The SteelSeries Arctis Pro + GameDAC is Now My Default Headset

By Laura Kate Dale on at

Working in the gaming space I've tried out a LOT of headsets over the years. From 3.5mm jack headsets that plug into the controller, to wireless headsets supporting optical audio, and USB headsets on PC, you name it, I've tried 'em all.

I've spent the past weekend using the SteelSeries Arctis Pro + GameDAC, a USB headset with a powered dock, and it's a seriously impressive bit of kit. This is the most comfortable and fully featured headset I've used, and avoids many of the pitfalls of a wireless setup.  It's not perfect, and the quality comes at a price, but it's undeniably a superb headset that does everything my PC / PS4 setup needs.

The headset is managed via an independently controlled dock which acts as a digital to analogue converter, a standard part of most audio output setups, but with this device there are nice benefits. In testing, the DAC handled any encoding or file type I could think to throw at it, and acted as an intermediary cutting out almost all of the buzz that can appear when using USB headsets at full volume. That electronic hum from the USB never emerged thanks to the in between step of the DAC box.

The DAC also offers a series of useful customisation options which, crucially, can be accessed without having to tweak settings in a desktop app. This was particularly useful for gaming as I could quickly adjust the gaming to chat audio mix, the overall volume mix, the frequency equalization mix, headset lighting and more mid-game using one dial and a button. Being able to tweak settings without tabbing out of games all the time is a godsend, and something I'd now struggle to tolerate.

I also appreciated how seamlessly I could hook optical audio and 3.5mm audio cables into the dock and get them working with the headset. While desk space is always at a premium, this little device flashing away next to me while I work has earned its place.

In terms of the headset build, the Arctis Pro is incredibly comfortable over long periods: I've worn it for over ten hours in a single session while testing without any discomfort. The visual design forgoes the angular loud style of many 'gamer' headsets in favour of a smooth and sleek design that you could even wear outside without feeling foolish. In that case you'd have to use an (included) adapter cable to use the headset with a standard headphone jack, but it's nice that this is considered at all.

While the headset build quality is excellent, the cables connecting to the DAC as well as to the PC itself, are not braided - which may not be a huge problem, but does feel a little low end for a headset with an RRP of £249.99. It's one of the few areas where the design feels less premium and sturdy than the price tag deserves.

So how does it sound? When the Arctis Pro is being used via the DAC, the audio quality was superior to any headset I have ever tried that's marketed specifically at the gaming crowd. It handled positional audio, a wide range of different layered audio types, and very busy music with superb ease. This is one of those headsets where you'll listen to a Flac file of a favourite song, and suddenly realise how much of the track you had previously been missing. This is an audiophile's gaming headset, and while not quite on par with more expensive options plugged straight into a PCI card, it's the best audio quality you're likely to find over USB.

The benefits of this headset are only going to be apparent with high quality audio. While it sounds fantastic in cases like the above, if you're loading a song up on Youtube then you're going to miss what makes this special. This headset is delivering at the top end on audio quality, and the microphone quality is also pretty stunning - not least thanks to the inclusion of an enclosed foam cover to act as a pop cap for those who want their voice as crisp as possible.

The headset also shone when hooked up to a console via optical cable. It's nice to have have the DAC on PC, and to avoid tabbing out to tweak audio, but as the PS4 has no PC-style customisable control settings, the DAC's ability to tweak equalization and game vs chat audio on-the-fly really comes into its own here. Quite outside of the build quality it's these less obvious aspects of the headset - ease of customisation, compatibility - that set it apart from much of the competition.

There's no denying that the Arctis Pro + GameDAC is expensive, but if you've got the money then this is the best quality USB headset I've ever used. I sure wish it came with braided cables, and it'd be nice if I didn't need to keep this cable adaptor around in order to use it with my phone. The minor grumbles aside this is comfortable, with incredibly impressive audio output, and has instantly jumped to the top of my 'favourite headsets' list.