Over the past month or so I’ve been using the new SteelSeries Arctis 3 gaming headset, basically because it was pitched to me as a potential solution to the various issues with Switch voice chat. If you're not familiar with Nintendo's rather odd solution, suffice to say that this headset works without the need for an adaptor to process two sources of audio in and out of one headset. It’s a point mentioned in press releases for the headset, on the side of the box, and yes it convinced me to try out yet another gaming headset.
So here’s the deal with the Arctis 3: most headsets only allow one audio source to come through at a time, even if more than one audio source is present. The Arctis 3 supports simultaneously connecting to one device via bluetooth, and another via a headphone jack, and playing the audio from both at once in your ears. The idea here is you can connect to your phone via bluetooth, plug the headphones into your Switch via a headset jack, and hear both audio sources in your ears at once, while using the headset mic to talk to your friends via the phone app. It’s one fewer device to be physically cabled to, it skips the need for an adaptor, and in theory makes Switch voice chat a bit easier to achieve.
And it works really well for that purpose. If you have Switch friends who use the voice chat phone app, this is a great solution for chatting to them while still hearing game audio. To be frank I don't use Nintendo's app and neither do most of my Switch-playing friends, preferring Discord and Skype, but the headset does just fine using those too. Potential downsides are that it does rely on a wired connection to the Switch, meaning the headset is really for use in handheld mode during multiplayer, but it’s a more elegant solution than buying a cheap pair of headphones just to get the weird squiddy adaptor thing you’re meant to use. It only has one volume dial, too, so you need to independently mix audio levels on the devices if you're using both inputs at once.
Outside of this niche use case that suckered me in, the surprising quality of the Arctis 3 is how versatile it is as a standalone headset. For a gaming headset in particular, the design lacks most of the usual angsty angular glowing gamer hallmarks, and looks more like a traditional pair of high quality over-ear headphones. The microphone stows neatly away in an unobtrusive manner and, with solid bluetooth support, I’ve found myself using it across my other devices pretty exclusively since getting it. On PS4 or Xbox One, the simultaneous wired and wireless support still offers some nice benefits, allowing you to either use your phone to pipe in Discord and Skype voice chats in the same manner as Switch, or listen to a podcast while you game away.
The Arctis 3 is a comfortable bluetooth headset with detailed sound quality and an understated design that make it an attractive mid range option for everyday use (RRP is £134.99 for the bluetooth model, which is substantial but still cheaper than a lot of the competition). The nice thing is it filled a home gaming niche I didn’t really know existed, because it's lovely being able to game and have a chat app running independently through one headset, not to mention the podcasts and music – and this makes it easy. There may be headsets out there with better sound quality and much bigger prices, but the feature set here just kept me coming back to it.