The SteelSeries Arctis Pro is the Holy grail of gaming headsets. It’s super comfortable on your head, even when you’re in an alien’s blood up to your neck during a raid in Destiny 2, and it renders audio with such clarity that it transforms any gaming experience by immersing you right in the action. Unfortunately, it costs $ 250. That’s why I was so happy when I got my hands on the Arctis Prime. For just $ 100, it has the design chops of its more expensive cousin, as well as audio drivers that rival more luxurious headsets.
The Prime arrived during the throes of an unprecedented, apocalyptic heat wave that hit the Pacific Northwest. Like everyone west of the Cascades, I live in a cabin in the woods with a closet full of flannels and jeans, and a pantry full of triple IPAs and craft coffee. We are not a people prepared for triple-digit weather. Sweaty, I put the helmet on my coffee table and regarded it as if it were a snake, coiled up, poisonous and ready to strike me to death. The thought of putting anything on my head when it was so hot outside seemed like certain death.
But I did. To test, I sacrificed myself. Turns out it wasn’t that bad, and it wasn’t the first surprise the Arctis Prime had in store.
Comfortable, cool and clear
I’m a fan of earbuds, the little padded part of earphones and headphones. If the texture is weird, it ruins the vibe. If they’re too hot, I’ll go. If they get soggy and sweaty, mega pass. My favorites are those from Apple AirPods Max. You know, that $ 550 aluminum and mesh sculpture. They are breathable but soft, soft but sound absorbing. The Arctis Prime’s earbuds are very different but surprisingly similar.
They’re made of faux leather – a soft-touch faux leather with a foam interior – not fabric, but they’re also lightweight and plush. I wore them for hours before they got sweaty and sticky, even on a sweltering day. It’s impressive. Usually the earbuds are the first downgrade when companies try to make a cheaper version of flagship headsets. But the First one feels almost as comfortable and light as an ultra-luxury pair. In fact, comparing the Arctis Prime to the Arctis Pro, they are remarkably similar. The build quality is amazing and it doesn’t look like SteelSeries cut any significant corners.
The only thing I don’t like about the Arctis Prime earbuds is that they aren’t easily removable. You can kind of take them off the helmet, but they’re really hard to put back on. Taking them off makes it look like they’re about to tear, which doesn’t inspire confidence. It’s a good idea to clean the ear cups every now and then, but it’s also the part of a headset that wears out the most over time, and being able to to replace them means you can extend the life of your helmet.
One of the most famous features of SteelSeries helmets is the ski goggle headband. It is a piece of elastic fabric threaded through a sturdy metal band and secured with Velcro. It keeps the helmet in place and makes it easy to adjust no matter how big (or small) your head is. The Arctis Prime’s headband looks like it came from a much more expensive pair of headphones. There’s even a soft rubber pad under the strap for extra cushioning.