Is the SteelSeries Arctis Pro + GameDAC the best-sounding gaming headset you can buy today? One thing that’s always been a problem about gaming headsets as compared to headphones or “Audiophile solutions” is that gaming headsets were pretty much made for the gaming sphere only, and if you got great sound out of them for other things then it was kind of a bonus, but most of the time you did not.
Sennheiser makes some really great gaming headsets that you can also use for listening to music and really enjoying it, and until the SteelSeries Arctis Pro with GameDAC, was released, there really wasn’t a high-fidelity option for you when you were looking or a gaming headset, but now there is.
We’re going to go through everything, the sound, the comfort, the features, as well as mic quality and a few other things. This is the first gaming headset to be Hi-Res Audio certified. Now, what does that mean? It means that you can have playback at 96 kHz or higher, that’s one thing. It also means that these headphones can produce at or above 40 kHz in the high end, well above the 20 Hz to 20 kHz that a lot of other headphones offer.
|Driver Size||40mm||DTS 7.1|
|Frequency Response||10-40,000KHz||RGB Lighting|
|Sensitivity||102db||Ear Cup Rotation|
|Impedance||32 Ohm||Box Contents|
|T.H.D.||<1%||Product Information Guide|
|Magnet Type||Neodynium||Wireless Transmitter|
|Microphone||4-pole 3.5mm Cable|
|Frequency Response||100hz-10,000KHz||Charging Cable|
|Pattern||Bidirectional||Toslink Optical Cable|
|Sensitivity||-38 db||Headset Stand|
|Location||On Ear Cup (Retractable)||Part Number|
Let’s talk about what comes with the SteelSeries Arctis Pro + GameDAC. First off, you’ve got the headset itself, we’ve also got a GameDAC. Now, the GameDAC is a very interesting little module in that it’s similar to something like the Astro MixAmp’s, however this is a much smaller and a much more understated and nice-looking version of that. It has three settings, you have PC, PS4 and Hi-Res.
The PS4 works through optical and the PC works through USB. With Hi-Res, if you have it plugged into your PC, you can select a 96 kHz sample rate in your system. I tried 44.1, which is normal 16-bit CD quality sound, and then I bumped it up to 96. While listening to something straight off Apple Music, I could definitely hear fuller, better, more crisp and detailed sound when listening with Hi-Res Audio.
As far as I can tell, the microphone does not work when you’re using Hi-Res Audio, so Hi-Res Audio only works when listening to music. The PS4 and PC settings, which can’t go up to 96k, are for gaming.
Comfort and Design
Let’s take a look at the headset itself and see what we’ve got. We’ve got what SteelSeries has become known for with these Arctis headphones, which is this elastic band that serves to suspend the headphones over your head. This one in particular wraps around, and then you have Velcro that you can use.
For the fit, I’ve not really found a more comfortable-fitting gaming headset. It’s more comfortable than my Massdrop Sennheiser PC37X’s by a long shot. The clamping force is sufficient without really pushing in at all, and everything feels great.
There is an aluminum band across the top, and also aluminum hinges so there is little to no chance of this headset breaking. They have the ability to lay flat around your neck, so that’s a bonus. It’s got really outstanding thick cloth ear pads. They’re breathable, they have some … It’s kind of almost like a gym shorts type material, and they’re thicker than the Arctis series that I tried in the past. They feel really good, and I’ve worn these while gaming over two hours in a given session, and never had my ears feel hot, never had the headset be uncomfortable. It’s probably among the best-feeling headsets that I’ve tried.
Moving along, you’ve got mic mute button, you’ve got a volume rocker and then you have your USB. Now, this is a proprietary USB cable, but you can also use the 3.5 mm jack to use it with mobile and finally you’ve got the pull-out mic.
The headset has RGB coloring around the earpieces. Inside the GameDAC you can select rainbow or all kinds of different colors. I just have like a blue-purple cycling thing going on right here, which I think looks pretty sweet and pretty understated, and because these aren’t wireless, you can use the RGB and not worry about running out of battery or something like that.
SteelSeries does make a wireless version of the Arctis Pro, but for me, wired is always better. I do play games at a desktop, even if I’m playing on console, so that’s not a big deal for me, but if you are somebody who plays in the living room in front of your TV, these might not be the best choice unless you want to use a super long cable to connect to your TV as the included one is only three feet long.
This headset might be a little small for people with very large heads. I had the adjusted to the largest setting and they just barely fit. Still though, it does still give some suspension and the still feel pretty good.
These things sound pretty darn great. As I mentioned earlier, it has the Hi-Res Audio, it has the PS4 and the PC compatibility. These headphones, because they’re Hi-Res Audio capable, they’ve got 50 mm drivers that are capable of higher and lower frequencies more so than most gaming headsets, or even headphones that are out there, so they are really, really awesome.
Now, I’m going to say that this mic, while it may be a little bit rolled off on the bottom end, it sounds really clear. I almost might be willing to use this mic if I were gaming as my streaming mic, it just sounds that good. I’m sort of surprised how much cleaner it sounds than the ModMic Wireless. If you’re looking for great mic quality, then this SteelSeries Arctis Pro + GameDAC is doing something special, so it’s really worth checking out.
Another thing that I love is what SteelSeries calls “Sidetone.” I call it “Mic monitoring,” but in the gaming industry they call it “Sidetone”. This is where you’re talking into the mic and it feeds back into your headset so you know how loud you’re talking. That’s especially useful with these closed back kind of headphones. They can sort of fool you into thinking you’re not talking very loudly when you are, and having sidetone is a really nice way to blend what you’re saying with the people that you’re also chatting with, and not yelling too much.
Out of the box they come pre-set with the sidetone at low. I bumped it up to medium so that I could hear myself really clearly. I haven’t tried high but I think that would be too much as they seemed perfect on medium.
One way the SteelSeries Arctis Pro + GameDAC achieves such super high sound quality is they have an ESS SABRE DAC. Now, if you’re familiar with audiophile Digital Audio Converters and those kinds of things, ESS SABRE DACs are among the best that you can get in terms of digital to audio conversion. This is something that has never existed on a gaming headset before. If you’re using your PS4, the controller has a plug for the 3.5 mm jack, and that has a DAC. Your phone also has a DAC. Unless you’ve got the LG V40, V30, V20, V10, those DACs are just kind of run-of-the-mill off-the-shelf parts. They aren’t something that was purposefully built for high quality audio, whereas the ESS SABRE that is in these, and also in other products, are built for fantastic sound.
Inside the GameDAC you can EQ to your heart’s content. I tend to not use EQ, I just like to leave everything flat. Inside the GameDAC you can control your audio. You can control the illumination as I said before, you can control the sidetone, you can control the mic level, you can control just about anything, and it’s all right there in front of you in this little sort of candy bar sized piece of equipment.
It gives you a lot more options than, say, an Astro A40 MixAmp. It has an OLED monochrome screen. When you’re playing, when you’re just using the DAC, it shows you volume and chat mix, and you can bounce back and forth between those. It was extremely intuitive, and really easy to use.
I was really intrigued with the SteelSeries Arctis Pro + Game DAC and it was mostly because of the Hi-Res Audio feature. I thought it might be snake oil, I thought it might not be worth it, but I’m going to say to you right now, the Hi-Res Audio feature and the quality of these headphones overall in terms of sound is fantastic.
I might have liked to see a little bit more slack on the headband, I’d like to see a little bit longer and maybe a little bit sturdier cable but at the end of the day, you’ve got a super comfortable, great sounding and super flexible headset that can double as something that you can get really high-quality audio from.
In terms of listening to music or whatever you want to do, but music is the thing, you know what I’m saying? So if you’re looking for something in the price range of $250 or thereabouts then I would really recommend going out, getting these as a wired solution for all of your audio needs if you’re on PlayStation 4 or PC.