SteelSeries Arctis 9X Review

The SteelSeries Arctis 9X is a wireless gaming headset that works with both Xbox One and PC. At £179.99 it isn't cheap, but is it worth the investment?

Verdict

The Arctis 9X is an excellent gaming headset that works well with both Xbox One and PC, using the platforms to its advantage to deliver a clear, concise and satisfying audio product. It costs a pretty penny, but it's almost certainly worth it. 

Pros

  • Slick and attractive design
  • Excellent audio that's easy to customise
  • Works seamlessly across Xbox One and PC
  • One of the most comfortable headsets out there

Cons

  • Design's reliance on plastic can be a distraction

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £179.99
  • 20 hours' battery life
  • Compatible with Xbox One and PC
  • Intergrated Xbox wireless support
  • ClearCast noise-cancelling technology

What is the SteelSeries Arctis 9X gaming headset?

Bluetooth headsets are oftentimes a mixed bag. Used between varied consoles, gaming rigs and other devices can be a recipe for disaster, as you contend with potential interference and other challenges when trying to find the perfect sweet spot for your gaming experience. 

I encountered such issues during my time with the Arctis 9X, tainting an otherwise spectacular piece of kit. This wireless headset works wonderfully with Xbox One, connecting with the simplicity of a controller and immediately moulding itself to fit my console experience.

SteelSeries has also adorned the device with many bells and whistles, justifying its the asking price. A few blemishes aside, this is an excellent headset offering impressive audio, a sleek design and so much more. 

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Arctis 9X Review

SteelSeries Arctis 9X design and build – A small, comfortable form factor that’s wonderfully stylish

Compared to other headsets I’ve tested, what immediately jumps out about the SteelSeries’ Arctis 9X  is the perfectly flat ear-cup design. There’s no overblown lighting nor snazzy accessories hanging off my ears, adding complications to what should be quick and simple functionality. Instead, what you get with the Arctis 9X is a flat, soft surface that feels excellent. 

However, be careful when placing the Arctis 9X on a desk or similar rough surface: its predominantly plastic exterior is surprisingly prone to scuffs and marks. This is one of my major qualms beyond the metallic headband, which itself is flanked by other materials. 

While the Arctis 9X feels solidly premium, the plastic materials used over much of the headset’s real estate might put off users hoping for something a little more fancy. This plastic chassis extends past the ear cups and into the headband, which itself doesn’t extend like I’ve come to expect from similar devices. 

Instead, you’ll need to fiddle with the fabric band weaving itself around the headset to find a level of comfort that works for you. However, it took me only a couple of minutes to adjust the headset to fit my head and I was fine for dozens of hours. If anything, it negates the potential wear and tear you’d see from traditional headsets. 

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Arctis 9X Review

This comfort extends to the ear cups themselves, which are some of the best I’ve tested. As a wearer of glasses, I’ve often found that with many devices I’m suffering a dull ache around my head after a few hours of use. Here, that simply wasn’t the case; the Arctis 9X really does feel wonderful to wear. Note that the headset might be on the small side for some, though. 

In terms of buttons, wheels and other modes of input, the majority of these sit on the right ear cup, from which you can control the power, Bluetooth connection, volume and whether or not the internal microphone is muted. On the left ear cup is a solo scroll wheel to determine the balance between application audio (games, films, and so on) and the microphone. Everything is intuitively placed and easy to locate without the need to take off the headset entirely. 

SteelSeries Arctis 9X audio and features – This headset is a hugely impressive all-rounder

The general quality of audio across the Arctis 9X and its various profiles is super-impressive, especially for a wireless headset connecting through nothing more than a Bluetooth dongle. By pressing the power button once you can cycle through a variety of different presets, providing soundscapes that fit particular genres or applications. Shooters might require a profile with distinctive bass tones, while an atmospheric horror experience favours small, subtle audio cues that feel brilliantly crisp here.

Default options right out of the box feel excellent – although audiophiles hoping to carve their own selection of sound profiles can download SteelSeries’ Engine and modify things to the smallest detail. You’ll need to install it on a PC or laptop to make use of the software.

Otherwise, console gamers should feel content with the selection of profiles available from the get-go. The flexibility is welcome, providing an element of customisation that not all competing headsets can match.

SteelSeries has said the Arctis 9X boasts what is known as “immersive sonic spatial audio”, which essentially means the audio performance is engineered to detect all of the noises happening around the player, regardless of how subtle or abrasive they might be. From a couple of weeks’ testing, I can vouch for the impactful realism it brings to a variety of different genres.

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Arctis 9X Review

The Arctis 9X can be used both wirelessly and wired, although a cable isn’t supplied in the box. It connects to Xbox One just like a controller, and it’s a breeze to set up. To make use of it on PC you’ll need to own a Xbox Wireless dongle and, like before, connect just as you would a controller. It’s relatively seamless, although I had to restart the Discord application for the microphone to be recognised.

The headset also comes with dual-connectivity options, which essentially means you can connect to PC/Console and another Bluetooth device simultaneously. For example, you could take a phone call or listen to music on your smartphone while playing on the Xbox One. This extends to applications such as Discord, Skype and Spotify, providing the Arctis 9X with a sense of versatility I really appreciated.

Should I buy the SteelSeries Arctis 9X gaming headset?

If you have £180 kicking around then the SteelSeries Arctis 9X is one of the finest gaming headsets you can buy right now. It offers versatility across consoles and PC, including a wide range of customisation options, audio profiles and other features that culminate in a fantastic experience.

The plastic aesthetic and small size might put off some players, diminishing the premium feel, but it’s a small price to pay for one of the most impressive wireless headsets I’ve tested in quite some time.

Verdict

The Arctis 9X is an excellent gaming headset that works well with both Xbox One and PC, using the platforms to its advantage to deliver a clear, concise and satisfying audio product. It costs a pretty penny, but it’s almost certainly worth it.

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