For a while now, manufacturers of high-quality audio equipment that was specifically targeted toward gaming, have struggled to be taken seriously when it comes to sound quality.
Sure, many of the manufacturers have gained immense followings. And even the respect of audiophiles for things like build quality, intuitive design, great features, and software to accompany their gear. But, never have they been taken seriously when it comes to sound quality.
SteelSeries is among the industry leaders in gaming headsets. Their premium quality gaming headsets have become a favorite amongst professionals and amateur gamers alike. Great looking, well-built headsets with impeccable sound and a price tag to match is the recipe they’ve built their success on.
Breaking new ground…
Arctis Pro is the flagship model for SteelSeries. Even though it has been praised by users online as an incredible piece of audio equipment, SteelSeries seems unsatisfied with its reputation as a serious piece of audio hardware.
Therefore, we have been rewarded with the Arctis Pro GameDac, SteelSeries’s first Hi-Res certified gaming headset. What does GameDac mean, you might be asking? Well, it means a lot of good things, and I’m going to get into them all. But, it also means the GameDac comes in at around $250.
So, I decided to find out what Hi-Res certified means and, more importantly, what it sounds like in my in-depth SteelSeries Arctis Pro + GameDac Review.
Design and Build Quality
The GameDac is available in either White or Black. At first glance, it won’t appear that much has been changed in comparison to previous Arctis models. But, when you pick them up and start fiddling, you’ll notice they’ve been busy, and they’ve listened to their users.
The fabric headband has been kept; this is great because it saves weight and is very comfortable. The headband is interchangeable, so you can customize it to your heart’s delight. This is not the only interchangeable part, but we’ll get to that in a bit.
How does it look?
Aesthetically, the GameDac is a very appealing headset. The SteelSeries logo is no longer illuminated like the previous models, which makes the GameDac look more refined.
The thin RGB strip around the edge of the ear cups has been kept and can now be fully appreciated since the logo isn’t distracting your eye.
The build quality and materials used are both excellent, and the components are well put together. The aluminum hinges also help to reinforce and save weight. The ear cups can rotate a full 90-degrees. That makes them very comfortable when resting on the shoulders.
The microphone mute button has been enlarged. This may seem trivial, but it shows attention to detail which customers will not forget. Sadly, the volume wheel is still overly-sensitive and is easily tapped when taking the headset on and off, resulting in unwanted volume changes.
The side plates on the outside of the ear cups are magnetic and can be removed. This hints at customizable plates to be released in the future.
Fit and Comfort
As with other Arctis models, the foam used on the ear cups is nice and plush memory foam. As a result, this is one of the most comfortable gaming headsets you can buy.
The size of the ear cups is large enough to accommodate any ear. Likewise, their depth is adequate, so no ear will come into contact with the driver covers.
The headset itself is not extendible but can be enlarged by loosening or tightening the fabric strap. Unfortunately, the strap isn’t as long as it ought to be. So, folks with larger heads will struggle to fit these comfortably.
In The Box
Included with the headset are the following items:
- Foam pop filter for the microphone.
- Mobile adapter.
- Optical audio cable.
- USB audio cable.
- Main headset cable.
- Digital Audio Converter (DAC).
A small downside…
The auxiliary port on the DAC is located on the left-hand side. This makes the cabling options quite limited.
That’s because right-handed users will likely want to place the DAC on the right or in the middle. This will likely prove awkward since the DAC cable will could easily tangle with other cables for the mouse, keyboard, etc.
The DAC and Its Features
Arguably the biggest selling point for the Arctis Pro GameDac. The first, and most important function of the DAC, is to bypass the low fidelity DACs located in laptops, most gaming consoles, and stock PCs. This does two things:
- Takes the strain off your CPU since it’s no longer processing audio.
- Greatly improves the audio quality and, therefore, the sonic experience of gaming.
Thanks to the DAC, the headset can now deliver audio at 24bit/96kHz. That makes a huge difference, but I’ll get to that in a bit. Aside from this awesome feature, the DAC has a volume dial and a back button which can be used to access and tweak all manner of things.
The monochrome display is clear and easy to understand…
Overall, the DACs OS is as solid and easy to use as you could hope for. One thing to note is if you want to use the Hi-Res audio function. You need to change the settings in Windows before it will be reflected on the DAC’s display.
Also, when the DAC is plugged in, you can no longer make volume adjustments in Windows. Only on the DAC and the headset.
Using the DAC…
You can switch between different audio sources and enable or disable surround sound. As well as access to the RGB lighting options, sidetone volume, and mic volume.
You also get access to a comprehensive 10-band EQ. This comes with a healthy selection of presets and the option to create and save custom profiles. Meaning this is one of the most customizable gaming headsets you will find.
Something else to note is that the GameDac makes exclusive use of a mini 8-pin USB for connectivity. So, you are limited to using this kind of cable.
An advantage of using the DAC in PC mode…
You get access to chat mix, which allows you to effortlessly mix in your chat to your audio without having to fiddle with the headset or the software.
Overall, this DAC is a fantastic addition to the headphones. And the fact that you can control your entire audio experience without having to leave your game is great. Now let’s get to the most important function of the DAC, that Hi-Res audio.
So, what does high-res certified mean exactly? This certification is done through the Japanese Audio Society and, amongst other things, requires that the drivers can reach 40kHz or higher. Furthermore, the headset must be capable of delivering 24bit/96kHz audio quality.
This certification badge has appeared on quite a few audio products in recent years. Having it on your gaming headset’s packaging is a good way of showing the world that gamers are serious about audio quality. As for the difference it makes when using the Arctis Pro GameDAC, it is worth it.
The DAC Difference
First of all, the drivers are incredible. They deliver plenty of warmth and power but don’t seem unbalanced in any context, no matter what you play or how loud you go. Bass frequencies are intense and powerful; they mix well with the mids, which are by far the best part of this stereo signature.
Something that does stand out is that the highs never become bright. Even in mixes where the element is made to sound particularly so.
The layering and soundstage are by far the best of any gaming headset out there. Things just seem to sound so much more substantial and textured than before. In other words, this is one of the best sounding gaming headsets out there.
The microphone on the GameDac is extendible and has an RGB light to indicate when it’s in use. The quality of the voice is far above average. There is clarity, volume, and no nasal-sounding words and phrases. There is a distinct lack of bass in the voice, but it’s better than having too much.
Compression is also audible, no doubt to make the voice louder, but it is by no means disturbing. Noise-canceling, like on previous models, is good but could be better.
SteelSeries Arctis Pro + GameDAC Review – Pros and Cons
- Great build quality.
- Excellent sound quality.
- DAC has great features.
- Very comfortable.
- Comes in two colors.
- Detachable magnetic side panels for customized looks.
- Won’t fit larger heads.
- Awkward to cable unless placed on the left-hand side.
- The volume dial is shaky.
Need Great Gaming Gear?
We have you covered. Check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Gaming Headset, the Best PC Gaming Headsets, the Best Nintendo Switch Gaming Headsets, the Best Wireless PlayStation 4 Headsets, and the Best PC Gaming Headsets you can buy in 2022.
Also, take a look at our detailed reviews of the Most Comfortable Gaming Headsets, the Best Gaming Headsets for Big Heads, the Best Gaming Headphones Without Mic, the Best Wireless Xbox Series X/S Gaming Headsets, and the Best Razer Gaming Headsets currently on the market.
SteelSeries Arctis Pro + GameDAC Review – Conclusion
Looking for one of the best gaming headsets money can buy and not hooked on wireless? Then, the Arctis Pro GameDac is surely going to be on your shortlist.
While it may be expensive, it’s not more expensive than most premium competitors. And, when its sound capabilities and feature set are stacked up against its rivals, the appeal becomes all the more obvious.
This is a headset for a serious gamer who wants high-quality audio and doesn’t mind paying a little extra to get it. The final score is 8 out of 10.
Until next time, happy listening.