All products featured are independently chosen by us. However, SoundGuys may receive a commission on orders placed through its retail links. See our ethics statement.
SteelSeries Arctis Prime
May 25, 2021
Original: $99.99 USD
Feb. 2022: $68 USD
9.5 x 17 x 20.5 cm
The SteelSeries Arctis line is a great example of headsets that don’t look to reinvent the wheel. Somewhere down the line, the company settled on a lightweight aluminum frame, ski-goggle style suspension band, and those slightly off-axis headphone hinges, and chose iteration over reinvention ever since. The SteelSeries Arctis Prime is another example of why that combination is so solid.
However, where other Arctis headsets add onto that formula, this one pares things back—this is the generation of simpler gaming headsets, after all. Is the simplicity compelling enough to make the Arctis Prime worth getting?
Editor’s note: this review was updated on February 24, 2022, to include FAQ answers, update the frequency response chart to our Consumer Curve V2, and address the SteelSeries Arctis 7+ Wireless as an alternative.
Who is the SteelSeries Arctis Prime for?
What is the SteelSeries Arctis Prime like?
If you’ve used any of the more expensive offerings from the SteelSeries Arctis line, this headset is going to seem pretty familiar. As I mentioned above, the SteelSeries Arctis Prime is virtually identical in its build to premium gaming headsets like the Arctis Pro, Arctis 7P, or Arctis 9 Wireless. However, if you’ve stuck to the cheaper end of the Arctis line, the Arctis Prime might feel pretty new. This is the first time this headset frame has popped up at $99 USD, and the cheaper headsets like the Arctis 1 and Arctis 3 feature plastic frames and different headbands.
Start here: What to look for in a gaming headset
The SteelSeries Arctis Prime is a very sturdy gaming headset. The aluminum suspension frame and plastic headphones feel lightweight, and the elastic suspension band doesn’t require much (if any) adjustment to feel very comfortable. The headset jettisons the airweave fabric covering the ear pads of the higher-end Arctis headsets in favor of leatherette, which means it doesn’t manage heat as well, but getting a decent seal is easy.
The Arctis Prime is a wired gaming headset, and it comes with a detachable 3.5mm cord and a mic/headphone splitter extension, so it’ll work with anything that has a headphone jack. The cord connects to the headset using SteelSeries’ proprietary digital connector, but it also has a regular 3.5mm port if you feel like using your own cord.
The suspension strap probably won’t need adjustment, but it features a velcro fastener so you can move a it little. It also makes replacing the strap easy if you decide to buy one of the flashier bands SteelSeries sells separately (SteelSeries sells lots of replacement parts on its online store).
How do you control the SteelSeries Arctis Prime?
The headset has a microphone mute toggle and headphone volume dial along the back edge of the left headphone, just above the ports. That’s it really.
How is gaming with the SteelSeries Arctis Prime?
Gaming with the SteelSeries Arctis Prime is easy as can be. It’s a 3.5mm gaming headset, so it works everywhere, whether you’re gaming on PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch, PC, Xbox Series X/S, or even mobile (provided it has a headphone jack). The headset is very comfortable, so long sessions shouldn’t be a problem. However, if your ears are sensitive to heat build-up, that may be an issue eventually.
The Arctis Prime handles OS-level surround sound well on both PC and PlayStation 5. Windows Sonic spatial sound isn’t the most noticeable standard in the world, but the headset doesn’t have any issue with positional audio cues in Sea of Thieves or Apex Legends. It also handles the varied environmental soundscape of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, using the PlayStation 5’s 3D audio feature, following the game’s next-gen update.
Can the SteelSeries Arctis Prime block out background noise?
Loading chart ...
The SteelSeries Arctis Prime features slightly better isolation than most Arctis gaming headsets, which is to say, pretty average. This kind of isolation will do well enough in most home situations, but don’t expect this to do more than slightly take the edge off a car horn out a window or quiet a room fan a little. Take it outside, and the headset won’t block out much, which may make you feel inclined to increase the volume (don’t do it—noise-induced hearing loss is no joke).
How does the SteelSeries Arctis Prime sound?
Loading chart ...
The SteelSeries Arctis Prime has a pleasant frequency response for a gaming headset, albeit with a lot of the same quibbles you’ll find throughout the product category. Sub-bass frequencies hew very closely to our target curve, but bass, mid, and high range sound feature added emphasis at various points.
Lows, mids, and highs
Sound like this should work fine for music of most genres, but given that most notes are amplified, you may want to turn the volume down a little. The distorted guitar and bass of Tally-Ho by the Psychedelic Porn Crumpets come through very distinctly. The vocals have a little trouble coming through clearly, but a lot of the layered harmonies and guitar strumming in the background are easy to hear, thanks to the increased treble output.
Most games will sound just fine coming through the SteelSeries Arctis Prime. The increased bass response may make the din of explosions and gunfire sound a little loud, depending on where you set your volume, which might make subtler sounds like footsteps in Fortnite or Valorant a little harder to hear. Realistically, you probably won’t have any trouble hearing anything most of the time—game sounds are rarely so layered that they dramatically mask each other.
How is the SteelSeries Arctis Prime’s microphone?
The SteelSeries Arctis Prime features a decent microphone for a gaming headset. It’s fairly accurate, and it’s fairly clear, though it definitely struggles with overall volume—typical of 3.5mm gaming headsets. If you’re playing on console, the soundcard in your controller will take care of a lot of that, but you may need to adjust some output settings on PC. Listen for yourself:
How does the microphone sound to you?
Hold up! Something’s different:
We’ve made a big improvement to how we demonstrate the microphone performance of products we review. We now use a standardized test setup that plays back pre-recorded phrases from a calibrated artificial mouth in our test chamber, either with or without simulated background noises, simulated reverberant spaces, or artificial wind. This means that samples from every product can be directly compared, which makes it far easier to make meaningful comparisons between products in terms of the raw speech quality or the product’s ability to reject noise.
It will take a while to update our backlog of old test results, but we will update this review (and many others!) once we’re able with improved microphone demos. These will be made obvious in each new sample which begins with the phrase, “This is a SoundGuys standardized microphone demonstration …”
Thank you for bearing with us, and we hope to see you again once we’ve sorted everything out.
Should you buy the SteelSeries Arctis Prime?
If you’re looking for a reasonably priced, well-built gaming wired headset, you should consider hooking the SteelSeries Arctis Prime up to your controller.
The SteelSeries Arctis Prime doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles, but these days, you don’t really need a lot of bells and whistles. SteelSeries’ decision to bring its higher-end headset design down to a lower price point is smart here—for $99 USD, you get something tried and tested. It’s very comfortable, it’s easy to use, and it has largely accurate mic and headphone audio. Given that pretty much every gaming platform now offers its own built-in audio features, you don’t need much more.All this isn’t to say this is a perfect headset—it isn’t. The quiet microphone may require a little more tinkering on PC than someone looking for a true plug-and-play experience has patience for. While this Arctis Prime is compatible with anything that has a headphone jack, it’s hardly got a frequency response tailored to the needs of audiophiles.
SteelSeries Arctis Prime vs SteelSeries Arctis 7+ Wireless: Which headset is best?
The SteelSeries Arctis 7+ Wireless has exceptional battery life and lasts nearly 72 hours before you need to top it up with the USB-C cable. The Arctis Prime is a wired headset so you don’t have to fuss around with charging it, but that means you’re always tethered to something while playing. It also makes the headset a bit more of a hassle to take out and about. The microphone retracts on both the Arctis Prime and Arctis 7+ Wireless, and the headsets look nearly identical, sporting the company’s signature ski goggle headband.
See also: The best PlayStation 5 gaming headsets
Like the Arctis Prime, the Arctis 7+ Wireless amplifies bass notes, though you’ll notice a bit more with the Arctis 7+ Wireless compared to the Prime. If wireless audio is important, then the Arctis 7+ Wireless is a great purchase, otherwise, you get many of the same features on the wired Arctis Prime thanks to SteelSeries’ comprehensive, though buggy, Sonar software.
What should you get instead of the SteelSeries Arctis Prime?
The $99 USD range is pretty much the most competitive part of the gaming headset market, which means that you can find plenty of excellent options if your needs aren’t quite met by the SteelSeries Arctis Prime. If the idea of a simple gaming headset that sounds great is your top priority, and microphone performance isn’t as important to you, the HyperX Cloud Alpha is still one of the best sounding gaming headsets on the market. It’s got a premium all-metal build, and its thick earpads bring excellent passive isolation, too.
If you’re looking for something with a few more features, the Razer BlackShark V2 is one of the best gaming headsets on the market, with a decent mic, great sound, and a lightweight comfortable build. On top of its already impressive hardware, the headset’s Razer Synapse integration brings THX spatial sound, customizable headphone EQ, and more.
Gamers in the market for something wireless should investigate headsets like the SteelSeries Arctis 1 Wireless or Razer Barracuda X both offer similarly simple experiences, and great audio and mics. Both headsets feature USB-C dongles too, which means they can connect wirelessly to most gaming platforms, including PlayStation 5 and Nintendo Switch.
Frequently asked questions about the SteelSeries Arctis Prime
No. The SteelSeries Arctis Prime only supports one wired connection at a time.
The SteelSeries Arctis Prime doesn’t support SteelSeries Engine, but you can EQ the sound using SteelSeries Sonar or via a third-party solution.