If you've just spent thousands on an expensive gaming laptop and now need an affordable gaming headset, look no further than the SteelSeries Arctis 1. For just $50, you get a gaming headset with good sound, a comfortable fit and a sleek design, as well as a detachable microphone. Of course, the sound isn't going to be perfect at this price; the highs can get a little sharp, and the bass gets lost among any treble-heavy instruments. But overall, the Arctis 1 is an excellent budget gaming headset.
The Arctis 1 gives off a discreet but luxurious vibe. If you'd said that the Arctis 1 was a top-of-the-line headset, you could've fooled me. Unlike many expensive gaming headsets, the Arctis 1 doesn't have an extravagant design. But it doesn't look cheap or needlessly colorful like other inexpensive headsets, either. Most important, I feel comfortable wearing the Arctis 1 out in public.
The ear cups are solid black, and just below the center of each cup is a SteelSeries logo. SteelSeries' signature polygon design is also painted within the ear cups. Just above the cups is an adjustable steel band that feeds into the rest of the headband, reinforcing it. The top of the headband is slim, black and plastic, while the underside integrates a seamless pleather cushion that elegantly protrudes from the base.
There are only two controls on the Arctis 1, both located on the left cup: the mute switch and the volume dial. Here, you can also find the 3.5-mm audio wire, which is just over 4 feet long, as well as the input for the detachable microphone. The microphone is short, slender and flexible.
In the box, you'll also find a 5-foot adapter wire that splits the 3.5-mm jack into microphone and headphone inputs. This is a neat accessory if you have a gaming laptop with multiple audio ports.
The Arctis 1's Airweave fabric ear cushions are surprisingly comfortable. They fit perfectly over my ears and didn't squeeze my head to death like some other budget gaming headsets did.
Under the band is a pleather cushion that I barely felt against my head because the material was so light. The band itself required little effort to adjust, but I wish there were notches on the steel band that indicated its position.
At 9.6 ounces, the Arctis 1 was practically unnoticeable on my head. While the fit wasn't super tight, the headset didn't shift when I turned my head, either.
In this price range, you won't find better sound for gaming than the Arctis 1's performance.
When I played The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, I could hear each and every drop of water falling from the ceiling in the damp cave I was in, giving life to the eerie scenario. Geralt's voice sounded crisp and clear as he talked over a pile of bones, deducing that they belonged to children. When I went to my bestiary to read up on what I was hunting, the clicks between the UI and the background music sounded a tad too sharp.
In Mortal Kombat 11, I kicked Scorpion against a tool drawer and power-drilled right through his skull, which produced a meaty, crackling sound. As Cassie Cage, shooting Scorpion in the foot delivered the satisfying shot of a firearm, and when Scorpion's blood spattered across the ground, it sounded appropriately moist. Juggling Scorpion in the air with Cassie Cage's kicks created solid thuds, but when Scorpion came at me with his blade, each slash sounded as sharp as the blade felt (and it did not feel good).
As I took on a horde of orcs in Middle-earth: Shadow of War, my sword swung true as it slashed through my foes, and the sound effect of each stroke sounded full and violent. The orcs' voices were (ironically) clear and articulate as I was pummelling them to death with Celebrimbor's hammer. However, when my sword met a wooden club, the thud emanating from it sounded too soft, as if the bass were muted.
I was satisfied with how loud the Arctis 1 got while playing music. But although the overall quality was solid, it had some flaws.
The opening vocals in Missio's "I See You" sounded crisp and bright, but the song was a hair sharp on the highs. The drumbeats were loud too, and while they blended well with the vocals, they didn't carry much weight. When more instruments began to clash, the sound became a little muddy.
I also listened to SiM's "Existence," and both the heavy guitar opening and the vocals were nice and heavy. The cymbal in the background was a little quiet, but I could hear it backing up the drums. As in the previous song, it was a little difficult to discern the percussion from everything else.
I tried an orchestral piece with Bear McCreary's "Ashes," and the stringed instruments sounded as hypnotic as they did when I first picked up the Leviathan Axe in God of War, producing strong mids and highs. When the vocals kicked in, they were bright and full.
The Arctis 1's detachable microphone sounded decent when I tested it. My voice came off as clear and comfortably loud, although the sound occasionally peaked. I was talking to my co-worker, who was sitting approximately 5 feet from me, and while I could hear him in the playback, his voice was low enough that it wasn't bothersome. Many other budget headsets pick up literally everything in the background.
If you're on a budget, get the SteelSeries Arctis 1. It has a great fit, produces solid sound, looks sleek enough to wear in public without drawing attention and has a conveniently detachable microphone. However, you're still going to deal with slightly sharp highs and less-than-desirable bass.
If you can find wiggle room in your budget, go with the HyperX Cloud Alpha, which offers comfortable ear cups, a premium design and better sound quality for $40 more, at $90.
Overall, the Arctis 1 is a quality gaming headset for the price.
Credit: Laptop Mag