Steelseries is known to be a reliable brand when it comes to sound quality in gaming, but is it worth abandoning your Bluetooth headset in favor of the Arctis Nova 3? Our review has the answer.
The Arctis Nova 3 is the latest wired headset by Steelseries and at first glance, the non-Bluetooth, wired-only approach to gaming could feel like a back-step to some. However, the more we used it, the more we developed an appreciation for what the Arctis Nova 3 brought to the table.
We’ve used a lot of gaming headphones, so we understand that when it comes to exceptional sound quality, wired headsets have never gone away. They’re not always better than their Bluetooth-capable counterparts, but when certain brands create a wired headset, there’s usually a reason in mind. This is often to that they can create a budget model, but in the case of Steelseries, it’s so they can bring their high-fidelity audio to a wider audience.
The only question is, when it comes to the Arctis Nova 3, is the sound quality worth abandoning your current, possibly wireless setup?
- Connectivity: Wired 3.5mm jack cable, USB-C
- Driver diameter: 44mm
- Frequency response: 20 to 22,000Hz
- Weight: 253g
- Compatibility: Anything with a 3.5mm Analog jack (I.e. Xbox, iPad), PS5, Nintendo Switch, PC, Mac
- Price: NA $99.99 | EU €109.99 | AP $109.99 | UK £99.99
- Where to buy: Amazon, Best Buy
- What’s in the box: Arctis Nova 3 Headset, USB-C Main Cable, USB-A Extension Cable, USB-C 3.5. Analog Cable
When it comes to the design, the Arctis Nova 3 is subtle when compared to earlier Steelseries headsets and comfort has clearly been prioritized over flashy looks. Don’t get us wrong, when connected through USB-3, the Arctis Nova still lights up and looks stylish, but this can be toggled on and off at will.
After unboxing, you’ll notice the headset comes with a headband designed solely for comfort. This attaches just above the speakers and serves as a cozy barrier between the top of your cranium and the hard plastic of the headset. It may be seen as unnecessary to some, but we appreciated it and felt like it was a classy touch on the part of Steelseries.
While we’re on the topic of comfort, the headset’s speakers envelop the ears with memory foam cushioning. This, coupled with the headband above, creates a snug and comfortable fit that many other headphone manufacturers would do well to copy. We’re also impressed by how lightweight the headset is, something that still surprises us on occasion when we pick them up.
The microphone can be securely slid back within the headset if you’d like to only use the headphone functionality but can be retracted easily should the winds of gameplay change. Volume, mic mute, and the lighting on-off toggle are all also within easy reach.
The Arctis Nova 3 truly has a premium feel, despite being one of the less expensive headsets in the Steelseries range. The design is simple and never feels flimsy or cheap.
We tested a range of games on PC, PS5, and Nintendo Switch. On PC we played some Diablo Immortal and were impressed by how satisfying the increased sound quality made hacking demons compared to the usually tinny sound of our speakers. In truth, we had never heard Diablo Immortal sound so crisp and this is likely to be our preferred method of play in the future.
The headphones also made sound quality on the Nintendo Switch come alive. We’re used to playing our Switch in portable mode with wired headphones, let’s not forget, it took years for Nintendo to bring Bluetooth functionality to the hybrid console. Although, when comparing the Arctis Nova 3 to our former wired headphones, and our more recent Bluetooth ones, there really was no competition.
On Switch, we played Skyrim, Dark Souls, and Breath of the Wild and were more immersed than we’ve been in a long time. It took a little while to get used to having a wire again, but it really was a small price to pay for such improved sound quality. The headphones connect to the Switch via USB-C for best results, but they can also connect by the standard jack cable that’s also supplied.
This is also the case when using the headphones on PS5. The headset works right out of the box on PC and Switch, but we confess it took us a while to figure out how to connect the it to PS5 by USB-C. While it worked instantly by using the standard jack cable, the PS5 console didn’t recognize the headphones when connected by USB-C. This can be resolved by using the software to update them, but we imagine this may stump a few other users.
However, once we the got the headphones connected to the PS5 properly, it was well worth it. We tested a few games that were known for their soundtrack and ambiance. Doom Eternal’s ‘Doomstep’ tracks sounded epic while they blasted into our ears as we in turn blasted monsters with our super-shotgun. We also tried quiet atmospheric survival horror titles like Alien Isolation and are pleased to report that playing such a game using high-fidelity headphones is now the only way to experience them.
Finally, we also lost ourselves in Final Fantasy XIV, and realized that the headphones made us appreciate the game’s relaxing and bouncy soundtrack all over again. Once again, voice chat worked like a charm with our regular fellow Warriors of Light actually commenting on the clarity of our voice – and doing so unprompted.
It’s worth pointing out that the Arctis Nova 3 headphones work on Xbox Series X|S, but this model only works via the standard jack cable rather than through USB-C.
When it came to overall sound quality, we honestly had no complaints, but we must stress that while not a budget headset, the Arctis Nova 3 is also not a top-tier premium device. What it is, is an affordable option that offers high-fidelity audio that’s still leaps and bounds ahead of many of its competitors.
Those who are used to headphones that cost hundreds of dollars for near-perfect sound quality won’t find what they’re looking for here. However, those who tend to use cheaper brands and are looking for one that’s a cut above will likely never look back.
Our only mild gripe, and we’re nitpicking, is the slight shuffling noise that can be heard if the USB cable is interfered with in play. It’s barely noticeable, but you are going to snag or move the wire on occasion, so be prepared for this mild inconvenience should you make the decision to go back to a wired headset. However, this may have just been our model/wire.
We tested the AI noise canceling microphone by playing some Elden Ring co-op and a few sessions on Warzone. Fast-paced Warzone matches are often a great way to feel the effectiveness of a mic and to see if there’s any latency. Luckily, the Arctis Nova 3’s mic delivered our vocals to our teammates without any noticeable delay or stuttering.
In Elden Ring, the conversation between our fellow Tarnished flowed nicely, and at no point did our comrades ask us to repeat anything we said. The real test came during an intense boss battle against Mohg, in which we kept the enemies aggro while instructing our wizard host to cast his spells from afar, staying out of danger. Every command, recommendation, and battle tactic delivered through the Arctis Nova 3’s mic hit its mark, and so did our team.
Should you buy it?
As with any piece of tech, the answer to this question depends on a few factors. If you’re prepared to sacrifice the convenience of wireless headphones for a noticeable bump in sound quality – without breaking the bank, then the Arctis Nova 3 is an excellent option.
However, there will be those who are uncomfortable going back to a wired device or would prefer to spend more money on a model that boasts the same level of sound quality but is also wireless. These also exist in the Steelseries range but cost a fair amount more.
We’d recommend the Arctis Nova 3 to those who genuinely don’t mind a wire connecting their headset to their gaming device and are excited by the prospect of stunning sound quality without needing to save up or splash out too much cash. It’s also nice to have one less device to charge every couple of days.
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