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SteelSeries on launching Arctis Pro

We caught up with the company for a chat about their latest line of premium gaming headsets.

SteelSeries has just launched their new product line Arctis Pro, consisting of the Arctis Pro wireless and the Arctis Pro + GameDAC, these being innovative new high-end gaming headsets for PC as well as PlayStation 4 users.

Just prior to their launch we caught up with SteelSeries' product manager for audio products, Brian Fallon, to learn more about the work that has gone into these new model headsets as well as the rather intriguing GameDAC unit.

BF: When we came out with the original Arctis line a year and a half ago we did a lot of things different with gaming headsets, from the way they look, going with a more kind of streamlined elegant design, to the comfort system, to the way they sound. So we created kind of a new platform with Arctis. As we were bringing it to market we were already asking ourselves what's next? Where do we take the Arctis? And my entire background has been in audio and my passion is really around being an audio geek and listening to things that really sound great. So my push was could we make something for gaming that we would consider truly high-fidelity audio? And that's what eventually led us down the road to what we now call the Arctis Pro. It's a new line of headsets and the entire pursuit of that line was around producing really high fidelity audio.

One of the new cool features with Arctis Pro, that we put a lot of technology [into], is this thing right here called the GameDAC. So, there's a version of Arctis Pro that's called Arctis Pro + GameDAC that comes with this, and the GameDAC is a dedicated high-fidelity digital-analog converter and headphone amplifier, purpose-built for gaming. So essentially we're bringing some of the technology over from the audiophile world where there's a number of great, portable and super-high quality headphone amps and DACs, and we're bringing that technology now to the gaming space. You're getting the really high-end audio quality that you get from a great electronic frontend without having to sacrifice any of the essential gaming features that you'd want, things like surround sound, adjusting game and chat balance, having on-board EQ, being able to hook up to both PC and PS4, so kind of all these key functions but really still achieving that great sound quality that you get only from having a great high-end DAC.

SteelSeries on launching Arctis Pro
Arctis Pro + GameDAC

Do you get the same experience using Arctis Pro with your PS4?

A key focus for us from the beginning on Arctis Pro [was] that the Arctis Pro + GameDAC and the Arctis Pro wireless are both fully compatible with both PC and PS4. And so that means that on both systems you get full surround sound DTS headphone x version 2, you get game chat balance, and most importantly on both devices, on the wireless transmitter and on the GameDAC we have these OLED screens. And the reason that we built that into our design was especially with PS4 gamers in mind, being able to adjust all of your key parameters without having to disconnect from your system, go plug into a PC, install software.

Here you have access to our ten band equaliser and it's fully customisable with presets, but you can also go through and adjust each band on the fly here, right from the OLED screen. So whereas [with] most systems on console that's something you have to give up - you might have a couple of presets that you can toggle between, but you'll lose the full customisation. We wanted to give that premium experience to a PS4 player, but of course in our history of doing PC peripherals we have great PC software in SteelSeries Engine and these products will still have SteelSeries Engine support, which will allow you to then change your settings either on screen or in software, setup per application configurations and then even do some more integrated stuff like connecting to our Engine apps, things like Discord. You can use our Discord integration to do something like when you get a direct message, have the microphone LED blink at you and then have the name of the person messaging you come across the OLED screen. Some cool other stuff that we can give our PC gamers as well.

Comfort is something we value very highly in a headset and Arctis is known for its high comfort, what can you tell us about that?

We innovated a lot with comfort when we came out with the original Arctis 3, 5, and 7 models, and one of the new pieces there was this idea of the ski goggle suspension band on the headset. So instead of a traditional suspension that has sort of a fixed design that just kind of moves up and down, the fact that we're using this elastic fabric that just naturally conforms around your head. We've taken that same design that we built with the original Arctis and we've brought that over to the Pro and even kind of iterated on it a bit and learned from our original designs. We've tweaked things like the overall shape of the other headband so that you get a perfectly even seal around your ears, from both of the ear cups, without getting too much pressure from the side of your head and you get almost no pressure on the top of your head, because the ski goggle band does a great job of just distributing the weight completely across your whole head. There's no pressure points that build up.

One of the other key elements for comfort on [Arctis Pro] is the ear cushions - it uses the same ear weave, athletics-inspired fabric, that we used on the original Arctis models. We chose it because it has great cooling properties. It whisks away moisture from your head so you don't get that sweaty build up that can often happen from leather and some of the other fabric type of ear cushions, but again we've taken what we've learned about the ear cushions on the first Arctis and these are engineered a little bit differently. The shape of them is a little bit different to be more premium. They fit a little bit flatter against your head and the overall comfort level we think is elevated.

SteelSeries on launching Arctis Pro
Arctis Pro Wireless

Having sampled the new Arctis Pro we also noted that the microphone picks up very little, if any, unwanted noise. What can you tell us of the microphone?

This is an area we put a lot of effort in when we came out with the original Arctis models, creating what we eventually called the Clearcast microphone. We chose that name because we truly feel it's a broadcast type quality. A lot of the work we did on that was looking at other industries and how they do microphones.

We actually picked a different directional design. Most people use a uni-directional - only picks up from one direction - or omni-directional, which picks up from everywhere. We actually learned from microphones used both in broadcast situations, like people who are talking to you from the sidelines of a sports event and actually the type of headsets that are worn on aircraft carriers, where communication is kind of key, and they actually use a bi-directional design. And the reason you use a bi-directional is because it naturally is a truly noise-cancelling microphone; it blocks out everything else that's happening around you.

When it's positioned in the perfect spot, it picks up your voice, it picks up nothing else, and that's what gives you that really clear response. And also the fact that then we did a lot of tuning on the microphone to shape the sound of it to really focus on vocal clarity. So that you can always be heard even when you're on a busy chat channel along with tons of gamers screaming on there that you can still be heard clearly.

And that's all from our interview with Brian Fallon. We're currently testing the Arctis Pro + GameDAC and once we've tinkered with it enough to have a fully formed opinion on the headset, we'll share our findings with you here in the Gadgets section on Gamereactor.

SteelSeries on launching Arctis Pro
Two dudes wearing matching Arctis Pro headsets.

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