Word has spread that gamers expect other things from a headset than music lovers. Gaming headsets should sit comfortably even after hours, they should enable the location of sounds in virtual space and they should offer latency-free and clear sound wherever possible.
The headset “Arctis 1*” from SteelSeries must live up to this claim if it is not to be torn apart by the target group. We wanted to find out whether and to what extent this would succeed and therefore subjected it to a strict test.
Design and Workmanship
Once unpacked, the headset presents itself surprisingly simple. At first, it has little in common with the average gaming headphones expected in the package. It looks downright dainty and is by no means daringly designed. SteelSeries relies on black and doesn’t give the headphones any conspicuous or even futuristic elements. This design may disappoint one or the other user. However, it can, if you like, be placed in the context of a larger trend. If you believe the philosopher Byung-Chul Han, today we live in a society in which the smooth is aestheticized and elevated to the norm. As a result, angular elements, futuristic-looking wing parts or even colour breaks that would disturb the optical and haptic smoothness are more or less consistently omitted. Of course, unlike the new iPhone, the Arctis 1 is by no means a prototype of the smooth. Looking at the development of gaming headsets in recent years, however, it can be said that a trend towards greater smoothness can also be observed here – even though extreme implementations have so far failed to materialise.
If we turn again more to the concrete, we notice that the headset in its strong design reduction reminds of a classic music headphone of the past three decades. This retro orientation is broken by the striking delicacy of the device. The headphones have a very stable design and are quite robust in terms of choice of materials and workmanship, but at first they look almost filigree. Nevertheless, the Arctis 1 is much lighter and has a lower quality than the other headsets of the Arctis series.
The impression of smoothness is broken by the non-rounded edges of the adjustable headband. This can be seen as a rebellion against the aesthetic claim of smoothness. However, following the interpretation of the Arctis 1 as the trend towards more smoothness, this does not contradict it – after all, the gaming headset has always been a product outside the prevailing aesthetic ideas of society as a whole, so that smaller deviations are more likely to be expected than surprising. Alternatively, such a design could also be understood as a purely practical, low-cost production measure – this ultimately remains a matter of individual interpretation. In any case, these unrounded edges are not protruding, but they are satisfactorily finished.
From a purely practical point of view, the adjustability of the ear cups, which can be turned forwards – for example for better storage – is particularly noteworthy. We also found the positioning of the microphone button and the volume control on the left headphones to be wise.
The headband of the headset is equipped with a comparatively thin artificial leather padding. At first we therefore doubted the comfort of the headset. Comparable products sometimes offer padding that is almost twice as thick. As it turned out, the reduced frame offered by the Arctis 1 is completely sufficient to ensure sufficient wearing comfort. It did not press on the head even after several hours of wearing. We were therefore pleasantly surprised.
The auricles are also padded. Instead of artificial leather, however, a fabric padding is used here. Basically it can be said that the padding fulfils its task quite well. The ears are not crushed, unpleasant pressure was never felt in the test. In our opinion, the padding is remarkably soft. It is also breathable, which is very advantageous. Sweaty ears are a rather unpleasant phenomenon for most people.
The low overall weight of the headset is also beneficial for wearing comfort. Since it weighs only 269 grams, it is hardly felt. This is a great advantage over heavy weights, which sometimes cause neck pain and tension when worn for long periods of time.
The vast majority of gamers expect their headset to deliver reliable sound quality. Accordingly, we placed great value on audio quality in the test. The Arctis 1 didn’t disappoint us in this respect.
The overall sound was satisfactory, although we found a comparatively dominant bass. The highs and lows were less pronounced. Since the differences weren’t extremely pronounced, we didn’t see a major problem in this respect. At this point we would also like to refer to the comparatively low price of the headset. Perfectly balanced sound can hardly be expected in the price range of the Arctis 1.
The location of opponents in the room worked reliably. Ambient noise was also relatively well attenuated. We noticed positively that they are not completely pushed away. Thus, even in nerve-racking gaming sessions, you don’t lose touch with the physical environment.
Overall, the sound was by no means outstanding. For the price range in which the Arctis 1 is located, however, it was above average.
Experience has shown that microphones are the biggest weak point of the classic gaming headset. To our surprise, this is by no means the case with the Arctis 1. The microphone has far exceeded our expectations.
Our comments are transmitted very clearly and almost completely free of disturbing ambient noise. The voice sounds neither tinny nor distorted in any way. We were also able to experience in the test that the positioning of the microphone has virtually no effect on the transmission quality.
The microphone can be removed if necessary. SteelSeries does not include a storage bag. The possibility to take it off is especially interesting when it is used as pure headphones on the road.
Conclusion of the SteelSeries Arctis 1 Review
All in all, the Arctis 1 was able to convince us both visually and audio-wise. It has an average workmanship and presents itself very reduced. This may be criticized by some users, but can be perceived as very pleasant by others. Personally, we find the design excitingly unagitated and can make friends with it well. We are also positive about the low weight and the very high wearing comfort that goes with it.
The audio quality also convinced us. The SteelSeries Arctis 1 is by no means a world record in this respect, but it does deliver very solid work. That’s all we expect from a headset in this price range. And then there’s the really outstanding microphone that surprised us.
Finally, we can recommend the Arctis 1* as a very good mid-range gaming headset. Especially price-conscious gamers with a not too generous budget should consider using this headset. The price/performance ratio is extremely good.