Headset Showdown: Steelseries Arctis 7 vs Logitech G533
It's Sunday, so it's time for the Headphone / Headset Showdown!
I've been barreling towards this comparison for the last six months as if it were my destiny.
In my original review of the Steelseries Arctis 7, I called the G533 stupid.
Then, in my review of the G533, I said that actually maybe it was very nearly as good as the Arctis...and often cheaper.
I've now spent the last two days driving myself nuts trying to figure out which of these I like better. What follows is my attempt to pack all of that nightmare into a coherent, readable form. Read on for all my thoughts, some pictures, and a mic test! Or just scroll to the bottom first to see what won. I won't get mad.
These are the two best wireless PC headsets on the market today. So you're not gonna go wrong with either one. They'll also both work with PS4 wirelessly, but the Arctis 7 is the only one that's Xbox One/Mobile compatible thanks to its cord. So keep that in mind!
Steelseries Arctis 7($149, Available in Black or White): The Arctis 7 is the flagship model in Steelseries premiere headset line. The Arctis series surprise-launched last fall, and it set out to revolutionize the design of gaming headsets. For the most part, it delivered! New earpads, new headband design, drivers from their $300 Siberia 800 headset, and a brand-new mic with hardware-based noise cancellation.
It was and still is a very good product line-up, and I declared the whole line to be my best headsets of the year.
Logitech G533(Launched $149, often on sale for $99-$129): The G533 launched earlier this year. In spite of having a lower model number and price, it's actually a refined version of the older G933. It takes the same new Pro G drivers from that model and pairs them with a lighter, better-built body.
RGB lighting went away to improve battery life, and Dolby Headphone was cut in favor of solely supporting DTS Headphone: X, probably to decrease licensing costs. The result is a premium-feeling, cheaper headset that still has great sound.
I went completely insane over the last day and a half trying to decide which headset I preferred for sound.
It wouldn't shock me if they were both tuned to the same target frequency response curve.
Our brains and ears don't process headphone sound the same way that we process regular sound/sound from speakers, so a bunch of tuning is done to make headphones sound natural. This is part of why every headphone sounds different: they're all differently tuned. A "neutral, balanced" headphone will actually have peaks and valleys in its response to account for the way your ears and brain work.
These headsets both sound amazing. Set to their default flat EQs and in stereo mode, I listened to a ton of music and game audio that I'm very familiar with. They both produce satisfying, accurate bass response, natural mids, and detailed high frequencies.
The Logitech G533 is just a little bit warmer, meaning that its bass is slightly more thumpy and its highs are a bit quieter. The EQ modes built into the Logitech software play up this warmth, and some of them get quite aggressive in the bass area at the expense of muddying up the rest of the sound just a bit.
On the Arctis, the true star is the upper end of the frequency spectrum. They are exceptionally detailed, narrowly edging out the G533 in air and pinpoint precision in the highs. The built-in EQ modes in the Steelseries software maintain this level of high-end detail, even if you choose to emphasize the bass.
But without any software tweaking...they both sound nigh-identical. Which is a very good thing. It's better to start from a neutral platform and then EQ the sound to your liking from there, rather than have a headset that distorts or colors the audio too much. Both of these are incredibly capable performers. You can rest easy knowing that you're getting sound that accurately reflects what was originally produced. Bassheads will slightly prefer the G533, and detail-hounds will slightly prefer the Arctis.
I went back and forth a stupid number of times trying to decide which one I liked better. And I couldn't.
The soundstage is a little bit better on the Arctis, and I found that I could hear just a tiny bit more detail in the sound thanks to its better isolation. But in a perfectly quiet room, this difference will be less noticeable.
Both headsets use DTS Headphone: X, but only the G533 shows up as a 7.1 device in your Windows hardware settings. Certain games look at this setting instead of talking directly to the surround software, so you might have some issues getting surround audio out of stuff with the Arctis. But it's not a dealbreaker, in my opinion.
Both have solid implementations of DTS...but I think the preset names make more sense inside the Logitech software. If you don't like the "virtual speakers in a room" feeling of DTS Headphone: X, you can use the free Razer Surround software with the Arctis 7...but not with the Logitech G533.
It's kind of a toss-up then, virtual surround wise. Minor occasional DTS compatibility issues are outweighed by the Arctis working with Razer's excellent software.
WINNER: TIE. The Arctis is a tiny bit better if you prefer detail/acoustic material/vocals, and the G533 is a touch better if you love huge bass. But they both have flat, accurate, well-tuned sound.
Comfort is very important in a gaming headset, because you're probably going to be playing games for longer than 30 minutes. You'll need something that you can wear for a while without discomfort.
Both of these would serve you well...but the Arctis 7 is a little bit better.
The G533 uses a very traditional comfort concept. There's a padded headband and two big padded ear cups. The ear cup holes are massive. They're square-shaped, and if you have smaller ears or a smaller head, they might not fit/seal correctly. They just barely seal properly around my face, but there's plenty of room for my ears to hang out inside the giant holes.
None of the padding is memory foam, but it gets the job done and manages to distribute the massive girth of the headset just fine.
The Arctis 7 uses a suspension headband strap that Steelseries claims will fit any head. I have a really big head. I usually have to stretch headphones out quite a bit. I have to wear the giant G533 about half extended.
I can wear the Arctis 7 comfortably on my massive head without any size adjustment whatsoever.
This is a big deal, for me. And I think it'll fit a little bit better both for people with larger and smaller heads than the G533.
If you're sensitive to clamping force, the Arctis 7 is just a touch clampier than the G533, but you can mitigate that by tightening the strap a little so that it takes more of the tension off your ears. The Arctis 7 ear pads are racetrack shaped, and they're not as deep as the G533 pads. The insides will probably gently touch your ears, but the holes are large enough to go around them. If you don't like anything touching your ears, this might bug you.
But I still prefer the comfort of the Arctis. The headband strap is barely noticeable and the ear pads are incredibly plush compared to the stiffer, more textured G533 pads. Steelseries uses their patented "AirWeave" fabric on the pads here. It's basically moisture-wicking athletic shirt fabric, and it's incredibly soft and nice against my face. The pads are washable and breathe well.
Logitech's G533 pads are also washable and breathable thanks to their mesh material, but it's a little bit scratchier and more noticeable than the AirWeave fabric.
If the G533 is a 90 for comfort then the Arctis 7 is a 100. They both feel very nice. The Arctis 7 just feels a bit nicer.
WINNER: ARCTIS 7
Logitech's G533 is made almost entirely out of black plastic. Most of it has a matte finish, but there's some fingerprint-attracting gloss on the backs of the ear cups. The headband adjustments are metal- reinforced, but they're a little bit loose at the end of their range.
It's also huge-y huge huge. The thing looks completely massive on your head, and you will look and feel a bit silly wearing them.
The Arctis 7 has none of these issues. The headband is a solid piece of metal with a nice rubberized bit on the bottom. That rubber bit helps things to stay soft on your head in the event that you set the strap really loose. The ear cups have plastic frames, and the backs are a nice soft-touch rubber. The swivel joints are smooth and satisfying, unlike the loose joints on the Logitech headset.
One thing of note: The angle of the metal headband is a little more shallow than it looks in some of the promotional materials.
This is hands-down a win for the Arctis 7. It's not even close, really. The G533 is by no means badly built, but its design still screams gaming headset. The Arctis looks like a sleek pair of modern headphones, and works well no matter the setting.
If you want a sleek pair of headphones from Logitech, you should check out their newer wired G433.
WINNER: ARCTIS 7. It has a great metal-infused build and a modern design.
The airweave cushions of the Arctis 7 provide better isolation for noisy environments. They use a leatherette material for the bottom half of the pad, which further improves this. Steelseries also sells leatherette ear cushions separately if you want even more outside noise blockage, but I have no issue with the default amount of isolation here.
Logitech's G533 isolates decently for a pair with cloth ear pads...but they do let in a fair bit of outside noise. They don't leak too badly though. If you want to be able to still hear the environment around you the G533 is a better buy. Sadly, the more open nature of the pads doesn't seem to give the G533 a hugely improved soundstage over the Arctis design.
WINNER: ARCTIS 7
MICROPHONE QUALITY WITH SAMPLES!
A good mic is what makes a headset a headset. Otherwise it's just a pair of headphones.
The Arctis 7 has the better mic.
Have you ever heard of the proximity effect? This is sometimes referred to as "eating the mic." Basically, when you get your mouth really close to the microphone, it makes your voice sound deeper and more resonant.
Steelseries designed the Arctis 7 microphone to take explicit advantage of this. It's designed to be placed very close to your mouth unlike some other gaming mics. This is only mentioned briefly in the literature that comes with the headset, but this video goes into more detail about it if you have a couple of minutes. This article written by the Steelseries engineers is a great read, too!
In addition to being designed around the proximity effect, the mic is also bidirectional. There's a second opening on the back of the mic that picks up noise in the room and then filters this out, completely in hardware, without any of the distortion or warbling that software mic noise cancellation can introduce.
Here are some samples of each mic. These are completely unedited outside of high bit rate MP3 compression so that my site supports them.
Notice the difference?
The Arctis mic is more flexible. It telescopes in and out of the left ear cup, and it's really easy to position it correctly. The Logitech G533 mic flips up and down, and has a little adjustable bit on the end. But that bit is kind of springy, and can't actually get all that close to my mouth. So it's never going to sound too much better than it does here, at least when wearing the headset normally.
The box for the Arctis 7 claims that the line has the best mic in gaming.
It's certainly up there.
I'd argue that Razer's digital microphones perform at about the same level, and I think the Astro A40 mic sounds solid too...though it doesn't cancel out background noise as well.
WINNER: ARCTIS 7. NO CONTEST.
Logitech includes a stick-style USB wireless receiver inside the box, a USB charge cable, a manual...and nothing else.
The G533 can only connect to the USB receiver. It can't connect through the USB cable. It can't connect through an analog audio cable. This is why I first dismissed it over 6 months ago. I just didn't understand why you'd want to buy something at this price that didn't have those options.
Now that it's a little bit cheaper, and I know it's a good performer, that's a little easier to swallow.
The Arctis comes with a puck-shaped receiver with a long USB cable. It's got a ring of grippy material on the bottom...but I wish it was a little heavier as sometimes it slides around on my desk. The puck has ports on the back for a second analog 3.5mm input, and a 3.5mm output for speakers, both nice touches!
Importantly, the Arctis also comes with a 3.5mm "console/mobile" cable. It's about 4 feet long, which is a pretty standard length for a mobile cable. It's nice and rubbery and doesn't feel springy or stiff. The end that goes into the headset is a proprietary thing based off of micro USB, and the other end is a 4-pole 3.5mm plug. It works great with my phone and my console controllers.
That's a pretty big blow to the G533 then, but not all hope is lost!
The G533 does slightly better with wireless range. It's rated for about 50 feet, compared to the 40 feet of the Arctis, and I've found these both to be accurate numbers.
I test wireless range by starting something playing on my computer, and then walking to the other end of my apartment to the living room. It's about 40 feet away and there are three walls between here and there. The living room is also riddled with 2.4 Ghz wi-fi signals, so it's an excellent, intense test.
The Arctis 7 started to cut out when I reached the middle of the room. Sometimes it would work and sometimes it would die outright.
The G533, by comparison, is rock solid out there. I had to go into the other bedroom, which is further away, before it would cut out completely.
Logitech's headset has really impressive range then, but you probably won't need anything more than the Arctis 7 offers. You generally play computer games at your computer, right?
Both headsets seem to perform well audio quality and lag-wise. I noticed nothing bad in either case.
They both have some controls on the backs of the ear cups. With the G533 you get a power switch, one customizable "G Key" button, and a volume wheel. On the Arctis 7, you get a mic mute button, a volume wheel, a second volume wheel for game/chat balance, and a power button. They both have USB charging ports, of course. The Arctis 7 also has the 3.5mm connection port, and a sharing port that allows a friend to plug in wired headphones to your headset and hear what you're hearing. I don't know why that's there but yay?
Battery life is another win for Steelseries.
Their battery is rated for about 24 hours. But their meter inside their software is a little unreliable for me at times. The power button on the headset itself changes colors as it drains, and I've found this to be a more useful indicator of when I need to charge.
The Logitech headset lasts between 15-16 hours for me, and their software has a really great battery indicator that shows you the exact remaining time and the current milliamp power level of the battery, which is awesome.
WINNER: ARCTIS 7
If you just need a solid wireless headset for your PC and nothing else, don't mind the bulk, and it's on sale...then the G533 is an excellent buy. It has wonderful sound quality, good virtual surround, good software, an okay mic, and good wireless performance.
But the Arctis 7 is definitely worth its slight price premium. You get a better build, better comfort, a much better mic, better battery life, and sound quality that's also quite neutral and balanced. The Arctis is an exceptional product that challenges a lot of headset norms and provides wider compatibility. It's worth saving up for, especially if its extra features would be useful to you or if you like the sleeker design. Plus, if you don't need the wireless, the Arctis 5 is a great value that adds RGB lighting.
I love both of these headsets. As I said at the top, I think they're the two best wireless headsets for PC gaming right now. They provide amazing sound quality value for their prices and both have a good package of features that won't disappoint you. The Steelseries Arctis 7 is just a little bit better when compared to its rival.