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SteelSeries is not a strange name in the gaming gear industry, and the manufacturer’s line of Arctis Pro headsets is not new to its category of gaming gear either.
However, the company took its time to release the Arctis Nova Pro headset, years after the series’ last update.
The flagship Arctis Pro + GameDAC model from 2018 was a game-changer. It purportedly boasted gaming’s first Hi-Res Audio System with pure, high-fidelity, full-resolution audio.
One would imagine that, since then, SteelSeries would have had a lot of time to further refine the product and build something even better four years on.
So, how does this newer, more expensive model stack up? The answer to that question lies within this SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro review.
This article was written by Ola Olayiwola using testing, insight and opinions provided by Luke Jordan. The SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro for PC and PlayStation was tested for around 4 weeks of daily use.
Design and Comfort
Starting off with the eye test, the Arctis Nova Pro wired headset shares certain visual similarities to its predecessors. However, there are multiple design tweaks that make it stand out from the rest of the band.
The first of those tweaks is a new, padded suspension band that is much easier to adjust than the ski-goggle headband from the older models. It looks nicer visually, but it’s clearly also made to improve comfort and control.
Alongside the adjustable head strap, the adjustable steel headband makes this a decent option if you’re on the hunt for the best gaming headsets for big heads.
On the other hand, some people might struggle with the new set of earpads in the Arctis Nova Pro. It feels like a step back in comparison to what the manufacturer did with the suspension band, and you should prepare for a sweatier experience, especially if you live in warmer climates.
Overall, the earcups are extremely comfortable and the headband is good; it’s a comfier experience (and doesn’t give such a tight squeeze) when compared to headsets like the SteelSeries Arctis 9.
This change seems to be targeting improved functionality as the leatherette material should theoretically improve isolation.
The fact that these earcups get pretty warm often also raises questions about breakage. They are replaceable though, so you can get new ones if there’s ever a need to.
Generally, there are hints of a similar design language to what we’ve seen in the past from this line. However, the Arctis Nova Pro looks more modern, and SteelSeries has made a couple of comfort and functionality changes that are mostly positive.
The SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro headset is mostly made of plastic, bar the metal headband plate, and nylon sling.
This instantly raises questions about durability, and the fact that the older Arctis Pro has something of a reputation for snapping ear cup yokes after a while of use does not help matters. Having tried to twist the headset out of shape (for testing purposes) I can say that it does have a bit of give in it, though it does feel like it would snap if I pushed too hard.
The light weight of the plastic does contribute to making the headset feel lighter and more comfortable for extended sessions, so it really depends on what’s more important to you and if you’re typically really careful with your gear.
The mic here is retractable, and you can even use it in its retracted form. However, your voice might be harder to pick up because of the distance between your mouth and the mic. After all, it is built to be used close to the mouth.
Summarily, the build quality is decent, but nothing special. It may come down to what’s more important to you – comfort or durability.
Features and Controls
There are only two controls on this headset, and they’re found on the left ear cup. The first is the wheel for toggling the audio volume, and the second is a button for muting the mic.
The most important feature is obviously the new and improved GameDAC Gen 2. It looks well-built and generally more aesthetically pleasing than the older model, but it’s not just about the looks.
When you start up the GameDAC for the first time, you’re taken through a brief tutorial that explains how to use it. The device will ask if you’re in the EU region and if you choose “yes”, the maximum volume output of the headset is restricted to comply with EU regulations.
The main control knob takes up all the space on one side and it feels nice to roll around in the hand.
Spec-wise, it’s mostly good news. The GameDAC contains an ESS Sabre Quad-DAC chip with a signal-to-noise ratio of 111 dB which would be music to the ears of audiophiles. It’s not quite one of the best audiophile headsets out there, but it’s impressive in its own right.
On average, gaming headsets ship with a bit depth of 16bit, so the Arctis Nova Pro’s 24bit in comparison to also a significant improvement. Add to that a sampling rate of 96Hz and it’s looking pretty good in the spec department.
In reality, these numbers are required to get that Hi-Res Audio certification, but they don’t necessarily translate into noticeable changes in sound quality. I’ll explain why.
The frequency response of the Arctis Nova Pro headset goes up to 40 kHz which is more than most headsets offer, but the human ear can only hear up to 20 kHz. That fact makes this feel like a gimmicky feature for the average user.
Apart from the large volume knob on the GameDAC, there is a touch-sensitive area that you can use to toggle the mic on/off. You can also customize the sound output to your specific taste with a custom equalizer profile, or you can use one of the presets to save time.
Generally, the SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro’s GameDAC Gen 2 offers more than many gaming headsets in terms of function and versatility. The controls on it are efficient, reducing the need for doing too much with the ones on the headset itself.
Audio and Mic Quality
It’s one thing to have a nice spec sheet, but it’s another for those specs to translate into real-world use. Thankfully, the Arctis Nova Pro headset delivers in both areas.
The sound quality from the headset is rich, and the isolation makes for an immersive gaming experience. If you’re playing a scary game, for instance, the experience is enhanced with the soundtracks and audio used for jumpscares and suspense-filled scenes.
There’s no active noise cancellation here – you’ll have to go for the wireless version for that. But, the padding in the earcups does a decent job of blocking out many types of noise.
Spatial audio is also implemented very nicely, and you will appreciate it in games where you need to be aware of your surroundings even when you’re not directly facing or looking at a particular area.
For games like FIFA and others that use real music, the bass-heavy tunes really shine with this headset. The overall sound quality of the headset for listening to music can still do with some improvement, but it performs alright.
Most of the benefit of a good gaming headset comes in being able to hear enemies from further away in FPS games, and hearing crystal clear communications from teammates whilst in the heat of the battle, and it does the job well on these fronts.
Like other headsets from the manufacturer, the Nova Pro uses the ClearCast microphone. Voice clarity is okay with this mic, and there’s in-built AI noise cancellation within the Sonar app to reduce external noise interference.
If you find that there is a hissing sound accompanying your speech, you can use the foam that SteelSeries included on the mic to reduce it.
Compared to the wireless alternative, the mic here has more treble in it, but it still sounds clean overall.
If you use the Sonar app, you can improve that quality further. The app even offers tuned presets for games such as COD Warzone, Apex Legends, Valorant, and more.
You can use these presets to redirect the focus of the audio with specific in-game sounds such as weapon reload and footsteps. However, even without tuning anything, the standard quality is good enough.
Don’t expect to be producing incredible voice audio with this mic; it’s more than good enough for the task at hand, but you’re not going to be streaming or recording videos with it.
I had to change my voice preset to ‘Deep Voice’ within the software (more on that next) to sound good; the default microphone audio sounded very average and some of the other presets sounded terrible, mainly because they were tinny.
I’ve mentioned Sonar, but there’s another companion software for the SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro headset. It’s actually the default software for the device, and it’s called ‘”‘SteelSeries GG'”‘. Sonar is integrated into the GG ecosystem.
If you use GameDAC Gen 2, you probably won’t need the SteelSeries GG software suite. Most of the controls that are available on the app can be found on the device.
However, there is a useful feature called “Game Chat Mix” that is only accessible from SteelSeries GG. The feature allows you to control how much you hear game audio vs. how much you hear in-game chat from your teammates.
The rest of the software suite is pretty user-friendly and feature-rich, but the real draw is Sonar integration and Game Chat Mix.
The SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro headset goes for $279.99 on SteelSeries’ official website at its official RRP, but you will likely find discount deals if you keep an eye out on third-party retail websites like Amazon.
Overall, I would finish my Arctis Nova Pro review by saying that I think this headset is very good, but not incredible.
Considering this is such an expensive product, I would hope for incredible. It’s close, but not there yet.
For audio, games, party chats and Discord calls always sounded clean and crisp. I don’t have any complaints here.
When it comes to the microphone, it’s alright. Your friends might find it a little quiet and you’ll likely have to spend a bit of time messing in the software settings to get the right balance. By default, it sounds pretty bad but you can fix this with a quick change in the GG software.
The headset is comfortable; the ear cups feel nice and padded and the headband doesn’t squeeze your head into a headache.
My biggest gripe with this version of the headset is all of the wires.
You’re able to connect your PC and PlayStation to the headset at the same time; that’s one cable to the PC, one cable to the PlayStation, and one cable from the DAC to your head. The wires aren’t especially long so it leads to a lot of tangling and you need both consoles in a close proximity to each other for it to work, and realistically you probably need to switch between one or the other because of how awkward the cables can get.
There’s always the option of going for the Nova Pro Wireless, but that’s even more expensive – and the price of the Nova Pro is probably my biggest criticism of it.
It’s just a bit too pricey for me to recommend.
SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro
The SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro is a good quality, comfortable headset with a very large price tag.
- Comfortable to wear
- Looks and feels like a premium product
- Lots of wires
- Overpriced at RRP