The Steelseries Arctis 3 Bluetooth is a Phenomenal Value
I’ve reviewed roughly a hundred million Steelseries Arctis headsets, and I’ve been a fan since the beginning. Except for that one time that I hated on their marketing of the Arctis Pro…but even then, they turned me around.
In spite of purchasing my first personal Arctis 3 Bluetooth yesterday (The 2019 edition no less), this won’t be a full review of that model. It has the same design, comfort, sound quality, mic quality, and build of the Arctis 5 2019 I reviewed over here, and so everything from that review still stands.
The differences are that you lose the USB dongle and RGB lighting, and gain Bluetooth support and a slightly nicer set of cables. They have a smoother texture to them and a PC splitter is included. The 4-pole cable also doesn’t require the use of a modular tip like many other Arctis pairs.
In short, the Arctis 3 Bluetooth is one of the most competitive, compelling gaming headsets on the market for people that want a kitchen sink style of product, and I should have bought my own sooner. It’s perhaps the easiest recommendation across the whole Arctis line, thanks to its combination of price and features.
Unlike the HyperX Cloud Mix, the Arctis 3 Bluetooth will play back a Bluetooth source and a wired source simultaneously, making it perfect for those of you that want to use a discord chat on PC while playing on console, or stream music in from your phone, or use the Nintendo Switch voice chat app while also using your Switch. Among other use cases.
Also unlike the HyperX Cloud Mix, the Arctis 3 is only $99 instead of $199.
When the Arctis 3 Bluetooth first launched, it was a little more expensive, at around $130, but at $99 it’s an even better value. And it often goes on sale for less than that.
It’s the entire reason I wrote this contested article about the Cloud Mix being too expensive.
“Alex, are you saying that this $99 gaming headset is just as good as a $199 one?”
Yes. Yes I am. And now I’ve put my own money where my mouth was.
Sound quality wise, the Arctis 3 Bluetooth is different as opposed to worse. Just like the whole standard Arctis lineup, it has a brighter sound, with less of a focus on sub bass, and the default ear pads don’t isolate quite as much as the Cloud Mix ear pads. This will be down to personal tastes, but both are well beyond the level I’d expect from something touting high quality audio. If you like throaty deep bass, the Cloud model will serve you better, but it doesn’t quite capture the details or width in the soundscape as well as the Arctis.
You also get fewer Bluetooth codec options with the Arctis 3. It only supports standard SBC encoding, which means that it’ll sound okay but the latency won’t be as quick as the AptX or AptX LL codecs the Cloud Mix works with.
As long as you’re not trying to play games with them (and really, you should use a wired connection or a dedicated wireless dongle headphone for gaming due to latency), then you’d be hard pressed to really hear the differences in these codecs unless you have the best ears on the planet.
Every other feature of the Arctis 3 Bluetooth is more appealing to me than the Cloud Mix. The adjustable head strap on the Arctis 3 gives it a softer fit, without as tight a clamp as the Cloud Mix. The ear cup openings on the Arctis 3 are also a little larger in diameter, thanks to HyperX’s bizarre decision to shrink the size of the Cloud Mix chassis by around 15 percent compared to the previous Cloud models. The battery of the Steelseries headphones is rated for 24-28 hours of playback in Bluetooth mode compared to 20 hours on the Cloud Mix. The Steelseries model offers a quick battery life check at a glance thanks to a multi-color light in its combo power button/control button. And the ability to play back wireless and wired audio simultaneously on the Arctis is great.
I also really enjoy the Arctis’s use of an analog volume wheel for volume control, that’s separate from your Bluetooth source audio. This gives you a lot of flexibility to change the volume of different inputs, and its much smoother to adjust than the Cloud Mix’s digital clicky buttons.
Out of the box, the Cloud Mix’s microphone is easier to correctly position for good audio. However, once you realize that you really need to eat the bi-directional mic on the Arctis, you’ll get shockingly good performance with truly incredible background noise isolation. The choice to go with this type of mic is one of my favorite things about the Arctis, and I love it. Others hate it…and I’d wager most of them didn’t nail the positioning. It really is a tricky thing to get right, which is the only complaint I could lodge against the mic. Not everyone is going to have audio recording experience, nor should they be expected to. That above-linked blog should probably be mentioned inside the box.
So yeah, for $99 you’re getting a full-package comfy gaming headset with Bluetooth support and a totally decent battery. In a vacuum, the Cloud Mix is very good, but in a world where things cost money it’s impossible for me to say that it merits an extra $100 over the Steelseries model.