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SteelSeries Arctis Nova 1
August 23, 2022
7.48 x 6.89 x 3.43 inches
The SteelSeries Arctis Nova 1 is SteelSeries’ newest entry-level gaming headset. Coming in cheaper than several other options on the market, this headset still delivers on SteelSeries’ consistent focus on comfort. It’s an entirely wired headset with a replaceable cable, simple controls, and very little in the way of excess features or fluff.
We spent a week with the SteelSeries Arctis Nova 1 to find out if its cheap price prevents it from being an easy recommendation.
Editor’s note: this SteelSeries Arctis Nova 1 review was updated on September 14, 2023 to include a mention of a few other SteelSeries headsets as alternatives.
Gamers looking for a comfortable gaming headset will find few options better than the Arctis Nova 1. We also think many people will like this SteelSeries headset for its minimalist design and a retractable microphone.
What’s it like to use the SteelSeries Arctis Nova 1?
The Arctis Nova 1 carries SteelSeries’ strong streak for comfortable gaming headsets. The adjustable stretchy headband and comfortable ear pads make the headset effortlessly usable for long gaming sessions. The ear cups and outer headband are made primarily of plastic, contributing to the lightweight design; it’s effectively the same design as the high-end SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless. The ear cups rotate to better accommodate your head, and the pads are made out of AirWeave memory foam, adding to the comfort and premium feel.
The headset is tight enough to prevent it from slipping around my head, but not so much that it’s uncomfortable. It seems like it would be adequate for anyone no matter the size of their head. Additionally, the headset is designed with a fairly muted aesthetic, making it more than suitable whether at home or out and about. The microphone is always easily available yet unobtrusive due to its retractable design, sitting snugly inside the left ear cup.
How do you control the SteelSeries Arctis Nova 1?
The Arctis Nova 1 has a fairly minimalist set of controls located on the left ear cup. There’s a non-infinite volume wheel you can use to change the volume of the headset; it does not control the connected device. There’s also a mute button for the microphone that’s easy to press. Thanks to their simplicity it’s easy to understand which of these controls do what.
How do you connect the SteelSeries Arctis Nova 1?
The SteelSeries Arctis Nova 1 features a simple detachable 3.5mm jack cable. It has nothing in the way of additional connectivity options (you’ll have to look to the Arctis Nova 3 if you want USB support). You get a cable that can split out the microphone output to a separate cable instead of having it all run through a TRRS connector.
Since the headset connects using a headphone jack, it has a wide range of support for most game consoles including the PlayStation 5, Xbox Series S/X, Nintendo Switch, and Steam Deck, as well as smartphones, laptops, gaming PCs, and other devices—We even tested it with the PlayStation Vita.
How well does the SteelSeries Arctis Nova 1 block out noise?
The Arctis Nova 1 doesn’t do the most impressive job of blocking outside noise. It’s certainly not the worst, it’s consistent with other gaming headsets in this price range, but you will sometimes find outside noise, music, and conversation leaking in when you wouldn’t expect it to. The headset has nothing in the way of active noise canceling—for that, you’ll have to pinch your pennies for the SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless.
How does the SteelSeries Arctis Nova 1 sound?
The SteelSeries Arctis Nova 1 has a surprisingly good frequency response, considering its low price. It’s certainly not the best-sounding headset we’ve ever tested, but combined with its affordable price point and excellent comfort, it puts it in serious contention to be one of the best budget wired gaming headsets. It features a slight deviation from our ideal curve in the low end and above 3kHz, which does affect the sound noticeably but not in a way that is distracting like some other budget headsets.
The headset handles a range of games’ soundscapes and musical underscoring very well. The blasting electronic beats of Lumines: Electronic Symphony proves enjoyable on the headset. The fighting action of Guilty Gear: Strive is likewise enjoyable, with everything from the sound effects to the killer soundtrack sounding great. The Arctis Nova 1 is also a solid choice for online games with voice chat, or late-night Discord calls.
Lows, mids, and highs
Several songs highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the SteelSeries Arctis Nova 1. Nobody Speak by DJ Shadow sounds excellent here, with the low end being noticeably present without distracting from the mids. Songs with more midrange instruments like Sleep Now in the Fire by Rage Against the Machine and Nightsiren by Melt Yourself Down fare pretty well too. It’s only in listening to house music, like the song Some Chords by Deadmau5, that the lack of sub-bass output is somewhat noticeable.
How good is the SteelSeries Arctis Nova 1’s microphone?
The Arctis Nova 1 features a retractable microphone that stows away inside the left ear cup. This minimalist design makes it unassuming when out and about. The microphone can easily move closer or further away from the mouth, depending on your preference. The frequency response does a good job of ensuring your speech is intelligible. SteelSeries also claims the microphone features built-in noise canceling technology, which is somewhat borne out by our testing.
Overall the microphone quality ranks favorably when compared to other gaming headsets on the market. You can listen to the microphone demos yourself and vote in the poll below.
SteelSeries Arctis Nova 1 microphone demo (Ideal conditions):
SteelSeries Arctis Nova 1 microphone demo (Office conditions):
How does the microphone sound to you?
Should you buy the SteelSeries Arctis Nova 1?
The SteelSeries Arctis Nova 1 delivers in terms of comfort, sound quality, and ease of use. The 3.5mm headphone connector makes it compatible with almost any device you throw at it, and the retractable microphone makes it a good choice both at home and on the go. For a cheap gaming headset, this is probably one of the best options on the market. Its lack of flashy features may be a turn-off for some, but its spartan simplicity and focus on getting the fundamentals correct serve it very well. It’s comfortable for many hours, sounds excellent considering the price, and it’s built fairly solidly. It’s easy to recommend this for anyone looking for a headset, whether for gaming, voice calls, or work.
What should you get instead of the SteelSeries Arctis Nova 1?
The foremost recommendation for gaming headsets other than the Arctis Nova 1 would be the Razer Barracuda X (2022), a headset that sits around a similar price range but delivers wireless connectivity as well. Another option is the Logitech G335, which although it drops the ball on sound quality, it makes up for it in comfort. Finally, if you’re interested in other headsets with SteelSeries’ signature focus on comfort, then the SteelSeries Arctis Nova 3 may interest you (or the Arctis Nova 4, if you prefer a wireless version) as they serve as the next step up from the SteelSeries Arctis Nova 1. Additionally, the SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless offers the best of the line with many advanced features like active noise canceling.