How is the new Steel Series Arctis 3?
The SteelSeries Arctis 3 with Bluetooth is also worth checking out. It’s a bit pricey, but the Bluetooth functionality adds a lot of value. The SteelSeries Arctis 7 ($150) are arguably the best wireless headphones on the market. The Arctis 5 ($100) is a great USB headset. What does the SteelSeries Arctis 3 ($80) do, a cheaper headset that only offers an analogue connection?
It’s not easy to say. The Arctis 3 is an excellent headset, offering high-quality sound for both gaming and music, as well as a comfortable fit. On the other hand, you need to go through a series of hoops to get the most out of this headset’s features, and especially for PC gamers, it’s not worth the $20 savings over its USB-enabled cousin.
If you know what the Arctis 5 and 7 are like, you should have a pretty good idea of what’s in store for the Arctis 3. The headset is a medium-sized, completely black, on-ear model with large ear pads and a flexible fabric band. Sleek and discreet in design, you can easily use Arctis 3 on a plane, train, or car without raising your eyebrows.
The left earcup houses a volume rocker and a mute button on the back, and a flexible retractable microphone on the front. There is nothing in the right ear, so I wondered if moving the volume wheel there would make more sense. However, the buttons are not overloaded, so there are no placement issues.
SteelSeries usually makes the most comfortable headphones in the industry, and the Arctis line is no exception. Like the previous models 5 and 7, the Arctis 3 is very easy to put on thanks to the flexible headband and sizeable soft ear cushions. You don’t have to struggle with intricate cutouts; just slip it on, and the headband will take care of the rest.
I handed the Arctis 3 to a colleague to see if he shared my opinion, and he almost certainly did. Since his head is more significant than mine, he noticed adjusting the headband strap. However, since the belt is Velcro-fastened and fits a variety of head shapes, the whole process only took a few seconds. He said he was particularly pleased with how light the headset was, stating that he often forgot to put it on.
A gaming headset is worthless if it doesn’t work in games, but the Arctis 3 is the best headset in its price range. I’ve tried it with Overwatch, Heroes of the Storm, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and Final Fantasy XIV on PC, as well as several mobile and PS4 games. The fonts perform well overall, with no preference for any particular type.
For console and mobile games, Arctis 3 delivers sound in predefined soundscapes. The vocals, sound effects and music are well balanced, and I find myself completely immersed in any adventure I choose, whether saving a kingdom in Final Fantasy Brave Exvius on Android or Star Trek Online on PS4 to explore new and unfamiliar worlds. On PC, I have more options thanks to SteelSeries Engine 3 software, which allows you to customize surround sound and EQ settings for PC games. Creating the right soundscape for each game takes a lot of effort, but playing Overwatch with performance-based surround sound settings and The Witcher 3 with immersive stereo helps bring out the sound design for each game. Travelling to the world of Eorzea in Final Fantasy XIV is just as effective as defeating enemies online in Heroes of the Storm.
The only problem is that you have to jump through many hoops to do this. Consider the following scenario. If you bought a SteelSeries Arctis 5 and want to adjust your audio settings, you just plug in your headphones, open the SteelSeries Engine 3 software, and head to town.
If you bought a SteelSeries Arctis 3, you need to connect it, visit the SteelSeries website, create a SteelSeries account, log into the history, enter the long product key, open the Engine 3 software, log into your account (again) and finally, adjust your Set, assuming you haven’t succumbed to the ravages of old age. I’m guessing the process is confusing because it’s so much easier to set up a USB headset, but it still doesn’t help the end-user much. If you decide to sell your Arctis 3 or give it to a family member, the process will be as complicated as possible.
Creating new profiles, linking soundscapes to games, and changing audio settings are intuitive and straightforward processes that take no time. Product registration and the required login speeds things up a bit – suppose you want to change profiles without Internet access?
The microphone is at least a high-end model, offering a rich, clear sound that puts too much emphasis on the S and P sounds. You can use it for just about any multiplayer game, but professional streamers might still need something with a little more graininess.
Music on the Arctis 3 sounds good, especially if you take the time to adjust the EQ settings first. I listened to Flogging Molly, the Old Crow Medicine Show, the Rolling Stones and G.F. Handel; the balance between music and sound is just right, though not subtle. Treble and bass are also well-balanced, and the headphones can handle all the types I’ve shown.
On the other hand, having Engine 3 software helps a lot. When listening to music on a mobile device, the sound quality is OK. As with many cheaper headphones, the vocals tend to be of very advanced quality, and while the bass isn’t terrible, you can expect to hear a lot of melodies and not too many harmonies or rhythm sections.