I’ve had my eye on a SteelSeries headset for my PlayStation 5 for a long time.
SteelSeries’ headsets are regularly at the top of buyers guides for gaming headphones, mostly thanks to the company’s reputation for build quality, comfort, and audio performance. But I grabbed a Sony Pulse 3D headset for my PS5 when the console launched for one big reason: USB-C.
As great as SteelSeries’ headphones are, the company’s entire lineup has, up until now, relied on micro-USB for charging. I’ve worked very hard to get my home charging station down to just two wires (USB-C and the ever pesky Lightning) and I’m not about to add a third just for one gadget. SteelSeries was prescient about USB-C’s dominance when it updated its wireless dongles to support USB-C for the Nintendo Switch years ago (this was in the dark ages before the console added Bluetooth audio support two months ago). I found it extremely funny Steelseries was for years selling micro-USB-equipped headphones paired with a USB-C dongle.
So naturally, when SteelSeries surprise-updated the Arctis 7 headphones with USB-C charging and even longer battery life on the new, $170 Arctis 7+ and Arctis 7P+, this was an instant buy for me.
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PC and PS5 only
The updated port comes to the Arctis 7 and the Arctis 7P, adding a “+” to the end of each product’s name. It also comes with a slight price bump, with both models rising from $150 to $170 now. Sadly the Xbox-compatible Arctis 7X is left out for the time being. That’s a shame because that headset’s dongle is the only one compatible with Microsoft’s Xbox Wireless protocol, a proprietary flavor of 2.4GHz audio that prevents those consoles from just working with any old 2.4GHz wireless receiver. If you have a multi-platform household, you’ll need to wait for any potential “Arctis 7X+” (SteelSeries would not comment on future USB-C upgrades for its other headsets).
The Arctis 7+ and 7P+ are basically identical apart from the functionality of the dial that adorns the right earcup. On the 7P+ the dial adjusts how much sidetone, or microphone monitoring, is mixed into your audio experience. On the 7+, this dial adjusts the game/chat mix on PC if you’re using SteelSeries’ Sonar software. I only have a 7P+ to test however. Put simply, if you regularly switch between PC and PS5 gaming, you’re better off grabbing a 7+ for that added Sonar compatibility. If you only use consoles, then the 7P+ is the way to go.
It’s also worth noting that the 7+ and black 7P+ aren’t currently available as of writing. SteelSeries wouldn’t comment on availability for these SKUs but I still think it’s worth it for PC players to wait for the 7+ to come in stock.
My testing was done using a white Arctis 7P+ paired with a PS5, with some Switch OLED gameplay thrown into the mix. Overall, my impressions were very positive and I found the 7P+ to deliver everything promised on the box.
After a year of the Pulse 3D, it’s a breath of air to use the 7P+. Everything has more presence and depth across the board in both games with 3D audio and standard stereo. The incredible soundtrack of Hades has more oomph and pop on every note, and this game isn’t even 3D audio compatible. In 3D audio games like Returnal and Ghost of Tsushima: Directors Cut, you still get that total immersion effect the Pulse 3D provides, but there’s ever more detail at play here.
In back-to-back testing with my Pulse 3D, I found the separation of effects between the Pulse and 7P+ to be identical, but in traditional stereo games the 7P+ was the clear winner. This is to be expected. The PS5’s Tempest engine handles most of the audio processing work so 3D audio can work on any headset, but adding better headphones to the mix just makes the experience nicer by letting all that advanced processing the console is doing shine.
It’s a breath of air to use the 7P+.
The default EQ here is basically an upgraded version of the Pulse 3D EQ. It’s very balanced and doesn’t overwhelm with low-end effects. Depending on what games you play, this may or may not be what you want to hear, but I appreciate accurate sound in games, especially on a system where so much work is handled on console. Where the Arctis 7P+ sets itself apart is in dynamic range. These headphones get louder than the Pulse 3D and do so without becoming distorted. This makes those booming setpieces in action games all the more enveloping and high-energy fights more exciting.
If you want to play around with EQ settings, you’ll need to download the SteelSeries GG app on your PC or Mac. This is also where you can update the headphones and dongle firmware. There aren’t a lot of presets provided by SteelSeries here, and their names aren’t the most helpful. For Apple Silicon Mac users, don’t count on GG too much. It worked fine for updating my headset, but Apple’s Rosetta 2 x86 translation software and this app do not play nicely. Features like live microphone previews simply refused to work, and the app would make audio from my Mac impossible to listen to unless I hard quit it.
Even if the app worked flawlessly on Apple Silicon, I don’t game on PC so going to my computer just to tweak my console headphones isn’t the most convenient process. A/B testing EQ in games is already a hassle on the Pulse 3D when you get system-level adjustment. Having to go back and forth between the console and a PC adds a lot of headache to the mix, so I’m thankful the default EQ is so good.
Delight all around
The real reason to pay the $70 premium for the Arctis 7P+ over a Pulse 3D is everything other than audio quality. I find the Pulse 3D to be a perfectly fine headset for games, and while the improved audio quality of the 7P+ is great, I find the other stuff it brings to the table most enticing.
To start, microphone quality here is superb and makes the Pulse 3D’s mics sound like a dollar store headset by comparison. Sony should be embarrassed by how much better this mic is on the 7P+. On test calls with friends over PSN, I was told my voice on the 7P+’s retractable mic was much clearer if not a bit too distorted when I peaked. The Pulse 3D’s dual beamforming mics on the other hand are just muddy and unpleasant. I need to turn the system mic-sensitivity down significantly on the Pulse 3D just to make my friends happy enough to talk to me. The 7P+ is great out of the box. You’re never going to get perfect call quality on any headset thanks to the extreme compression PSN is using, but if you’re not starting with good hardware you’re not going to get far.
Build quality and comfort are also standout. The 7P+ is using SteelSeries’ trademark ski-goggle headband. I’d never used one before so it took me a while to adjust it for my head but once I got it right I instantly understood the appeal. When you find the perfect balance of tension for your head shape, the rest of the headset’s sturdy metal construction literally floats over your cranium, eliminating a ton of the weight of the headphones. This, combined with the plush and breathable ear cups, make this the most comfortable gaming headset I’ve ever used. The Pulse 3D’s bungie headband and pleather ear cups are fine as a starting point, and the headband does create a floating effect too, but SteelSeries’ build quality is in a different league here.
Lastly, button layout is phenomenal. On the left ear cup you have a volume dial and a mic mute button above that. On the right ear cup you have a sidetone adjustment dial, with the power button placed very low on the headset. There’s zero chance of confusion here for blind feels, and this is a night-and-day difference from the Pulse 3D’s odd approach to put every control on one ear cup.
Battery life also blows the Pulse 3D out of the water.
Battery life also blows the Pulse 3D out of the water. That headset only gets you 12 hours of playtime. The original 7P already bested that with 24 hours, but the 7P+ absolutely dominates with 30 hours of playtime. The USB-C port also quick charges to get you three hours of playtime in 15 minutes if you need a quick top-up.
Everything I listed above is what makes the 7P+ worth the upgrade. All of these things coalesce to make a headset you not only enjoy wearing for hours on end but may even prefer to your sound system. If you live with a partner who doesn’t want to hear you gaming, you won’t at all mind putting on your headphones out of courtesy. The Pulse 3D is comfortable enough but I absolutely get hot ears after an hour or so.
Lock-in is real
So the Arctis 7+/7P+ are stellar. The improvements they bring over the original Arctis 7/7P make me confident enough to recommend them as the best overall wireless headsets for most players. There are more expensive headsets, including some from SteelSeries like the Arctis 9 and Arctis Pro that offer improved functionality and dual Bluetooth/2.4GHz connections, but their pricing puts them in a different league. They’re also stuck on micro-USB for the time being.
If you’re a PC player, I can recommend these headphones without a second thought. They’re terrific. But for PS5 players specifically, I must insist you keep reading to be aware of some limitations these (and any third-party wireless headset) will have on the console. These may not be a dealbreaker but are absolutely worth noting.
The blame for these limitations lies solely with Sony and they have everything to do with the headphones’ ability to access key system-level functionality. On the Pulse 3D, the PS5 will automatically switch over audio output to my headset as soon as it’s turned on. When I turn my volume up, or mute my mic, all of those correspond to what the PS5 is outputting and receiving, with corresponding animations on screen.
Third-party headsets simply can’t do this, even when connected over a USB receiver like the one the Pulse 3D uses. This creates a number of issues that make the experience of using the 7P+ objectively worse than the Pulse 3D, even if the audio and mic experience is so much better. The PS5’s setting to automatically switch your output is completely borked by a third-party wireless dongle being plugged in. Because Sony won’t allow third-party headsets to communicate an “on” signal to their corresponding dongles, the PS5 defaults to route all audio to the dongle even if your headset is off.
The Arctis 7+/7P+ are stellar.
Your choices as a user are either to disable auto-output switching in your settings, or unplug your dongle every time you stop using your headset. Either way, you’ll be doing some kind of extra manual action to switch the system over to the headphones. Neither of these are great, nor are they as convenient as leaving your dongle plugged into your console and just turning your headphones on when you’re ready to play.
This cascades to mic mute and volume control. System mic mute no longer mirrors your headset like it does on the Pulse 3D, so pressing the mute button on the headphones will still show your chat members that your mic is on. The headset’s sidetone is also always-on even when you’re not chatting if you don’t press the mute button or dial sidetone down. Volume control is also pretty blunt. You need to turn system volume output all the way up in settings, then rely on the volume dial to get the full dynamic range these headphones can crank out.
To me, these system-level shortcomings were enough for me to decide to return my Arctis 7P+, but they may not be for others. I’m noting them here because everyone has their own preferences and priorities. Personally, I value seamlessness above all else. My time with the 7P+ was great, and I think these headphones are going to make a lot of PS5 players very happy this holiday, but they ultimately made me wish Sony would either unlock system-level audio controls for all headsets or at least get around to making a premium version of the Pulse 3D in the Arctis 7P+’s price range.
I am still recommending the Arctis 7P+ to PS5 players on account of its many, many advantages, but you need to decide how important system controls are to you before you click “Add to Cart.”