SteelSeries Arctis Nova 7 Wireless Headset Review
Of all the basic gaming and computing peripherals — mice, keyboards, controllers — headphones are the key that really unlocks immersion. If the sound envelopes you, punches you in the gut, or tells you where the enemy is coming from, the impact of a music or gaming experience exponentially increases. SteelSeries has just released the Arctis Nova 7 wireless headset. Is it your perfect gaming companion?
Specs and Sound
While specs aren’t everything, the numbers on the box give you a hint about what you can expect. The Nova 7’s have a decently beefy 40mm driver, with a frequency response of 20 – 20,000 Hz, an impedance of 36Ω, and a sensitivity of 93dBSPL. It’s the same driver as that of the Nova 1 and Nova 3, while Nova Pro has a high-fidelity driver. But then, the Nova 7 is not an audiophile headset. Its goal is to be a decent-sounding, multi-use piece of gear for gaming and music.
The retractable mic is a bidirectional ClearCast Gen 2 noise-cancelling microphone, which has a wireless frequency response of 100 – 6,500 Hz. The headset weighs in at 0.72lbs / 325g. The Nova 7’s Battery life is listed at a relatively impressive 38 hours. That drops to 26 hours over Bluetooth.
The right earcup has the power button, a Bluetooth button, and a ChatMix wheel on the PC/Xbox versions (this wheel adjusts Sidetone on the PlayStation version). There’s also a USB-C port for charging. The left earcup has a microphone mute switch, a volume wheel, and a 3.5mm audio jack for wired use.
Right out of the box, the listening experience is pretty darn good, particularly via a wired connection. While the bass end isn’t incredibly punchy, it’s there and well-defined. There’s a bit of distortion in the midrange when cranked up, and the high end can be a little shrill. All this might sound like measured praise, but remember, the Nova 7 is not for the uber-discerning audiophile. For the casual music listener and especially for gamers, the sound quality is totally acceptable. Thanks to SteelSeries’ Sonar software, you can tweak the headphone’s sound and performance and get things dialed in even more. The Nova 7’s feature passive noise cancelling and they do a very good job of blocking ambient sounds.
Build and Comfort
The Arctis Nova 7’s build quality is very good. Everything is plastic except for the adjustable steel headband, but it doesn’t feel cheap. The over-ear cushions are memory foam covered in fabric and are replaceable, as is the inner fabric headband. Though they’re not super lightweight, the Nova 7’s are incredibly comfortable and balanced. They’re easy to wear for extended periods without fatigue.
The Nova 7’s microphone is a retractable design, which I really like. I wish more gaming headsets would adopt it. No more losing a detachable mic or having to flip a built-in out of the way. The downside of the mic is that, while it’s totally fine for gaming, Zoom and other casual uses, you’re not going to record anything with it that requires a wide frequency response or real audio quality. Podcasters might need to look elsewhere, unless they can do some post-processing. To be entirely fair, though, I’ve yet to audition a built-in mic with out-of-the-box recording quality.
Inside the box you’ll find, in addition to the headphones, a decently long USB charging cable, a wireless dongle and a 3.5mm cable. One appreciated pack-in is a USB extension cable.
Your Ears’ New Best Friend
The SteelSeries Arctis Nova 7 Wireless is a multi-use pair of headphones that can adapt to just about every audio experience. You might not want to use them for mastering your new album, but they’re great for mastering a level in Halo Infinite. At $180 US, they’re not budget gear, but for overall quality and comfort, they’re worth the price of admission. They sound excellent when gaming, have decent battery life and work in just about every Bluetooth and wireless situation. They’re by far the most comfortable headphones I’ve tried this year, and I can see them heading into heavy rotation in my audio/gaming setup.
***SteelSeries Arctis Nova 7 Wireless Headset provided for review***
- Extremely comfortable for extended wear
- Retractable mic
- Decent overall sound
- Lots of connectivity options
- Acceptable battery life
- Mic is so-so
- Controls are a little awkward
- Overall sound quality for music is pretty average