Landing in the middle of SteelSeries’ Arctis headset lineup with a $100 MSRP, the SteelSeries Arctis Prime is built for eSports gamers who want a finely tuned experience that they don’t have to mess with. It has the same snug fit and Hi-Res audio capabilities as their more expensive headset in the lineup, such as the SteelSeries Arctis Pro ($180 MSRP), and please players looking for something premium, yet uncomplicated.
However, many features familiar to gamers familiar with the Arctis line have been left on the cutting room floor in favor of a more streamlined experience. That includes bonuses like a ChatMix dial or the option to connect to your PC via USB.
SteelSeries Arctis Prime Specifications
|Driver type:||40mm neodymium|
|Frequency Response||Speakers: 10 – 40,000 Hz|
|Microphone: 100-10,000 Hz|
|Microphone Type:||Bi-directional noise cancellation, retractable|
|Connectivity||3.5mm cable (single TRRS and split TRS)|
|Cables||6 feet (2 m) detachable 3.5mm cable|
|Weight (with microphone)||0.78 lb (348 g)|
Design and comfort
The Arctis Prime is the latest addition to SteelSeries’ legendary Arctis line, offering a simplified take on what gamers have come to expect from this family of headsets. The headset is finished in an attractive matte, stealth black with the SteelSeries logo prominently displayed in gray on each earcup. The mainstays of the Arctis line, such as the retractable microphone and the mute and volume controls on the ear cup, are echoed here. At the top of the Arctis line are the steel headband, Velcro adjustable suspension system and drivers capable of delivering Hi-Res audio. The Arctis line is known for providing gamers with a solid array of connectivity options, but the Prime only opts for 3.5mm and offers cabling with a single TRRS connector and a split adapter with dual TRS connectors.
The depth of the pinna is substantial and provides a snug fit over the ear during long gaming sessions that doesn’t press the ears uncomfortably against the drivers. The synthetic leather cushioning provided sufficient padding and also remained breathable. The ear cups also provided excellent isolation from outside noise, reducing ambient noise to a whisper.
The aluminum and steel headband worn by the Arctis Prime is robust, provides even weight distribution across both ear cups, and works well with the adjustable Velcro suspension. Compared to other wired headsets, the Arctis Prime is 0.8 pounds, while the epic H3 is 0.6 pounds, and the Asus ROG Delta Swhich also supports Hi-Res costs £0.7.
During my time with the Arctis Prime, I found it quite comfortable for long play sessions, and it required little adjustment, despite my oversized noggin. The headset has a firm grip but is not uncomfortably tight. There was little slip, despite the somewhat fragile appearance of the inner tube.
The headset controls, located on the left earcup, were easy to reach mid-game. The volume wheel is on the bottom and the microphone on/off button is just above the wheel. The microphone button has a subtly textured feel, so it’s easy to find by touching it.
The Arctis Prime has the same 40mm neodymium drivers that support Hi-Res as the more expensive Arctis Pro. Our review focus can reproduce an impressively wide frequency range (10 – 40,000 Hz) and can be easily turned to maximum volume. During my testing, I never noticed any distortion, even at high volume levels. Audio remained crisp and clear when the Arctis Prime was pressed.
While the sound quality and stability of the Arctis Prime is commendable, the intonation isn’t ideal for all usage situations. Rather than a flat EQ curve, the Arctis Prime is voiced in a way that’s a lot more boasted than I’d like. Mid frequencies are emphasized less in favor of a rich bottom end, and highs are boosted to provide more bite and clarity. Of course, this is usually fine if you’re only going to be using the Arctis Prime for gaming.
The improved sound quality and wide frequency range bring out great detail in game audio mixes, making the footsteps of opponents in competitive titles, such as CS:GO, clearly audible amid the chaos of battle. This aural clarity also proved beneficial in solo FPS titles, such as Doom: Eternal, helping to understand the battlefield at its most frenetic. Unfortunately, with a lot of bass, the EQ can make it difficult to hear the dialogue about other elements of the mix in some titles, such as Bioshock Infinite.
But for $100, you’ll probably want to use the headset to listen to music too, and in that case, the headset’s Hi-Res performance was a little underwhelming at times. This was especially true when using 96 kHz/32-bit .WAV mixes that use a wide tonal palette. Tighter, more compressed mixes, like Dr Dre’s classic ‘The Chronic’, sounded great, but more complex soundscapes, like Opeth’s ‘Blackwater Park’, seemed to have a bit of life and came across more two-dimensional than intended.
Movies generally outperformed, with my favorite test scenes (The Battle of Helm’s Deep in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and the Omaha Beach scene in Saving Private Ryan) really brought to life by the well-tuned drivers of the Arctic Prime. At times, however, the boosted bottom edge made the dialogue a little hard to discern. This is another situation where a flatter EQ curve would have made a world of difference. At busier auditory moments, the Arctis Prime’s powerful bass response can negate the subtlety. It is worth noting that the audio tracks for the mentioned BluRay movies are not Hi-Res (48 kHz/16-bit, while Hi-Res must be at least 48 kHz/24-bit, while the audio files used for testing have a speech problem which is present in all audio formats.
The Arctis Prime headset comes with the same bi-directional microphone as in the Arctis series. Dubbed ClearCast, the boom microphone has noise cancellation and a frequency response of 100-10,000 Hz with a sensitivity of -38 dBV/Pa.
Crisp and clear, the microphone captures and reproduces a solid reproduction of voice without the harsh, nasal and hissing characteristics of many competing gaming mics. Noise cancellation is above average, but the microphone occasionally picked up some ambient noise.
The real niggles here, though, are the lack of SideTone, or microphone monitoring that lets you control how much of your voice you can hear, and ChatMix, which helps you balance the sound of your teammates and the actual game. Both are real stars of the more expensive Arctis headsets (Arctis 5 and above), so it’s disappointing that neither is available here. The Arctis Prime offers a very good gaming audio experience right out of the box without complicating things, but at times it seems like a misguided decision to reduce features for simplicity.
There’s also no software component that complements the Arctis Prime, so you’ll have to like the settings as they are. Personally, I’d prefer a flatter EQ curve that works more universally in all use cases or, failing that, the ability to make changes and save presets with SteelSeries Engine, the software used with some other SteelSeries models. peripherals.
But while it would be nice to use Engine to adjust audio settings, the Prime is really an “as is” experience and for those who prefer just plug and play.
SteelSeries’ Arctis Prime takes an odd place in the Arctis lineup. It is marketed in the direction of competitive gaming, but also emphasizes simplicity, noted by the lack of bonus features, such as ChatMix or the ability to customize audio via software.
On the plus side, the Arctis Prime has the comfortable fit, noise-isolating earcup padding, and Hi-Res audio capabilities of the Arctis Pro, Arctis Pro + GameDAC, and Arctis Pro Wireless. That means you can get high-end gaming audio while saving money. The microphone also lives up to the series’ reputation.
However, there are some notable omissions. There’s no option to connect via USB, and perhaps the most glaring feature limitations compared to the more expensive Arctis headsets above are Sidetone and ChatMix. Being able to fine-tune an in-headset monitor mix is a beautiful detail and part of what makes top-end Arctis headsets special.
You should also be enamored with the turnkey experience of the Arctis Prime, because that’s all you get. This is purely plug-and-play intended and the more bass-heavy sound profile may not be what you want.
If you’re looking for more connectivity options in this price range, there’s the Fnatic React+. Available for a similar price, the Logitech G-Pro offers sidetone support and a USB DAC at the expense of HiRes audio. High quality Hi-Res will cost you more, but the Asus ROG Delta S makes investing in Hi-Res audio worth it.
Still, the Arctis Prime gives you some premium features and comfort in a simple package at a decent price, making it worthy of a serious look.