Review: SteelSeries Arctis Nova 7X meshes comfort with performance

Review: SteelSeries Arctis Nova 7X meshes comfort with performance

SteelSeries headsets have always been a blind spot for me. I’ve reviewed Logitech, HyperX, EPOS and Turtle Beach brands, but I’ve never had a chance to use a set of cans from the Danish manufacturer. That changed at a preview event this year, where I donned a SteelSeries Nova 1 and fell in love.

Two elements stood out the most. The first was the comfort. The headset felt light and the ear cup cushions were surprisingly supple. The second was the sound, which emitted clear and bright audio. How did I miss out on this for so long? If the more affordable headsets in the line were this good, I was intrigued about the possibilities of the higher-end products.

That’s why I couldn’t help but be excited when SteelSeries sent over its Arctis Nova 7X for review. The Xbox version of its midrange headset offers more bells and whistles but maintains the form factor that attracted me originally.

The Nova 7X weighs in at 325 grams, which is surprisingly light because it’s wireless. That’s a little more than the ultra comfortable but wired HyperX Cloud III, which comes in at 309 grams. Donning the headset, the ear cup cushions create a decent seal that keeps out most outside noise while the AirWeave memory foam creates a breathable area so that it doesn’t form a sticky sauna on the head. The suspension band overhead makes sure the Nova 7X sits on the head snuggly with minimal adjustments.

The design allows SteelSeries to create rotating earcups that can sit flush on the collarbone. It’s not a pressing need, but it’s one of several conveniences that are appreciated. Those who want more customization can switch out the plates and headband with different colors or designs, though they’re fairly limited compared to the Pro version.

The Arctis Nova 7X will take some time to adjust to, but once you figure out the bells and whistles, it’s a fantastic headset. (SteelSeries) 

When it comes to performance, the Nova 7X stands out with its clarity. The 40mm drivers push out sound that offers players every detail in a scene. They can encounter a noisy party in a game and hear the subtle clink of glasses in a toast. When surrounded by drums, players can hear the direction of a pulsing beat. Using the headset, players can hear every detail and know where it’s coming from. It especially excels in simulating the rear channels.

The Nova 7X focuses on performance. In competitive first-person shooters, the Nova 7X lets players know where the danger is coming from. To get the most out of the product, though, players will need to familiarize themselves with the SteelSeries GG software and the Sonar Audio Software Suite. That can take a while. If you’re on PC, it can be especially confusing because the software introduces five new outputs.

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It can be overwhelming, but with enough experimentation, users can figure out the settings. From there, they can further customize the listening experience with different presets. They even have ones based on popular games, including presets tuned by the developers. After the initial learning curve, figuring out Sonar is easy and users can highlight footsteps so no one gets the drop on them if they’re camping in an area.

Furthermore, they can tweak the spatial sound for one focused on an immersive single–player experience. Sonar nicely balances accessibility with robust customization so that players can access and understand the settings they want.

Although the headset offers great clarity and great directionality mimicking surround sound, it doesn’t have strong bass. It doesn’t rumble or explode with much impact, compared to headsets such as the ones from EPOS. Those cans thrum, boom and explode with their bass without distortion. On the other hand, the Nova 7X is decent but doesn’t pack the same oomph. Even if you tune the presets for deep Music: Deep Bass, you won’t have the same impact.

Despite that, the Nova 7X has other elements going for it. The device features Bluetooth connection so that you can listen to music from a phone or answer a call while gaming if need be. Better yet, it works flawlessly with the Nintendo Switch, offering great sound with minimal lag.

The Arctis Nova 7X has a dongle for PC and Xbox connection though it isn’t the most elegant. (SteelSeries) 

They can work in a pinch if you need to do a Zoom call, and the microphone, which is retractable and tucks into an ear cup, picks up your voice well while muffling outside noise. Players can again tweak those settings in Sonar by adjusting the noise gate and noise reduction. The boom mic even features a red light when muted, which popa out of the corner of the eye.

As for the other buttons on the ear cup, the Nova 7X has one for the volume on the left and another for the game and chat mix. Again, it takes some getting used to, but knowing which one is which can help with the potential confusion. If you want to hear more of the game, you can turn the dial to push more game sound out but if you want to hear more teammates, you can pump up the chat volume. It takes some getting used to and there will be times when the headset chat may seemingly not work but that could be because users turned the wrong dial.

When it comes console and system support, the 7X will work with about any video game or PC you can throw at it. The dongle creates a reliable connection to the Xbox though you’ll need an included adapter. Unfortunately, it doesn’t connect directly to the system. On the PlayStation 5, a quick flip to USB mode on the dongle will get it to work.

With 38 hours of battery life, the headset can last almost a week without needing to be charged. That all adds up to an impressive package that has plenty of features, great sound for competitive gamers and top-tier comfort. It’s actually worth the $179.99 price tag for everything players are getting. They just have to deal with the learning curve.

Arctris Nova 7X Wireless

3½ stars out of 4
Platform: Xbox Series X and Series S, PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5
Manufacturer: SteelSeries