SteelSeries Nova Professional Wi-fi assessment: it almost does all of it

SteelSeries Nova Pro Wireless review: it nearly does it all

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The SteelSeries Arctis Nova Professional Wi-fi is designed to be the one headset to rule all of them. It’s attempting to concurrently change the one you jack into your console, the workhorse headset on your PC, and the flowery Bluetooth cans you carry in your commute. That’s how SteelSeries justifies its $349.99 price ticket, which makes it one in every of the pricier wi-fi gaming headsets ever made.

That, and the actual fact it’s filled with tech.

You may hearken to three issues concurrently with its screen-and-dial-equipped 2.4GHz wi-fi base station plus Bluetooth. It has 4 further microphones to energy its lively noise cancellation or its hear-through transparency mode. You get two swappable batteries that may every final a full 24-hour day of nonstop audio, whereas the opposite sits within the base station to cost. That base station helps you to change between two USB-C audio gadgets whereas concurrently providing 3.5mm line-in and line-out for a pair of audio system as nicely. You may even plug a 3.5mm cable straight between the headphones and a DAC for higher-quality audio.

Most significantly, it’s the best-sounding wi-fi gaming headset we’ve used — and the primary adequate that we’d contemplate shopping for it as a substitute of expensive Bluetooth headphones, too.

The Nova Professional Wi-fi and its wired $249.99 Nova Professional counterpart are the uncommon no-devices-left-behind headsets that make it easier to get much more enjoyment out of PC gaming and console use. There are some bizarre design selections, some flaws, and even just a few bugs, but it surely’s powerful to disregard that these merchandise bend over backward to neatly combine themselves into your gaming repertoire.

Picture by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

The final word wi-fi gaming headset — possibly

By Sean Hollister

“It’s an almost good gadget, however a few occasions every week, that ‘almost’ half makes me need to scream.” That’s me, final August, writing in regards to the predecessor to the headset we’re reviewing right here. For the previous two years, the $330 SteelSeries Arctis Professional Wi-fi has been my day by day driver, and it’s filled with most of the identical options as the brand new Nova Professional — like the bottom station, the swappable batteries, the power to combine a number of audio sources, and the power to double as a Bluetooth headset on the go.

And for essentially the most half, the brand new Nova blows it out of the water. It sounds so significantly better, with the pumping bass that the unique infamously lacked and audio that simply appears extra… current. There’s depth the place the unique feels thinner and flatter by comparability (and that’s with the Nova’s equalizer set fully flat, besides). It made me need to re-listen to a whole album to listen to the additional definition as a substitute of only a tune or two. And naturally that bass punch is necessary for video games and films as nicely.

The mic retracts all the best way into the body.
Picture by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Whereas the mic doesn’t appear to have been improved, that’s completely not a knock — it’s one of many clearer, richer mics we’ve tried. So long as it’s prolonged, anyhow: the richness goes away when totally retracted, sounding extra like a Polycom in a drafty convention room, which wasn’t a factor with the unique.

Your complete design’s been considerably refined with that fully vanishing mic, and SteelSeries has ditched its trademark Arctis ski-goggle-style headband for a four-position elastic strap and retracting arms that lastly allow you to modify the peak up and down for taller heads. The brand new leatherette ear cushions are much more plush than the outdated cloth earcups, too, although I do surprise in the event that they’ll peel as they age.

The brand new base station additionally appears to have the identical glorious wi-fi vary as its predecessor — chatting with my Discord gaming group whereas down the corridor, by way of two partitions, to the kitchen to get a snack. That’s a bar many wi-fi gaming headsets I’ve tried don’t handle to clear. I’m additionally completely satisfied the bottom station ditches the optical jacks I by no means used for USB-C inputs, with a simple toggle to change between them. You additionally now not want a proprietary cable to get analog 3.5mm audio on to the headset. An ordinary 3-pole TRS cable works effective, despite the fact that SteelSeries features a 5- to 4-pole cable as nicely. Plugging one in turns the Nova Professional Wi-fi into a completely passive analog headset, with sound that’s rather less grainy than in wi-fi mode.

The SteelSeries’ base station has a screen that displays battery life for both batteries, the current volume, right and left audio channels, audio quality, and which USB-C device it’s set to.

You may’t customise these widgets, however they work nicely sufficient.
Picture by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Twin USB-C, twin 3.5mm.
Picture by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

The second battery, in its charging socket.
Picture by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

We’re mystified by the outsized, slippery dial.
Picture by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Right here’s the bizarre half: apart from these softer earcups, I… don’t truly like how the headset feels! It’s not truly any extra snug than the last-gen Arctis Professional for my pretty giant head, and I couldn’t discover a single place the place it didn’t really feel prefer it was placing stress on my cranium or jaw over the course of the day. Cam says he didn’t expertise that however agrees it doesn’t have the effortlessly floaty really feel of SteelSeries’ earlier Arctis headphones.

And I discover it weird that SteelSeries ditched the splendidly clicky, tactile, rubber-coated dials of the Arctis Professional Wi-fi for the sleek, unresponsive ones right here, which make my fingers slide proper off. The bottom station nonetheless doesn’t really feel weighty sufficient, generally skitting throughout the desk when I attempt to push the button, and the swappable batteries are barely more durable to swap out and in now with one hand — each the headset plate and the bottom station have smaller indents on your fingernail to seize.

However I can’t complain an excessive amount of about that battery — as a result of, in virtually each different manner, it’s essentially the most spectacular battery system I’ve used on a wi-fi gaming headset. I measured almost 28 hours on a single cost at 50 % quantity with ANC and Bluetooth turned off and 23.5 hours with ANC turned on — that’s an around-the-clock cost per battery on the quantity I truly use to hearken to music.

With each batteries collectively, that’s extra life than we’ve ever seen from a wi-fi gaming headset and way over the 15.5 hours I obtained with the unique Arctis Professional Wi-fi in the identical check. And if you need much more, SteelSeries will promote you a two-pack of additional batteries for $19.99.

What’s extra, the headset lastly makes it inconceivable to overlook when these batteries are going to die, an enormous grievance I had with the unique. Now, you get a low battery beep each 30 seconds for at the least the final 20 minutes of life, and the bottom station’s display screen is best about notifying you, too — not solely does the battery indicator blink when it’s low, however you can too now see partial bars value of battery as a substitute of simply full ones. And when you can’t precisely hot-swap the battery in case you do let it die (audio cuts out the second you pull the pack), it does flip itself again on in case you plug a contemporary pack shortly — no must press energy once more.

The USB-C charge port is hidden beneath the left earcup cover disc.

A backup USB-C cost port in case you’re on the go.
Picture by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

You may even technically plug within the headset to cost as a substitute of swapping a pack, however the port placement is bizarre; it’s beneath the magnetic plate on the outer face of the left earcup, so it’d appear like it’s protruding the aspect of your head in case you sport with it that manner.

The bottom station’s interface has been modified in different methods, too — there are nonetheless too many pages of menus and too little data on the primary display screen (who wants left- and right-channel audio ranges nowadays?), however I like how a lot management you get: a full equalizer, loud sidetone so you’ll be able to hear your self talking, adjustable mic quantity and achieve that you could management from the unit itself or wirelessly with the dial in your headset.

Sadly, my favourite function is now locked behind SteelSeries’ GG PC app: the chatmix that allows you to have two distinct audio gadgets on PC and choose the stability between them, shortly quieting a too-loud sport in favor of your teammates on Discord or vice versa. The Nova solely prompts that function in case you’re utilizing its new Sonar program, which provides you particular person equalizers for every of these channels (and even your microphone), however Cam and I each bumped into bizarre bugs, together with one which broke audio gadgets after a reboot and one which sometimes creates phantom presses on my keyboard. I most popular having the chatmix baked into the {hardware}.

SteelSeries says Sonar is in “early entry,” however the necessary chatmix function relies on it.
Screenshot by Sean Hollister / The Verge

The final exceptional factor in regards to the Arctis Nova Professional Wi-fi is that the brand new lively noise cancellation and transparency modes — which my colleague Cam will inform you extra about in a sec — work if you’re plugged right into a PC or console, too. Need to wash out some washer noise when you’re enjoying PS5? Completely works, as does conserving an ear open for my youngsters whereas I’m sucked deep into Returnal utilizing the transparency mode, and each are a faucet or two of the facility button away.

You have to to navigate the truth that the Nova Professional Wi-fi’ beneficiant quantity of configurable sidetone (designed to allow you to hear your self talking) acts as a type of isolation and transparency, although. I needed to mute the mic to actually drown out every thing, and you’ll set sidetone excessive to get extra transparency than the Transparency mode alone.

That’s the Nova Professional Wi-fi in a nutshell: so many choices and a lot flexibility when you get used to the controls.

A picture of a hand holding up the black headset, on a background of orange and yellow stripes set in a geometric pattern.

Picture by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Not fairly a Sony or Bose killer, however nice for a gaming headset

By Cameron Faulkner

I want a set of headphones to save lots of me from all my headphones. On my desk, I juggle between my AirPods for leaping on the telephone and my Sony WH-1000XM3s to pay attention with ANC and have actually good audio high quality. Oh, and there’s often a gaming headset or two or three.

And not using a hint of hyperbole, I’d advocate the SteelSeries Arctis Nova Professional Wi-fi to anybody in the same place as me. They cowl all of my gaming wants, and since I can join wirelessly to a PC or console, plus my telephone by way of Bluetooth, I’m far more more likely to simply maintain utilizing these than I’m to frantically seize one other set and hope they pair earlier than I must reply the telephone or jet out the door.

It’s not only a matter of comfort. They sound glorious, sufficient in order that if I wasn’t already spoiled by Sony’s wealthy sound and unparalleled ANC, I’d suppose that SteelSeries’ newest headset was in all probability near the top of audio efficiency — for a headset masquerading as headphones, at the least. Even the sound high quality over Bluetooth isn’t noticeably worse than what the Nova Professional Wi-fi’ base station can ship over 2.4GHz and USB-C.

When you remove the polished metal disc on the side of the right earcup, you find the swappable battery underneath.

Swappable batteries.
Picture by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

The Nova Professional Wi-fi is able to most of the identical issues (plus some) that you simply’ll discover in high-end headphones from the likes of Sony and Bose. I already talked about lively noise cancellation, however there’s additionally a transparency mode that lets the microphones funnel sound from the surface world into the earcups to pay attention for audible cues that could be necessary. It has a sturdy construct high quality that I want was extra current in my plasticky XM3s (plus, bodily controls trump contact). Your mileage might differ, however I feel these look fairly slick, besides. The truth that you’ll be able to swap the batteries is one other trick that’s very uncommon to seek out in different wi-fi headphones.

It’s straightforward for me to inform that SteelSeries truly needs me to make use of the Nova Professional Wi-fi as Bluetooth headphones. Brilliantly, it designed the headset to have the ability to energy on and off with out interrupting a Bluetooth connection. In actual life, that appears a bit one thing like this:

  1. I’m listening to a podcast on my telephone and gaming on my PC however abruptly want to depart earlier than I’ve an opportunity to pause or give up the sport
  2. Powering off the headset with its devoted energy button cuts the connection to the PC / console, however Bluetooth audio continues with out any interruption
  3. Coming again to the PC / console and powering on the headset loops in that audio seamlessly, once more, with none interruption to Bluetooth audio

As glossy and comparatively understated the design of the Nova Professional Wi-fi is, it’s nonetheless clear — to me, at the least — that I’m utilizing a gaming headset wherever I am going. However I’m not embarrassed to be seen sporting them, and I’m positively not upset to carry them on my commutes.

That mentioned, there’s a little bit of a studying curve for turning into fluent in utilizing the Nova as a pair of Bluetooth headphones. Activating Bluetooth requires long-pressing the Bluetooth-meets-multifunction button situated on the rear aspect of the best ear cup till you hear an audible chime. In the event you haven’t paired a tool to them but, maintain holding a bit longer to enter pairing mode. That’s it.

Shiny.
Picture by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

In the event you’re related to the bottom station, the headset’s quantity dial controls the PC / console’s quantity solely, not your Bluetooth machine. However in case you flip off the headset’s connection to the bottom station, the dial will management your Bluetooth machine’s quantity. Sean ran right into a bizarre bug the place he couldn’t management his Pixel telephone’s quantity as a result of he disconnected whereas the bottom station was nonetheless set to the sport / chat combine mode. In any other case, it labored nice for me.

When related to my Pixel 6, urgent the Bluetooth button as soon as can play or pause media or choose up calls. Double-pressing it should skip tracks (or leap forward in chapters in case you use one thing like Pocket Casts for podcasts), and triple-pressing it should leap backward. No button on this headset can summon a voice assistant.

The mute button on the Nova Professional Wi-fi works as supposed to mute calls (indicated by a purple LED on the tip of the extendable increase microphone. On the subject of microphones, my name recipient instructed me that my voice sounded no totally different than how I sometimes sound by way of a set of Bluetooth headphones. Not significantly nice, however not dangerous. However they did report that my voice sounded higher at one level in the course of the name, which was once I activated gamer mode and totally prolonged the increase mic. I can’t see myself wanting to do that in public for informal calls, but it surely’s cool that it truly makes a distinction to audio high quality. I would use it in an necessary work name if I want my voice to be crystal clear.

The 2-nub adjustment level on both sides helps you to transfer the elastic for taller or shorter heads.
Picture by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

I’d be mendacity if I mentioned that the Nova Professional Wi-fi have been higher than my Sony headphones general. They fall brief in lively noise cancellation (ANC), which isn’t as efficient. As an alternative of constructing me really feel like my ears are in a vacuum-sealed chamber with ANC on, the Nova Professional Wi-fi didn’t present as a lot of a night-and-day distinction. They have been able to hushing all however the loudest noises on the NYC subway, however in my not-so-loud residence atmosphere, some distracting sounds nonetheless discovered their strategy to my ears. Nevertheless, the transparency mode right here is nice sufficient to depend on for, say, listening to when it’s your cease on the subway or pulling in chatter from individuals on the sidewalk. Sean walked outdoor whereas it was a bit windy and was pleasantly shocked to seek out the wind noise didn’t flip right into a microphone screech in both ANC or transparency modes.

Maybe my largest disappointment of utilizing the Nova Professional Wi-fi as Bluetooth headphones is that they don’t provide a lot customization in any respect whereas in Bluetooth mode, which may maybe be solved with a companion app (a la Sony and Bose). The entire tweaks, together with equalizer mode, sidetone depth, and the extent of transparency you want, want you to be related to your base station at residence. However actually, that’s extra of a nitpick than a deal-breaking flaw.

The $249.99 Nova Professional is the same wired headset — as a substitute of a squat wi-fi base station, it comes with this angled DAC.
Picture by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

I additionally frolicked testing out the wired Nova Professional headset, which, at $249.99, is $100 lower than the wi-fi model. Whereas it’s straightforward to level out the apparent omission of any wi-fi capabilities — and there’s no ANC — the Nova Professional stands out extra to me for what it may possibly do than what it may possibly’t.

It’s virtually similar when it comes to design to the wi-fi mannequin however with fewer buttons (only a quantity wheel that doesn’t click on and a mute button), and it’s just a few grams lighter because it doesn’t run on battery or have wi-fi radios. However internally, SteelSeries instructed The Verge that its driver system is similar to that of the wi-fi model.

The massive draw of the wired Nova Professional is the second-generation USB-powered GameDAC station that’s included. It has the identical huge knob and consumer interface as the bottom station included with the wi-fi mannequin, however inside, it comprises an ESS Sabre quad DAC that’s able to outputting Hello-Res 96KHz / 24-bit audio on PC (you’ll want to enter machine properties in Home windows to spice up it from 48KHz to 96KHz). Briefly, it’s a gaming headset that’s primed for audiophiles.

Given how a lot I loved the sound high quality of the Nova Professional Wi-fi, I wasn’t anticipating a noticeable enchancment with the wired mannequin. However the GameDAC truly did make a distinction. Music sounds fuller, with extra heat and a closer-sounding proximity to my ears. Swapping between each fashions to match efficiency, the wired headphones have a extra highly effective sound with extra element.

This was true of my expertise with video games, too. I plugged the GameDAC into my PS5 for some Gran Turismo 7, and on a wet time trial, I may hear particular person raindrops hitting my automobile’s windshield. Again on the wi-fi mannequin, it nonetheless seemed like rain, however like I used to be listening to it from afar. You may nonetheless get this efficiency from the wi-fi mannequin by plugging it right into a DAC because it’s obtained the identical drivers, and SteelSeries even tends to promote its GameDACs individually if you need.

Regardless of missing wi-fi performance, the GameDAC included with the cheaper Nova Professional helps you to simply join to only as many kinds of audio sources, together with PlayStation, PC, macOS, the Nintendo Change’s dock, cell, and Xbox. Although, you’ll want the Xbox-specific mannequin that SteelSeries makes to work with Xbox’s audio protocol.

Since Sean and I are reviewing each the wi-fi and wired variations of the Arctis Nova Professional, I naturally have to decide on one which I’d truly need to personal. Tempting as it’s to throw out all of my headphones for a single unit, I’d put my cash behind the wired Nova Professional since its high-end audio efficiency makes it a novel addition to my tech assortment. If I didn’t already personal a set of fine noise-canceling headphones, I wouldn’t hesitate to spend extra to get the Nova Professional Wi-fi.

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