SteelSeries Arctis Nova 1 Review

September 22, 2022

After releasing several high-end headsets, including one of the best we’ve tested in recent years in the Arctis Nova Pro, SteelSeries have finally shifted gears to release something that’s much, much more affordable for the vast majority of users. The SteelSeries Arctis Nova 1 comes in at an RRP of AU $139, which is obviously more attractive when compared to the $499+ the Pro’s will set you back, and thankfully SteelSeries haven’t had to cut too many corners to make this a solid budget wired option.

First up, actual comfort is a feature that we’ve noticed across SteelSeries products, and the Arctis Nova 1 is no slouch in this area. The cushions are made from ‘AirWeave’ memory foam, but what’s important is that it feels soft and comfy around your ears, while still grippy enough that it doesn’t shift around much. The left and right cups are labelled with giant letters printed onto the mesh inside, which is kind of cute. It’s also incredibly light, at only 236g it’s very easy to have on all day, and the relatively restrained design (with just some cool patterning on the headband and a couple of SteelSeries logos) means it’s actually a good candidate for multiple use cases, such as using headphones at work as well as gaming at home.

In terms of use as a gaming headset, the Nova 1 benefits from software features on modern consoles, like the PS5’s 3D audio. I played through the whole of Uncharted Legacy of Thieves Collection¬†again using the Nova 1, and the positional audio was effective, if not the best I’ve had when compared to higher-end headsets. Gunshots and explosions definitely have an impact, and dialogue is generally clear among music and other elements. Playing through¬†Call of Duty: Vanguard, again an action game with big gunshot sound effects, definitely showed off how loud the headset can get, although it’s worth noting there isn’t anything in the way of noise cancellation, and while there isn’t much sound leakage outside the headset, you’ll be able to hear what’s going on outside if it’s loud enough.

If you’re going to bring these into the office or use these as general media headphones at home, the Nova 1 performs quite well. As far as music goes, the soundstage isn’t huge, but neither is it narrow enough to sound cheap and nasty like some cheaper headphones can. While you can fine-tune audio performance using SteelSeries’ own PC software, you’re not going to be getting thundering bass or perfectly replicated reference audio with this headset, but you will get solid performance across general Spotify listening, YouTube watching and media use.

Controls for the headset are found along the left earcup, and definitely feel a little cheap, with a simple plastic mute button and slide wheel for volume. The left ear cup is also where you’ll find the microphone, which stretches out on a flexible arm and seals away fairly discreetly. This part is actually a bit of a surprise, given it is actually noise cancelling and has a grate on the opposite side of its plastic holder for its bi-directional mic to pick up and cancel out outside audio. SteelSeries claim this cuts out background noise by 25dB, and while it seems to be the same or similar design to the one in the Nova Pros, I didn’t find it to be quite as effective at cancelling out background noise. That said, it’s still quite a cut above those included in most headsets, making this a solid option for voice chat, meetings or entry-level streaming.

It’s also worth re-iterating that this is a standard wired headset, that connects via a standard 3.5mm audio cable into anything which still takes it – such as PS5 and Xbox controllers, the Nintendo Switch, laptops and and PC’s. The box comes with a decent, if a little short, rubber-feeling cable as well as a longer extension cable that plugs into separate mic and headphone plugs, if required on PC.

It’s true, the weight and design of the Arctis Nova 1 don’t feel as premium or, well, as expensive as something like the Nova Pro, but that doesn’t mean it’s not something I wouldn’t be happy to wear all day, especially given the difference in cost. At AU $139, these are a far more attractive proposition, as they still offer solid sound and great performance across modern consoles and PC, thanks to modern spatial audio software on today’s hardware and SteelSeries’ own PC software. Their performance in both audio and mic quality is solid enough for use in gaming and regular work and media use. Above all, their comfort far exceeds what you’d expect from a headset at this price point, especially one as lightweight as this. While it’s a no-nonsense, no real frills offering, if you’re looking for a good all-round performer without breaking the bank, the SteelSeries Arctis Nova 1 certainly ticks all the boxes.

This review is based on a sample unit provided by SteelSeries. 

Positives:

-Genuinely comfortable for all-day use
-Solid gaming performance, fine for general use as well
-Lightweight and not too flashy, fit for multiple environments

Negatives:

-Not as premium feeling as higher offerings, and only a basic headset experience

Overall Score: