SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro review: Customisable game-winning sound - MrLiambi's blog


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Thursday, 25 August 2022

SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro review: Customisable game-winning sound

The SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro is a nifty upgrade to the SteelSeries Arctis Pro +GameDAC. A wired headset that offers hi-res audio on PC, as well as the ability to connect to other devices with a dual USB-C connection and 3.5mm line in and line out. 

Clearly a premium headset, the Arctis Nova Pro not only looks fantastic but also promises some serious sound. SteelSeries claims this headset has "almighty audio" thanks to its high-fidelity audio hardware and tuned 360-degree spatial audio. 

What's possible with this headset and how does it sound? We've been gaming with it to find out. 

Seriously satisfying sound

  • ESS Sabre Quad-DAC with ultralow levels of noise and distortion
  • Supports Tempest 3D for PlayStation and Sonic Spatial for Xbox
  • 10â€"40,000 Hz frequency response with 40mm Neodymium drivers
  • 96KHz/24-bit sample rate on PC
  • SteelSeries Sonar Audio Software Suite with Pro-grade Parametric EQ

There a two different versions of this headset, depending on what you want to connect to. One supports PlayStation and the other Xbox, but both models otherwise have the same features and offer connectivity to your device via the SteelSeries GameDAC Gen2. 

The headset itself has a 3.5mm connection option, but it's meant to be connected to the GameDAC and then to your PC or console. The control box has two USB-C connections and two cables included in the box. The idea is that you can connect the headset to PC with one cable and to a console with the other, then switch between the sources depending on what you're doing. 

The GameDAC has a 3.5mm line in and line out connection too so you can plug in an external USB microphone for mic monitoring or use the line-out connection for a streaming PC. Plenty of connection options. 

Where the SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro shines though is on PC. With a simple USB connection, you can turn on 24-bit, 96KHz sample rate on PC and experience high-fidelity sound when gaming or listening to music. This opens up the audio range and lets you hear more sound than you normally would. 

Things get more interesting when you get into SteelSeries GG and SteelSeries Sonar. This software allows you to dive into a so-called Pro-grade Parametric EQ system where you can customise the audio in minute detail. More interestingly though, Sonar offers tuned presets for various games including Apex Legends, COD Warzone, Escape from Tarkov, Rainbow Six Siege, Valorant and more.  

These presets let you focus the audio of your game on the most important in-game sounds, including footsteps, enemy weapon reloads, bombs being planted and more. 

In our gaming sessions, we found these presets significantly changed the game audio. Sometimes it washes out the bass and ambience in favour of those essential sounds which can take away from the immersion, but it makes a big difference to positional audio. 

SteelSeries Sonar also has a spatial audio surround sound option which you can "tune" to either focus on "performance" for key directional audio in competitive FPS games, or "immersion" for more story-driven experiences. 

It's really a personal choice how you tweak this sound but it's also some of the best surround sound audio we've heard on a gaming headset. If you're on a console, you can also use Tempest 3D for PlayStation and Sonic Spatial for Xbox. Windows Sonic Sound and Dolby Atmos are other options you can apply on PC too. 

Custom microphone and chat options

  • Bidirectional Noise-Cancelling microphone
  • 100â€"10,000 Hz frequency response 
  • -38 dBV/Pa microphone sensitivity
  • 2200 Ohm impedance

The SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro has a retractable microphone cosily nestled in its frame. You can pull this out and use it, then mute it when you need to from the GameDAC or with a button on the headset itself. You can also tweak it, including on sidetone on the GameDAC if you need to hear your own voice when gaming. 

We found this microphone unfortunately seems to pick up a fair amount of background noise straight out of the box. But the SteelSeries Sonar software lets you tweak the microphone sound just like it does the game audio and in equally impressive ways. 

One of the highlights of this headset is almost certainly the customisation that you can do to your microphone. In Sonar you can turn on Clearcast AI noise cancellation. This is a simple button you can press that uses artificial intelligence to remove background noise and help focus on your vocals. It's similar to Nvidia's Broadcast software, but doesn't require any additional hardware to work. 

There are various configuration options with it too, so you can make yourself sound less nasal, add a broadcast quality sound or increase or decrease your pitch. Smart voice, noise reduction and noise gate settings are also available for tweaking, meaning you can play around with plenty of settings. 

Tweak your friend's microphones too

  • Chat mix dial
  • Change focus between game audio and chat

One of the hidden highlights of this headset is what you can do with your friend's microphone sounds. The Arctis Nova Pro has settings that allow you to have both chat and game sounds. There's a chat mix dial in the software and on the GameDAC so you can easily turn the dial to focus on game audio and turn them down or turn it the other way to hear more of the chat. 

There's a lot more on offer though. Like the tweaks to your microphone, you can also customise the in-coming chat audio too.

So if you find your friends have particularly awful-sounding microphones then you can use AI noise cancellation to improve how they sound or apply configurations to give them a broadcast quality. 

Sublime comfort

  • ComfortMAX system
  • Adjustable head strap
  • Rotating earcups

There are a lot of highlights to the Arctis Nova Pro and one of the things it doesn't disappoint with is comfort. This headset is a nice upgrade to previous Arctis headsets in our mind. It offers a more comfortable fit with the ComfortMAX system. That design has an adjustable head strap which sits nicely on your noggin, but it also has an adjustable steel headband which makes it more suitable for larger heads. 

The earcups rotate and pivot and with an excellent clamping force, we found this headset sits pleasantly over the ears and stays on your head when you're gaming. 

Better still, those plush-looking earcups are incredibly squashy and feel brilliantly pleasant against your head. The faux-leather finish also results in a great passive noise cancellation that blocks out surrounding noise and allows you to focus on the game. 

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