Happy Friday everyone! Instead of the usual Lgndary Thought, I have something a little bit different today. A review for the Steelseries Arctis 3 Bluetooth Headset! Steelseries was kind enough to send me a pair for review, as well as an unboxing video that is posted further down the site. They also provided the images used in this review. If you have any questions, feel free to say something in the comments. Otherwise, I hope you enjoy!
INTRO - The Arctis 3 Bluetooth headset was made specifically with gamers in mind, and I would go so far to say that an extra step was taken for those that play on console. It is lacking in features that some might expect from a $130 pair of headphones, but after using them heavily for the past week, I believe the tradeoff is well worth it.
HARDWARE - Before getting into the actual review, I’ll talk a bit about the hardware. The right earpiece includes the power button, which has a built-in LED that conveniently displays the battery level.
The left earpiece houses everything else. That includes: the micro usb charging port, a “main” port for the various cables that come included, the extendable microphone, and a microphone mute button. A 3.5mm headphone jack is also included so that audio can be shared to another headset.
A volume wheel is also present on the left earpiece; something my ears drastically prefer over buttons as it allows for volume control without the need to actually be listening to anything. So goodbye blasting my ears out starting my music at full volume by accident!
BUILD - You’ll also be pleased to know that the Arctis 3 headset comes in a moderately sturdy design that doesn’t creak or look cheap. It is still made of plastic, but hard rubber accents give it a great feel and look. Additionally, the padded earpieces are so soft that I am tempted to craft a pillow from their plushy goodness. After multiple 3-hour gaming sessions, my ears didn’t get too hot, and I could hardly tell that I was even wearing them.
Their general sturdiness does come at the cost of mobility, though. While each earpiece does rotate, allowing for the headset to be placed flat, they aren’t transformers that fold up for easy travel. I prefer the sturdiness, but know portability is important to many, so keep this in mind if you travel a lot.
FEATURES - For console gamers like myself, the Arctis 3 Bluetooth might have the most useful feature I’ve ever seen in a headset: dual audio. This feature allows the headset to output audio from two separate sources: one from a standard 3.5mm jack, and another over Bluetooth. This means that players can listen to their game audio, as well as voice chat over Discord, Teamspeak, etc. at the same time. This may not seem like a must-have feature for PS4 players that primarily use the built in party chat, but it is invaluable if you enjoy PS4/PC cross play titles, or game on the Switch.
Unfortunately, as the joy-cons and pro controller don’t include have a headphone jack, dual audio will not work when playing in console mode on the Switch. It should work with a long enough 3.5mm extension cable, but I don’t think the hassle would be worth it.
Having said that, I’ve used it for a combined 10 hours so far to chat over Discord with Splatoon 2 and Final Fantasy XIV teammates, and I honestly don’t think I could ever go back to using two separate headphones to achieve the same effect again.
Surround sound, however, should have been handled better. To be clear, The Arctis 3 headset is capable of 7.1 surround sound, but only with Windows computers. As someone who will be using them almost exclusively for my PS4 and Switch, Windows compatibility does me no good. Furthermore, as a Mac user, I couldn’t even test the surround sound.
If you use a Windows PC to play games, then surround sound would be something to look forward to. But if you plan on gaming with a PS4 or Switch, which seems to be the primary target for these headsets, you are out of luck.
PERFORMANCE - The biggest problem I had with the Arctis 3s would be the microphone. Despite being called the “Clear Cast” mic, it is actually everything but. On my first raid night using it, every single one of my teammates complained that they could barely hear me. I assumed I had not set it up properly, so I looked into my settings, reread the manual, and even contacted Steelseries for help. But nothing worked. Other Arctis headsets have customizable settings that would have easily solved my problem, but not the Arctis 3.
Luckily, Discord has the option to turn up other users’ volumes individually, so it wasn’t a big deal in the end. But I don’t like needing a 3rd party solution for a $130 set of headphones, especially ones specifically built with gamers in mind.
As far as non-gaming uses go, I was actually modestly impressed when using them for music. I’m sure there are better sounding headphones out there, but the Arctis 3 provides great performance for its price point. Music outputs clearly, with no static or distortion at high volume levels. The soundproofing is excellent too. For example, I could hardly hear the vacuum going while cleaning my apartment, and even forgot that it was still running until turning my music off.
CONCLUSION - The Arctis 3 Bluetooth headset isn’t perfect. A weak microphone and lack of on-board settings keeps them from true greatness. But the comfort, build quality, and dual audio feature more than make up for its shortcomings. Going forward, I truly can’t imagine using anything else, and would strongly recommend them to any gamer that likes chatting with friends while they game.