Pro Nova is the first Arctis headset where SteelSeries differs from some of the series’ signature features. In fact, they have completely rebuilt Nova with only new parts. The all-new design, including active noise reduction and a new base station, is finally the ultimate crossover between gaming headsets and headphones on the go, according to SteelSeries.
SteelSeries Arctic Pro Nova
2.4Ghz wireless via base station, bluetooth and minijack
Wireless with PlayStation, Xbox, Windows and Mac, wired to anything that has a minijack input
Depending on usage, noise reduction, bluetooth and other features. With everything in about 12 to 15 hours. There are two batteries, one of which you can constantly charge in the base station.
If you have read the report from our trip to Copenhagen, or if you have been keeping an eye on SteelSeries socials for the past few days, you have seen that the Nova is presented with the necessary fanfare. So this is something of a step for SteelSeries: For the first time in years, they have deviated from their signature Arctis design with fabric covers and hard plastic and have built a brand new headset.
The headset comes in a very large, heavy case. Of course, it’s nice the moment you just receive it: unpacking it is a pleasure. But the headset itself, including the included accessories, is still in a conventional box. Once you have unpacked everything, the main question remains: what do you do with the hard case? In any case, the Arctis Pro Nova will not be damaged during shipment.
But of course it’s about the headset itself, and let’s start at the top: the headband is made entirely of metal. There is still room for the signature headband system with the elastic band, but in Nova’s case, this band is now height-adjustable. That means you can personalize the feeling a little more. The ear cups are connected to the headband with a hard plastic mechanism that has a hinge at pretty much every conceivable point. It is also possible for the first time to push the ear cups out of the headband: In Nova’s case, this is not done with a click system, but with a system based on slip resistance.
When you look at the pictures of Nova, you might notice that this is the first Arctic without substance to cover the ear cups. The extremely soft ear pads are covered with an artificial leather that SteelSeries had made especially for Nova. The reason for deviating from fabric covers for the first time is that the headset has active noise reduction. And for it to work properly, a slightly tighter seal from outside noise is necessary. The ear pads on Nova are incredibly soft and quite spacious. Your ears certainly do not touch the speakers.
SteelSeries has focused a lot on simplicity and compactness with the design of Nova. In the aforementioned background article, Brian Fallon also points to the Danish Design and Form Follows Function as design principles that have been central in the design of the new Arctis headset. It has simple practical implications, namely that there are few buttons to be found on Nova.
On the right earcup you will find the bluetooth pairing button, which when the bluetooth connection is used, also serves to pause the music. On the left earcup, there is a volume wheel that you can also press, a microphone mute button and the on / off button, which also serves to activate the noise reduction. The characteristic pull-out microphone is for the first time completely hidden in the left earcup. This is in line with SteelSeries’ desire to make a true multi-deployable headset: Once the microphone is pulled back, you will not like it. The appearance of the headset is therefore in any case no limit to setting it up outdoors.
The well-known Base Station has also been redesigned. Besides a beautiful display and a good button feel, the most important addition is probably the two USB-C ports on the back of this Gamedac2. This allows you to connect two consoles, or a PC and a console, to the Base Station at the same time and switch between the two at the touch of a button. If you have an Xbox and want to connect to another platform, buy the Xbox variant of Nova. All this while the bluetooth connection is also active. One of the things that has remained the same with Nova is the battery system in the Arctis Pro. You still get two batteries with Nova, one to put in the ear cup and one that you can charge in the Gamedac2, so you will never be without power.
The bass is present, firm and powerful, but not too exaggerated. For some genres, a little more bass would even be desirable, but nonetheless, the foundation is good. Where the headset goes a little too far is in the higher frequencies. There are quite a few of them. The Arctis Pro Nova does not immediately sound shrill, but it does sound a bit enthusiastic. This is not a problem with softer music, but if you are listening to heavy, electronic or louder, alternative music, it sometimes gives a little imbalance.
Arctis Pro Nova is primarily characterized by faster action games. During shooting games with a lot of spectacle and chaotic moments, the Nova manages to create a pretty clear picture. The location is really good and it effortlessly conveys both action and dialogue in a balanced way. During somewhat slower play, Nova sometimes lacks a little bit of warmth and immersion. This headset sounds incredibly precise and open, but it lacks a bit of character: the whole thing is a bit analytical.
If you use Pro Nova on the go, the active noise reduction is a great addition. In practice, it seems that this is primarily useful in the train or subway. There is mainly a lot of attenuation in the lower frequency ranges and constant hum is also well eliminated – so you travel much quieter by train. It is a pity that the noise reduction does not have an incredible impact on short sounds or to stick to the train, fellow travelers. Nevertheless, it’s a welcome addition that makes Pro Nova a little more flexible than the average gaming headset.
Arctis Nova feels very new, and that’s not exactly a positive thing. There are several childhood diseases and less successful design choices in the user experience. In the interview, product manager Brian Fallon briefly touched on the Danish Design and Form Follows Function principles, which SteelSeries has used when designing the headset. These principles have led to the coupling of several functions to the on and off button, which does not work very well in practice.
The buttons are not very intuitive: the Bluetooth pairing mode requires an extremely long press on the bluetooth button, and activation of the active noise reduction is accompanied by beeps and a short mute of the sound. If you connect the headset to an iPhone, there is no small icon indicating how much charge the battery still has. During the test period, it also happens several times that the Bluetooth connection in combination with an iPhone lags, presses or even falls out for a while. It is even necessary to take the battery out of the earcup once to more or less reset the headset before it works again. Danish Design and Form Follows Function are good principles for streamlining a design, but – to use the terminology for a moment – the devil is in the details.
In combination with the renewed base station, Nova works smoothly and smartly. The visual feedback that the little box returns is just the little bit of extra you need to streamline the user experience. The ability to connect two consoles or a console and a desktop PC to the same dac is also just a very good addition. As a gaming headset in a setup with gamedac2, the user experience is completely successful. On the go, the user experience is unfortunately just not great. A headset like the Epos Hybrid H3, for example, provides this better.
SteelSeries is also strongly committed to the new Sonar software that you can use in combination with Nova. This software is a kind of digital mixer that can add a lot of flexibility to Windows PCs – not only for streamers, but also for the casual gamer. You can individually control the volume of different programs and your game chat sound in Sonar and set several different equalizers. The app is fully integrated with the new Gamedac2. In addition, Sonar has a lot of presets that can adjust the sound of games to emphasize certain things: Counter Strike: The Global Offensive preset, for example, puts more emphasis on footsteps and enemy noise.
SteelSeries Arctis Pro Nova Wireless is a very successful gaming headset in many ways. Not only does the new design look great, there are also many connectivity options. The new Gamedac2, which allows you to connect two consoles at the same time, is an outer eye. On the other hand, Pro Nova drops some stitches here and there in its user experience. As a result, it sometimes just does not feel premium. Pro Nova is therefore a worthy and welcome innovation of the Arctis line, which falls a little short in the user experience to be a real total solution.