Steelseries introduced a new headset earlier this summer which, if you compare it to its other headsets' recommended prices, is their most affordable. The headset will set you back £49.99, which means that the closest priced headset in the Steelseries lineup is £10 more expensive.
There's not a lot of differences between the Astro 1 and its more expensive, bigger counterparts either. You get the same 40mm unit and the same surrounding Airweave fabric, so essentially, you get the same device and the same earpads as you'd get if you spent more money. You do not, however, get an integrated microphone. The microphone that comes with the Astro 1 headset is instead a removable one. On the other hand, there's a neat splitter cable in the box, which also significantly increases the length of your cord, much like the ones that came with the classic V2 headsets. The cord makes it compatible with pretty much everything unless you have a cellphone without a 3.5mm plug of course. Keep in mind that Steelseries always makes quite long cables to begin with, so the length of your cables will never be an issue.
What you don't get, however, is the suspension headband. Instead, you get a standard plastic hoop with a cushion underneath. The chassis itself on the ear cups isn't as great as the more expensive versions either, but at this price point, it's not bad. In contrast, there is an inner bracket made of steel, so the construction is surprisingly sturdy and stable. We really enjoy the suspension design models, especially when the ear cups fit just right, but the lack of a suspension headband isn't bad enough to pull the score down significantly for the product and, frankly, the entry model has to be inferior to the more premium products in some way.
The design is surprisingly subtle. Not that the usual Steelseries design is flamboyant or obnoxious in any way, but it looks really nice.
During our sound testing sessions, we found that the microphone's quality is identical to the integrated one in the more bigger models and it will be quite fine for most users. We have nothing against removable microphones - on the contrary, so it doesn't pull the score down by any means. The microphone quality is good enough and for the price, it's definitely acceptable. If a good microphone is an important thing for you to have, however, there are a lot better headsets out there. The noise reduction isn't optimal as it picks up a lot of the sounds in the user's environment.
The same goes for the sound. The ear cups and the speakers offer a more 'open', neutral, significantly more airy and frequency-linear sound than we're used to with gaming headsets. However, the sound of an in-game gunshot gets picked up quite accurately and the Astro 1 offers a fine dynamic-like experience with a quick stop after the most powerful of bangs. There is precision in the soundscape, which really comes in handy in particularly competitive games, but most importantly, the directionality is always great. No, there's no surround but you don't need it most of the time.
Our only significant complaint is the fixed cable on the headset invites accidents to happen. If your cat bites it or your chair rolls over it, you'll most likely need to replace the whole thing. There is a volume control wheel and microphone mute button on the side of the ear cup and it's easily accessible and easy to use.
There is no immediate reason to buy an Arctis 3 or 5 (unless they are on sale) instead of an Arctis 1, unless you're after some very specific feature. You simply won't get anything out of your extra buck spent sonically. Conveniently, however, the traditional Arctis suspension headsets are considerably more elegant in design and equally more comfortable. Where the Arctis 1 will require a small adjustment, the premium models sit just right on your head at first use. The time spent on these adjustments, however, isn't enough to push the Arctis 1 off the competition between the Steelseries headsets in the lineup. For music, the Arctis 1 is surprisingly good.
Yes, you can get a better headset without looking very far, but if you're on a tight budget, this new entry-level headset isn't bad at all. Steelseries has made their own midrange lineup superfluous and we're not sure if that's good or bad.
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