In August, SteelSeries introduced new speaker solutions with a total of three models. We were able to test the smallest and most affordable model ourselves in the form of the Arena 3. For those who want a bit more, the Arena 9 comes as a full-fledged 5.1 sound system. Whereby: A little more is an understatement, as our SteelSeries Arena 9 test proves.
|Frequency range||35 – 20,000 Hz|
|Sound pressure level||100 dB|
|Connection:||Bluetooth 4.2; 3.5mm jack; Toslink; USB-A|
|Front speaker||Two-way (0.75 inch tweeter, 3 inch woofer)|
|Rear speaker||Two-way (0.75 inch tweeter, 2.75 inch woofer); wireless|
|Center speaker||Two woofers (2.75 inches); 1 tweeter (0.75 inches)|
|Subwoofer||6.5 inches; downward-firing|
|Special features||4-zone RGB lighting (reactive); OLED control module; 5.1 upmix|
|Price||€ 499.99 *|
SteelSeries Arena 9 review: design and scope of delivery
- Bulky, heavy subwoofer; heavy weight
- Relatively compact speaker
- Customizable RGB lighting limited to front speakers
The SteelSeries Arena 9 doesn’t do things by halves. This is already obvious when looking at the bulky box, which could also contain a complete PC system in terms of size. The package weighs in at a hefty 15.1 kilograms and integrates everything you need for operation.
Besides the huge subwoofer, you will of course find a total of five other speakers in the box. The front and rear speakers have the same egg-shaped look as the Arena 3. The center speaker, on the other hand, is much flatter and more elongated, in a pill shape.
In addition, there is a power adapter including a regionally matching plug that can be removed, a power cable, and a USB-C to USB-A connection cable for connecting the sound system. The scope of delivery is rounded off by a manual and an OLED control module.
The matte-black plastic surface is reminiscent of other products from SteelSeries. The drivers of the speakers are exposed, while the subwoofer radiates downwards.
New in the case of the Arena 9 are the two front speakers and their back. The upper third is covered with a white, semi-transparent layer. This is a first hint at the RGB lighting that extends over these two speakers and provides a coherent illumination around the main setup.
In fact, this is also the only area where the 5.1 surround sound system features RGB lighting. The center speaker, subwoofer and the two rear speakers have to make do without bright colors. I like it, so it won’t be too colorful in your own four walls.
There’s not much to complain about in terms of build quality, which is on a very high level, as is typical for the manufacturer. However, the matte surface is once again very susceptible to fingerprints.
Commissioning and practice
- Despite many components, it is quick and easy to set up
- Simple and convenient connection via USB
- Many connections + Bluetooth support
The SteelSeries Arena 9 deserves great praise already for the concept of the packaging, because within the bulky outer packaging, the manufacturer divides all subsections once again into individual, separate boxes. Front and rear speakers are separate, as are the center speaker with cables and subwoofer.
This also makes the setup comparatively simple, since you can position all parts separately from each other. The front speakers have a slightly angled design – similar to the Arena 3. The two rear speakers do not have this feature, but they can be mounted on a wall thanks to unscrewable feet.
You could, for example, do without the two rear speakers due to the single connection option. But honestly: then you could also go for the Arena 7 and save some money, but it’s good that it’s theoretically possible.
Another advantage: The rear speakers connect wirelessly with the subwoofer via the Connect button, which minimizes unnecessary cable clutter.
Otherwise, the setup is comparatively simple. All individual speakers have a note on their cables indicating where they want to be positioned. The subwoofer serves as the base for the system and has the same label on the back, so you can immediately see which cable goes where.
The connection to the PC or PlayStation consoles is then also made at the subwoofer via USB Type-C, and the SteelSeries Arena 9 is switched on here at the same time.
Keyword ports: In addition to those responsible for the speakers, the Arena 9 has one optical input and output each, as well as a 3.5 mm AUX port. Here you can connect smartphones, tablets or a monitor, for example.
In addition, the 5.1 sound system transmits wirelessly via Bluetooth version 4.2, albeit without high-resolution audio codecs. Simultaneous connection of a PC via USB cable and smartphone via Bluetooth also worked without problems in our test. Thus, the sound system is also very suitable for relaxed music listening with the smartphone.
Operation: Via app or OLED pod
- Excellent app with detailed setting options
- Practical OLED pod as a control element on the desk
- Additional jack port on pod
To operate the SteelSeries Arena 9, you have two options. On the PC or Mac, you can of course use the SteelSeries GG software along with the Sonar audio interface. You should do so, since you can fine-tune the sound down to the last detail.
You can also adjust many settings within GG, including a 10-band equalizer or adjusting the RGB lighting, but it’s still worth activating Sonar, as the setting options are multiplied here.
However, there is also a practical OLED control element that puts the Arena 9 ahead of the cheaper Arena 3 2.0 sound system. Its design is strongly reminiscent of that of the SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless (our review) gaming headset and is used for quick settings.
This is a small round pod (complete with rubberized bottom) that you can place on your desk within easy reach. It has two touch-sensitive buttons and a rotating frame, which you can use to adjust almost all settings.
From volume and equalizer settings to Bluetooth pairing or adjusting the RGB lighting effects, all elements can be fine-tuned here. You can also connect a headset thanks to the additional 3.5 mm port. Thanks to the bright, black-and-white OLED panel, good readability is also ensured.
Sound quality of the SteelSeries Arena 9 with wow factor
- Impressive volume with rich bass
- Focus on mids and highs makes for pleasing, detailed sound
- True 5.1 sound requires good rear speaker positioning
Sound-wise, I’m used to nothing but good things from SteelSeries, and fortunately, it’s no different in the case of the SteelSeries Arena 9. A maximum of 100 dB is recorded for the volume, which is more than enough for even medium-sized rooms to provide a real cinema feeling.
Front and rear speakers each come with two-way drivers that combine a 0.75-inch tweeter with a 3-inch woofer, or a 2.75-inch woofer for the rear speakers. The flatter but wider center speaker also relies on the latter specifications, while the subwoofer features a downward-firing 6.5-inch driver. You can also increase or decrease the subwoofer’s intensity on the back.
In terms of sound, the result of the setup that comes out of the speakers can simply be described as bombastic. Not necessarily audiophile, the manufacturer puts the mids and trebles a bit too much in the foreground for that, but nice and clear, detailed and powerful.
The mix is definitely pleasing and is of course great for listening to music or gaming, but movies are also simply fun with the 5.1 sound system. The subwoofer delivers a detailed and rich bass, the mids present themselves broadly positioned and no less detailed.
Particularly in games, the detailed 5.1 surround sound makes itself positively felt and provides excellent three-dimensionality and good localization in all titles I tried out. In F1 22, the roaring engines pass us by on the left and right, and in Call of Duty, enemy footsteps can be perfectly located in the room, to name two examples.
In contrast to a virtual surround sound, the speakers have to be aligned well with the user’s seating position. But then the sound can convince all along the line, especially since you can adjust it to your preferences with the help of several equalizer presets and additionally emphasize the bass or further define the trebles, which is of course especially advantageous in competitive shooters.
Surround sound on the PlayStation 5: With cutbacks
- On PS5 only with 2.1 sound including virtual upmix
- Reason: Sony does not allow 5.1 sound via USB/Toslink
- Reactive RGB lighting only on PC
However, it is worth mentioning that the PlayStation 5 cannot use the full potential of the SteelSeries Arena 9. However, this is due to Sony, who – ex works – do not allow 5.1 surround sound via USB or optical Toslink connection.
Instead, a 2.1 upmix is used, which virtually transfers the sound of the front speakers to the rear speakers and simulates the surround sound of the rear speakers. There is a workaround for this, but it requires a bit of work.
That doesn’t mean that the Arena 9 doesn’t sound great on the PlayStation 5 or that it would be a recommendable 5.1 surround solution here as well. However, the full potential and the best possible, as well as real surround sound is only available on the PC.
The reactive 4-zone RGB lighting is also only available on the PC. If you plan to purchase the sound system primarily for your console and TV setup, you’ll have to make do with predefined effects.
SteelSeries Arena 9 review: conclusion
With the SteelSeries Arena 9, the manufacturer delivers an all-around thrilling 5.1 sound system that is primarily aimed at PC gamers. They will be pleased with the usual high-quality workmanship, a chic design and an impressive sound that will absolutely blow you away.
However, the sheer size requires a lot of space on your desk setup and the rear speakers also want to be positioned accordingly. So if there’s no wall or space behind you for the two speakers, you might be better off with a 2.1 sound system.
If you have the space, then the Arena 9 realizes an outstandingly clear and detailed real surround sound, which is clearly superior to a virtual solution. In addition, there is the successful operation via the OLED pod, the diverse connectivity options (including Bluetooth) and a not too intrusive, reactive RGB lighting.
On the other side, of course, is the high price tag. The Arena 9 sound system is anything but a bargain, and yet I think the price is fair considering the specifications and performance on offer. Especially a connection option via USB and Bluetooth have rarity value. A look at the official website is also worthwhile, because here (at the time of testing in December 2022) the sound system is available at the current best price.
However, there are undoubtedly cheaper solutions. Nevertheless, the SteelSeries Arena 9 is absolutely worth its price and has a few real aces up its sleeve, especially for gaming fans, thanks to RGB lighting and the outstanding Sonar software.