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SteelSeries Arctis 1 Wireless for Xbox is (almost) the perfect gaming headset

SteelSeries Arctis 1 Wireless for Xbox is (almost) the perfect gaming headset
(Image credit: SteelSeries)

The SteelSeries Arctis 1 Wireless for Xbox solves a problem that shouldn't exist. Buying one decent pair of wireless gaming headphones is expensive enough; asking gamers to buy two is downright criminal. And yet, Xbox One owners know all too well that Microsoft does its own thing when it comes to wireless protocols.

Not content to employ either Bluetooth or standard 2.4 GHz connectivity, Microsoft instead requires headsets to run on the same frequencies as its controllers. This creates a ridiculous situation in which wireless headsets are either compatible with PCs, PS4s and even docked Switches, but not Xboxes. Or, from the other perspective, a wireless headset might be compatible with the Xbox One, and absolutely nothing else.

The Arctis 1 Wireless for Xbox headset solves this problem with a feature so stupefyingly simple that I genuinely cannot believe that almost no other manufacturer has tried it before: a small, unobtrusive switch. By sliding a tiny selector from "USB" to "Xbox" and back again, you can listen to just about any device you own wirelessly. 

This headset costs exactly the same price as its non-Xbox-compatible counterpart, and at $100 it's still one of the cheaper wireless headsets you can get from a major gaming brand.

In fact, almost everything about the Arctis 1 Wireless for Xbox is so incredibly intuitive and user-friendly, I can hardly believe that other headset manufacturers still struggle with offering basic features like removable mics or multiple EQ settings. On the other hand, it also makes the Arctis 1 Wireless for Xbox's few obnoxious shortcomings that much harder to ignore.

What the SteelSeries Arctis 1 Wireless for Xbox gets right

Last year, I reviewed the original SteelSeries Arctis 1 Wireless. From a design perspective, I thought it was one of the most impressive headsets I'd ever used, and I stand by that. With a single USB-C dongle and an unobtrusive USB-A extension cord, the Arctis 1 Wireless can connect to almost every single modern gaming device wirelessly. 

(Image credit: SteelSeries)

Plug in the USB-A cord to PS4s, gaming desktops and docked Switches; plug the USB-C dongle into Android phones, gaming laptops and handheld Switches. Thanks to a 3.5 mm audio cord, you can even use it with the Xbox One, although there's no way to do so wirelessly.

(You also can't use it with any iOS devices, although a SteelSeries rep informed us that Apple made that particular decision, not SteelSeries.)

I don't like having to buy multiple devices for the same purpose, as you've probably gathered. Having to use one headset for my PS4, another one for my Xbox One, and another one for my Android phone creates a lot of confusion and clutter in my apartment, not to mention a lot of expense. 

The Arctis 1 Wireless is one of the first headsets to take this concern seriously. Other headset manufacturers said, "You need to buy a few different headsets, and that's too bad." SteelSeries said, "You need to buy a few different headsets, and we can fix it."

Imagine my delight, then, when I booted up the SteelSeries Arctis 1 Wireless for Xbox and realized how simple it would be to use. There aren't two separate dongles, or a frequency dial on the headset, or an expensive Bluetooth connection that doesn't play nicely with the 2.4 GHz protocol. 

Instead, there's just a tiny switch on the dongle itself. Changing it from USB to Xbox and back again takes less than a second. I hesitate to say that anything is "foolproof," but I cannot think of a single way in which anyone could mess this process up, save for forgetting to hit the switch prior to changing devices.

(Image credit: SteelSeries)

Over the course of a few days, I used the Arctis 1 Wireless for Xbox with every system I owned for games, music, TV shows and video chats, and the process was absolutely seamless. In fact, the members of my remote writing class thought its microphone was so clear, they started calling me "Mission Control." It's the kind of headset that makes you glad to be a games hardware reviewer.

Which is precisely why I can't quite get over its two biggest drawbacks.

What the SteelSeries Arctis 1 for Xbox gets wrong

To be clear, both of the SteelSeries Arctis 1 for Xbox's big problems are due to the fact that it's a $100 wireless headset. Measures to keep the cost down had to come from somewhere, and I doubt that universally compatible USB-C dongles are cheap to produce. But it's also hard to overlook these problems, considering that other SteelSeries headsets don't share them.

The first problem, as mentioned in the original review, is the fact that the Arctis 1 Wireless for Xbox doesn't use the "ski goggles" elastic headband design that the SteelSeries Arctis 3, 5 and 7 employ. For those who have never tried it, the ski goggles headband automatically conforms to your head size and shape without any manual adjustment, for a perfect fit every time you put it on. The Arctis 1 Wireless for Xbox uses the old "steel headband with rigid notches" approach, which is not nearly as comfortable or precise.

Perhaps even more importantly, the Arctis 1 Wireless for Xbox simply doesn't sound that impressive. The sound quality isn't terrible, by any means. The treble is clear, the bass is present and you can tweak EQ options using the SteelSeries Engine software. 

But the soundscape lacks nuance and immediacy. Everything sounds as though you're listening to it on a radio rather than in the middle of a concert hall. Gaming sound is a little better than music and TV sound, but considering that the Arctis 1 Wireless for Xbox could very well become your go-to headset for every device you own, I wish it sounded a little better.

There is, of course, a solution to both of these problems: Make a more expensive headset with the same wireless capabilities. 

I don't expect a $100 wireless headset to work with every system I own, fit perfectly and provide top-notch sound. It'd be nice, but it's simply not realistic. But if I could have a headset that has the physical design and sound quality of the SteelSeries Arctis 7 with the wireless versatility of the Arctis 1 Wireless, I'd be extremely happy, regardless of the price.

In the meantime, though, we don't have my ideal fantasy headset. We do have the Arctis 1 Wireless for Xbox. And if it's not perfect, it's very much on the right track. We already have a nearly perfect wireless mouse and a nearly perfect wireless keyboard; it's time for a nearly perfect wireless headset to complete the trifecta.