On the heels of the Arctis Nova Pro–our pick for the best premium gaming headset for consoles and PC–SteelSeries has unveiled a trio of new additions to the Arctis Nova line: Nova 1, 3, and 7. These headsets are essentially replacing the original Arctis line, which included a few of the best headsets across multiple price points. The new Nova headsets adopt the form factor of the Nova Pro but come in at far more affordable price points.
The Arctis 7 series was our favorite overall headset across all platforms, but the Nova 7 tops it when it comes to both performance. Meanwhile, the Arctis Nova 3 is a solid mid-range wired headset with cool RGB lighting and stellar audio at its $100 price point. And for those shopping on a budget, the Nova 1 is the most comfortable gaming headset I’ve tried in its price range (just $60).
The Nova 7 is roughly half the price of the Nova Pro at $180. Despite the drastic price difference, the Nova 7 manages to retain nearly every premium build feature that made the Nova Pro so great. It has the steel-reinforced, adjustable headband, sleek design, retractable mic, and wonderful ergonomics. The only difference is that it uses fabric for the earcups rather than leatherette. Admittedly, the earcups were one of the Nova Pro’s best features, but even with this change, the Nova 7 is comfortable for lengthy gaming sessions. I wore it all day for multiple days in a row didn’t feel any strain on my head or ears. If you’ve used a SteelSeries headset in the past, the fabric here feels about the same. The memory foam, however, has a plushier quality to it, which makes it even more comfortable than the Arctis 7P and 7X.
It also retains the versatility of the Nova Pro. While it doesn’t have the base station to swap between platforms automatically, it is one of the rare headsets that works on both PS5 and Xbox Series X|S. If you have both platforms, you’ll want to opt for the Nova 7X, the Xbox-specific version that also works with PS5 and PC. The 7P works on PlayStation and PC, and the standard 7 is designed specifically for PC. So, yes, the 7X makes the most sense even if you don’t have an Xbox right now. You simply plug the USB-C dongle into your console or PC and you’re good to go.
The Nova 7 also supports Bluetooth. This is a welcome feature considering the Nova 7 doubles as a great headset for listening to music on your phone or while working on your laptop. The Nova Pro came with two battery packs, one of which was charged by the base station while playing so you never ran out of juice. That’s missing here, but the Nova 7 has a quick charge feature that gives you six hours of battery life from a mere 15-minute charge. Overall, you can expect up to 38 hours of battery life on a full charge.
From an audio perspective, the Nova 7 isn’t far behind the Nova Pro. With rich, clear acoustics, deep lows, and pinpoint audio that can help you identify the location of specific sounds, the Nova 7 noticeably improves on the original Arctis 7. It utilizes the same “ClearCast Gen 2” retractable mic as the Nova Pro, which offers incredibly clear chat that mitigates background noise. Considering the Arctis 7 still retails for around the same price, it’s a no-brainer to go with the Nova 7 from now on.
The Nova 3 and 1 are wired headsets, so that might be a dealbreaker for some users. However, they still offer solid audio performance and good ergonomics. They both have plastic headbands rather than steel, so durability could be a concern over time. The form factor is quite similar to the Nova 7, but they are slightly bulkier. Overall, both headsets are still the sleekest SteelSeries has designed in this price range, and they remain comfortable for hours of nonstop wearing. Unsurprisingly, the Nova 7 feels far more premium than these budget-minded headsets. Still, performance is impressive. They have the same style of retractable mics as the Nova 7, and I didn’t really notice a difference in clarity. Since they are wired, both headsets are universal and work with practically every platform and device.
Interestingly, the Nova 3 connects via USB-C rather than a 3.5mm jack like the Nova 1. This is because the Nova 3 has a unique feature not found in any of SteelSeries’ other headsets: RGB lighting. Rings around the SteelSeries logo on the sides of the earcups illuminates with up to 16.8 million color combinations. Although it’s a cool touch, you won’t get to enjoy the RGB lighting effects since the headset will usually be on your head.
The new Nova headsets make use of SteelSeries’ wonderful Sonar Audio Software Suite when you’re gaming on PC. The Sonar app lets you tinker with just about every aspect of your audio experience. Along with adjusting the overall audio mix, you can create individual profiles for particular games. These profiles can isolate and amplify specific sounds like footsteps, doors opening and closing, weapons, and more. The Sonar tech really does help to pinpoint sounds to help give you an edge, but it can also improve your overall experience by shutting out background noise from teammates’ homes.
The Nova Pro remains SteelSeries’ best overall headset, but $350 for a gaming headset is a huge ask. With the Arctis Nova 7 (and specifically the 7X), SteelSeries has brought most of the best features over from the Nova Pro while putting it in a more “normal” price range. The Nova 7X offers players one premium headset that works with all of their consoles, PC, and even mobile devices via Bluetooth. For budget shoppers, I’d recommend the Nova 1 over the Nova 3, simply because they are very similar in terms of feel and performance and you save $40. The new Nova headsets are available now at SteelSeries and should be popping up at major retailers shortly.
The products discussed here were independently chosen by our editors.
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