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SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless review

The SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless is an impressive gaming headset with a big learning curve

steelseries arctis nova pro wireless
Editor's Choice
(Image: © Future)

Tom's Guide Verdict

The SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless is an impressive evolution of the company’s signature gaming headset, although it’s not as user-friendly as it could be.

Pros

  • +

    Excellent sound quality

  • +

    Multifunctional DAC

  • +

    Robust customization options

  • +

    Comfortable fit

Cons

  • -

    Hard to use with consoles

  • -

    Imperfect noise-canceling features

SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless: Specs

Compatibility: PC, PS4, PS5, Switch, Xbox One*, Xbox Series X/S*, mobile (*Xbox version only)

Drivers: 40 mm

Frequency Response: 10 Hz – 22 kHz

Wireless: Yes

Weight: 11.9 ounces

The SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless represents the biggest risk that the company has taken in years. The SteelSeries Arctis 7 was one of the best wireless gaming headsets we’ve ever tested, and since then, SteelSeries has made only slight tweaks to the winning formula. The Arctis Nova Pro Wireless, on the other hand, is something wholly new: new chassis, new headband, new button layout, new digital audio converter (DAC) and new software functionality.

Thankfully, the risk pays off. Like its predecessors, the Arctis Nova Pro Wireless sounds great, feels comfortable and offers lots of fun extra features to play with. From Bluetooth connectivity to active noise canceling, the Arctis Nova Pro Wireless has quite a few features that the Arctis 7 didn’t, and they run the gamut from “mildly useful” to “indispensable.”

Granted, the Arctis Nova Pro Wireless isn’t for everyone. It’s a high-end headset for moderately serious audiophiles, and that’s reflected both in its price — a staggering $350 — and its complex DAC. Moving the headset between systems isn’t a seamless experience, and the ANC isn’t nearly as effective as advertised.

Taken as a whole, though, the Arctis Nova Pro Wireless is a promising redesign for a beloved headset. Read on for our full SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless review.

SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless: Configurations

steelseries arctis nova pro wireless

(Image credit: Future)

The SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro comes in a few different configurations, so it’s worth discussing them briefly here.

First, if you’re not married to a wireless design, there’s the SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro, for $250. This version comes with a DAC, just like the wireless model, but you’ll have to run a cable from the headset to the DAC at all times. Audiophiles may prefer this model, as it has Hi-Res Audio Certification; the wireless version does not. There’s also the SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro (Xbox) edition, which is compatible with Microsoft’s idiosyncratic audio protocols.

The SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless comes in three different versions, each of which costs $350. The standard version is the one that we reviewed here. The SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless (PlayStation) edition is essentially the same product, but with a more PlayStation-centric color pattern. The SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless (Xbox) edition has a special input that lets it work wirelessly with Xbox wireless protocols. Functionally, all three products are the same.

If you plan to use the Arctis Nova Pro Wireless in an entertainment center and you have an Xbox console, I’d recommend the Xbox version; you can use the other input for another console, such as a PS5 or a Switch. If you don’t have an Xbox and don’t plan to get one, either the standard or PlayStation version is fine.

SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless: Design

steelseries arctis nova pro wireless

(Image credit: Future)

If you’re familiar with previous Arctis models, then the SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless is a bit of a departure — but only a bit. Like the Arctis 7, the Arctis Nova Pro has a metal/plastic chassis with leatherette earcups and an elastic headband.

There’s a lot to like about the Arctis Nova Pro Wireless’ design, as it never feels too crowded. The left earcup has a power button, a mic mute button, a volume dial, a retractable mic, a 3.5 mm audio jack and a USB-C charging port, hidden tastefully under a SteelSeries logo. The right earcup has a Bluetooth button and a slot for the battery pack — more on that later.

However, unless you’re operating in Bluetooth mode, the Arctis Nova Pro Wireless requires another piece of equipment to function: the DAC. The DAC is a 4.5-inch black box with a rounded side, a dial, two buttons and a battery charging compartment. On the back, there are two USB-C ports, a Line In 3.5 mm audio jack and a Line Out 3.5 mm audio jack. We’ll discuss the DAC’s functionality more later, but aesthetically, it looks right at home either in an entertainment center or on a desk.

SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless: Comfort

steelseries arctis nova pro wireless

(Image credit: Future)

The SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless provides a slightly different take on the “ski goggles” headband that has defined almost every other Arctis peripheral. The headband is one of my favorite parts of the Arctis lineup, since it ensures a perfect fit every time, without any adjustment on the user’s part.

That’s why I have slightly mixed feelings about two small headband tweaks. The first is that rather than tightening the headband with a Velcro strap, you can move it up and down by using a system of holes and pegs. This part isn’t so bad, particularly since the headband is a little less stretchy than before. It’s not any less comfortable, but it does seem a little more durable.

On the other hand, the earcups now have adjustable arms, and you can move them up and down to find an even more precise fit. Since the arms don’t have any markers, though, it’s difficult to find a position that works for you without a lot of trial and error. You’re also out of luck if you share the headset with family or housemates.

Still, on the whole, I was able to find a comfortable fit without too much trouble, and wear the Arctis Nova Pro Wireless for hours on end. The earcups created a firm seal, but never pressed down too tightly, and the headband ensured that the device sat effortlessly on top of my head. At 11.9 ounces, it’s not especially heavy. The leatherette earcups occasionally felt a bit hot, though, so if you absolutely, positively cannot stand a little sweat, consider this fair warning.

SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless: Performance

steelseries arctis nova pro wireless

(Image credit: Future)

While previous Arctis headsets have had stellar designs, the sound quality has always been on the “good enough” end of the spectrum. While the SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless may not have the absolute richest soundscape of any gaming headset on the market, it’s now much closer to aural standouts, such as the Logitech G Pro X Wireless, the Corsair Virtuoso RGB Wireless XT and the Razer Blackshark V2.

I tested the Arctis Nova Pro Wireless with an eclectic assortment of games on a variety of different platforms. On PS5, I tried Nioh Remastered and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla; on Switch, I tried Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3; on PC, I tried Doom Eternal, Age of Empires IV and Cyberpunk 2077. The only thing that all of these games have in common is that the Arctis Nova Pro Wireless made them sound terrific.

Whether I was navigating the futuristic streets of Night City, fighting off brutal foes in Sengoku Japan, assembling the Avengers to fight Dr. Doom or overseeing a medieval French village, I felt fully immersed in whatever I was playing. The Arctis Nova Pro Wireless is especially good at balancing music, voice acting and sound effects, even with its default soundscape. Gunshots and explosions sound immediate and impactful, of course. But I was also impressed by just how well the headset handled music, whether it was a relaxing background tune in Age of Empires or a driving rap beat in Cyberpunk 2077.

The device also handled music better than most gaming headsets do. I listened to tracks from Flogging Molly, Old Crow Medicine Show, The Rolling Stones and G.F. Handel, and the Arctis Nova Pro Wireless provided clear, nuanced sound in every genre. The bass was more prominent than I’d usually expect from a gaming headset, whether it was an upright bluegrass bass, or the bass part of a choir.

It’s worth noting, however, that to get perfectly matched gaming and audio performance, you’ll have to fiddle with the equalization settings. That’s where the Arctis Nova Pro Wireless potentially runs into some trouble.

SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless: Features

steelseries arctis nova pro wireless

(Image credit: Future)

It’s impossible to discuss the SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless without also discussing the DAC. If you ever used the SteelSeries Arctis Pro + GameDAC — or even the SteelSeries Siberia 800 — you should have a pretty good idea of what to expect. The DAC has a black-and-white OLED screen that, by default, displays your headset’s battery level and the overall volume. You plug your PC or console into the DAC via USB-C cable, and the DAC transmits the audio signal to the headset.

Using the DAC is simple enough. You can switch audio inputs, initiate USB or Bluetooth pairing, adjust microphone options, reroute the audio to speakers and more. The most interesting thing the DAC does, however, is modify audio options on the spot. Instead of going through cumbersome PC software, you can adjust the equalization settings right on the DAC, selecting from a handful of presets (flat, bass boost, focus) or even creating your own.

If your DAC lives on your computer desk, it’s a fantastically simple setup. If you set it up in your entertainment center, however, it’s far less convenient. You can’t control most DAC features directly from the headset, and even if you could, the screen is way too small to see from 10 feet away. Routing audio through the DAC means that the Arctis Nova Pro Wireless is not easy to move back and forth between a computer desk and an entertainment center. If you keep your PC and consoles separate, you’ll basically have to choose which setup gets the Nova Pro Wireless. Compare and contrast to the tiny, easy-to-move dongle from something like the SteelSeries Arctis 7X.

SteelSeries also offers the Sonar program if you play on PC. SteelSeries Sonar is a new addition to the SteelSeries GG software suite, and lets you customize equalization levels, mic settings and surround sound options for the Arctis Nova Pro Wireless. It’s still in beta, and missing a few important features (such as linking individual profiles with specific games), but it’s a little easier to manipulate than the DAC.

There’s also the ANC, which is a first for a SteelSeries gaming headset. By activating ANC, you can cut down on background noise considerably; you can also activate a “transparency” mode if you still want some sounds to come through. However, in my testing, the ANC was great at blocking out background hum, but did almost nothing to block discrete sounds. I heard nearby voices, distant police sirens and even my own typing loud and clear. This feature would do little to help you focus on gaming in a loud household.

The standard “wireless gaming headset” features all work pretty well. The microphone sounds clear and does a good job of filtering out background noise. The Bluetooth is easy to pair, and I especially like that you can activate it in tandem with the USB wireless, or completely independently. The battery lasts for 22 hours, which isn’t that long — but the DAC houses a second 22-hour battery, which you can hot swap.

SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless: Verdict

steelseries arctis nova pro wireless

(Image credit: Future)

As much as I enjoyed testing the SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless, it’s a tough recommendation for a general audience. The complex DAC may be catnip to audiophiles, and the high price may be a worthwhile tradeoff for them. For the vast majority of console and PC gamers, though, an Arctis 7X or a SteelSeries Arctis 7+ seems like a much better match.

If you’re willing to meet the Arctis Nova Pro Wireless on its own terms, though, there’s a lot to like here. The DAC lets you do a ton of interesting stuff, the sound quality is a cut above the rest of SteelSeries’ lineup and it’s compatible with just about every system you own — even if you can use it with only two of them at a time.

Truthfully, I’m pleased with the Arctis Nova Pro Wireless, but I’m even more curious about how the Arctis lineup might evolve from here. Now that SteelSeries has refreshed its appearance, we could see a lot of cheaper headsets follow in its wake — or the premium design might remain at a premium price.

Marshall Honorof is a senior editor for Tom's Guide, overseeing the site's coverage of gaming hardware and software. He comes from a science writing background, having studied paleomammalogy, biological anthropology, and the history of science and technology. After hours, you can find him practicing taekwondo or doing deep dives on classic sci-fi. 

  • NintendoBen
    Just wanted to make sure... First, I have an entertainment center with my Xbox in my living room and my PC in my office. With the Xbox edition, can I set up the DAC in my office and connect to either my Xbox (without the need for the DAC) or my PC without any hassle? And if I want to connect to a device via Bluetooth, I'd then have to do it within range of the DAC?
    Reply