfort has always been a very subjective indicator, so it’s still worth trying on a headset in a store. In everything else, the Arctis Nova 1 should be fine.
Settings and control
Headphones can be connected to PCs and consoles through a 3.5 mm jack. The manufacturer also offers to use them with smartphones and portable consoles. And it really is. Combination connectors do exist on many devices, and adapters can be used on smartphones with USB-C. You can also connect headphones and a microphone to separate ports to the PC through an extension cord. It’s nice that the cable can be replaced if it gets damaged in any way.
In other words, nothing is needed for the correct operation of the headset – traditionally for similar models. The same with control. The left ear cup has a volume control wheel and a microphone mute button. They are in convenient and intuitively understandable positions, so it is almost not necessary to get used to them.
The SteelSeries company also offers its own universal version of the software — Sonar. It has options for improving the sound of both the headphones and the microphone. And of course, this is gaming software, so it has separate profiles for different games. But you can adjust the sound according to your own preferences.
Because there is a Windows-only version of the app and the headphones can be used with more devices, they were tested without Sonar. In addition, this is only an option that may not be to the liking of every user.
SteelSeries Arctis Nova 1 Sound
The Arctis Nova 1 model uses 40 mm drivers with a frequency range of 20 to 20,000 Hz. The resistance is 32 ohms. Of course, there is no additional sound processing on the headphones. You shouldn’t expect strong noise reduction from ordinary ear cups, they pass sounds in both directions. At the same time, external noises did not bother me personally. But if there were people nearby, they could hear what was happening in the headphones. And this is with closed cups.
What is immediately noticeable is a large reserve of power and tangible bass. In my opinion, this is what gaming headphones should be. Although, of course, fatigue from constant vibration on the head can also appear, regardless of whether it happens in games or while listening to music.
I enjoyed playing Arctis Nova 1. Regardless of the genres of games, they provided both a good volume level, where it is easy to find a comfortable level for yourself, and a completely satisfying quality. Determining the position and distance to the enemy in shooters is not a problem at all. In the same way, the simultaneous voice chat with friends did not create misunderstandings. In the games everything was fine.
Accompanying movies or series is also an easy task for them. The situation with music is a little different. The default boosted bass sounds impressive, but at higher than average volume levels you can hear unnecessary distortions (even a slight crackle). Individual compositions with loud treble can create a lot of discomfort at high volume levels. Again, it is unlikely that a gaming headset will be the main one for, say, musicians, and for less demanding ears, the quality will be enough. The main thing is not to overdo it with the volume, it will definitely be harmful to hearing.
The microphone did not impress. As it often happens, it captures the surrounding sounds, and the noise reduction in, say, Discord (Krisp) can not always handle. And the voice is transmitted with a slight echo. But don’t forget that Arctis Nova 1 is just a basic headset. For an entry-level microphone, it’s pretty good here. Not the best, but clearly not the worst either. Before playing or making work calls, it is worth experimenting a little with the position of the microphone (so as not to blow into it too much, it feels it well), and adjust the sensitivity.