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SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro wireless headset review: A gamer's delight

Stream audio from your phone and your PC with dual connectivity, thanks to SteelSeries's new flagship gaming headset.
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Written by Rebecca Isaacs, Staff Writer on

I had a love-hate relationship with gaming. Plopping down in my desk chair, a bowl of Skittles ready, I was thrilled at the prospect of booting up Stardew Valley -- with one exception. My headset, an old, bulky beast I pilfered from my significant other, made my gaming experience less than stellar, leaving my ears pained by the time I practically ripped them off my head. Plus, other players would tell me my gaming headset made it nearly impossible to hear me.

Clearly, I needed a new headset. The SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless Headset solved all of my aforementioned problems and became my go-to headphones for gaming, commuting, and traveling.

Pros
  • Dual Connectivity
  • Easy-to-use base station
  • Fully customizable audio
  • Comfortable elasticated suspension band
Cons
  • Weak noise-canceling
  • Pricey

Specifications

Dimensions 8in x 6.8in x 3.5in
Drivers 40mm Neodymium Drivers
Headband Steel Frame with ComfortMAX elasticated headband
Frequency 10 - 22,000Hz
Mic Frequency 100 - 6,500Hz
Noise Cancellation 4-mic hybrid design
Battery Life Up to 22 Hours
Connection Bluetooth v 5.0, 2.4GHz networks
Connection (Base Station) USB to USB-C
Wireless Range 40 feet
Display (Base Station) OLED
Durability No IPX resistance
Support Android and iPhone
Color Black

Before I consolidated all of my audio into the Nova Pro, I had a library of tech for various needs: the Liberty Pro Buds 3 earphones the Samsung Buds Live and a pair of Anker Soundcore headphones. The Nova Pro's audio and design made it easy for me to set all of these aside and cemented it as one of the greatest headphones I've ever had.

Design

If there's anything I've come to appreciate about any headset, it's a sturdy design; living with klutzy Old English Sheepdogs has made this an essential headset component. Previous iterations of the Arctis headsets have used aluminum and steel alloy frames.

SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless Headset

The steel frame finishes with a aluminum ear cup plate.

Rebecca Isaacs/ZDNet

The Arctis Nova Pro's design instead opted for a premium PVD-coated steel band with aluminum ear cup covers that, in a month of testing, I learned very quickly were not only sturdy against every bump and accident but also scratch-resistant. One month into living with the headset, and I still have yet to see a scratch on these. That being said, they're prone to collecting dust.

I do miss the folding hinge I've seen on noise-canceling headphones like my Anker Soundcore set, as well as a sturdy carrying case. SteelSeries improved the hinge design of the Arctis Pro and paired it with a soft cloth bag to protect the headset during travel or storing when not in use. I plane hop a lot to visit my family, who are scattered across the Midwest, and I wanted to be able to slim them down, especially when trying to maximize on carry-on space.

However, SteelSeries slimmed down the design of each ear cup, opting to maximize the space underneath the hood for a design that makes you feel comfortable taking these on the subway.

SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless Headset - Base Station

SteelSeries designed the cups to be smaller than its predecessors. 

Rebecca Isaacs/ZDNet

But my favorite part of the redesign is the comfortable elasticated suspension headband that rests just underneath the steel frame. Previous iterations of this design were meant for most head shapes and sizes, but not all. I don't feel like I'm wearing the headset, and there is zero pressure on my ears that I've felt with other noise canceling headphones like the Bose QuietComfort 45 that have left me tepid about wearing them for lengthy periods. They also wear very comfortably with or sans my glasses.

SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless Headset - Base Station

The base station is a one-stop shop for all volume and audio adjustments, and more.

Rebecca Isaacs/ZDNet

And, the wireless base station is a total gem, with an easy-to-see OLED interface and a button that allows you to shift through various settings, from wireless connectivity options to audio adjustments in bright white text. It's small enough to be unobtrusive on your desk, though the base station does require a USB connection to your desktop or laptop.

Audio

The main reason I've never opted for the Bose QuietComfort 45 headphones is because I love to adjust my audio settings more than just noise cancelling. It's hard for me to wear anything that doesn't have an accompanying app that allows me to customize frequencies for whatever I'm listening to. 

SteelSeries heeded my call for a top-notch audio adjustment system, but it's a little complicated and involves several applications and steps, that some may not feel is worthwhile compared with other software like Anker's touch-and-go software. 

First, you'll have to download the SteelSeries GG software on your desktop and navigate your way into the newly-released Sonar EQ app. From there, you can fine-tune every bass, treble, and mid sound frequency to your preference in part with a dedicated special parametric equalizer. It's one hell of a cool feature, and it was even cooler when I learned that I could adjust not only the frequencies but also adjust how the sound projects.

SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless HeadSet

The volume wheel was great for on-the-fly adjustments, but you'll need Sonar to to fine tune the sound.

Rebecca Isaacs/ZDNet

When I tested it with Florence + The Machine's latest album, Dance Fever, I could shift any frequency to make every pluck of the band's harp strings front and center in my listening. Similarly, when I finally watched Arcane and became obsessed with the soundtrack, I could build presets to maximize the hip-hop sound on "Dynasties and Dystopia."

Customization aside, the Nova Pro really strives to build a 360-degree Spatial sound for gamers all over, working with major gaming companies. The resulting camaraderie, from software and firmware to collaborations with major gaming companies brings special pre-built settings into the headset for your favorite games including Destiny 2, Fortnite, and many more. It's impressive to know how much work went into creating such specific technology -- and the Nova Pro's audio lives up to the hype for all the effort.

Performance

It's been impossible to find a headset that I've been enamored with for years now, but in terms of performance, the Nova Pro Wireless blows nearly every other headset I've used out of the water. From the comfortable design to the wholly customizable frequencies and audio, it's impressive.

One refreshing feature is that we all have that boisterous friend that we love but find ourselves cringing when they get super amped up during gameplay. Now you can adjust the sound you hear from their mic while keeping your gaming audio as loud as you need it, thanks to the accompanying Sonar EQ technology.

SteelSeries Nova Pro Wireless HeadSet

The new design is meant for both in-game and on the go thanks to the dual connectivity

Rebecca Isaacs/ZDNet

Speaking of the microphone, SteelSeries implemented new designs as well as software that wowed me. First, the mic tucks away discreetly in the side of the ear cup. If you want it out, you just wheel it out. Same thing for when you return it -- there's not pushing or pulling, just a seamless wheeling transition.

And when muted, the mic will shine with a bright red light. It's a great efficiency boost when you have to pause to grab another Coke or step away; and, of course, one that I came to appreciate with needy, screechy cats who require their supper immediately.

SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless HeadSet

The mic itself will shine a bright red when muted.

Rebecca Isaacs/ZDNet

In addition to the hearing software on Sonar, you'll also be able to adjust your voice that comes through the mic with the AI-powered noise-canceling software. So if you prefer a higher pitch or even to adjust it to sound more like you sans background noise, that's an option with the Nova Pro. Personally, I don't care how my voice sounds, but the Nova Pro Wireless Headset could be a game changer for streamers who want that effect without splurging on fancy recording equipment.

One important feature to note: If you're listening to music on your phone and want to game, the headset comes with built-in dual connectivity, so you can listen from both devices at once. On the flip side, you can also use the base station to swap easily between a PC and a PlayStation 5, so if you're gaming on one console and want to swap to another, just press a few buttons and you'll be ready. If this is something that interests you, keep the base station in an area that will be easily accessible.

Noise-canceling

Audio and performance aside, everything boils down to the noise-canceling effects. I've played around with a lot of different headsets and headphones, and in particular logged extensive hours on Samsung's, Anker's, and Bose's line. I even got my hands on my dad's Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones for an hour, which are on par with Bose line.

I wish I could say that I was impressed with the noise canceling. To an extent, I am! So long as you're at home gaming and are actively using the audio, it's impossible to differentiate any audio outside of the game. However, SteelSeries designed these to be your everyday go-to headphones.

SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless HeadSet

The build-in active noise canceling feature is great for gaming.

Rebecca Isaacs/ZDNet

I took these on the subway regularly to get a feel for their noise canceling. Any seasoned New Yorker will tell you that the subways are a screechy, squealy, loud mess of a trip for various reasons, and I wanted to be able to drown out that noise. Unfortunately, they didn't live up to the standards of the Bose or Sony lines.

That's not to say that it's bad. The Nova Pro Wireless has become my go-to headset for everything, because their noise canceling features that can block out lower sound frequencies meet my needs. Realistically, as a gamer, that's all I care about, and I'm happy using them with my laptop and for commuting. However, if you're looking to drown out every single sound outside of the ear cups, you're probably going to have to look elsewhere.

Battery life

One of the most unique features I've seen in a headset is SteelSeries' implementation of dual batteries that you can swap out. Each battery lasts up to 22 hours on a single charge. Additionally, you have the option to either charge while you're gaming from a USB-C port hidden underneath one of the ear cup plates, or simply swap out the battery located under the other plate.

It's a really easy system -- with a couple caveats. To swap out the batteries, you will have to be near your base station since that's where you'll charge the backup one. It's not a big deal, especially if you have a USB-C charger near you.

SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless HeadSet

The swappable batteries are underneath the aluminum covers.

Rebecca Isaacs/ZDNet

Second, I found trying to swap out those batteries to be easy once I learned how to pull off the plate. The magnetic plates on the cup were designed to make it easy to stick your nail underneath and pry it off. You have to make sure that the magnetic strip on the plate matches up to the strip on the ear cup. Otherwise, it's nearly impossible to get the plate off. 

Once you get them swapped out, it only takes around eight seconds for the headset to register, which I found to be speedy when it came to gaming. Not that I really had to swap them out frequently since the battery life lasted me many gaming sessions without issue. The option to change batteries without being corded (though it does come with a charging cord) showed to me that SteelSeries anticipated each gamer's needs.

SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless Headset - Base Station

Charge the other battery in the base station when not in use.

Rebecca Isaacs/ZDNet

I wish there was another way of checking the battery life when I wasn't near the base station (i.e. on the subway and it began beeping at me). On one occasion, the headset beeped incessantly in my ears until I powered it down and put it away. Thank goodness I had a backup pair of buds in my tote.

Bottom line

There are some very minor flaws with the SteelSeries Nova Pro Wireless headset, but overall the new features and design changes amount to a huge upgrade. While I wouldn't necessarily use it for noisy commutes if you're a die-hard, anti-sound person, it's a great wireless gaming headset that promises sturdiness, a brilliant audio experience, and a truly customizable sound for your every need.

Alternatives to consider

If you want the wireless aspect but prefer a budget-friendly option, take a look a the HyperX Cloud Alpha. With a durable aluminum frame, the Cloud Alpha promises up to 300 hours of wireless gameplay. You'll also get clear spatial audio quality using dual chamber audio drivers.

Another great option, the Logitech Pro X wireless gaming headset, uses dedicated Blue Vo!ce technology to capture your voice during gameplay. It lasts for over twenty hours on a single charge and works on both PC and PlayStation platforms.

Razer's Kraken V3 Pro uses a hybrid mesh and leatherette padded system to keep your ears comfortable. The titanium 50mm drivers bring Razer's signature THX spatial audio straight to your gaming. You can also expect up to 11 hours on a single charge with the haptics and lighting on, and up to 44 with them off.

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