SteelSeries Arctis Pro Nova Headset: A Look Behind the Scenes | Background

Product Manager Brian Fallon talks about the design process of the new headset

Written by Sascha Meijer on

SteelSeries brings a brand new headset to market for the first time in a long time. The gaming company with headquarters in Denmark has developed a brand new Arctis Pro under the leadership of product manager Brian Fallon: the Nova. According to SteelSeries, the headset is not only aimed at gamers, but it is also a real crossover between a gaming headset and headphones on the go.

To introduce journalists and gamers to the new design, SteelSeries arranged a meeting at their new headquarters in Copenhagen. About four weeks before the headset is announced, we not only get the chance to test the headset briefly, but also get an insight into the design and development process of the Arctis Pro Nova.

SteelSeries’ headquarters is a fairly new and open office just outside the center of Copenhagen. There are lots of glasses and many screens, not all of which are in use yet. In addition to a few empty workstations, there is of course also room for the necessary gadgets: There is a closet full of old, no longer available SteelSeries products, a couple of nerve guns and various action figures are scattered throughout the workplace.

In front of the office, a number of gaming areas have been set up with MSI desktops, a PlayStation 5, an Xbox Series X and a Nintendo Switch. Next to the desks with desktops is a large tower of black hard cases. These super-heavy hard cases contain the product it’s all about: SteelSeries Arctis Pro Nova. This premium headset is available both wired and wireless with a completely redesigned base station, GameDac2, to which you can connect two consoles at the same time.

Before we have time for a quick hands-on with Nova, Brian explains what it takes to design a new headset. Brian talks a lot about the design process and the team of fifty people who have been working on this new headset for 3.5 years. He’s a real sound freak. His career began as a theater technician before joining the professional sound company Shure. Here he is responsible for testing and measuring equipment. It is something of a technical job where your ears not only have to be incredibly sharp, but numbers are also important.

However, he gets most excited when he talks about his free time at Shure headquarters: “We also had an incredibly large recording studio in our office. Shure sponsored several artists and they sometimes came to record live sessions. If I had an hour’s space in between, I often went down there to see. When there were no sessions, I often took a guitar and sat down to play a little. ”

After a hike at Listen, Inc. – a company that specializes in measuring equipment for sound (products) – he ends up at SteelSeries. In the seven years he has worked there, he has seen all the Arctis designers. Ultimately, for Brian, it’s the combination of technology and music that ensures he stays driven all the time: “I have to be able to express myself creatively, otherwise it does not work for me.”

“We wanted to design a headset that is truly multi-usable for the first time”

Nova is the first Arctis not to build on the previous headsets. It’s also the first design that Brian in his seven years with the SteelSeries can completely tailor: An excellent opportunity to combine technology with music and sound. The table in front of him is strewn with a large number of prototypes and a cross section of the left auricle.

“Because we chose to completely rebuild the headset, each component had to be reconsidered.” According to Brian, SteelSeries has taken inspiration from Danish Design – we are in Copenhagen after all – and the Form Follows Function principle. It’s true design terminology that simply means you want to focus on simplicity and efficiency with a clean look.

The new design, and the desire to create a multi-purpose headset, has also gone hand in hand with a complete remodeling of the ear cups. There are fewer buttons on it than you expect, while there are a lot of features. However, the wishes for the sound of the headset that Brian had in mind turned out to be the biggest challenge: “We completely redesigned the speakers in the headset and had to use ingenuity to achieve the open and precise sound I had in thoughts. low. ” One of the cool things is an extra air chamber in the ear cups, which ensures that there is sufficient carrying capacity in the low frequencies, despite the compact design of the headset.

“We also wanted to design a headset that is truly multi-purpose for the first time. So a headset that you can take with you on the go as easily as you use it while playing.” Therefore, according to Brian, for example, it was decided to add active noise reduction. The consequence of this was that they had to break with the traditional soft fabric cover on the ear cups: “We had to block more ambient noise, so artificial leather was the best way.” But then an artificial leather, like SteelSeries, after testing a bunch of different padding, had been specially designed for this headset. The new base station has also been completely redesigned. “We have made maybe ten different versions with the screen tilted a little differently.”

“When you work on a headset for so long, it is sometimes difficult to keep a sharp picture of what is going well and what is not. That is why we were very attentive to practical moments with friends, family, but also (professional) gamers, ”says Brian. Then, of course, the big question remains whether you feel all this attention to detail in the end-user experience. Fortunately, after the extensive presentation, we get the chance to sit on Nova ourselves. Although you can not immediately draw conclusions in such a noisy situation, the first impression of the design is good: the Nova looks gorgeous and it could really be a headset that you can easily take with you daily. .

Brian is at least very happy with the end result. Glad that the long design process is over, and happy that he can finally present to the outside world the headset he has been working on for so long and that he is incredibly proud of. After our visit to Copenhagen, we were sent one of the big hard cases, so we could spend a few weeks with the Nova to really put it to the test – both while we were playing and on the go. You can read in the comprehensive review whether SteelSeries’ ambitious plan has actually succeeded.

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