When it comes to hardware, we usually try to stick to the same brands when we upgrade. That goes for anything from consoles to cars and if those brands have always works well for us, why switch? Of course when those brands stop coming out with new product or fail to innovate at the pace that the rest of its competitors are, we are quick to switch allegiances. That happens a lot with gaming consoles and the accessories side of things is no different. Take gaming headsets for instance. There was a time I swore by a certain brand (I won’t name them as to not piss anyone off), but after years of not bringing anything really new to the table, I switched brands. My current headsets of choice now come from Steelseries and their latest, the Steelseries Arctis Pro + GameDAC is a good reason why.
Back then, Steelseries made some decent headsets that were lightweight and super comfortable, but weren’t quite as good overall as others. I think my opinion of them changed after their superb H-Wireless headset and the followup to that, the Siberia 800 Wireless series. My opinion changed even more once their Arctis series came out and now, it’s the base that I compare all other gaming headsets too.
Design + Hardware
Steelseries latest are the Arctis Pro. These look very much like the previous Arctis headsets – Arctis 3, Arctis 5, and Arctis 7, but now with several notable upgrades. I’ll get into that in a bit.
The Arctis Pro still features the premium woven ski goggle fabric suspension band, still has amazing athletics-inspired Airweave fabric ear cushions, and still features the same great and ClearCast bidirectional microphone. What has changed is that the band itself is now lightweight aluminum alloy and steel instead of plastic, the mute button is now much larger and easier to press,prism RGB illumination on the ear cups is now standard, and you can remove the plastic ear cup plates. I’m assuming this will be for more customization later down the road with different designs or colors.
Those are the changes you can see. What you can’t see is below the surface. The Arctis Pro now features premium speaker drivers with high-density neodymium magnets that reproduce Hi-Res audio out to 40,000 Hz, nearly double what most standard headsets are capable of (22,000 Hz). That’s more than the previous Arctis headsets as well. These are also the first headsets from Steelseries certified for Hi-Res audio and first in gaming to offer DTS Headphone:X v2.0 surround sound.
Other than those changes, the Arctis Pro retains everything I loved about the original Arctis headsets. They are super comfortable to wear, really needs no adjustments to fit on any sized head, and work on multiple platforms including mobile. It really is one of the most well designed headsets out right now.
The version of the Acrtic Pro I got include the GameDAC accessory. While the Arctis Pro itself is already an exceptional headset, the GameDAC takes it to a whole other level. You see, the GameDAC is a dedicated DAC and amplifier for gaming. It features “the legendary ESS Sabre 9018 Reference DAC, revered for its unsurpassed audio quality with 121 dB of dynamic range and -115 dB THD+N. This makes bass sound tighter, individual sound effects more distinct, and positional cues pin-point accurate.” I can honestly that much of what is Latin to me but what I can say is that the GameDAC seems to make a difference.
Without the GameDAC, you can plug the Arctis Pro headset into your PS4 controller. In this configuration, the headset really doesn’t sound all that much different from others. It still sounds really good though, but you lose a few features. The headset won’t light up and there’s no chat mixer. The magic really happens when you plug it into the GameDAC.
With the GameDAC, you’re able to adjust the lighting and the amount of chat volume relative to the game volume. That’s just the basics. For pro users, there’s an equalizer so you can fine tune every aspect of your listening experience, the ability to turn on and off DTS, and the ability to choose what source you’re using the GameDAC on. For my review, I used the PS4 presets, adjusted the EQ to where I thought the audio sounded the richest, and tuned on DTS.
While I’m no audiophile, I can tell you that there was a big difference using the GameDAC. Everything sounds so much clearer and crisper. It’s as if you are really in this fantasy world that you’re playing in. If you’re playing a game like God of War, you can literally hear every tiny detail. You can hear the rustling of leaves, crows cawing in the background, the crackling of flames, and any other sounds you’d expect to hear. It’s 360-degrees of sound too so you know exactly where each sound is coming from. The main thing here again is just how clear and crisp everything is and the wide range of sounds you hear. There’s almost zero distortion that I could hear and this is at all volume levels. Speaking of which, you can crank these up pretty loud, much loader than you can if you just had plugged in the headset into the PS4 controller.
The GameDAC also features a couple new extras. For starters, there’s a Mobile port on the back that will allow you to plus in your mobile device. What that means is that while you’re playing, you’ll be able to hear notifications through your headset. Not only that, it’s possible to also play your own music with your mobile phone and have it playing through your headset while you game. Next, there’s a line out port that let’s you also connect the GameDAC to external speakers. That means if you have external speakers for your TV you can also pump them through your GameDAC now. I personally think this is a great way of making the GameDAC the center of your whole gaming audio setup.
There’s really not a thing I dislike about the Steelseries Arctis Pro + GameDAC but there one easy to fix annoyance. The cables that come with the kit that you need to hook up the GameDAC to your PlayStation 4 are way too short. If you have your PS4 set up on a desk where you sit really close, it won’t matter. I however sit on my couch so in order to rectify this situation, I had to swap out for a much longer USB and optical cable.
Also, as much as I would have loved for these to be wireless, I can live with the current setup I have now that I have longer cables. If you absolutely still need wireless, there is the Steelseries Arctis Pro Wireless, but no DAC.
Aside from that, the ARctis Pro + GameDAC is near perfect. I can’t really see myself using anything else now that I’ve experienced gaming with Hi-Res audio and with a DAC.
I’ve used a lot of gaming headsets over the years. Some of them were great, some not so much. I’ve used wired headsets and wireless headsets and out of all of them, I’ll have to say the Steelseries Arctis Pro + GameDAC is the best gaming headset I’ve ever used. While not wireless, I’m willing to to go wired if it means I’m getting the most from my games.
Building upon what was already a great headset with the original Arctis, the Arctis Pro ups the ante with Hi-Res Audio and the GameDAC. Sure you can make due with regular gaming headsets, but if you’re serious about getting an advantage, you’ll want the Steelseries Arctis Pro + GameDAC. Note that they’re not cheap, but you know the old saying – “you get what you pay for” and to me, these are well worth the price of admission.
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