Delivering an aesthetic audio experience at a budget entry-point, explore SteelSeries’ balance between quality and price in our Arctis Nova 1 review.
Audio is a key component of in-game immersion, and something we consider incredibly important here at Qualbert. In our previous review for the Arctis Nova Pro, we touched on gaming headsets and the difficulty in finding the right model to suit your needs. With literally hundreds of options available, the choice can be truly overwhelming, especially when factoring cost into the equation.
The Arctis Nova Pro and its GameDAC peripheral, arguably one of the best headsets on the market.
Following up on their impressive flagship model, SteelSeries unveiled several new headsets catered towards gamers needing several different price brackets but still seeking uncompromised audio. Today we’ll take a look at the Arctis Nova 1, the entry point in the SteelSeries gaming headset range ($139AUD/$149NZD) that aims to cut costs while still delivering satisfying audio fidelity. So does it achieve this balance? Find out in our Arctis Nova 1 review.
Sleek, minimalist, and matte – the Nova 1 offers a no-frills aesthetic to suit any setup. The sturdy headband and rotating earcups feel durable despite their light weight, and are certainly visually pleasing for a headset in a lower price bracket. Aiming to provide maximum comfort during extended use through memory foam cushions and weighing in at only 236g, the Arctis Nova 1 is a featherweight compared to its heavier, similarly-specced alternatives (e.g., the PlayStation INZONE H3 wired headset at 299g).
Unlike most other headsets that opt for cushioning at the top of the headset, the Arctis series instead include an adjustable fabric suspension band that comfortably elevates the headset above the user’s head and disperse the weight accordingly. It’s a feature that takes no time at all to adjust to, and most users will come to prefer this design the the traditional cushioning support of other headsets.
Lastly, nestled within the left earcup is a fully-retractable noise-cancelling bi-directional microphone that’s sensitive enough for chat, while managing to cut out most unnecessary background audio. The rear of the unit also includes a volume wheel for quick access, and a mic mute button that can be toggled on and off. Having these features easily accessible seems to be the standard among most headsets, and thankfully the Nova 1 follows suit.
The most important aspect of any headset experience – does the Arctis Nova 1 achieve an audio quality beyond its entry-level price?
SteelSeries boast their new Nova Acoustic System through this latest range of headsets – but how does this term actually translate into an immersive user experience? This is achieved through the unit’s proprietary 40mm high fidelity drivers, which deliver spatial audio and are thankfully compatible with PS5’s 3D Tempest audio engine and Microsoft Spatial sound. Having this feature makes all the difference when playing tense games like The Last of Us Part I or Resident Evil Village, where enemy directions can be pinpointed based on audio alone.
Having tested the headset throughout a variety of different games, and across media like music and TV shows, it was obvious that this was still an entry level headset. Audio clarity throughout mids and highs is crisp and clean, but the headset naturally lacks the punchy bass of its more costly counterparts. For users planning on purchasing this headset primarily for in-game audio and online multiplayer across console and PC, the Nova 1 well and truly delivers an adequate sound. Though if seeking a headset to use across mediums or wanting the most impactful immersion, it may be worth considering a higher price bracket.
Fully customise your soundscape when using the Arctis Nova 1 on PC.
For PC users, to compensate for some drawbacks in the cheaper mheadsets, SteelSeries provide free access to their very own powerful equaliser software, Steelseries GG. Players may fully customise their audio experience catered towards each game, and doing so massively improves the audio soundscape, helping bass feel more earthy and delivering punchier sound effects especially during action games. This software enhances the Arctis Nova 1 considerably, but is only available when used on PC, so console players won’t be able to get the most out of the headset.
Simplicity is key to the Arctis Nova 1, as this headset is about as user-friendly as they come. Featuring the tried and true 3.5mm jack, the headset is immediately compatible with any platform: Xbox Series X, PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch, or PC. If you can name it and it’s got a headphone jack, it works. Even despite the presence of cords, there’s something satisfying about not having to worry about batteries or Bluetooth connectivity. Though this can also be a drawback – if looking for a multipurpose headset to use with a TV or mobile phone, chances are these devices will rely entirely on Bluetooth, so choose wisely based on your needs.
Old faithful. I still love the 3.5mm jack even though my phone doesn’t.
Comfort is also a huge factor that’s too often overlooked when choosing a headset. If you’re going to be wearing a headset for hours on end, it had better be comfortable, or the experience quickly goes from immersive to invasive. The Arctis Nova 1 treads a fine line between the two. With its tension band and memory foam earcups, short sessions feel effortless, which may even leave the user to forget they’re even using a headset. Though after extended sessions of 2+ hours, the clasping pressure can begin to feel excessive, and did cause some slight discomfort with continued use. It’s certainly not a deal-breaker, but players with melon-sized heads (like myself) may find themselves needing to remove the headset for short periods.
There is no one-size-fits-all headset, but SteelSeries new Arctis range offer a variety of choices to suit the demands (and budgets) of almost every single user. For users seeking an entry-level headset that still delivers adequate sound, comfort, and compatibility, the Arctis Nova 1 is an excellent choice. With only some minor drawbacks to bass and extended use – the overall audio and user experience well and truly outweigh the negatives, especially for PC users or players wanting no-frills plug and play compatibility. So if you don’t already have a decent gaming headset and not sure where to start, the Arctis Nova 1 may be the ideal entry point.
So, why should you buy it?
- Sleek and minimalist aesthetic suitable to most setups.
- Quality 3D audio at a very reasonable price bracket.
- Lightweight, durable, and comfortable design.
- Simple plug-and-play compatibility.
- Added customisation for PC users.
But why shouldn’t you buy it?
- Lacking the earthy bass of higher-priced headsets.
- Console users miss out on powerful customisation.
- Got a large head? Long sessions may require breaks.
A review unit of the Arctis Nova 1 was kindly provided by SteelSeries AUNZ for the purpose of this review.
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