In the world of gaming headsets, there is usually a distinction between PC headsets and console headsets. Even within sets designed for consoles there’s further separation depending on the manufacturer it’s designed for. In recent years, this separation has started to break down and we are seeing more and more traditionally PC-specific headsets begin to cross-over to be all-encompassing. Unfortunately, I have yet to find that one headset that offers wireless compatibility between every platform: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Android, and iOS. But the Arctis 1 Wireless Headset by SteelSeries is as close as you can get – and at a budget price of under $100 as well!
- Current Price: $99.99 MSRP
- Platform: PC, PS4, Switch, Android
- Frequency Response: 20 – 20,000 Hz
- Sensitivity: 98 dBSPL
- Impedance: 32 Ohm
- Total Harmonic Distortion: < 3%
- Drivers: 40mm Neodymium Magnet
- Ear Coupling: Over-Ear
- Frequency Response: 100-6500 Hz
- Type: Detachable
- Sensitivity: -38 dBV/Pa
- Polar Pattern: Bidirectional Noise-Canceling
- Type: Lossless 2.4 GHz
- Range: Up to 30ft / 9m
- Battery Life: 20 hours
SteelSeries has been making gaming headsets since before they were SteelSeries, back when the company was named Icemat, with the Siberia back in 2005. That said, they’ve made tremendous improvements since then and their Arctis line of headsets are “The Most Awarded Headsets in Gaming” according to their website. I myself have been using the Arctis 3 with Bluetooth for over a year now so I could simultaneously play games and listen to a podcast or answer a call on my phone. Lately though, I’ve been desiring a wireless headset that I can use across all my gaming platforms rather than buying several different ones. And just when I was about to give up hope, SteelSeries announced the first four-in-one wireless headset that offers Switch-compatible wireless capabilities in both docked and undocked modes. Consider me sold!
What’s in the box
- USB to Micro-USB charging cable
- 5 Aux cable
- USB to USB-C port
- Wireless Dongle
The box that the Arctis 1 Wireless Headset comes in looks much like any other in the Arctis family of headsets. A clean white-and-orange color scheme that prominently displays the headset and lists the supported platforms right on the box: PC, Switch, PS4, and Android. Inside the box is a simple, plastic insert that holds the headset, the dongle, and all the cables. The presentation inside is nothing noteworthy – it’s not like some higher-end headsets whose box can double as a display – but I appreciate the simplistic and utilitarian design nonetheless. Hidden in the back of this plastic insert is the product information guide booklet that shows you all the pertinent information in understanding and utilizing your new headset. This booklet contained a couple key pieces of information that I probably would not have discovered otherwise: first, the headset is also compatible with Xbox One via 3.5mm audio cable and second, that there’s a SteelSeries Engine for PC I could download to customize my audio settings. Seriously, for any PC gamer I feel like customizable EQ settings are a must-have.
Design and Aesthetics
In comparing the Arctis 1 Wireless to my Arctis 3, there is a noticeable design change. They are, after all, designed after SteelSeries’ entry-level Arctis 1 headset so they are missing a few of the key aesthetic properties that SteelSeries is known for – namely, the ski goggle style headband. Instead, the Arctis 1 offers an adjustable steel-reinforced headband much in-line with every other gaming headset on the market today. I often share headsets with my wife, whom always adjusts the size of the band to fit her, and on the ski goggle headband it was always more tedious to un-strap the band to re-adjust it. Over time, the band would wear out and lose its elasticity. So although the Arctis 1 may not be as pleasing to the eye as SteelSeries’ other headsets I feel it’s actually easier to use and adjust without worry of potentially damaging it over time.
The headset cups still rotate 90 degrees out, so you can lay them flat on your desk or around your neck when not in use. I absolutely love this feature as part of any headset since I am constantly taking off and putting on my headset as I get up to swap out games, talk with my wife, enjoy a quick snack break, or go to the restroom (Yes, I wear my headset with me to the restroom!).
The build-quality of the Arctis 1 Wireless headset does feel cheaper than my Arctis 3, however. The plastic on the cups as well as atop the band aren’t nearly as nice as the soft, rubbery finish on my Arctis 3 and I honestly feel like I could snap the headband in half by accident. Durability-wise, I’d be scared that these headsets may not last in the hands of more incensed gamers. Thankfully, I’m not the type to throw my headsets out of frustration when I lose a match in Overwatch or Apex Legends.
Yes, but how does it sound?
For those audiophiles out there worry not, the Arctis 1 Wireless is fit with the same audio drivers as the award-winning Arctis 7 headset, so you’re getting the same quality sound at a fraction of the price. In testing these much-lauded sound drivers I played Fire Emblem Three Houses and Splatoon 2 on the Nintendo Switch to test the sound and mic quality. With the Arctis 1 Wireless on the Switch everything sounded crystal-clear and ten-times better than through the Switch’s speakers in handheld mode. Docked to the TV, I didn’t notice any latency or sound compression in using the USB-C dongle plugged in via the included USB-A adapter into the dock. Quality was about on-par with my sound bar, although the Arctis 1 doesn’t provide nearly enough bass out of the box for my liking.
On PC I played through a couple FPS games like Borderlands 3 and Destiny 2, as well as Final Fantasy XIV which I consider having one of the best original soundtracks ever. The quality was excellent – music sounded rich and vibrant and I could pick out the individual sounds in Destiny 2 betwixt all the random sound effects that convalesce into the cacophony of ambient noise. However, unlike the Arctis 7 there is no DTS Headphone:X v2.0 surround sound, just stereo. So, although the sound was crisp and rich coming through the drivers, there was no sense of immersion that higher-end headsets provide.
Fortunately, with the SteelSeries Engine 3 app on PC you gain access to a customizable equalizer featuring six pre-set EQ configurations. One such preset is ‘immersion’ and it noticeably enhanced the individuality of sounds in the games I tested it with. Although there’s no surround-sound natively, the equalizer does a pretty good job of replicating the sound-quality one expects out of surround-sound. Additionally, the SteelSeries Engine app even lets you adjust the microphone sidetone which lets you hear yourself in the speakers, the dynamic range compression which balances out the decibel-levels of whatever you’re listening to, as well as power options to set when your headset will automatically turn off after it’s been inactive for a while. Lastly, and in my opinion the best feature about the SteelSeries Engine 3, is that these configuration settings can be saved on the app and set to automatically switch over to these sound profiles when you launch specific applications. From shooters to RPGs to watching your favorite streamer on Twitch, you’re going to want a different sound profile on each one. These sound profiles stay adjusted to the headset even if you disconnect from your PC and switch over to another system, which is amazing for all gamers not just those on PC.
Overall Usage Impressions
Hands-on with the Arctis 1 has been a delight over the past two weeks. I haven’t used any other headset since I started using this one because there’s simply no reason to switch over. Normally, I have a different headset for each system just so I don’t have to worry about unplugging certain dongles or getting things lost and tangled up in wires galore. There’s no base station I have to worry about, nor are there an inordinate amount of cables to manage. I simply plug the USB-C dongle into the back of my PC where I happen to have a USB-C port, then take it out to attach to the USB-A adapter cable I already have next to my PlayStation 4, then take it off and plug directly into the bottom of my Switch or my phone for on-the-go listening convenience. My only concern has been potentially losing the dongle in case it got snagged on something, as it leaves a little room in-between the Switch or the phone to account for a protective case.
I couldn’t use the mic with my phone since phones prior to the Galaxy Note 10 don’t support voice via USB-C and I only have a Galaxy S9+. But it worked well enough on PlayStation 4, PC, and the Switch. Unfortunately on the Switch I still had to plug the headset into my phone to access voice chat on Splatoon 2, but in my opinion I’d rather have a wireless connection to the Switch and be wired to my phone than what I’ve been doing with the Arctis 3 w/ Bluetooth, which was being wired to the Switch and wireless to my phone. Games that natively support in-game voice chat on the Switch, like Fortnite, work like a dream however – no Nintendo voice app required!
The mic quality itself is good enough – it’s the ClearCast, Discord-certified bidirectional mic with noise cancelation – but in recording myself it’s not something I could recommend in any professional context (as in don’t try to take a business-call or record a podcast with it). Without any kind of boom or filter over the mic, I noticed that all of my stop plosives were extremely loud. I had to pull the mic as far away from my mouth while still angling the mic towards me just to avoid any plosives, but at a loss in volume. Additionally, I found that the mic is sensitive enough to pick up on sounds in the earcups if the volume is too high which can cause an echo to occur for anyone listening. These are common problems that I have experienced with several different mics, so these weren’t deal-breakers for me in any stretch but it’s something I had to keep in mind when joining my friends’ parties on PS4.
If you’re a gamer on multiple platforms, or if you’re just looking for a good entry-level wireless headset, the Arctis 1 Wireless is a top recommendation – especially if you own a Nintendo Switch. However, if you only game on one specific platform or you don’t mind being tethered, I would probably suggest investing a little more to get an overall better-quality headset. For me, the Arctis 1 Wireless ticks almost every box that I’m looking for in a headset, with the additional features like a wireless dongle for the Switch and the SteelSeries Engine sound profiles as being two big cherries on top. I wish the Arctis 1 was designed more like the Arctis 3 or even the Arctis 5 with RGB lighting, and maybe one day SteelSeries will develop a higher-end version of this four-in-one wireless headset with those aesthetic features in place. Meanwhile I will be using the Arctis 1 Wireless while switching back and forth between PC and PS4 playing Borderlands 3 with my custom-EQ settings in place.