SteelSeries Arctis 9 Wireless Gaming Headset Review | IGN

If you saw our review of last year’s SteelSeries Arctis 9X and were bummed that the wireless gaming headset was designed for the Xbox One and you aren’t on Team Green, then the SteelSeries Arctis 9 Wireless is for you. This wireless headset offers 2.4GHz wireless connectivity for PC and PlayStation gamers along with simultaneous Bluetooth for listening to music or making phone calls. And with steel construction, plush cushioning, and ski-goggle headband, the Arctis 9 Wireless boasts the build quality and comfort we’ve come to expect from SteelSeries. Does this pricey $199.99 dual wireless headset deliver the sound to make it a top headset for gamers?

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SteelSeries Arctis 9 Wireless – Design & Features

With its ski-goggle headband and large, oval earcups, the Arctis 9 looks and feels like previous SteelSeries efforts. The gaming headset has an understated look that lends some versatility; it looks equally at home in front of your gaming PC or PS4 as well as on the move connected to your phone. It avoids obvious gamer design flourishes in favor of a nearly all-black look. The earcups feature matte black surfaces, and the cloth headband is black with thin, white accents.

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If you are looking for colorful, pulsing RGB lighting, you’ll need to look elsewhere. The only lights on the Arctis 9 serve a function rather than simply adorning the form. A small LED indicator on the right earcup blinks white when connected wirelessly and blue when connected via Bluetooth (and alternates white and blue when connected to both).

When charging, the LED glows green when the headset has more than half of its battery life remaining. It glows yellow when it’s between 20% and 50% and red when it’s between 10% and 20%. When there’s less than 10% battery life remaining, it blinks red. There’s also an LED light on the retractable microphone that glows red when the mic is muted.

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The Arctis 9 Wireless connects to your PC or PlayStation via a USB wireless transmitter. The headset and transmitter come paired out of the box, but I needed to update the firmware from each after installing the SteelSeries Engine software. Even with a firmware update, I was updated and up and running in less than five minutes.

The wireless transmitter has a switch on its underside to toggle between PC and PlayStation use. (The headset works with PS4 and will work with the PS5 at launch.) The Arctis 9 Wireless can also be used with a Nintendo Switch in docked mode.

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At 13.4 ounces, the Arctis 9 Wireless is a heavy headset but feels lighter than it is thanks to the ski-goggle strap that creates a suspension feeling that prevents the metal headband from pressing down on the top of your head. There’s a Velcro fastener on the end of the ski-goggle strap that provides a minimal amount of size adjustment, but this large-headed reviewer had no trouble finding a comfortable fit.

The large, oval earcups are heavily padded, and the padding is covered in a soft, breathable fabric. Their large size minimizes the odds that your ear will be pinched against your headset and will likely fit inside the earcup. While comfort is top-notch, the large earcups tend to get warm over long stretches.

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Most of the controls are located on the back of the right earcup, where you’ll find a volume dial, microphone mute button, power button and Bluetooth button. Below the buttons on the right earcup is a micro-USB port for charging along with a 3.5mm jack to share audio with another headset.

The retractable mic sits on the front of the left earcup and a ChatMix dial is around the back that lets you adjust the volume between game and chat audio.

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With the SteelSeries Engine app, you can customize a few settings when the Arctis 9 Wireless is connected via the USB charging cable to your PC. The software is easy to use in large part because the software supplies a limited amount of customization. You can tweak the audio presets and the microphone volume and sidetone levels. You can enable 7.1 virtual surround sound via DTS Headphone:X v2.0 and select from among three surround sound profiles: Game, Studio, and Cinema. You can also set the headset to connect via Bluetooth when it’s powered on and set the headset to turn itself off after sitting idle for a period of time to save battery power. The headset is rated for 20 hours of continuous use.

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SteelSeries Arctis 9 Wireless – Performance

To test the Arctis 9 Wireless, I played Call of Duty: WWII, CS:GO, and Fortnite on the PC and listened to music on the Spotify iOS app. The first thing I noticed was how big the sound field felt. With 7.1 sound enabled, I could not only hear from which direction teammates and enemies were approaching but also how far away there were. Sound effects gained in volume and detail as gun battles grew closer. Game audio was dynamic and well balanced, with powerful bass, strong mids and clear high tones. Large explosions felt concussive and dialogue between characters sounded crisp and clear.

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The big bass response helped games sound and feel realistic and also aided music playback. From the booming bass from DMX’s anthem, X Goin’ Give It To Ya to the clean picking on Billy String’s Taking Water, the Arctis 9 Wireless handles everything from rap to bluegrass with ease. Despite the strong bass response, I wouldn’t call the Arctis 9 Wireless bass heavy like so many other gaming headsets because it does an admirable job of separating the lows from the mids and the mids from the highs.

To test the microphone, I made a voice recording. The recording sounded accurate and clear but failed to separate my voice from ambient noise as effectively as the Blue mic of the Logitech G Pro X.

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SteelSeries Arctis 9 Wireless – Purchasing Guide

The SteelSeries Arctis 9 Wireless is available direct from SteelSeries for $199.99.
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