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SteelSeries Arctis Pro + GameDAC

SteelSeries just upped its game with a new range of premium headsets.

We were quite enamoured with the Arctis 3 Bluetooth headset we reviewed last month (you can read more about that here), but since then SteelSeries has sent us an upgrade to take a closer look at. The company has cooked up two premium headsets - the Arctis Pro + GameDAC and the Arctis Pro Wireless - and it's the + GameDAC that we've been testing extensively for the last couple of weeks. Now, having listened to lots of music and played plenty of games on both PC and PS4, we're ready to throw down some words and slap a score on the end of it.

And it's going to be a good score because the Arctis Pro + GameDAC is up there with the very best wired headsets we've ever used. It's an elaboration of the company's excellent Arctis line, this time complete with a DAC amp (digital-to-analog converter) which offers hi-fidelity audio to gamers looking to elevate their auditory experience. This little unit means easy but deep control over your headset, and it offers top-quality audio for those who appreciate a more authentic sound.

We have one issue with the headset, so let's get that out of the way first. Cables. If you're a fan of a clean and tidy workspace, you're going to have to come to terms with the fact that you're not only tethered to your system, but you're also going to have some cables to move out of the way every now and then. It's less of an issue if you're playing at a desk near your audio setup, but if you're after a headset that can easily and effortlessly link up to different systems, this might not be the one for you.

It's also a slight issue if you're on PS4. Again, if you're playing in a dedicated gaming area where you have complete control of your environment, it's less of an problem, but if you like to kick back and recline on the sofa, or if you live in a chaotic household, the cables are going to get in the way. They're also quite short, so unless you go out and invest in an extension, you're going to have to find somewhere to position the DAC amp that isn't in the way. These are simple problems to solve, but the solutions are nowhere near as elegant as the headset itself.

SteelSeries Arctis Pro + GameDAC

The Pro comes with an aluminium band with a rubber underside which is a slightly improved and more durable version of the one used for standard Arctis headsets. The elastic ski band is adjustable and the whole thing is comfortable, and we've never once taken it off because it wasn't sitting nicely on the ol' noggin. You might come to the Arctis Pro + GameDAC for the audiophile-quality speakers and amp, but you'll stick around because it's a pleasure to wear.

The ear cups are similarly comfortable, with foam pads covered in fabric that rest easily around the ears. You can adjust the speakers 90 degrees, and the build quality of the headset is very high. All of the basic controls for the headset are located on the left-hand unit, and while we often found ourselves accidentally adjusting the volume when putting the thing on, everything is nice and accessible, especially the mute button which is easy to locate and simple to press. A nice touch is that, when your mic is muted, a red light appears on the extendable mic so it's simple to see when your friends - and frenemies - can and can't hear you.

The mic itself, which is built using Steelseries' Clearcast tech, is great. The audio quality is very good considering it's built into a headset, and we were complimented on the quality of our voice while we were playing. The mic is mounted on a flexible cable that can be housed in the headset when it's not being used, and as it's adjustable you can position it really easily.

Then there's the GameDAC, the amp that converts the digital signal sent to the headset into analog. It links to your system via a USB cable and can be used to tinker with the settings to suit your personal tastes. At first glance it looks overly complicated but it was actually very easy to setup and use. You can swap between adjusting the volume and tweaking the mix with a single click, and holding in the pleasingly chunky main dial gives you a range of additional options, allowing you to swap input (ideal if you're going to alternate using this between PC and PS4), adjust brightness, the colour of the lighting on the headset itself, tweak a number presets via the equaliser, and activate DTS surround sound. It's surprisingly intuitive to use and if you're playing on PS4 it's great that you can have so much control over your preferences without having to dive into the system settings all the time. It looks pretty smart too.

SteelSeries Arctis Pro + GameDAC

Obviously, above all else, comes the sound quality. We've listened to a lot of music through the headset, much of the time just songs through iTunes but also via high definition streaming services, and the Arctis Pro never disappointed. There's a nice duality to the headset in the sense that you get all the trimmings when you're at home and plugged into an appropriate system, whether you're listing to songs or playing PUBG, but it also looks good and you could totally get away with wearing a pair of these on the bus or while you walk to work

However, it's a gaming headset at the end of the day, and whether you're shooting cultists in Far Cry 5 on PS4, or setting sail in Sea of Thieves on PC, the Arctis Pro delivers a faultless audio experience. On both platforms it's easy to adjust the mix to suit your taste. The crackle of gunfire in Wolfenstein II is almost enough to make your teeth chatter, and using the mobile adaptor provided we easily hooked it up to our Switch and enjoyed the chiptune-inspired soundtrack of Axiom Verge almost as much as the roar of the crowd whenever we scored a goal in FIFA 18. If you haven't already guessed by now, it works great across a range of game types and on different platforms, albeit with limited functionality on Xbox and Switch.

All in all we have to say that we're delighted with the quality offered by the Arctis Pro + GameDAC. It feels great to wear, offers a high-quality audio experience, and is easy to use across both PC and PS4. The DAC amp is very much an anchor that ties you to your hardware, and we'd have liked significantly longer cables to enhance its suitability for use in the living room, but other than that little grumble we're very impressed with SteelSeries' new headset. It's a niche product, for sure, and you'll have to be an audiophile to really get the best out of it (especially if you want to use it to listen to music). Similarly, you'll need deep pockets, as it's not cheap at £250 a pop, however, if you like listening to crystal clear music as much as you like a full and rich soundscape while you play, then Arctis Pro + GameDAC is an excellent option if you're looking to upgrade.

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9 / 10
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