The SteelSeries Arctis Prime is the latest in the Arctis line, but instead of aiming at the lofty premium market, the newest wired gaming headset has its sights set at the affordable esports crew instead.
At $99, this is one of the cheaper options in SteelSeries’ current line up, but it also comes in at the same price as the more feature-rich Arctis 5. While dropping some of the extra features seen on the best gaming headsets, you’re still getting great value for money in the sound on offer here though.
SteelSeries has definitely allocated most of its budget to the audio profile here, with a simple design and basic features belying a gaming experience that punches above the price tag. However, whether those sacrifices are worth it for a higher quality in-game audio will likely depend on how you play.
We spent some time working and gaming with the SteelSeries Arctis Prime to see exactly where it sits in the market right now.
The SteelSeries Arctis Prime borrows from the same design language as the rest of the Arctis line, though replaces the more subtle aesthetics of previous models with a large logo on each side. You’ll still find the same stretchy headband running along the top of the headset, with a lightweight steel frame and fairly chunky cups. There are some signs that this is a priced down version in the design, though.
The cups themselves are a brushed plastic that feel lightweight and durable, but the leatherette cushions are a downgrade from the plush fabric of previous models. I didn’t notice too many issues with overheating or aggressive clamping, which is a particular gripe with cheaper gaming headsets, and the noise isolation they provided was certainly welcome, but it was certainly compact.
The headband itself is easily adjustable, but I didn’t need to move it beyond its default position. Sizing down made the already snug fit a little uncomfortable along the crown, but the standard position was pleasant enough for longer sessions.
A pull-out microphone is hidden in the left cup which is a nifty feature, especially if you find yourself dipping in and out of team chat. It’s easy enough to glide out, but I did note it fighting back a little when trying to put it back into place, nudging the cup itself further up my head as I pushed. It’s still manageable with one hand, though.
The Arctis Pro does cut back on a few extra features to make room for that low price tag. There’s no RGB around the cups like you’ll find even in the similarly priced SteelSeries Arctis 5, and the ClearCast mic drops ChatMix functionality as well. You’re getting basic controls on the left cup, with a volume dial and mic mute button within easy reach.
The free-spinning volume dial was a little too easy to find, however. Because of the ski goggle strap design, I found myself putting the headset on my bringing it directly over the top of my head rather than sliding it on at an angle. In this process, I often nudged the fairly sensitive volume wheel by accident, so it would have been nice to see a click wheel here to avoid this.
This is also a wired headset, so you won’t be straying too far from your system while in play. That’s especially true because of the slightly shorter than anticipated cable (though an extender is supplied if you’re looking for a PC gaming headset), which eschews a more premium braided design and is instead made of cheap rubbery plastic.
That’s a little disappointing considering that some of the best cheap gaming headsets on the market still offer up a durable 3.5mm cable, and I would worry about repeatedly throwing this one into a carry case or bag. Similarly, this is a proprietary connection to the headset, so you won’t be able to replace it with one of your own should it take some damage.
This is a multi-platform set as well, so while you won’t find console-specific features like you would in the best PS5 headsets or the best gaming headsets for Xbox, it’s an excellent all-rounder that will serve you well whatever you’re playing on.
At just under $100, it would be naive to assume you’re getting the audio presence of something like the SteelSeries Arctis Pro. However, there’s more than meets the ear here.
The SteelSeries Arctis Prime borrows the high-end drivers of the Pro line for extra frequency range, and they pull their weight in a range of games. It’s easy to separate the thumping bass of Doom Eternal from demon screeches and gurgles, and while explosions and gunshots still pack a punch, the handling of the mid and higher ranges is confident enough to still offer a clear soundscape across the battlefield.
There is an emphasized bass response here, but it’s by no means the gravelly buzz of a budget headset. Instead, it offers a visceral boom when necessary, and takes a back seat when the finer details of Spider-Man: Miles Morales’ open world need the stage.
There isn’t quite the same level of richness in this audio as you might find further up the price scale, but if you’re just looking for a well-balanced set of cups, the SteelSeries Arctis Prime is an excellent contender.
You may miss chat mixing features in online play, but the microphone itself picked up sound with a decent clarity, with a clean sound in team chat.
Should you buy the SteelSeries Arctis Prime gaming headset?
The SteelSeries Arctis Prime certainly doesn’t have the feature list that some of its more expensive siblings do. However, it may not necessarily need those additional add-ons to offer up everything you need from a cheap gaming headset without breaking the bank.
The audio profile here is well worth that Arctis name, borrowing from far more premium models to create an excellent soundscape that emphasizes bassier tones with a delicate hand, while also leaving plenty of room for the mid and higher ranges.
However, the lack of mic functions, wired connection, and cheaper design quality may not appeal to all. If you’re missing ChatMix and you don’t want to cut RGB out your life, we’d recommend taking a look at the $109.99 Arctis 5. Or, if you’re looking for a more premium feel without sacrificing audio quality, the Razer BlackShark V2 is priced at the same $99.99 position. We’d also recommend taking a look at the Razer Barracuda X if you’re after a wireless gaming headset for the same cash.
Nevertheless, this is still an excellent platform-agnostic wired headset (though if you’re browsing solely for a console device we’d recommend the Xbox-focused SteelSeries Arctis 9X (opens in new tab) or PlayStation’s SteelSeries Arctis 7P).
3 out of 5
SteelSeries Arctis Prime review: “A cheaper gaming headset that puts sound quality first”
The SteelSeries Arctis Prime certainly sacrifices a few quality of life features to achieve its low price point, but its focus on providing excellent sound quality still means it’s still great value for money. There may be some things missing for many players at this price tag, though.