Luxury is the main word that comes to mind with SteelSeries’ Arctis Nova Pro series of headsets, and it starts when you take a look at the pricetag. The range comes in a few flavours, starting at AU $499 for the wired base version, and reaching up to AU $649 for the wireless version. That’s a fairly eye-watering ask for a pair of gaming headphones, but of course, it all depends on your budget. And, after spending a few weeks with the wired variety of the Arctis Nova Pro headset, specifically the ‘Arctis Nova Pro for Xbox’, I’m pleased to report the money certainly gets you a premium experience across the board.
The most unique feature of this line of headsets is the ‘GameDAC’, a separate audio unit designed to sit on a desk that converts the digital it receives into analogue output for your headphones. Beyond being a simple chip, the unit also features its own large control wheel, OLED screen and software. Most of the time, it serves as a secondary monitoring device for your audio, showing left/right monitoring, volume, audio quality in kHZ/bit, etc. The unit itself takes two USB-C connections, one specifically dedicated for Xbox to support decoding for that console, and has a line in/out for 3.5mm. The unit, while potentially being cumbersome for a home console/couch setup (in which case, the wireless option may be the better one to go for), actually works well not only for monitoring audio but for changing basic EQ settings on the fly, even customising 10-band frequency settings (although this is a bit easier on the PC app). When used on PC and Xbox, the device also allows for chatmix, which again makes it very handy as a little breakout box to have next to your mouse and keyboard dedicated to those functions.
The GameDAC itself also has a bit of personality, with a cheeky tutorial that illustrates on-screen exactly how to use the wheel to navigate the options, and invites you to ‘enter the dungeon’ of the menu settings to play around. Cute.
The DAC is capable of a max output of 96 kHz, 24 bit, but the headphones themselves sound crisp even when just on 48kHz, 16 bit. Being a wired headset, the Arctis Nova Pro has an easier time sounding superior to the mostly wireless headsets I’ve tested recently, yet even then the audio quality across the board has been consistently excellent. The headset feature 40mm drivers, and for music listening, the experience is very satisfying. I’ve been getting back into listening to some Radiohead recently, and in particular their Kid A Mnesia release sounds incredible with these headphones. Not only can you pick out specific detail in the vocals and instrumentals, but the soundstage is immersive, while stereo effects work wonderfully. The default ‘Flat’ EQ works well enough for most use cases, although you’ll notice small differences moving between some of the supplied presets like ‘Focus’ and ‘Smiley’. For general computer use, video watching, or video editing, the default EQ performs remarkably well and shouldn’t need much adjusting.
In games, the Arctis Nova Pro remains solid, providing a nice punch to gunfire and explosions in games like Battlefield 2042, while also performing just as well with softer music and effects in something like Final Fantasy XIV. The headset also supports ‘360 Spatial Audio’ through its Sonar app, as well as normal Windows Spatial Sound, along with support for PS5’s Tempest 3D Audio. When activated on any of these devices, the Arctis Nova Pro provides very capable audio positioning, which is mostly useful for fast-paced FPS games, but also works as just a nice level of immersion for any game with nice atmospheric effects and a good soundtrack.
The headset’s mic is quite cleverly hidden in the left ear-cup, blending in to the curve of the design. It extends out on a short bendy arm that never has much trouble fitting back into the headset when you’ve finished, and is a bi-directional microphone. On its own, the microphone’s noise cancellation and quality is actually super surprising, especially when I’ve tested so many headphones that have amazing audio performance, only to have an ‘OK’ mic. While, of course, a dedicated podcast mic will always perform better, the clarity on the Arctis Nova Pro’s microphone is impressive, cutting out most of the background noise of a room and sounding relatively professional, which I can imagine would help in a lot of use cases. The noise cancellation is enhanced with SteelSeries’ Sonar software which uses ‘AI algorithms’ to further cut-out noise like keyboard sounds, but that does limit its compatibility to devices running Windows 10 and 11. Even without it, the microphone performs admirably.
Last, but certainly not least, the design of the Arctis Nova Pro is exceptionally comfortable. The earcups are made from a soft, leatherette material which feels pretty amazing on your ears, and are height adjustable (although they lack the clear height markers and set levels of other headsets). The headband has a stretchy elastic design that fits snugly over the head, and the entire design never feels like it’s compressing too much, or is too loose. It’s my go-to headset now for when I know I’ll be needing to use something for hours at a time.
The Arctis Nova Pro For Xbox checks just about every box I can think of. It’s gratifyingly comfortable to wear, features excellent sound quality and surprisingly clear microphone quality, connects to any console you’d care to use, via USB or 3.5mm, and comes with a useful and powerful tool in the included GameDAC. That AU $499 price-point is steep, and the headset clearly isn’t going to fit within everyone’s budget. I think this will appeal most to users who play games largely from a desk set-up, between a PC and console, who also intend to use the headset for activities that would benefit from a separate audio monitor like content creation or video editing. The audio quality is good enough across every use I threw at the headset that it’s easy to recommend this as an all-around replacement that can handle just about anything, even if the box does try to steer its purchases towards using it mainly ‘For Xbox’. The only thing it doesn’t have is wireless, which I’m not sure I’d want to compromise on the sound quality for anyway, and if I did, then there’s always another version available for another AU $150.
-Excellent audio quality, with supplied separate DAC
-Multiple connection options over USB and 3.5mm, chatmix supported -Among the comfiest headphones I've worn -Expanded EQ settings in GameDAC and app
-Not many, except for a high price tag, and if you need wireless