Steelseries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless for Xbox Review

Let’s just cut to the chase shall we? The new Steelseries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless for Xbox is the best multiplatform, wireless gaming headset that money can buy. The Arctis Nova Pro Wireless sits at the top of the newly launched Arctis Nova line that replaces the older generation. Combining exceptional comfort, stupidly good audio and the extremely handy hot-swap battery system. Add on wireless connectivity to almost every gaming console and you have yourself the undisputed king of the hill.

Now, before you can you enjoy all that, you have to get past the big, fat elephant in the store — the price. The Arctis Nova Pro Wireless for Xbox costs a whopping $749.00. I should also point out that there’s a wired version of the Arctis Nova Pro with patented GameDAC 2 that costs $499 which is a significant savings and according to rumours, sounds fantastic.

But gosh darn it, who needs fiddly wires all over the place, am I right? In this review I will attempt to convince you why the Arctis Nova Pro Wireless for Xbox is worth spending proper, next-gen-console-money on.

Steelseries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless for Xbox Review

The Arctis Nova Pro Wireless for Xbox(let’s just call it the Nova Pro from here on out) is a sequel to the very long lived Steelseries Arctis Pro and generally follows in the same spirit as that headset. It’s a wireless gaming headset with a seperate base station that handles all the connections as well as managing on-the-fly settings for the headset.

The Nova Pro has been completely redesigned and is now a very handsome piece of kit that looks right at home with premium wireless headsets from Bose or Sony. Designed in Denmark, it features premium materials such as leatherette ear cushions and PVD-Coated steel headband. It feels as premium as it looks.

Steelseries has improved on its patented floating headband design; creating what it calls the ComfortMax System. This unique headband design combines the best of traditional headband with the floating band system. Put together, it means you get that minimal pressure on top of your head but also fully swivelling and height adjustable ear cushions. This makes the Nova Pro supremely comfortable for any size and shape of head and I’ve easily spent 12 hour days wearing these with zero complaints.

The new ComfortMax headband is very comfy

And in a move that is sure to polarise fans, the ear cushions now come in pleatherette rather than the signature AirWeave fabric of the older Arctis models. While the new cushions aren’t as breathable, they are definitely gentle on the ears and have a much better passive noise seal. I’m not sure how well they will hold up in hotter conditions since I reviewed these at the height of, admittedly not the coldest, Queensland winter but I doubt they’ll be a problem for most.

One of the reasons the Nova Pro looks so posh is the minimal buttons and knobs on the headset. I suppose it’s because you can use the base station for most of your controls but in case you’re too far from it, say in your living room, then there are some basic controls on the headset. The right ear cup has a power button, volume dial and mic mute button. The microphone is a retractable boom mic that sits perfectly flush with the ear cup that you’d almost miss it if you weren’t told its there. On the left ear cup is a lone multi-function button for Bluetooth controls.

The caps on both ear cups are removable which reveals a USB Type-C port on the right ear cup and the battery compartment on the left. I often found these fiddly to remove, scuffing them each time much to my dismay. The marks would easily wipe off though so no biggie. Putting them back on is much easier since the caps have magnets that lock into place easily.

Multi-system connect

The base station controls your wired connections and headset settings

When it comes to connections, it’s the base station where most of the magic happens. You can connect to two systems through the wireless base station as well via Bluetooth in the headset itself. The base station is an extruded oblong box with a large multi-function control wheel and an OLED display on the front.

At the back are two USB Type-C ports for connecting your devices with one specially marked for Xbox. Not sure why this was necessary but I can tell you your Xbox won’t work if you don’t plug it into the correct port. Next to those are a line-in and a line-out 3.5mm port. This allows you to also use desktop speakers or any wired headset with the base station. The glutton in me wishes that the base station had four USB inputs because, why can’t I have my Xbox, PS5, Switch and PC all connected to my headset, eh? On the side is the battery charging dock where you keep your provided second battery.

Navigating the interface is easy and the bright OLED display makes reading everything a breeze. Just press and turn the control wheel to move through the menus. A smaller touch button next to the Control wheel serves as both back/ cancel button and quick mic mute. Interestingly, you can also use the volume dial on the headset in pretty much the same way to navigate the menus. This is especially handy if you use the Nova Pro in a living room setup and don’t want to get up to go to your cabinet.

Connecting the headset was an absolute breeze. Plug in your devices and it just works. Pairing with Bluetooth was similarly trouble free. One thing I found really unique about the Nova Pro was that beyond supporting simultaneous wireless and Bluetooth, you can also run the headset in Bluetooth only without turning on the wireless radio bits and thus extend your battery life.

One-two punch Battery life

Not that battery life on the Nova Pro is a problem — quite the opposite actually. The Infinity Power system as Steelseries calls it allows the Nova Pro to hot-swap batteries without turning the headset off. So while you are using one battery, the other charges inside the base station. When you get the battery low warning via a beep in the headset and flashing indicator on the base station, simply popoff the ear cup cover, pull out the battery and swap it for the other and get back to whatever you were doing without a fuss.

Each battery will average about 22 hours or so depending on whether you are using ANC, Bluetooth or both. In my case, I kept ANC on and had to swap out the battery about every third day. That’s a minimum of 9-hours each day. But the infinity power system essentially makes battery concerns inconsequential. It’s an absolutely fantastic system and I can’t imagine a better option other than wireless charging.

In case you somehow don’t have the second battery handy, you can always charge the headset the old-school way using the USB Type-C port on the left ear cup but that is possibly one the worst implementations I’ve seen on a gorgeous device since the Apple Magic Mouse. Either way, I doubt anyone will complain about the battery life of the Nova Pro.

Almighty Audio

The controls are tactile and intuitive

Yes, it’s rather ridiculous marketing jargon but it really isn’t far from the truth. The Nova Pro are the best sounding wireless headsets I’ve ever had the pleasure of setting upon my noggin. They are so good that I can hardly distinguish the differences when compared to my studio grade, elitist, Beyerdynamic DT 900 Pro X which have been my gold standard ever since I got them.

It’s impressive what Steelseries have been able to do with the 40mm Hi Fidelity drivers. No other gaming headset has matched the Nova Pro’s ability to be simultaneously intimate and expansive. Right out of the box I was impressed by the noticeably more substantial bass response compared to the older Arctis headsets which were typically anaemic in that area. The Nova Pro had me bopping my head to beats immediately.

Things get even better when you use the excellent Steelseries Sonar software (exclusive to Windows machines) that the Nova Pro becomes a whole new beast. Sonar gives an impressive range of customisation to EQ’s, bass, treble and gain and when you flick the switch to activate 360 Spatial audio, oh boy.

The Nova Pro has expertly tuned drivers that are able to produce a surprisingly convincing depth, separation and positional accuracy that can handle the enhancements from Sonar without distortion and odd reverberation typical with virtual surround emulation. Sonar also allows you to choose between headphone or speaker surround emulation including how close they virtually are to you. Playing around with these controls allowed me to create an almost live theater vibe with my music which made listening to the LoTR: Rings of Power soundtrack even more epic.

Steelseries Sonar is impressive in power and scope

However, I can’t say that the spatial audio made games sound more realistic or anything. Since I primarily play single player, atmospheric games like Red Dead Redemption 2 or Assassins Creed Valhalla, I really enjoyed the expansiveness the Nova Pro brought to my games. If you have a PlayStation 5, the Nova Pro will work with Sony’s Tempest 3D Audio as well which should be delightful.

For competitive shooters, you’re better off turning off the spatial sound and using one of the many, games-specific EQ’s so you can hear and track those footsteps even better. Overall, the Nova Pro is excellent in positional tracking and movement and running around frantically in Destiny 2 Crucible, I could easily tell the direction of a Guardian Super activating or footsteps rushing around a corner. It’s very good indeed.

It’s just a shame that the effects of Sonar last only while the software is running. I wish Steelseries could somehow save these settings to the base station so you can use them with non-Windows devices after the fact.

Game in silent bliss

New to the Arctis Nova Pro Wireless is the inclusion of Active Noise Cancellation and it’s twin, Transparency Mode. Think of it more like a gently noise suppressor rather than cancellation. This isn’t industry leading ANC like you’ll get from the excellent Sony WH-1000XM4 but it’s good enough to dampen the incessant fan noise from a gaming laptop doing its best jet engine impersonation. The Nova Pro will greatly reduce noise from white noise sources such as fans, fridges, AC units and washing machines. But don’t expect to completely drown out your surrounds like you would with Sony’s. I also doubt taking these on a flight would do much good but its good enough to allow you to focus more on your game audio.

Transparency mode does the opposite of ANC and let’s in surrounding sounds like voices or PA announcements into your ears so you don’t have to stop playing your game or remove your headset to hear what someone is saying. It’s works well enough and it’s a nice to have for parents who want to enjoy their game while still being able to ear if the baby wakes up. But you could also just use an open back headset for that too.

Honestly, I wouldn’t say that ANC is a compelling reason to buy this headset. It’s a nice addition but certainly not good enough that I would have preferred a cheaper model without it.

Microphone with a side of AI

The microphone is a retractable flexible boom arm that blends nicely with the rest of the headset

The last thing I want to touch on is the microphone on the Nova Pro. The retractable and flexible boom mic is a second generation ClearCast, now with the aid of AI noise cancelling. It’s fine, nothing really to write home about. It captures my voice with good clarity but also sounds largely cold and digital in the way cheaper gaming headsets would sound.

Given the premium nature of these cans and AI, I expected much better. In fact, I expected a beam forming microphone like the Asus ROG Delta S which not only sounds amazing but eschews the fiddly nature of pulling and retracting a boom arm. This would also make using the Nova Pro for phone calls when out and about a lot less dorky looking.

There are some mic controls in Sonar to tune the mic audio and noise cancellation but all the software processing just introduced more artifacts and distortion that made it sound far worse. You are better off running it clean which is exactly how you’ll be running it on console and Bluetooth.

Should you buy it?

Absolutely, yes. The Steelseries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless for Xbox is without a doubt the best, multi-platform wireless gaming headset money can buy by a mile. There’s quite literally nothing out there like it and I can’t overstate how impressive they sound and feel to wear. Throw in that base station, the hot-swap battery system and Sonar software and you have a legend.

And whatever you do, absolutely do not buy the Arctis Nova Pro Wireless for PlayStation as that won’t work with Xbox consoles while this one works with everything. It’s a marketing shenanigan that I find completely dishonest and there’s no need to fan the flames of pointless fanboyism. There really should be just one Nova Pro Wireless.

While the $750 price tag is really high, this is one time when I think it’s absolutely worth it. However, for those on a much more realistic budget, the new $300 Arctis Nova 7X has the same multi-platform capability as this headset but swaps out the base station for fancy USB dongle that can switch between Xbox and everything else. I doubt it sounds as good as the Nova Pro but it will get the job done nicely.

If you are a gaming audiophile, the cheaper Nova Pro with GameDAC Gen2 is also a great option but ultimately, the Nova Pro Wireless remains the best of the best that Steelseries has to offer.

Steelseries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless for Xbox Review
LIKES
Phenomenal audio performance
Supreme all day comfort
Fantastic hot-swap battery system
ANC is a nice bonus
Impressive connectivity
Base station
Impressive array of controls and tweaks
Impressive spatial audio
DISLIKES
Obscenely expensive
There really shouldn't be a "PlayStation version'
Microphone is lackluster
ANC isn't much to write home about
10
Almighty audio indeed

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Kizito Katawonga
Kizito Katawongahttp://www.medium.com/@katawonga
Kizzy is our Tech Editor. He's a total nerd with design sensibilities who's always on the hunt for the latest, greatest and sexiest tech that enhances our work and play. When he's not testing the latest gadgets or trying to listen to his three whirlwind daughters, Kizzy likes to sink deep into a good story-driven single player game.

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