Expensive, but worth it.
The SteelSeries Arctis 9X is the company’s latest wireless headset and it’s designed specifically for the Xbox One. It features Xbox Wireless connectivity, and it also serves up Bluetooth to add to the Arctis 9X’s value proposition (See it on SteelSeries’ site). With Bluetooth, you can use the Arctis 9X to listen to music on your phone, movies on your laptop, or use it with any Bluetooth-enabled device. Not only that, but you can connect via Xbox Wireless and Bluetooth at the same time so you can listen to your own personal soundtrack while still hearing the sounds of the game you are playing. At $199.99, the Arctis 9X is $20 more than the competing LucidSound LS35X, but the LS35X doesn’t have Bluetooth, so the Arctis 9 seemingly has it all.
SteelSeries Arctis 9X – Design & Features
The Arctis 9X follows the standard SteelSeries design recipe. It’s got an adjustable ski-goggle headband, large oval earcups, and a retractable microphone. The headset has a sophisticated look that’s mostly black, so a garish gaming headset, it is not. The only color accents are thin green lines in the fabric of the headband to denote it’s built for the Xbox. There is no RGB lighting, and the only lights on the Arctis 9X actually serve a purpose; one on the back of the right earcup that lights up when you power on the headset and blinks when you are trying to establish a Bluetooth connection, and another on the end of the microphone that glows red when its muted.
The headband frame is metal for added durability, and the plastic on the outside of each earcup has a soft-touch coating that adds a touch of luxury. The Arctis 9X looks and feels like a premium product. Part of that premium feel is a byproduct of the headset’s heft. At 13.1 ounces, the Arctis 9X is a heavy headset but still about an ounce lighter than the LucidSound LS35X. And SteelSeries’ unique ski-goggle headband suspends them in a way that makes the headset feel lighter than it is.
The downside of the ski-goggle headband’s suspension-aided comfort is the small degree of adjustment it provides. The band stretches a bit to create a comfortable, snug-but-not-too-snug fit on your head, but you have less than an inch of size adjustment by way the goggle strap’s Velcro fastener.
The large, oval earcups are heavily padded, and the padding is covered in a soft, breathable fabric. Due more to their large size and less with the fabric, the earcups grew warm against the sides of my head after long stretches. But they continue SteelSeries’ proud tradition of having the cushiest earcups I’ve even experienced.
they continue SteelSeries’ proud tradition of having the cushiest earcups I’ve even experienced.
Most of the volume controls are located on the back of the right earcup, where you’ll find a volume dial, microphone mute button, power button and Bluetooth button. Also back there is a micro-USB port for charging and a headphone jack. (The only cable in the box is a USB-to-micro-USB cable for charging; you’ll need to supply your own audio cable if you want to use the Arctis 9X with a wired connection.) You can also press the power button to cycle through four EQ presets: Flat, Bass Boost, Smiley, and Performance. (Smiley because the levels form the shape of a smile.)
On the left earcup is a single dial, which lets you balance the volume of the voices in a group/team chat with the sounds of the actual game. The mute button also cleverly sticks out a bit more when the mic is muted so you can tell just from touch the status of your microphone (if you can’t be bothered to just look at it).
The retractable microphone sits on the left earcup, barely protruding until you need it. The microphone arm is super flexible so you can position anywhere you like.
Connecting the Arctis 9X to your Xbox One is a simple, two-button process that you need to do only once. With the headset turned off, hit the connect button on the Xbox and release it, Next, press and hold the power button on the headset for six seconds, after which point you should see a “Headset Assigned” message on your TV. Boom, done! From here on out, the headset will connect automatically when you turn it on, just like a wireless controller.
Getting the headset up and running is a snap, but you can also customize a few settings by connecting the Arctis 9X (via the USB charging cable) to a PC or Mac and using the SteelSeries Engine software to tweak the settings. The software is easy to use in large part because the Arctis 9X only provides a handful of options for customization, and they’re all on a single page. It lets you tweak the EQ presets, along with microphone volume and sidetone levels.
SteelSeries Arctis 9X – Gaming
To test the Arctis 9X, I played a number of Xbox One titles, including Star Wars Battlefront 2, Need for Speed, Madden 19 and NHL 19. Battlefront 2 sounded amazing right from the start, with the John Williams-inspired soundtrack exhibiting powerful low frequencies with clear highs and mids. The game’s sounds were equally impressive, from bone-rattling explosions to crisp lightsaber clashes. The headset increased the realism of both sports titles. The sound effects of the games sounded accurate and I could make out detailed sounds of the crowd noise I had not heard before.
I felt the headset was tipped toward the low-end and sounded bit too bass heavy out of the box, so I switched from the flat EQ preset and cycled through the other three. The differences were slight between the four presets, so I customized my own to bring the mids and highs forward in the mix while decreasing the bass. I was impressed with the flexibility of the EQ settings, as it allowed me to turn down the bass a bit for gaming, and leave it up for music playback.
To test the microphone, I made a voice recording. The recording sounded merely average. My voice was clear but did not show as much separation from background noises as other microphones I’ve tested, including ones that cost much less than $200.
The SteelSeries Arctis 9X is available direct from SteelSeries for $199.99.