I’ve been a big fan of SteelSeries Arctis line of headsets for some time now. Not only are they the most comfortable headsets I’ve tried, they sound great, too. While SteelSeries has made the Arctis line compatible with a wide array of consoles, some of their best features have been limited to just the PC platform in the past.
Not content to let PC gamers have all the fun, SteelSeries has come out with the Arctis 9x, a gaming headset designed first and foremost for the Xbox One. The Arctis 9x is currently available for $199 on Newegg, GameCrate's parent site.
Design and Comfort
As with all Arctis headsets, the build quality on the Arctis 9x is excellent. The steel headband is highly durable and the earcups are perfectly sized and generously padded. I don’t know if there’s a single company that puts as much padding on their earcups, and it’s much appreciated. I’ve used the Arctis 9x for a few days now as of this writing, and there’s been absolutely zero fatigue or pain thanks to the mountains of padding on these things.
Unlike a lot of headsets that can occasionally grind against your ears, causing them to get red and hot, the earcups on the Arctis 9x completely envelop my ears with a gentle, loose seal. If I have one critique, though, it’s that the fit is just slightly too loose. When I move my head, the headset can wobble around.
As a nice bonus, the earcups also swivel, allowing you to easily rest the headset around your neck when you’re not using it.
Once again, SteelsSeries has gone with the suspended headband design. I love this design – it completely eliminates all the sliding the earcups up and down to get that perfect fit, allowing the headphones to conform to the natural shape of your head.
Whereas other headsets may have some sort of metal or plastic headband that digs into your skull, on the Arctis 9x, the headband is just a thin piece of cloth. The cloth is practically imperceptible, and makes wearing the headset an absolute pain-free experience. It’s a stroke of brilliance.
But there are a few flaws with the Arctis 9x. First, there’s too much going on on the ear cups. There’s a microphone mute button, volume wheel, a 3.5mm jack, microUSB jack, power button, and a slew of other buttons and knobs. All the features are overwhelming, and it’s hard to quickly reach up and find what you’re looking for in the middle of a game. Second, the neon green accents on the headbands don’t work for me. I get that this is supposed to be an Xbox One headset, but I don’t think the headset needs to match the color scheme of the console.
And finally, there’s no RGB lighting. While this is hardly a flaw, when you’re paying this kind of money for a headset, you expect luxuries like RGB lighting.
Performance and Features
The Arctis 9x is a wireless headset that can connect naively to your Xbox One via built-in Xbox Wireless technology. It’s pretty cool to have a headset that essentially acts the same as a wireless controller – you just turn it on, let it connect, and then you’re good to go. The battery life on the wireless is pretty good too. SteelSeries claims 20 hours of battery life –plenty to get you through some marathon gaming sessions.
PC users have to jump through a few more hoops with this headset, however. If you want wireless connectivity, you’ll need to purchase a separate Xbox Wireless adapter, or stick with a traditional wired connection. Sadly, there’s no included 3.5mm cable, so you’ll have to buy that, as well. I’m stunned by this oversight. I’ve never seen another gaming headset not include a cable for wired use.
I get that SteelSeries is trying to push wireless as the default, but it’s such an easy inclusion that makes this a bit unfriendly for PC users. I have no idea why the USB charging cable can’t also serve as a DAC, allowing for wired connectivity over USB like so many other comparable headsets. Hopefully this is something that will be addressed in a future model.
I should note that the Arctis 9x also connects wirelessly over Bluetooth. It even offers simultaneous Xbox wireless and Bluetooth connectivity, allowing for the absolute killer feature to connect to both your Xbox and your phone at the same time. This lets you play music off your phone while also being able to hear in-game sounds.
The Bluetooth connection also lets you use the Arctis 9x as a traditional pair of headphones to use on the go. Unfortunately, it’s a bit too big and clunky to take outside on a walk or on the subway. The loose fit, while comfortable, isn’t conducive to walking around amidst large crowds.
The Arctis 9x sounds great. In-game, the headset sounds extremely visceral and atmospheric, and music sounds very lush. There’s no booming, artificially sculpted bass on the Arctis 9x, which I personally find refreshing. What you’re getting is a very balanced, natural soundscape with a focus on vocals and mid-range frequencies – perfect for multiplayer gaming.
However, the microphone is average at best. While it does neatly retract out of the headset, and has a very clear red light to indicate when it’s on mute, the sound quality leaves something to be desired. It’s a tad distorted, and makes you sound slightly robotic.
The mic’s shortcomings are especially noticeable if you’re using the microphone over Bluetooth, where there’s a lot of vocal artifacts and spotty connectivity. I wouldn’t recommend streaming with this mic over Bluetooth or doing anything approaching semi-professional recording. The Xbox Wireless connection is far better, however, and should suit most of your needs.
If you’re looking for an Xbox One headset, the Arctis 9x is a no-brainer. It’s one of the most comfortable headsets you’ll ever wear, and it’s incredibly easy to use with fantastic in-game sound quality. If you don’t have an Xbox One and strictly game on PC, you'll likely get more for your money with another headset (try the Arctis 7 if you want a wireless option).
Check out the SteelSeries Arctis 9x on Newegg for more information and to pick up one for yourself.