The SteelSeries Arctis 9 is an incredibly versatile pair of headphones you can buy on the market right now. It can connect wirelessly via a 2.4GHz receiver or Bluetooth, depending on your device. Moreover, it’s even compatible with the PS5 so it’s great for both PC and PlayStation gamers. However, while these features are great, it doesn’t necessarily mean they make it the right choice. Is it the best wireless headset for your needs? Let’s find out.
What Is the SteelSeries Arctis 9?
The SteelSeries Arctis 9 wireless headset is a well-built model from the brand that covers multiple bases. With it, you get to use a wireless headset for hours on end with either a PC or PlayStation console. It’s long-lasting, comfortable, has a retractable mic, and is very versatile overall. However, it does have a few downsides like its less-than-ideal battery life and average mic performance.
We’ll dive into the details of this SteelSeries headset more later on. For now, just know that it’s an alternative to the SteelSeries Arctis 9X that’s made for Xbox consoles. With this model, you can comfortably switch between your PC or PS5 or even a mobile device on the fly. It’s also compatible with VR headsets, the Nintendo Switch, and Mac computers. However, it does cost quite a lot (about $220) so it’s not exactly affordable. Nonetheless, it should serve you well for gaming and casual use if you can afford it.
Who Is the Target Market of the SteelSeries Arctis 9?
The SteelSeries Arctis 9 packs a ton of features and functionality in one. However, just because it can do a lot of things doesn’t mean it’s the ideal headset for everybody. With that said, who is the SteelSeries Arctis 9 mainly for?
Firstly, we reckon it’s the ideal headset for gamers who like to frequently switch between platforms. That’s because it not only employs a receiver-based wireless connection but also BlueTooth. Hence, you can use it with your PC and your smartphone or tablet.
Secondly, it’s also a great choice for gamers who don’t want to purchase an additional adapter for the Arctis 9X. If you’ve followed the 9X, you’d know that its wireless capabilities are poor. The SteelSeries Arctis 9 circumvents these problems and offers a more convenient solution.
Lastly, the SteelSeries Arctis 9 is a great headset for someone who just needs something comfortable for all-day use. Therefore, if you’re a work-from-home office worker or freelancer, it’s one of the best you can buy. It has good sound and mic quality overall and should fare well in conference calls, consuming media, and the like.
SteelSeries Arctis 9 Specs
|Connectivity||2.4GHz wireless receiver (lag-free);
BlueTooth 4.1 (A2DP, HFP, HSP)
|Compatibility||PC, Mac, PlayStation, Nintendo Switch, Mobile, VR headsets|
|Microphone||Arctis ClearCast retractable microphone
100-6,500 Hz frequency
|Audio||Signature Arctis sound w/ ChatMix
DTS Surround Sound Headphone:X v2.0
|Battery Life||20 hours on a charge|
|Wireless Range||40 ft / 12 m|
|Speaker Drivers||40mm Neodymium Drivers|
|Harmonic Distortion||< 3%|
|Volume Controls||Included on the ear cup|
SteelSeries Arctis 9 Review
Of course, spec sheets are only on paper and can only tell you so much about a headset. That’s why it’s important to look at the SteelSeries Arctis headset from a real-world usage standpoint. With that said, is it a good enough headset for you? Let’s find out in this SteelSeries Arctis 9 wireless headset review.
The SteelSeries Arctis 9 is built with a comfortable yet sturdy material that should make it long-lasting. Its primary build is metal while the suspension frame is made of brushed steel. Lastly, earpads use soft airweave material while the ski goggle-like headband helps keep the device firmly placed on your head.
Overall, despite its metal build, the SteelSeries Arctis 9 feels quite light. It clamps with the right amount of force to help secure the cups to your ears. However, it’s never too tight that it feels uncomfortable to the head – great if you like playing for long periods. Although we will say that the tightness might become a problem if you have a particularly large head.
Apart from this, the earcups do a decent job of sealing your ears so the sound doesn’t leak too much. They’re also great at heat management so you shouldn’t worry too much about that while you’re gaming. On the other hand, the built-in microphone is placed on the left-hand side of the device. It’s retractable so you can conveniently tuck it away when not in use.
The overall design of the SteelSeries Arctis 9 is simple and sleek. It’s lightweight, firm, and does a great job of keeping a low profile while remaining elegant. However, there are a few kinks here and there in the design of the whole thing.
For example, the built-in controls on the device are a little loud and noisy. It’s full of dials and buttons that can contribute to confusion if you’re unfamiliar with its navigation. However, they are spaced out pretty evenly so it shouldn’t be a problem once you’re more used to it.
The buttons on the headphones are comprehensive. On the right earcup, you get the standard power switch, a BlueTooth button, and a mic mute. Of course, there’s also the standard volume dial (that most other headphones have) located here. It also houses the micro USB charging port and 3.5mm jack.
As for the left earcup, you find the mic and the game and chat audio dial manager. These two are the only things the left earcup holds so it’s much less busy on this side. With that said, we admit that the plethora of controls on the headset themselves makes things feel a bit noisy. However, to some people, it may seem more advantageous because you have more easy access to controls and navigation.
What’s the sound quality like on the SteelSeries Arctis 9? Overall, we’d say it sounds similar to other Arctis headsets like the Arctis 7 and Arctis Pro. It sounds great overall on both the PC and PlayStation. The sound is accurate with a slight boost in the bass at 100Hz.
Overall, most music you listen to, regardless of genre, should sound pleasant on the SteelSeries Arctis 9. Vocals sound clear and crisp even when instruments seem to overpower the track. As for games, there’s nothing you should truly worry about in general. They’ll sound clear and crisp even when you’re on a Discord call at the same time. It also helps that the headphones have dedicated ChatMix controls.
Does Arctis 9 have surround sound? Yes, it does. On the PC, you can use the DTS:X 2 surround sound standard using the SteelSeries Engine app. Overall, it works as intended and provides decently immersive sound if your game has support for it. Whether it’s multidirectional sound effects, cues, or music, the sound should perform well.
Does the Arctis 9 have noise-canceling? For the most part, the noise isolation on the SteelSeries Arctis 9 is average. Hence, it won’t block a lot of outside noise. Unfortunately, the product doesn’t have active noise cancellation whatsoever so you’re stuck with how it performs by default.
Now, some users might not see this as a problem, especially if they’re mostly at home playing games anyway. Regardless, the SteelSeries Arctis 9 isn’t ideal if you need something to take with you on commutes. Even the surrounding sounds of a regular cafe will leak in. We imagine it will be worse when it comes to buses, trains, or planes.
The SteelSeries Arctis 9 comes with a built-in, retractable microphone that’s pretty standard for gaming headphones. Your voice will be de-emphasized and should sound isolated enough, regardless of voice frequency. However, we do think it’s rather quiet sometimes precisely because of the isolation. Overall, the mic quality on the headset is just decent – not bad but not amazing, either.
One of the biggest advantages of the SteelSeries Arctis 9 is certainly its wide range of connectivity options. That’s because, aside from having a 2.4GHz receiver, you also have the option to connect via BlueTooth. Through these multiple options, you can connect to the platform you want as long as it’s not the Xbox.
Of course, we do highly recommend using the 2.4GHz wireless receiver if you want a lag-free experience. However, connecting the headset via BlueTooth won’t be too bad, either, if you don’t mind the slight lag. Although it’s somewhat disappointing that the headset only offers SBC and AAC codec support. Hence, Android users might want to choose a different headset because AAC doesn’t work well if it’s not Apple.
Apart from this, the headset also has a 3.5mm port so you can use a cord for lossless audio. This makes the SteelSeries Arctis 9 even more versatile because you can listen with or without a wire at any time.
Unfortunately, the battery life on the SteelSeries Arctis 9 is a mere 20 hours on a single charge. Hence, while you’ll probably get a full day’s use out of it, it’ll still need frequent charging. That’s especially true since the 20-hour battery life is more of something SteelSeries put on the spec sheet. In real-world testing, it might last a little less.
Some users report real-world use will only let you use it up to a little over 18 hours. That number dwindles even further if you choose to connect it via BlueTooth instead of the 2.4GHz dongle. Of course, you can always use the wire when you’re running low on battery – that’s the silver lining. Nonetheless, we had hoped it would last longer than roughly 20 hours.
Does Arctis 9X work with PS5? There’s good news for gamers who switch between PC and console when it comes to this headset. That’s because the SteelSeries Arctis 9 PS5 and PS4 compatibility are superb. Moreover, it’s even compatible with the Nintendo Switch so you have more options to choose from.
Apart from this, the SteelSeries Arctis 9 also performs excellently with BlueTooth devices. Hence, you can use it with a Mac, iPhone, or Android device. What’s more, you can even simultaneously connect to two devices using BlueTooth and the 2.4GHz dongle. This makes multitasking or picking up a call while gaming fairly easy and convenient.
The SteelSeries Arctis 9 already comes with a plethora of buttons and dials built-in for convenient controls. However, should you want more customization, you can dive into the accompanying SteelSeries Engine app.
Through this, you can adjust the EQ settings and choose from presets to change the stereo and surround sound. Moreover, it gives you a relatively precise reading of the battery life and mic settings. Granted, it’s a little clunkier than we’d like it to be. Nonetheless, it does the job well enough and you’ll probably only use it once or twice to adjust settings. Afterward, you won’t need to tinker with too many things using the software.
Arctis 9 vs Other SteelSeries Headsets
SteelSeries Arctis 7
Between SteelSeries Arctis 7 vs 9, which is the better option? If you’ve been following SteelSeries for a while, you’d know that these two products are pretty closely related. Not only are they of the same line but they’re also similarly specced. However, there are a few key differences that might make you choose one or the other. What are they?
Firstly, the SteelSeries Arctis 7 has a 10-hour longer battery life than the Arctis 9. Hence, you’ll get more juice out of it while using it wirelessly on a single charge. In addition, and perhaps most importantly, the SteelSeries Arctis 7 is compatible with the Xbox. This makes it a great alternative to the SteelSeries Arctis 9 if you like Xbox more than the PlayStation.
On the other hand, the SteelSeries Arctis 9 does have an edge in certain areas. For example, it has better noise cancellation and controls overall. Moreover, its wireless range is two meters longer than the Arctis 7, making it a bit more flexible. It’s also more affordable than the 7, although this may vary depending on the retailer.
SteelSeries Arctis 9x
Now, let’s compare the most obvious alternative: the SteelSeries Arctis 9X. Between the SteelSeries Arctis 9 vs 9X, which is the better headset? Firstly, what you have to know is that both of these headphones perform well – almost equally so. However, they do have slight modifications and differences that make them distinct.
For instance, the SteelSeries Arctis 9 is compatible with PlayStation consoles, unlike the 9X. On the other hand, the Arctis 9X is compatible with Xbox. In this case, it’s a matter of which console you want to pair your headset with.
Apart from this, the Arctis 9 is also better in terms of wireless range. It boasts a 12-meter range over the 9X’s 6-meter one, making it a great deal more competitive. Furthermore, it’s a bit cheaper than the 9X depending on where you’re buying the SteelSeries wireless headset from. However, the 9X does have better microphone frequency so take that into account if you’re often on conference calls.
SteelSeries Arctis 9 vs Competitors
Turtle Beach Stealth 700 Gen 2
Are you looking for a cheaper alternative to the SteelSeries Arctis 9? If so then we recommend the Turtle Beach Stealth 700 Gen 2. It’s much more affordable and has nearly double the battery life. In addition, its microphone is much more accurate, making it a great option if you’re a call-heavy user. The biggest downside you’ll have to live with, however, is the lack of surround sound inherent to the Arctis 9.
Razer BlackShark V2 Pro
If audio and mic quality are your top priorities then we recommend the Razer BlackShark V2 Pro. It has an 8,000Hz better high-frequency and an 8Hz lower low-frequency. Moreover, it has a bigger driver unit (50mm) and the microphone is 10,000Hz instead of 6,500Hz. Apart from this, it also has a 4-hour longer battery life and is compatible with the Xbox. However, it does fall short on noise isolation which the SteelSeries Arctis 9 performs better at.
Is the SteelSeries Arctis 9 a Must-Buy?
With all that said, is Arctis 9 worth the money? Generally speaking, yes it is. It’s great if you want something flexible, functional, and capable of wirelessly connecting in multiple ways. The headset is well-built and is extremely comfortable – enough even if you game for hours on end. It also sounds great in both the audio and mic quality. There’s no doubt you’ll be satisfied with what it has to offer.
However, do note that it has a couple of drawbacks you have to live with. For example, the BlueTooth connectivity isn’t great for Android because of the limited codec support. Moreover, the battery life could be better as 20 hours just isn’t much if you’re a heavy user. Lastly, it isn’t compatible with Xbox consoles so it’s certainly something to keep in mind if you’re an Xbox user.