Introduction & Specification Details and Close-up
Today we will be looking at the SteelSeries Arctis 3 Bluetooth to see if the $99 price tag is worth the slew of features that SteelSeries has touted.
The Arctis 3 Bluetooth comes with support for Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PS4, and PC, via the multiple cables that come included in the box. The headset also comes with Bluetooth as per the name, which means the Arctis 3 can double, or even triple for a PC gaming headset, console gaming headset, or mobile gaming headset.
If Bluetooth isn't your jazz, there's a 3.5mm audio jack included in the box, granting you access to all modern consoles. On top of this, the Arctis 3 can use both analog audio and Bluetooth audio at the same time, which means that users can connect their Acrtis 3 to their gaming console while simultaneously playing music through their phone. The same principle can be said for Nintendo Switch gaming as well. If that sparks some interest, and you are looking for a versatile gaming headset, then you are in luck with the Arctis 3 Bluetooth.
First off, we have a close-up image of the front of the Arctis 3 box, and as you can see, there's a clear indication that this headset comes with Bluetooth support, as well as wired gaming support. There's also the range of different platforms the headset can be used on front and center on the box, which is always good.
Moving onto the back of the box, there are a few accolades from other websites and also a bit of a more in-depth description of some of the Acrtis 3's features.
Next, we have an image of the side of the box, and here we can clearly see all of the specifications for the headset, as well as some connection setup examples as well as the included cables inside the box.
Here we have an image of the microphone, and as you can see, it extends fairly decently. Coming in at a maximum extension length of 11cm, we can also note that the microphone is mostly constructed of flexible rubber - I will get more into this later on in the review.
Next, we have an image of the earcup on the Arctis 3 Bluetooth, and while you can't understand it from the image, I can tell you that these earcups feel surprisingly premium. They are quite soft to touch, and when worn, they mold to your head very nicely. SteelSeries calls the material on their headsets AirWeave, and I can tell you it certainly lives up to its name.
Moving on, we have some simple yet effective left and right indicators located on the frame of the headset.
The Bluetooth button is located on the right-hand side headset, and it also doubles as a power button, which I will get into more later on.
Next, we have the left earcup, and here's where all the action is. Starting from the bottom, we have the microphone, micro-USB, 3.5mm headphone jack, SteelSeries' proprietary connector, volume wheel, and mute microphone button.
Here we have an image of the headband, and as you can see, there's a nice subtle design imprinted on the headband. This headband is also reasonably flexible. I will get more into this in the design section of the review.
Here we have all of the cables that are included in the box taken out of the box. From left to right, we have the proprietary connector, microphone and 3.5mm headphone jack, and micro-USB.
Jak's Test System Specifications
- Motherboard: ASUS ROG Crosshair VIII Hero X570 (Wi-Fi) (buy from Amazon)
- CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 3600X @ 4.4GHz (buy from Amazon)
- GPU: EVGA GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER XC GAMING (buy from Amazon)
- Cooler: be quiet! Silent Wings 3
- RAM: 16GB (2x8GB) Corsair Vengeance LPX 16GB 3200MHz (buy from Amazon)
- SSD: GALAX HOF Pro SSD PCI-E M.2 2TB
- Power Supply: Corsair CX Series 750 Watt (buy from Amazon)
- Case: be quiet! Silent Base 600 (buy from Amazon)
- OS: Microsoft Windows 10 Pro 64-bit (buy from Amazon)
Design & Software
The design of the Arctis 3 Bluetooth is overall more than acceptable for a headset that is extremely versatile, but that doesn't mean it doesn't come with any issues.
I really love the earcups on the Arctis 3 Bluetooth, the AirWeave is a very breathable material and makes for going for a walk with the Arctis 3 Bluetooth quite enjoyable. Since the material is so breathable, I noticed that over longer gaming sessions, I didn't have any sweat build up that would normally occur with a headset that has thick leather earcups. The color of the headset is nothing abnormal from SteelSeries; we can see a matte black finish across the entire headset, with only one gloss spot at the end of the microphone. I would have personally preferred the end of the microphone to have also been matte black, as the gloss finish attracts quite a lot of fingerprints.
Comfort-wise, SteelSeries has done a great job of making sure the user feels comfortable while wearing the Arctis 3 Bluetooth. The earcups rotate on the metal frame to adjust to the shape of the user's head, but unfortunately, for me personally, I felt as if there wasn't enough clamping pressure. This became even more prevalent when I took the Arctis 3 Bluetooth to the gym, the constant leaning over, getting up and down, and basically any shaking of the head motion will loosen the grip of the earcups around your ears.
The lack of clamping pressure connects straight into my next point, the build quality of the headset feels somewhat flimsy, and cheap. The headband feels nice and sturdy, but my main concern is in the hinges that rotate the earcups. I feel like if either of the earcups were rotated in the opposite way ever so slightly that the hinge would snap.
The elastic ski-band did a fantastic job at distributing the weight of the headset evenly across my head, and I had no issues with balancing or the way the headset was naturally positioned. As I previously mentioned, the AirWeave material on the earcups are fantastically comfortable, but unfortunately, my ear was rubbing against the material that is covering the driver. This could have been an issue specific to me, as I have larger ears, but I felt it was something worth noting.
The left earcup has everything you would expect out of a gaming headset that supports as many platforms as this one does. The volume wheel isn't loose, which is a good thing in my eyes because if the volume wheel is too loose, it can cause some issues when it's knocked. The mute microphone button is reasonably easy to locate, and when the microphone is muted, it pops out, which is a nice little feature. I would have much preferred the end of the microphone to have a red LED indicator, as I have found throughout my time reviewing headsets that the red LED indicator is the easiest way to notify the user of the headset that their microphone is muted.
As for the cables, they don't cause too much audible sound, but there is some noise that can be heard when they rattle against your shirt. The standard 3.5mm microphone and headphone jack can connect directly into the provided splitter, which then plugs directly into your supporting device, very standard stuff here. As for the propriety 8-pin connector, well, I just feel as if it's a pain, and that SteelSeries should hurry up and drop the feature altogether as it provides no value to the user.
Performance & Microphone
As I've mentioned with all of my gaming headset reviews, I like to use the headset I'm reviewing from anywhere between 30-50 hours, or about a week of time. Throughout this time, I run the headset through a range of different tests, such as a variety of games, music tests as well as movies/TV shows. The games I tested with the Arctis 3 Bluetooth were Apex Legends and Valorant. As for music, I played some Hip-Hop songs to test out the base, and some movie soundtracks to test out those high tones.
With every gaming headset, my inner child emerges forth, and the very first thing I do after setting it up is jump straight into a gaming session to gather my initial thoughts. When using the headset in wired, I jumped into a game of Apex Legends, and unsurprisingly I had a more than satisfactory experience. Highs, mids, and low tones were very stable across the board, I didn't notice any oversaturation of any of the tones at all, and if anything I would have preferred a bit of an increase to the mid-tones, but that issue was easily solved in the SteelSeries Engine 3 software.
Apex Legends, while being an arcade battle royale shooter, has a wide variety of sounds for users to absorb, which is why I use it as a staple benchmark for gaming headsets. The sounds I heard in Apex Legends with the Arctis 3 Bluetooth in wired mode were clean-cut, there was no distortion of any kind, and each of the weapons gave off a nice accurate ring. Directional audio was satisfactory, no complaints here at all, but nothing impressive enough to mention. Bass wasn't lackluster, which was something I was anticipating from this headset, so that was a bonus.
As for Valorant, which is a competitive shooter, much like CSGO, I did have to tweak the EQ in the SteelSeries software. Before the tweaking, I noticed that the mid-tone wasn't as forefront as I would have liked straight out of the box, but this didn't bother me much, and here's why. The Arctis 3 Bluetooth is a headset built for versatility over a range of different platforms and use cases, which means that the headset aims to be more balanced and not focusing on one specific use case. As previously mentioned, this issue was easily solved in the SteelSeries software.
I then tested the headset with Bluetooth and found that the audio signal was somewhat flatter than when it was being used in wired mode. This is to be expected, as the Bluetooth signal adds a certain level of suppression to the audio signal, which in turn, reduces the audio fidelity. I found this to be a particular issue in competitive shooters, but not as much of an issue in games where audio wasn't that big of a factor e.g. RPG's, RTS games, open-world games.
Music and movie listening was very standard, which is actually a good thing when it comes to a gaming headset as most of them fall off in quality when movies and music start being played. I found myself happily taking the Arctis 3 Bluetooth for a walk while listening to audiobooks, and music of all varieties.
SteelSeries Arctis 3 Bluetooth
Sennheiser GSP 300
HyperX Cloud Stinger Core Wireless
Now we are at one of the most important parts of the review, the microphone test for the SteelSeries Arctis 3 Bluetooth. I've tested a few SteelSeries gaming headsets, and from my experience with them, I've only experienced great things with their microphones, and the Arctis 3 is no different.
I have decided to put the Arctis 3 up against the FNATIC REACT and the Sennheiser GSP 300, which are priced at $80 and $99, respectively. After listening to all of the above videos, you should be able to hear clear differences between each of the microphones. Starting off with the GSP 300, I believe that Sennheiser has created one of the best budget-level microphones on a gaming headset, the sound quality is clean-cut, and there's a considerable amount of bass in the projected audio. The FNATIC React is similar in quality to the GSP 300 and has only very minimal differences.
As for the Arctis 3 Bluetooth, I think that SteelSeries has kept to their standard of providing gamers with fantastic microphones even if the microphone doesn't necessarily sit close to the user's mouth. The only critique I could have with the microphone is that if you say some words that have strong P's or S's, they can be lost in communication. This is a common problem throughout headset microphones, and not something I would worry too much about.
Overall, fantastic work here, SteelSeries, the microphone on the Arctis 3 is well above the standard for gaming headset microphones.
The Arctis 3 has some fantastic features that I have no doubt will fit some gamer's use cases perfectly. The ability to be able to play Bluetooth audio through the headset while also playing analog audio through the headset will be a seller in itself for some gamers. The audio quality is also extremely balanced, meaning that gamers will be able to get great in-game audio across a multitude of games, while also having the option of listening to music/movies with no issues at all.
The design of the Arctis 3 Bluetooth could certainly be improved. The flimsiness of the headset is a real big concern for me, as well as the clamping pressure being minimal. There is also the issue of the proprietary connector.
In my opinion, the Arctis 3 Bluetooth is a great headset that some gamers may find a tonne of value in.
Specific use cases aren't necessarily a downside at all, and in some cases can be deal-breakers for gamers that are looking for a headset at a specific price point. With $99 to spend on a fresh new gaming headset, a gamer must ask themselves what they are using this headset for. If their use case is they want a headset that they can use on both consoles (Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PS4) and PC, while also having decent music/movie listening quality, then certainly consider the Arctis 3 Bluetooth.
Versatility is the name of the game when it comes to Arctis 3 Bluetooth, and for $99 I believe that SteelSeries has hit the nail on the head with this product. As I previously mentioned, if you are a gamer that is looking for a headset that you can use on almost any device, has an above-average microphone, and also has Bluetooth connectivity for mobile, then you have found an answer with the Arctis 3 Bluetooth. Overall, your decision will always come down to your use case, and to the benefit of the Arctis 3, there isn't really much it can't do.
Lovely work, SteelSeries!
The Bottom Line
SteelSeries has released a gaming headset that tackles almost any scenario you can throw at it. Mobile, consoles, PC, and music/move listening, the Arctis 3 Bluetooth can do it, and do it well.