A headset is the crown jewel of almost every media-playing machine. Whether it’s to compliment a new turntable, or to enhance your gaming experience, a good set of earphones can go a long way to amplify the user’s immersion. But good headsets can cost consumers several hundred dollars on the cheap side, making it hard to find a balance between cost and quality. Thankfully, Steelseries has thrifty audiophiles covered with the Steelseries Arctis 3, a headset that doesn’t quite hit the upper echelon of headgear, but offers decent quality sound and comfort at a competitive price.
At first glance, the Steelseries Arctis 3 looks kind of basic. Its outer shell is a hard matte black plastic that looks sleek, and packed inside the box is a pack of stickers to give them some personality. It’s a fun little aesthetic addition that goes with the style design. Flashy stickers aside, the comfort level of these headphones is almost unmatched. Underneath the headband lies an elastic cloth, and each speaker has an airweave ear cushion over the earpieces. Surprisingly, I never wanted to take them off, as they sat on my head in a very unobtrusive manner. The fabric under the headband works like a tensor pillow tightening up as the device’s arms slide down either side of the user’s head, while the speaker cushions are soft and provide the perfect amount of padding that makes the device feel natural over the user’s ears. Attached to the left speaker is a retractable microphone piece that can actually sit inside the headset when not in use. That ear is also the home to the volume control and offers two spots for detachable adaptors. It supports both traditional 3.5mm and dual 3.5mm for PC, and if you need it, there is an extension wire packed in the box. Each deliberate step Steelseries made with the Arctis 3 seems like a brilliant choice in design, comfort and functionality, and on that basis, these are great headphones. I would rather use these for a long night of binge gaming than many of the other headsets I’ve reviewed in the past based on comfort alone.
I’d be giving up a lot in the sound department however. In practical use, they’re just okay. While they are comfortable, the airweave cushions don’t provide much sound cancelling, and the output only marginally boosts base. Considering it’s priced at $79.99 USD, there had to be a dip in quality somewhere, and Steelseries decided sound quality was where this dip would be. This was disappointing considering the Steelseries Arctis 3 managed to surprise me so much in its design that I thought maybe it could do everything, but that’s not the case here. That isn’t to say they sounded bad, playing Childish Gambino’s newest tracks or even listening to Pokémon Sun’s score still sounded better than they would on most run-of-the-mill headsets, but I wish as much thought was put into its practice as its design.
Still, the Steelseries Arctis 3 headset is a great option for its price. For the consumer who is more concerned about comfort than output, or aesthetic over sound, these headphones are great. For the audio purist on the other hand, these do not stack up against higher end headphones—but they’re not supposed to. They’re a higher mid range headset that works great for those who’ll wear them over long periods of time while not spending an insane amount of money to achieve that. In that regard, the Steelseries Arctis 3 is a perfect headset; just don’t expect the best sound quality on the market.