Steelseries Arctis 7 review: The best gaming headset bar none

Steelseries Arctis 7

Readers, I think I’ve found it. The best gaming headset. For me, anyway. Thanks to a simple strip of fabric, Steelseries’ Arctis 7 is hands down the most comfortable gaming headset I’ve ever used. Instead of cushioning that damnable headband with memory foam and other such gubbins you normally find in online mattress ads, Steelseries’ so-called ‘ski-goggle’ design puts all the weight on a stretchy piece of material that wraps tightly, but snugly round your skull, while the main aluminium frame sits suspended above your head. No pinching, no headache, nothing. It’s beautiful.

You can adjust the tautness of the fabric with its tough velcro fastening on the side should it prove too small or large out of the box, and you can even buy additional bands to spice up its design should you feel like a change. Combine that with two supremely soft ear cups, great wireless audio, a swathe of controls and the fact it costs just £135 (or £100 over at Amazon at time of writing) – a relative bargain compared to the Steelseries’ equally good but £200+ Siberia 800 – and the Arctis 7 makes a great first impression.

Indeed, having spent many hours listening to both this and the Siberia 800 in quick succession, its audio quality is nigh on identical. I certainly couldn’t tell much of a difference between them, as everything from soundtracks to in-game audio sounded just as clear and balanced as the other.

What the Arctis 7 lacks, of course, is the Siberia’s fancy-pants receiver box, opting instead for a simple USB transmitter. The long cable provides a bit of flexibility, giving you the freedom to place it on your desk to improve its range rather than have it collecting dust behind your PC, but it’s still fundamentally a USB dongle. You also get a 3.5mm analogue cable for wired use, plus a micro USB cable for charging, but that’s pretty much it. No special chat cables and certainly no optical S/PDIF.

Not that that really matters, as the Siberia 800 was, in all honesty, a bit of a faff to set up. The Arctis 7, on the other hand, is much simpler. You just plug it in, and you’re more or less off. Okay, I had to download some drivers using Steelseries’ Engine software before I could actually start using them, but that’s much less painful than fiddling about with the Siberia 800’s box menu and setting up each individual source one by one.

Arctis 7 with wireless transmitter

Engine also lets you enable the Arctis 7’s DTS X 7.1 surround sound feature, but I wouldn’t recommend it. As discussed in my Siberia 800 review, any kind of surround sound support – especially 7.1 – is all a bit of a fudge when it comes to headphones, as you’ve still fundamentally only got two speakers instead of seven and a subwoofer. Instead, it’s all done virtually via software, which can be a bit spotty depending on what kind of standard it’s using.

In the Arctis 7’s case, I found turning on DTS X only made music sound a bit fake and synthetic, so I left it turned off. I also didn’t feel the need to mess with Engine’s onboard equaliser nonsense, and its three preset modes (Game, Movie and Music) all sounded much of a muchness. As a result, I left it in the default Game mode.

The retractable mic can also be adjusted via Engine. Here, you can adjust the volume and sidetone (how much you can hear your own voice when speaking into the microphone), but once you’ve configured it to your liking, you shouldn’t have to open it again. Indeed, I found the default settings to be plenty good enough, and the mic was a heck of a lot clearer and less muffly than the one on the Siberia 800.

Steelseries Arctis 7

In fact, I’d even go as far as saying it was as good as, if not better, than the Sennheiser GSP 350‘s microphone, particularly as the Arctis 7’s mute button on the left ear cup turns the mic a cheeky shade of red to let you know it’s not in use – a huge improvement on simply lifting the mic arm up towards your head and constantly second-guessing whether you’ve done it right or not.

Admittedly, the microphone’s background noise cancellation could use a bit of improvement, as I could still hear myself typing and clicking my mouse while I was testing it, but on the whole, it puts in a respectable performance. You even get a music and chat mix slider on the right ear cup, too, letting you dial down a game’s background music so you can focus entirely on multiplayer chat, or filter out those screaming 12-year-olds entirely if you’d rather concentrate on those thumping victory tunes.

Did I also mention just how comfy it is? For me, that’s what really seals the deal on the Arctis 7. The fact it sounds great and has an excellent microphone is just a bonus at this point, as I’ve never found anything I can wear for more than an hour in all my years of headphone testing. I could easily wear these all day without batting an eyelid, and its closed-back design means you can also use it around other people without grating on everyone’s nerves. As such, I’d heartily recommend the Arctis 7 to anyone who values comfort as much as I do.

Of course, if you don’t fancy spending this much on a wireless headset, or just want a plain, old wired one, the good news is that the rest of the Arctis series has exactly the same design and uses exactly the same audio drivers as its flagship cousin, guaranteeing a near-identical listening experience minus a few features. The wired £110 Arctis 5, for instance, can be used over USB and 3.5mm analogue and comes with RGB lighting on the ear cups, or you can get the entry-level Arctis 3, which just has a regular 3.5mm connection for £90. The latter is also available as a £135 wireless Bluetooth headset, but it’s worth bearing in mind that neither Arctis 3 model comes with the chat mix feature.

Whatever model you decide to go with, though, there’s no denying that Steelseries’ Arctis range is a tough act to follow. The Arctis 7 in particular is now my headset of choice for overall comfort, and future headsets will have to work very hard indeed to knock it off its throne.


  1. Ghostwise says:

    The ergonomy also seems compatible with Asari crests, which is a big plus in my book.

  2. Person of Interest says:

    The Siberia 800 review link should point here: link to

  3. Nelyeth says:

    I used to think my Steelseries Siberia v2 was the greatest headset ever, but after two of these died in my loving and tender care (the retractable microphones were definitely too short-lived), I decided to buy an Arctis 5. And boy oh boy, what a lovely piece of hardware it is. The chat mix has become something I can not imagine playing without, and the red light when the mic’s muted is great.

    But what seals the deal, as Katharine says, is how comfortable it is. No more shall I be massaging my head and ears after a long gaming session. The fabric band is a straight upgrade from the suspended plastic thing of the Siberia, and I think Katharine has pretty much summed up all the reasons why it’s so damn good.

    The oval ear cups are perfect, since they encompass the whole ear without pinching anything, while I’ve found round ear cups to often be uncomfortable after a while. There are also hinges so you can “fold” them, to make it a bit easier to transport in a bag or around your neck (perhaps a picture of it in its folded position would have been good?).

    • Hans says:

      Same. Loved both my steelseries headphones until they both went bad early and started sounding like shit. Won’t buy a third.

    • Gordon Shock says:

      Absolutely adore it too. Could someone explain the chat wheel for me? I don’t really multiplay but if I start doing I’d love to know how it can help me.

      • Nelyeth says:

        The wheel’s default position is, say, 12 o’clock. If you turn it to the left, up to 7 o’clock, you’ll reduce the volume of every chat app (so every app using your mic) you’ve got running, without changing anything else.

        When you turn it to the right, up to 5 o’clock, you’ll reduce the volume of everything else (games, youtube, music… everything not using your mic), without the chat volume changing.

        Of course, this means you can also mute entirely one of the two.

    • Faxmachinen says:

      I’ve had my Siberia 2 for many years (seven?). Although the ear padding is flaking a lot, they are otherwise in excellent condition despite being dropped several times.

  4. Mungrul says:

    Hmmm, headphone 7.1 is a bit of a fudge you say?

    Have you tried one of the Sennheiser 7.1 headsets Katherine?

    I’ve had my PC363D set since 2013. It’s the best headset I’ve ever owned, and the 7.1 certainly isn’t a “fudge”. I can definitely tell the difference between stereo and 7.1; just this weekend was a clear example.

    I was playing The Division with a friend, and couldn’t work out why I was only hearing his footsteps on the left and right axis, as opposed to the full 360 soundscape I’ve grown used to.

    Turns out, I’d used my Rift since I’d last used my Sennheiser headset in game, and the Sennheiser’s control had defaulted back to stereo. As soon as I enabled 7.1 again, the 360 soundscape was immediately audible, and I could tell whether my friend was in front or behind me as well as to the left or right.

    If you think the Steelseries 7.1 is a fudge, maybe they’re not “the best gaming headset bar none” after all?

    • cqdemal says:

      3D audio stuff does work as intended. The thing is it also invariably introduces some kind of distortion to the audio. I opted for a Sennheiser Game One instead of the 363D because of this – and because I just like how it sounds more.

      Open-back headphones aren’t for everyone but I’d highly suggest anyone who thinks they’ve found the best gaming headset to try a Game One. I honestly can’t go back to anything else. Opinions ahoy!

      • Mungrul says:

        That’s very strange, cqdemal. I’ve never noticed any form of audio distortion on my 363D. Also, are you sure you’re not thinking of the 373D? That’s the contemporary version of the 363D. The 363D is no longer available.

        Regardless, I had the 360D G4ME and the 350D prior to the 363D, and the 363D is definitely the best of the bunch. And it makes my Astro A40 headset look positively stupid. That’s got nice audio quality, but the comfort and durability are terrible in comparison.

        • cqdemal says:

          Whoops – looked it up again and you’re right. It’s the 373D I’m talking about. I never tried the 363D, but I can say that its successor is overpriced. Same goes for the Game Zero, which seems to be a closed-back and slightly worse version of the Game One yet sold at a higher price point.

      • FriendlyFire says:

        Aside from the inconvenience, open back headphones are universally regarded as the best design. You might prefer a specific headphone over another, but open back gives you much roomier sound with fewer reverberation issues.

    • BlankedyBlank says:

      So this entirely depends on your definition of ‘fudge’. In any case, it’s not true 7.1 sound as the headphones only have 2 drivers, and both sets use third party technology to imitate surround sound (based on how our brains process audio). The Steelseries use DTS’ solution, whereas the Sennheisers use Dolby’s. Both are household names with surround sound, and their implementations are nigh on identical in my experience.

      Katherine does only mention listening to music with it on – which would always sound worse. I don’t seem to remember her having many FPS games in her repertoire where positional audio is a boon, so perhaps she just didn’t notice or test it in-game.

  5. spindoctor says:

    I just got these, and I would second the comfort – the headband is great and the cups fit fine over my (slightly larger than average?) ears fine. The range is also pretty good, sound fine upstairs (pc is downstairs), and ok (some distortion) in the garden – useful for wandering around on Skype

  6. Lars Westergren says:

    My one annoyance with this, is that when I pick it up after a while and hold on “on” button, sometimes it makes a long loud beeping noise.

    Maybe it is when it has gone into standby and expected a short press or would turn on as soon as audio started streaming or something. But I wish it would just shut up and turn on.

  7. barelyhomosapien says:

    So my experience of the Arctis 7 is the opposite. It’s easily the worst headset I’ve ever owned, having had the Hyperx Cloud II and the Planstronic Gamescom 780 before that.

    The sound has no depth whatsoever, music is a muddled wincy mess of mids and highs and games have no punch or weight to them. It has the worst software 7.1 of any of the gaming headsets I’ve used.

    The “best mic in gaming” is barely better than the one on the much cheaper cloud II, just a bit louder and a little clearer.

    I was really excited when I bought mine and returned it after a weekend because they really aren’t worth the price, with the sound quality you get.

    I bought a pair of AKG K702’s with a vmoda in line boom mic, which cost me about the same as the Arctis 7 did, instead.

    They are lighter, more comfortable and have a huge sound stage, they have more bass than the Arctis 7’s and a staggering increase in sound clarity.

    There is honestly no reason to be buying gaming headsets as things stand unless you NEED wireless. You can get audiophile level headphones and better quality inline boom mics together, for the same £100-£150 price tag and get better sound quality for both your ears and the people your speaking to.

    Outside of rare exceptions gaming headsets are 80% PR and flashy design, 20% audio design.

    • FriendlyFire says:

      And if you can’t use in-line mics (wrong plug, non-detachable cable, etc.), the Antlion ModMic works super well. You just attach an adhesive base to your headset which has a magnetic connector for a flexible boom mic. Alternatively, you can just have a desktop microphone too.

      I’ve long since upgraded from pretty average “gaming” headsets to premium headphones with a separate microphone.

      • Ragnar says:

        There’s also the Monoprice MiniMic that’s like the ModMic but half the price.

  8. Harlander says:

    How’s the battery life on this?

  9. fenchurch says:

    Friends don’t let friends buy gaming headsets. Not true anymore?

    • Smaug says:

      As long as Audio-Technica sells the ATH-M50x and Sennheiser sells the HD599 there is no reason to buy overpriced “gaming” headphones.

      • Hunchback says:

        My HD555s are quite decent as well

      • Kowie says:

        AudioTechnica and Sennheiser seriously need to come out with wireless versions, sound quality seems to be always a issue with wireless headphones.

    • Ragnar says:

      Eh, unless you really need wireless, you can still do much better with a separate headphone and mic. Though the Sennheiser headsets are pretty good, and if I got a headset it would be the Sennheiser PC37X.

  10. Bing_oh says:

    I’ve had them for about a year and found them to be a solid set of cans. The ski goggle strap is quite comfortable and the audio port on the transmitter makes it possible to run them through a receiver if you’ve got a full surround sound setup on your tv. They’re solidly configurable on a PC but don’t believe the “totally wireless” advertising if you’re looking to use them on an XBone! They still require a wire to the controller for chat, the sidetone volume controls don’t work, nor do all those lovely configurations on the PC transfer over.

  11. wackazoa says:

    After reading the review and the comments, and maybe I missed it, but does anyone state how these are with glasses? My biggest issue with headphones has always been that I wear glasses and thus pretty much all headphones are uncomfortable. Anybody who wears glasses recommend these?

    • Spto says:

      Seconded! Please reply.

      • Lukehei says:

        I wear glasses and have used these headphones for about 6 months.

        I am never going back. They are so comfortable. I had a few issues after getting a new pair of glasses a couple of months ago, but I just had to shape them better and now everything is dandy. Easily the best pair of headphones I’ve used with glasses.

    • Lukehei says:

      copying from my comment lower in the chain because I don’t know if you get notified too:
      I wear glasses and have used these headphones for about 6 months.

      I am never going back. They are so comfortable. I had a few issues after getting a new pair of glasses a couple of months ago, but I just had to shape them better and now everything is dandy. Easily the best pair of headphones I’ve used with glasses.

    • Nelyeth says:

      I wear glasses (and mine have a pretty thick frame, at that), and if you want to know how I feel about the Arctis, just read up my comment further above. Spoiler: I love it.

  12. csbear says:

    I have the Arctis 7 and love them as a wireless alternative for gaming. “Gaming” and “wireless” being the key words.They are very comfortable in that scenario.

    I do have a pair of HiFiMan HE400i for my audiophile needs, but for gaming I’m not looking for the absolute best sound… Comfort is paramount in that regard and being wireless is a big part of being comfortable.

  13. Nihilexistentialist says:

    2.4 GHz wireless makes this a no-go for me living in an apartment building. Logitech figured out this was an issue for people as well so their latest wireless headset doesn’t use it and it’s been great. This looks like it’s a more comfortable fit and a similar feature set but 2.4 GHz wireless makes it look like they haven’t been in the wireless space for long enough to get user feedback to indicate how big an issue it is for city dwellers.

  14. hfm says:

    I don’t know why any of these guys haven’t learned something from Beyerdynamic. I’ve been a huge fan of their cans for a long time so I bought the MMX 300’s. The cardioid pattern mic on that headset is phenomenal. Not to mention it’s Beyerdynamic so you know the drivers themselves are great.

  15. TorQueMoD says:

    You should try the Razer Man o War wireless headset. I just hesitantly bought a set on black Friday and was completely blown away with how awesome it is. Ridiculously comfortable headband without getting gimmicky (literally can’t feel them on my head after hours of playing and I’m really sensitive with that too). Also fantastic audio quality and a spectacular sounding mic. No joke, it’s a 9/10 headset with the only down side being that it doesn’t have a hot swappable battery pack