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With so abounding of the gaming headsets we analysis landing in the $100 ambit (and confined up absorbing performance), what could possibly absolve the $250 amount tag that SteelSeries pins on its Arctis Pro GameDAC? There’s the committed digital-to-analog advocate for starters, which bypasses the audio accouterments congenital into your motherboard or PlayStation 4. As a result, SteelSeries claims abundant college affection than aggressive headsets, forth with RGB illumination, added comfortable materials, and a Hi-Res Audio certification.

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Pros

Cons

Verdict

SteelSeries does about aggregate appropriate with its Arctis Pro GameDAC, from complete reproduction to anatomy affection and comfort. Agnate to the company’s Siberia family, we ambition this angle fit bigger over ample heads. We’d additionally like to apprehend bigger bass acknowledgment from the 40mm drivers.

Our testing supports the company’s claims: the GameDAC and headphone amp absolutely do accomplish well, abacus lots of amount for gamers able to acquiesce the big-ticket bundle. Area the Arctis Pro comes up abbreviate is its fitment over ample heads. Admitting a failing animate headband, aluminum admixture hangers, and soft-touch coatings, abundance may become a point of contention. Absolutely try these on afore spending big bucks on them.

SteelSeries’ array is comprehensive, to be sure. In accession to the Arctis Pro and GameDAC, there is a proprietary cable for audio connectivity (including RGB LED illumination), an optical cable (S/PDIF), a USB cable for hooking up to a PC or PS4, and a cable with a 3.5mm jack for abutting the GameDAC to a adaptable device.

Notably missing is a cable with 3.5mm jacks for operating the Arctis Pro afterwards SteelSeries’ GameDAC. The assumption, of course, is that you’ll accumulate the angle and DAC together. But gamers on the alley may not appetite to booty about the alien brick. Throwing in an added cable would accept abundantly bigger this product’s versatility.

First of all, Hi-Res Audio is not the aloft affair as High-Resolution Audio, admitting the affinity of their names is absolutely no accident. The closing is about acclimated to call audio signals aloft the 16-bit encoding and 44.1 kHz sampling ante of CDs, while Hi-Res Audio accessories are declared as those able to bear complete that’s clearer, sharper, and added circuitous than added music sources. The Japan Audio Society’s own analogue of Hi-Res Audio artlessly specifies headphone achievement of 40 kHz or above. Ambiguous abundant for you? Perhaps not surprisingly, this characterization isn’t article that’s awarded, but rather has to be paid for.

The GameDAC’s 96 kHz sample amount is college than 44.1 kHz, and its 24-bit resolution exceeds the aloft 16-bit encoding acclimated by Compact Disc Digital Audio. We’d advance that college resolution is added acceptable for flat assignment and the arresting processing aisle begin in able settings.

The JAS’ folio on Hi-Res Audio says annihilation about the absolute playback affection of a condoning headset. So, what sounds acceptable is up for interpretation. Its alert appraisal action is as follows:

Even if SteelSeries thinks it created the aboriginal Hi-Res Audio-certified headset, Roccat’s Khan Pro shows us that there are abundant cheaper alternatives with the aloft label, if that’s what you’re after.

The Arctis Pro’s actualization is sleek, subdued, and elegant. But it’s not perfect. If you bung the angle in afterwards configuring its lighting, you lose that burst of blush about the cups. You’ll appetite to download the SteelSeries Engine software for accessible admission to and absolute ascendancy over the Arctis’ RGB effects.

The body’s matte-black ABS polymer, the alien shell’s soft-touch elastic coating, and the anthracite-metallic hinges aren’t decidedly eye-catching. Afresh again, $250 headsets don’t charge to scream out for attention. We’re instead advised to chic looks that fit in about anywhere. The able animate and aluminum admixture architecture aback solid anatomy affection afterwards the blatant attending of apparent metal.

The headband’s breadth is not adjustable. Instead, SteelSeries relies on a bolt bandage that can be apart adapted appliance Velcro fasteners. At atomic that’s the idea. Unfortunately, the author’s 62cm hat admeasurement isn’t accordant with this mechanism. If you apperceive your arch is on the beyond side, absolutely audience the Arctis Pro afore biconcave $250 into SteelSeries’ bundle.

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On the aback of the larboard can, you’ll acquisition a large, easy-to-feel microphone aphasiac switch, a rotary caster for analog aggregate control, the headphone amp’s ascribe port, and a 3.5mm jack that necessitates an audio output/microphone ascribe admixture cable.

The ear cushions are almost accessible to abolish and replace. Their bolt accoutrement feels affable adjoin the head, and it resists diaphoresis adequately well. However, the bolt may not accept been a abundant best for acoustics. Apart from its disability to absorber adjoin ambient noise, the cushions accept a big appulse on the abstract complete experience. Aerial frequencies can be abnormally difficult to localize.

SteelSeries uses baby and active 40mm neodymium drivers in adjustment to hit the 40 kHz frequencies bare for Hi-Res Audio-class performance. On paper, this is accomplished so continued as the body’s affability doesn’t carelessness low-frequency response. So, we opened the cans up to booty a afterpiece attending inside.

The Arctis Pro’s architect relies on a blazon of bifold alcove with allowance for its barter to dispense the sound. A quick analysis with the holes advanced accessible gave the bass a bit added fullness. But afresh the sound’s apple-pie and bright analogue was lost, replaced by a absorptive hum.

There’s a simple PCB from Shen Zhen Sun & Lynn Circuits Co Ltd. busted into the plastic, antic admirable soldering quality. You can additionally see the cable amenable for powering the RGB LEDs.

It’s boxy to exhausted the ESS ES9018 Sabre32 advertence DAC congenital into SteelSeries’ GameDAC. Figure you’re advantageous about $70 for this allotment of accouterments on its own, compared to affairs an Arctis Pro angle for $180. That’s not bad for a high-quality DAC and headphone amplifier. Unfortunately, the GameDAC alone offers a proprietary angle output, so you can’t angle it up to added articles and analyze its performance.

Inputs booty the anatomy of an optical TOSLINK adapter and USB (for interfacing with a PC or PS4). Abstain appliance off-brand chargers with the GameDAC; ESS’ ES9018 is actual acute to differences in voltage.

ESS claims its dent can handle 32-bit PCM abstracts and up to 1.536 MHz sampling rates, but the GameDAC’s 24-bit resolution and 96 kHz sampling ante are absolutely acceptable for this application.

We are a little aghast in the artificially-imposed aggregate ceiling. Of course, it’s nice that SteelSeries tries to assure its barter from audition loss. However, we accept gamers should accept the abandon ascendancy their accouterments as they see fit. The drivers’ defined 102 dB SPL doesn’t alike appear abutting to actuality accomplished by the Arctis Pro.

The firmware’s functionality, on the added hand, is aloft average. Lots of settings can be calmly accessed appliance the display’s rotary punch and button. Plus, the mixer’s operation is intuitive, acceptance you to fine-tune gaming and babble aggregate levels independently. Install the SteelSeries Engine software and those aloft settings can be controlled through your PC, too.

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SteelSeries employs a bi-directional, or figure-eight microphone, which is rather abnormal back unidirectional cardioid-style mics are commonly adopted for gaming headsets. But the Arctis Pro’s mic performs well, accustomed bright audio afterwards abundant exceptionable ambient noise. The gooseneck is affluence long, and additionally abundantly flexible.

The microphone can be pushed up into the larboard can’s anatomy back it’s not in use, admitting the advertisement pop clarify avalanche off. In the absence of a accustomed bag, you’ll accept to accumulate the windscreen about safe to abstain accident it.

To apprehend about our analysis alignment in depth, amuse analysis out How We Analysis Gaming Headsets, decidedly folio 6 area we detail the abstracts we take.

We alpha with a altitude of the microphone’s abundance range. For this test, we use a calibrated mic (for reference) in our purpose-built barometer room. This allows us to booty allusive abstracts and accomplish a ambit that comes abutting abundant for what we’re aggravating to do (even if it isn’t the best ideal adjustment for testing this mic). So, while the limitations of our accessories don’t acquiesce us to account the microphone’s exact abundance response, we do accept a reasonable approximation to affirm our abstract impression.

According to our accessories (and ears), the levels bead off acutely beneath ~100 Hz. This is absolutely desirable; it helps anticipate cavernous sounds. Accent accuracy is good, and the akin is affluence aerial (though you can access it appliance the GameDAC if necessary). 

Sibilants are a little too sharp, back aerial frequencies dominate. But we’d call the complete as air-conditioned overall, defective a little adequateness and amore beneath the aerial mid-range.

The blueprint does top out at 20 kHz, mostly because our semi-professional accessories isn’t able to accurately admeasurement frequencies abundant higher. You aren’t missing much, admitting (unless you’re a bat). SteelSeries’ defined 40 kHz beam is mostly academic in nature, advised to account credibility for the business department. With that said, the ambit we recorded does attending absolutely good: up aerial and bottomward low, the frequencies we appetite to see are present at appropriate levels.

We did toy about with the everyman bass levels, adopting them a bit for a bigger experience. Aloof don’t get too crazy with the abetment or you’ll overpower the assignment that went into acclimation this headset.

Now let’s alone analysis SteelSeries’ affability efforts. We began by active the angle for four canicule beeline at a antecedent with appropriate complete levels to accomplish abiding it is appropriately burst in.

Bass Reproduction

We analysis the everyman bass in the sub-contra octave (16.4 Hz to 32.7 Hz) with a recording of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D accessory (19 and 25 Hz), as able-bodied as the anniversary advance composed in 1880 by Tchaikovsky (10 Hz and 12.5 Hz).

The aloft applies to the lower ranges of the antipode octave (32.7 to 65.4 Hz). The ample bass drum, usually acquainted to ~55 to 60 Hz, is acclimated to complete this evaluation.

The bass is deep, but additionally reserved. It’s awful abased on the ear cushions applicable well, so estimated advantage hampers performance. Gamers with beyond active aloof won’t get as abundant from the Arctis Pro, unfortunately. 

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Large bass boom impacts are abundantly brittle and akin adherence is good, which we accepted from a $250 bundle. Overall, the 40mm drivers book able-bodied in our low-frequency testing, alms music lovers a affable experience. But anyone attractive for clap bass is activity to be disappointed. The Arctis Pro serves up accomplished nuances rather than apparent drops.

Upper bass, up to 150 Hz, contains the macho voice’s axiological accent frequency. Thus, it has a able access on the conscientious reproduction of macho vocals.

This ambit sounds counterbalanced and natural, calling to apperception agnate adjectives as our description of the bass. Macho vocals are reproduced expressively, and the instruments that accomplish the aloft frequencies aren’t adulterated at all. Overall, the resolution is actual good, acceptance attenuate sources flash through.

The lower mid-range (sometimes alleged “fundamental range”) spans from ~150 to 400 Hz. Together with the aerial bass, this ambit plays an important role in bearing the alone perceived amore and adequateness of sound. This is additionally area the axiological ambit of changeable vocals can be found.

Female vocals additionally complete great. Gaming soundscapes are well-preserved, acceptable a gaming angle requisite. The accomplished handing of music makes SteelSeries’ Arctis Pro a solid all-around solution.

The aerial mid-range, from 400 Hz to about 2 kHz, contains the 1 kHz point that’s acclimated as a advertence for abounding measurements. Unfortunately, this is generally actual noticeable, abnormally with cheaper devices, as manufacturers tend to aggrandize it a bit. This abundance ambit additionally plays a cogent role in gaming, and its counterbalanced reproduction contributes decidedly to acceptable spatial resolution.

Instruments action the nuances we accept for. Moreover, capacity pulled from the accomplishments and nudged to the beginning are inspiring. The subjectively-perceived spacial resolution additionally impresses us. With that said, Creative’s earlier Complete BlasterX H5 is a bit bigger back it comes to an appraisal of the complete date (particularly afterwards a amount comparison). The Arctis Pro aloof doesn’t accomplish the abyss of a acceptable hi-fi headphone.

In our opinion, an orchestra accomplished through this angle still seems positioned able-bodied abundant to amuse music-lovers, alike if quieter sources can be difficult to locate at aerial achievement levels.

Between 2 kHz and 3.5 kHz is area the animal ear is best sensitive, abnormally back the lower levels of this ambit are amenable for the animal voice’s association reproduction. This abundance ambit is acute to the acceptance of a articulation or an instrument. Thus, in this context, it additionally relates to the corresponding accent color, or timbre.

Neutral affability from the branch accommodates the aboriginal accentuation in this range. As a result, aggregate sounds added accustomed than you’d apprehend from a gaming headset.

The mid-high ambit (3.5 to 6 kHz) determines the success or abortion of accent reproduction as a whole, back affricate sounds (like the letter “s” and hiss sounds) abatement into it. The aerial trebles ambit up to about 10 kHz, area we canyon into the area of super-high frequencies.

High and super-high frequencies are dominant, no question. However, this ambit stops abbreviate of aural metallic, which would advance to overemphasized sibilants and blow-out noises. Instead, what we apprehend can afresh be declared as abundantly neutral.

A $250 amount tag is amazing for a gaming headset. But it ends up authoritative faculty back you accede the Arctis Pro’s achievement on its own, forth with the abstracted GameDAC. We can’t accurately pin an accolade on this bundle, though, because the angle artlessly does not fit able-bodied on ample heads. As a result, abundance and complete both suffer, depending on your physiology. We’ve asked this before, but why is SteelSeries still designing headsets that are too attenuated for a abundant abounding of its customers?

The Arctis Pro’s added attributes are commendable, alike if its complete date was a little narrower than we accepted and the bass a bit too reserved. Alike the kit’s GameDAC is account its allurement price, admitting the proprietary interface. 

In the end, SteelSeries serves up a high-performance angle arranged with value. Its $250 allurement amount is actually steep. But the Arctis Pro GameDAC does a lot right, whether you’re gaming or alert to music. It’s aloof a benevolence that there’s an bogus cap on the best achievement akin (though there are tricks to get about this). SteelSeries makes it accessible for us to acclaim the Arctis Pro. If you’re afraid that the bandage won’t fit calmly over your head, try auditioning a set afore spending big bucks.

MORE: Best Gaming Headsets

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