Steel Series are one of the leading brands in video game peripherals, particularly with regards to their headsets, the Nova Pro X included. I have owned a pair of Arctis 7s for a few years. Their balance of comfort and features made them a true favourite for long gaming sessions. Soon, gamers are being treated to the release of the brand-new ‘Nova Pro’ range of Steel Series (SS) headphones. I have been lucky enough to have been given a pair early, to put through their paces.
Refinement is the term that jumps to mind when I first examined the Arctis Nova Pro X Wired headset and Game DAC (Digital/Analogue Converter). There were some very familiar SS features, like the tuck away mic and the user interface on the Game DAC. But then there were some notable changes from the well establish the steel series headphones ‘archetype’. Rightly or wrongly the new overall design looks a lot like other headsets now. In-turn, it looks a bit more mature or classy.
The Comfy and RGB section for Influencers…
The headset itself appears more traditional in design when compared to the smooth oval cans of previous Arctis models. Steel Series have long featured the well know “goggle strap” head band system. This system set the SS headsets apart from all others, but now has be replaced with a small adjustable band, still very comfy though. Its is customisable, which color sets avaiable for purchase, if you are into that sort of thing. The mic on the previous SS headsets tucked away to a certain extent. Now it totally hides away flush, almost indiscernible for the left side cans exterior. Its a very cool feature and makes this gamer headset and real contender for also being used at the gym, on the street or on in the bus. Without having a massive RGB “GAMER” sign above your head.
The ear cups are super soft pleather. Once again a large departure from the fabric ear pads from previous Arctis models. The result is a much tighter seal and less sound leaking out, but the pleather coverings are well know for being a tad sweaty on hot days. I would have preferred a mix of the two, with a fabrtic layer to contact the skin. The Nova Pro X comes in a wireless model, the wired model supplied to me is almost identical in appearance. Both connect to a packed in Game DAC. The wired version uses a beautiful 1.5m braided 3.5mm cable. Super impressive in quality and better than the previous Arctis headsets cabling. Shame its too short to be anything but desk mounted though.
The Nova Pro X and DAC
The Game DAC is a massive part of this headset package. It’s is officially rated for Hi-Res Audio at 96 kHz, 24 bits or better, something rare in the gaming space. The SS Game DACs have always been very well regarded, winning numerous awards over the years. The current “Nova” version has a main adjustment knob with tactile quality to its movement. A small ‘back’ button on the left and a OLED display, which looks great. It has 2 USB-C inputs, and separate audio in/out 3.5 mm jacks for streaming audio and music lines in/out.
A streamer’s dream having all the audio channels needed, coming into one DAC. The “X” version supplied to me, is designed for Xbox Consoles, but via the second USB-C port can have a PC and/or a PS5 running into it too. So it’s a Game DAC that will work with PC, Xbox AND PS5! Strangely the Playstation branded version of the DAC will not work with Xbox though….so I don’t know why you would even buy one of them? The GameDAC can mix chat and game audio on the fly, adjust Gain, sidetone and importantly has a custom EQ systems, which is brilliant.
Setup was easy, a quick plug into the my PC to do software updates on the DAC and headphones, then into my Xbox and PS5. Both instantly recognised the device and I was away.
There’s a first time to hear everything
I tested them on various first person, 3rd person and driving games. My instant reaction was one of being highly impressed. The sound stage felt very open, even though the headphones are a closed back can. I went to rtings.com “audio peaks/dips” page and set the EQ Custom mode to leveled, for the Nova headset. A quick process on the DAC. A quick levels test on the mic and I noted it was clear, distortion free and on par with my EPOS headsets. Arguably the leaders in the mic space on gaming headphones.
Sound wise, this headset is sublime. The clean high and mid-range gave a real depth to exploring the open world of Horizon: Forbidden West. The base tones for a relatively compact headset impressed as well. In Horizon, when my flying mount flapped its wings, it was audible and….its was the first time I had heard it. I had been using a pair of Seinneiser GSP370 for the last 50hrs of Horizon. I had never heard the base tone of my mounts wings tearing through the air. My GSP370 headphones just hadn’t been able to deliver that sound to me.
After some more chopping and changing of games, and hot swapping to the various headsets I own. I concluded that the Nova Pros are the best sounding headphones I had ever heard. But I argue in large part due to the Game DAC though. If I plugged my new EPOS H6s into the DAC, the difference in sound quality between the Novas and H6s was almost indiscernible.
My gripes are few and minor, but still worth noting. Firstly, the change in the headsets overall design looks more mature, but has lost that kind of “comfort first” archetype the previous Arctis version had. The second thing is the 1.5m cable to connect to the DAC with…..it is way to short for a wired headset designed to work with consoles. Who sits 1.5ms away from the Xbox or Playstation!?
When you get down to it, the new Nova Pro X are well made, feature rich and sound amazing. But they should be, as you will need to drop $550 NZD for the wired model. And a hefty $700NZD to get the wireless model. Taking cost out of the equation and just looking at whats on offer, I have to acknowledge the overall quality and what a game changer Hi-Res Audio is. If you want the best and importantly can afford it, then you can’t do much better than the new Nova Pros + Game DAC.