Here I am back on the audio stuff again. Giving my ears something new it’s time for a quick music shop before hitting up this review.
Steelseries, many of us have known this company for years, many reviews have passed through here with high praise. Quality has always been a mainstay for their products from mice and keyboards to headsets and controllers targeting the mid to high end marketplace.
The Steelseries Arctis 3 Bluetooth and Wired Headset has been presented to me for review. From previous experience I am expecting great things from this headset, having previously and currently owning some of their products that I am more than happy to use on a daily basis.
Interestingly this headset features bluetooth capability along with wired connections, let’s have a look at the specs to see what we are dealing with.
Headphone Frequency Response20-22000 Hz
Headphone Impedance32 Ohm
Headphone Total Harmonic Distortion< 3%
Headphone Volume ControlOn Ear Cup
Microphone Frequency Response100Hz – 10000Hz
Microphone Sensitivity-48 db
Microphone Impedance2200 Ohm
Microphone Mute ToggleOn Ear Cup
Cable Connections4-pole, 3.5mm; Dual 3.5mm for PC
Cable Length(s)1.2m; 3m
Bluetooth ProfilesA2DP, HFP, HSP
Wireless Range30ft, 10m
Battery LifeActive listening time: 28 hours
Product Information Guide
Arctis 3 Bluetooth Headset
Dual 3.5mm Extension Cable
3.5mm 4-Pole Adapter
A Closer Look
As usual Steelseries supply their products in an attractive and purposeful box, folded sturdy cardboard to protect the contents. The front shown here gives us a good sized image of the headset with the Bluetooth feature heavily highlighted amongst some other features. A quote from PC Gamer shows in the top corner to attract prospective buyers.
Around the back of the box, we get more information split into languages above which some more angles of the headset, the cabling and more emphasis on multi use for gaming and portability.
Lifting the lid on the box, we are presented with quite a bit of plastic, this cradles the headset very well for transportation but isn’t very attractive so a window in the lid would not suit this layout.
Popping the Arctis 3 on my headphone stand, we have a nice understated design, no flashy gamer features here just pure headset. The retractable microphone that Steelseries have often featured on their headsets is again utilised with the retraction feeling quite smooth. The separate inner headband featuring a Ski Goggle material is another returning feature, I really do like this kind of fitting, it is incredibly comfortable. The ear cushions forego the usual p-leather found on many headsets these days and go for a very soft material.
The left hand shot of the Arctis 3 hands us more understated design with a neat Steelseries logo at the bottom of the earcup. The extendable microphone has a tendency to spring upwards after having been stored retracted for a long time, it does do as it’s told when positioning after a while.
The right hand side holds no surprises, continuing the stylish presentation for a headset that wouldn’t look out of place in a listening room, out and about or in front of your PC shooting bad guys. First impressions are of another quality product from Steelseries.
I am surprised how light this headset is considering the amount of gubbins installed. Besides the microphone we have a Micro B USB Charging port, a headphone share port for audio throughput, a Micro A USB connection port to source, a volume wheel and a microphone mute button. Much of this functionality is normally included on a dongle on the cable but with multiple cabling options and of course a bluetooth module this is the smarter way to go.
Over on the right earcup, we have a bluetooth pairing button and receiver area, there is also a bit that is sealed in with a rubber blanking grommet, no indication as to what that is though.
Before we get into the testing part here’s a screenie of the Steelseries Engine 3 software that accompanies the headset.
Oddly to use the 7.1 surround feature and other tweaks for this headset you have to register it, normally the software just picks up the device without any further messing around. Gaining access to this panel however not only gives you the aforementioned 7.1 virtual surround but also audio tweaks for both the output and microphone. Multiple profiles can be saved to switch around depending on your application.
Performance & Testing
With a 3m dual jack cable length, the headset easily reaches around the back of the PC, with no short cable restrictions it is easy to use and very comfortable. Sound quality out of the box is very good, the Arctis 3 has a very crisp and clear soundstage, none of the ranges are overstated so to get extra heavy bass you would have to turn to software tuning. This is unfortunately where a problem shows up to users of the current version of Windows 10 (Creator). Since the addition of virtual surround and effects within the default audio options on Windows, it was not possible for me to get the Steelseries Engine 3 software to make any changes to the headset’s audio output, microphone functions work, but virtual 7.1, EQ and Bass Boost do nothing. Tweaks do still work with the sound card’s built in functionality.
Listening to music on the headset is very pleasant and the quality is top notch for a gaming headset, the drivers can deliver a very decent frequency range. Listening to some new glitch hop I could easily pick out the instruments in amongst the drums and bass.
Gaming with the headset is also a great experience, the comfort of the headband to the fabric padding on the earpads makes for easy long sessions. Sound quality is spot on for games where pinpointing footsteps and gunfire is important, even without virtual 7.1 you get a decent soundstage.
Microphone performance is excellent, my gaming friends had no issues hearing me during play sessions with voice chat clear but not harsh.
The controls on the earcups are fairly well laid out, adjusting the volume while wearing the headset is very easy, finding the mic mute button a little less so until you get used to it being flush with the earcup while mic audio is enabled. I took the headset off to operate the bluetooth button so as to be able to see the LED flashing for pairing.
Finally there is a very slight hum when charging the headset and using it at the same time, I am not sure if this is the cable or the charging mechanism in the headset itself. It’s not too distracting but it is there.
Hooking up the headset to my phone via Bluetooth, I found the sound quality excellent, listening to music or watching videos offered up a great audio range, seemingly unaffected by the Bluetooth connection or the headset’s built in amplifier. Being free of wires is great although the range at which the signal starts to break up/suffer from interference is only about 3 metres in our house.
As a test I grabbed an old Bluetooth dongle and used the headset for gaming with Bluetooth, occasional audio lag which could have been down to the dongle along with a little interference over the mic in Discord, it was still a very capable setup even though using the Arctis 3 this way is not really advised.
Being able to blend bluetooth connectivity with a wired connection is quite innovative, this allows you to wire into a device such as a PC yet have a Bluetooth connection to a phone or tablet for voice comms, this also worked very well with the headset automatically mixing the audio from both sources.
Steelseries have again produced a solid performing headset with a clever combination of wired and wireless operation.
The drivers in the headset are excellent, as is often the case from Steelseries, sound quality is top notch both when wired and wireless. The frequency range ensures enjoyment across a large audio spectrum while producing a wide soundstage. During gaming the audio is precise and the sound quality from the microphone in wired mode is excellent. Bluetooth wireless can suffer from interference however it does work well. The software appears to be suffering from a compatibility issue with the current version of Windows 10, hopefully this will be ironed out soon. One slight annoyance that doesn’t make much sense is having to register the headset with a Steelseries account to access software and firmware updates. I really feel that companies need to stop this practice, it serves no valuable purpose to the user and frustrating your customers can’t be that beneficial to companies either.
The Arctis 3 is gorgeous to look at, no flashy gamer lighting or lumps of plastic just a pretty sleek well built headset using some quality feeling materials. The dual headband design has been used before and is still one of my favourites for comfort. For a headset with Bluetooth it is quite lightweight, adding to the comfort levels during use. The buttons to control the various functions on the earcups are pretty well laid out although the microphone mute button takes a little getting used to. A nice little bonus is the option to change out the inner headband with different colour or design, although this is not visible when the headset is in use.
At the time of writing the Steelseries Arctis 3 Bluetooth sells for around £135 which is quite expensive, but you do get a price premium when the quality hits this level and if you are prepared to do without Bluetooth then you can drop £45 off the price. This makes the Bluetooth option a little expensive for my tastes. There is an offer of a free inner headband which is nice.
I am quite impressed with the Steelseries Arctis 3 Bluetooth, the headset offers great audio performance with the added bonus of being quite portable. Being able to combine the wired and wireless capabilities is a great option and works very well. The comfort and overall design is exceptional, with very few little niggles this headset is absolutely worth considering. A well earned Gold Award and Design Award are happily bestowed on the Arctis 3 Bluetooth.
Many thanks to Steelseries for sending the Arctis 3 Bluetooth and Wired Headset in for review.
- Excellent design and comfort
- Great audio performance
- Combining wired and wireless use
- Software issues and registration
- Slight interference when charging
- A little expensive