Visually, the Arctis 1 Wireless headset is distinctly an Arctis headset, and yet it still sports a dramatic shift in appearance. It has the signature oblong ear cups found on other Arctis headsets, and they still can swivel to rest flat, but the headset has completely ditched the ski band suspension system.That’s just one of several big design changes. It also has slimmer ear cups and different style yolks. The foam padding is thinner that what’s used in the Arctis Pro Wireless, which commands a dramatically higher price. The foam pads also spin freely on the ear cups, which makes it easy to get them misaligned.
The headsets clamping force is noticeable (once I didn’t have a firm enough hold as I went to put the headset on, and it smacked me in the face), but not excessive, so the foam padding is able to keep the fit feeling comfortable. I think SteelSeries took it to heart when myself and others complained about the discomfort of having the plastic speaker driver covers press on the rim of my ear, as there’s now enough depth toward the rear of the headphones to reduce this contact.The slimmer ear cups may explain why SteelSeries has switched from a retractable microphone to a detachable one. The mic is still a ClearCast version, but there are some differences I’ll mention when we get into specs.
The headband does still use metal inside, and it’s plenty flexible. I twisted and stretched it beyond reasonable limits for typical users, and it didn’t creak or pop at all. It has a padded, faux leather top that’s comfortable. But, faux leather has a tendency to get oily and degrade, which is a negative trade-off compared to the ski bands of other Arctis headsets.
The left ear cup has a mic plug, a microUSB charging port, a 3.5mm jack (SteelSeries thankfully dumped the proprietary connector for this), a volume wheel, and a microphone mute switch (differing again from the button found on other Arctis headsets). The right ear cup simply has the the headset power button, which still requires me to hold it too long to turn off and on — a nuisance across the several Arctis headsets I’ve used. This headset omits the extra 3.5mm port for sharing audio with a second headset, a feature found on other headsets like the Arctis 3 Bluetooth. A bummer if you needed this feature, but a reasonable trade-off to inch down the price.
While the charging port may be microUSB, the 2.4GHz wireless dongle is USB-C, so it can plug into many newer phones, the Nintendo Switch, and computers. A USB A-to-C adapter cable is included, which lets the headset work wirelessly with PS4 and computers that lack USB-C ports too.
The wireless dongle has a bumped out design to make it more compatible with cases. But, it’s also extra wide. Plugged into the USB-C port of my laptop, it frustratingly covers more than half of the USB-A port next to it.
In terms of specs, the Arctis 1 Wireless offers a 20-hour battery life and 30 feet of wireless range (10 feet short of the Arctis 7’s range). Using the 2.4GHz wireless dongle, it offers lossless and lag-free audio.
The 40mm speaker drivers are the same found in the Arctis 3, 5, and 7. But, SteelSeries said they are tuned to be slightly heavier on bass. They offer a frequency response range from 20Hz to 20kHz.The microphone is ClearCast in name, but doesn’t have the same specs as other mics. While the ClearCast mic on the Arctis 7 and Arctis 3 Bluetooth offers a frequency response range from 100Hz to 10kHz, the mic on the Arctis 1 Wireless goes from 100Hz to just 6.5kHz. While speaking to teammates in game, this difference isn’t likely to be an issue, though.
The SteelSeries Arctis 1 Wireless don’t require any software to use. However, SteelSeries Engine allows some customization. The software allows tweaks to the equalizer, setting the automatic power-down timer, as well as control of microphone sidetone — a handy option when you don’t want to shout at teammates in loud games. SteelSeries Engine is among the easier to use software for gaming peripherals.
The gaming experience with the Arctis 1 Wireless is excellent. I put it through its paces in Insurgency: Sandstorm, Battlefield V, and Rainbow Six Siege. From the incredible chaos on the battlefields in those first two games to the slow, methodical firefights of the Siege, the headphones held up with clear and useful audio.
Explosions punched without wrecking my ears or ruining the other sounds. Gunfire sounded crisp, and my teammates voices were always easy to hear in the mix. When enemies rained artillery on my location, the sound of each shell pummeling my surroundings felt immense and threatening. When enemy shots thwacked the ground or walls near me in Insurgency, it was so clear that I’d immediately drop into cover.
When it comes to using them for positional cues, they still held up even though they only offer stereo sound. While defending an objective in Rainbow Six Siege, I heard as an enemy snuck from one side of me, ran across the floor above, and dropped down on the other side of my position. I also heard him sneak out into the hallway to try to catch me at an off angle. He ended up landing the fatal shot on me, but not before I landed a few on him thanks to the sounds clearly indicating which doorway he was coming from.
I even switched from the Arctis 1 Wireless over to the Arctis Pro Wireless mid-game, and noticed little difference beyond the feel on my head.All of that was driven without even cranking the headphones to their maximum volume, as they have plenty of oomph at even middle levels. And, they stay well balanced. I challenged them with a battery of Of Montreal songs, and all elements of the mix stand out from the thumpy basslines to the cymbals and synth.
The ClearCast Mic also performed admirably. My teammates were satisfied with the levels and clarity. No complaints that I sounded like I was in another room, talking from inside a cardboard box, or screeching into their ear. Just crisp, clear, and balanced without too much bass or treble in the voice. In my own testing, my voice is recorded loud and clear, though the sound of cicadas in the background did bleed into the mix. It isn’t a professional-grade mic, but it’s good enough for gaming.
The SteelSeries Arctis 1 is about as good as it can get for wireless headphones under $100. It has excellent performance and a straightforward build that stays sturdy despite feeling cheaper. With its combination of flawless wireless, a wired option, and excellent audio performance, it eclipses the slightly cheaper PDP LVL 50 Wireless headset.