Looking for a new headset? If you are a hardware enthusiast, we can relate to how much time you’ve probably spent sifting through dozens of products just to narrow it down to two or three. That alone is hard enough, but what if you’re actually on a really tight budget as well?
PRODUCT INFO Steel Series Arctis 1 Wired Gaming Headset Manufacture SteelSeries Available at View at Amazon
Well, there’s good news and there’s bad news. If you’re stuck with a limited budget and can’t spend a dollar more, you will obviously be settling for some compromises.
So it seems nearly impossible to find a great headset on a really tight budget of, let’s say, $50. That’s not an insane amount of money, but you’re probably not expecting much, are you? Well, that’s the bad news part done.
The good news is there’s always a needle in the haystack, a hidden gem if you will. The headset we have on our hands today promises to be a prime example of this. The spotlight is on the SteelSeries Arctis 1 Wired Gaming Headset.
I doubt I need to bore you with the countless accomplishments SteelSeries has achieved over the years. This company has been making peripherals for a long time, so although I wasn’t expecting much, I didn’t expect to be disappointed either. So does the Arctis 1 hold up to that legacy? Let’s find out.
The Unboxing Experience
When I first got the box on hand, I was actually pretty excited to open it up immediately. It’s not a boring black box with just a large logo on it. Instead, the whole box has this white and orange theme going on, for some reason. Personally, I think it’s pretty refreshing, compared to all those eyesore boxes out there. So far, it looks clean and minimal.
The front of the box has a picture of the headset along with the SteelSeries logo at the upper left corner. Right at the top, it says “from the makers of the best gaming headset”. They’re really proud of their achievements with their higher-end headsets. This is pretty apparent because the right side of the box shows all of the acclaims their products have gotten from various review sites. The left side shows the specs.
The backside of the box proudly showcases all the features this headset possesses. It proclaims that you can use it on nearly any platform, it’s portable size, the robust steel re-enforced headband, and the discord certified microphone. It might be their lower-end headset, but they didn’t skimp out on overall quality apparently.
The contents inside the box are just the headset, removable-microphone and a splitter cable for a mic. The mic is neatly tucked away in its own slot, and there are bits of plastic protecting the headphone, which is always satisfying to peel off.
Design And Build Quality
With the unboxing through with, let’s got on to the actual details. When I first pulled the headset out and got it in my hands, I was suprised by the lightweight design of it. I think I misjudged it a bit, because of the robust steel headband and “Air-Weave Ear Cushions”, I was expecting to have a bit more heft to it. Anyway, the lightweight design does make it a portable package.
Moving on to the aesthetics, I like the overall clean look they went for here. It’s very similar to their Arctis 3 headset, so you don’t feel like you bought something “cheap”. Both earcups have the Steelseries logo on either side. I like the shape of the earcups, it’s a unique shape for sure. Overall, the design is clean and minimal, which I really like.
Let’s have a quick look around before we get into build quality. The left earcup has a volume rocker, and mic on/off switch. Personally I think the placement could have been a bit better, but its nothing to bad. The mic is detachable, which we’ll talk more of later.
After admiring the headset for what it was, I tried it on. Their “Air-Weave Ear Cushions” are very popular for their comfort, and I was not let down. The overall build quality is quite good. The steel headband is pretty satisfying, and the sliding mechanism for adjustments is pretty satisfying. Obviously, I wouldn’t recommend throwing this headset around too much, even for its sturdy build.
However, the cable feels a bit flimsy. Rubber cables can be a mess at times, they tangle up quite easily. At least it has ample length.
Overall I do like the design and build quality of the headset. Since the mic is detachable, you can wear it outside as well without standing out.
I’m positive that comfort is the main reason why the Arctis lineup is so popular. They use a different kind of padding compared to their rivals. While everyone out there is using leather ear cushions, SteelSeries is using a cloth type surface. They proclaim these as “Air-weave cushions”. Honestly, I couldn’t give a name better than that myself. I absolutely love the quality of the padding and how it feels. It’s a nice change coming from all those leather ear pads. It feels pretty good and hey, they don’t look bad either.
Initially, I was enjoying my time with this headset. The padding is quite enjoyable, so I used it for hours on end. I can see why everyone raves about their ear cushions. I didn’t notice a whole lot of fatigue after hours of use either. There wasn’t any irritation either, and due to the material of the padding, they don’t wear off due to sweat either.
The Arctis 1 uses a steel slider with rigid notches to find a perfect fit. The slider is very satisfying, and it doesn’t slip off at all, although finding the right fit takes a bit of time. It does take quite a while, because the clamping force is a bit more than other headsets, but once you do find the perfect fit, it’s really comfortable. The headband up top also has a soft leather padding, so there isn’t a lot of pressure in that area.
Overall, comfort was pretty decent. After a few hours of Netflix and some gaming, I left feeling quite satisfied all in all.
Sound Quality – Music and Gaming
So far so good. In my opinion, there are five pillars to making the perfect gaming headset. These include design, comfort, sound quality, mic quality, and overall value. But the audio quality is definitely what people argue about the most, and that’s what sets certain headsets apart
So because of the name, and since I am a fan of their products, I was expecting good stuff from Steelseries. Let’s see if that were the case.
Before I move on there is one thing you should keep in mind. Make sure your cable doesn’t get tangled up a whole lot because the headset does pick up the slight rustling sound it makes. Not a major issue, since this is a budget headset, but something I did notice.
Since this is a headset, most people will obviously be buying this for gaming. Overall, the Arctis 1 has a pretty simple neutral sound signature. The mids sound pretty decent, and the treble or higher frequencies aren’t all that bad either. Overall sound quality is quite clear, I didn’t have any trouble discerning between different frequencies.
Now, what most competitive gamers look for in a headset is directional audio and a lot of bass. Well in terms of directional audio separation, there isn’t really a lot of it here. Sure I can determine the basic stuff, but I can never know exactly where an enemy is coming from. Maybe this is because there is quite an emphasis on bass, which some people will like. With a bit of tuning, however, from a third party equalizer, you can get better directional audio.
Moving on, I am someone who prefers a natural and reference sound. I like to hear stuff the way it is made, but even then I do like some bass when I’m gaming. Well, it seems they somehow ended up pleasing me after all. Although sometimes other frequencies can take a hit, the bass is really punchy and it’s definitely there.
I played a bit of Uncharted 4 on my PS4, and the headset performed very well. I mention this because some headsets lose their quality with the PS4, maybe it’s because Sony uses a cheaper DAC on the Dualshock 4. Anyway, explosions, gunshots, and vocals were all loud and present during my gameplay. I’d give it a solid thumbs up for gaming.
What’s It Like For Music?
The headset is definitely marketed as a gaming headset. As if it wasn’t apparent enough already, keep in mind that this is a budget gaming headset. So I wasn’t exactly expecting a lot as an avid music listener. But I wasn’t let down too much either.
The listening experience on this headset actually isn’t too shabby. I enjoy a lot of different genres, from bass-heavy hip hop to some soothing jazz. So I tried a lot of stuff to really discern how the audio quality actually is. These were my thoughts.
For mostly hip-hop and bass heavy music, these are absolutely exceptional. Vocals are loud, and there is quite a bit of punch when the drums come on. The higher frequencies aren’t all that bad either, it picked up higher-pitched female vocals pretty well.
I like to use tracks from Pink Floyd when testing out headphones because they have a lot of instrumentals. If you’re a fan of that kind of music, these are not good. But that’s being a bit harsh, these aren’t audiophile headphones by any means, and they aren’t supposed to be.
For a lot of people, I think the audio quality is going to be more than fine. It’s always pleasing when a budget headset performs well in audio.
The main reason you buy a headset in the first place, is because you need a microphone for communication. If that weren’t the case, everyone would be be buying basic headphones. So sometimes, it can really make or break the whole situation. Although the mic on here isn’t exactly the best, it doesn’t really disappoint either.
It does pick up a bit of the background noise, and sometimes there can be a bit of distortion, but when you’re talking directly into it, it’s good enough. The vocals don’t sound nasily or supressed in any way, they come out clear as crystal. I wouldn’t use it for streaming, but the quality is pretty good for discord and in-game chat.
However, other headsets at this price do have a better microphone. The HyperX Cloud Stinger has a phenomenal microphone for the price and the Razer Kraken X has a strong mic as well. But unless you’re really putting them against each other, it’s not a huge deal.
Overall, I quite enjoyed my time with the Arctis 1, and I wouldn’t say I found a lot of major flaws. It’s pretty comfortable, the headband is robust, and the microphone is quite good as well. It’s definitely not a bad headset, but there is a catch.
The $50 price point has become a competitive place. There are a lot of headsets around at this price range these days. The HyperX Cloud Stingers have better audio for both music and gaming, while the Kraken X from Razer looks better and is even lighter. Not to mention there is also the Corsair HS50, which is cheaper and holds great value overall because of its unique sound signature.
And for just a bit more money, you can get the Steelseries Arctis 3, which has even better overall quality than the Arctis 1. Arctis 1 is not a difficult recommendation, especially if you are a loyal fan. But it does struggle a bit to find it’s place because of its price tag. In the realm of many outstanding $50 headsets, the Arctis 1 just couldn’t compete with them, I repeat. If only it was priced under 40 bucks, I see my self recommending these to anyone any day.
SteelSeries Arctis 1 Wired Gaming Headset
- Stealthy design
- Air-weave ear cushions
- Decent Microphone
- Competitors have better audio
- Design might be generic for some
Frequency Response: 20–20000 Hz | Impedance: 32 Ω @ 1kHz | Drivers: 50 mm Neodymium magnets | Connection Type: 3.5mm analog | Weight: 280.66g
VERDICT:The SteelSeries Arctis 1 definitely has a lot of potential in it. If it had even better audio quality it would be an A+ product. If it was priced a tad lower, we'd have zero complaints.