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SteelSeries Arctis Pro + GameDAC

Inle

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#1
The $250 / €270 Arctis Pro + GameDAC is SteelSeries' new flagship gaming audio system. It consists of an amazing gaming headset based on an improved iteration of the Arctis 3, 5, and 7 and the GameDAC, a high-quality external USB sound card equipped with the ESS Sabre 9018Q2C DAC chip and a host of advanced features, fully usable and configurable without any drivers.

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#2
Nice review, thank you. Now waiting for review of wireless version, because wireless is always totally different from wired version in all terms and there are specific problems like constant buzzing sound or noise in one earcup and microphone is total sh*t on almost all wireless headsets. So I'm curious if the wireless version has some of these problems.
I have one question please regarding the tested headset, does the sidetone feature have some sort of noise cancelling applied to it? Because I tested several headsets with sidetone, but on all of them you hear constant loud noise when you turn up the sidetone volume (or sidetone volume is too low to mask this problem). Noise cancelling is applied later thru software or hw but it is not applied to sidetone probably due to latency. I'm curious if SteelSeries was able to do something with this problem, but I doubt.
 

Dakyris

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#3
Hi, I was wondering if you could try to describe the difference in sound quality compared to the Sennheiser Game One. That's what I'm currently using, connected to an ASUS ROG Maximus IX Code (what a mouthful...) which has a Sabre ES9023P DAC and I'm wondering if these would be a worthwhile upgrade or not.

By the way, thanks for the microphone samples, that really helped hear the difference between the models.

Not a big fan of the USB DACs because most of the time I ended up with hissing and popping while playing (ok the products I tested may not have been the best and it was a few years ago so things may have changed).

Thanks.
 

Inle

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#4
I have one question please regarding the tested headset, does the sidetone feature have some sort of noise cancelling applied to it? Because I tested several headsets with sidetone, but on all of them you hear constant loud noise when you turn up the sidetone volume (or sidetone volume is too low to mask this problem). Noise cancelling is applied later thru software or hw but it is not applied to sidetone probably due to latency. I'm curious if SteelSeries was able to do something with this problem, but I doubt.
You can set the Sidetone volume to your own preference. The available settings are Off, Low, Med(ium) and High. "Low" worked best for me - I was able to hear my voice like I'm using an open-back headset, but without the environment becoming too loud. I was even able to listen to music with the Sidetone set to Low, which should answer your question - no, the "loudness" of the Sidetone isn't an issue. It does become an issue when the Sidetone is set to Medium or High, but that's easy to solve by simply keeping it at Low. Of course, for "critical" music listening, I turned the Sidetone off, as in that case any unwanted noise, even the quietest one, bothers me :)

Hi, I was wondering if you could try to describe the difference in sound quality compared to the Sennheiser Game One. That's what I'm currently using, connected to an ASUS ROG Maximus IX Code (what a mouthful...) which has a Sabre ES9023P DAC and I'm wondering if these would be a worthwhile upgrade or not.
By the way, thanks for the microphone samples, that really helped hear the difference between the models.
Not a big fan of the USB DACs because most of the time I ended up with hissing and popping while playing (ok the products I tested may not have been the best and it was a few years ago so things may have changed).

Thanks.
You're in luck, look what's sitting right next to me in my office :)

2018-03-15 10.25.52.jpg


I wouldn't consider the Arctis Pro an upgrade. Not even a sidegrade, if you're already using a good DAC/headphone amp to drive your Game Ones - and it seems that you are. I did a bit of A-B testing for about 30 minutes to be able to answer your question and ultimately found their sound signature quite similar. Both are extremely accurate in the midrange, clean in the highs and well balanced in the lows, without going overboard in any part of the frequency spectrum. Both offer terrific spatial awareness and sound really nice when used for music. The Game One is more airy and has a wider sound - no surprise, we're talking about open-back vs closed-back design after all. And finally, the Game One has a better microphone. It's actually still class-leading, even when compared to the Sennheiser GSP 600, which I'm currently working on.

TL;DR: if I had the Game One and a decent sound card to drive it with, I wouldn't bother going for the Arctis Pro.

I hope this answers your question. If there's anything else you might be interested in terms of directly comparing those two, I'd be happy to help.

Oh and thank you both for your kind words, I'm very glad to hear that you find my reviews helpful!
 
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Dakyris

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#5
Thanks a lot Inle for your follow-up. I did notice you recently reviewed the Game One so I figured you'd be in the best position to compare them.

These comments do help a lot.

Looks like I'll stick with the Game One for a while longer. I really like them; I have 2 pairs and I also gifted a pair to my father (who is also a gamer). The only issue I have with the Sennheiser design is the volume control on the side as it tends to become loose after a while, especially if you have a kid who likes to bang them up a bit or if you're generally clumsy.

While I'm not a true audiophile, I do appreciate quality audio. That's why I'm constantly on the lookout for better products, within reason. No way I'm spending over 2k on the 800s for example. I'm in Canada and the price on Sennheiser products really exploded 2-3 years ago.
 

halcyon

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#6
Nice interview. Can you clarify a few points:

1. Is the GameDAC a basic stereo soundcard for Windows (i.e. how many channels does it expose to Windows? 2? 5.1? 7.1?). This is crucial information for a GAMING soundcard. Stereo soundcard is USELESS for 3D positional accuracy (back/front, up/down), unless the game itself has it's own headphone virtualization like Overwatch has.

2. If you are not using DTS Headphone:X 2.0 feature (it is OFF), does the GameDAC then function as a simple 2-channel stereo (non-virtualized) sound source?

3. Can you compare to multichannel game sound into headphone virtualized 3D sound accuracy of GameDAC to the gold standards like: Dolby Atmos Headphone , SoundBlaster SBX Studio or Sennheiser GSX1000/GSX1200 algorithms? These are the best in providing 3D headphone virtualized sounds with front/back and up/down (Sennheiser) cues.

I think stuff liike the above should be minimum for any 3D gaming headphone/soundcard/DAC review. Anybody can do good stereo sound, that is trivial. Pseudo-virtualization from stereo source (say DTS Headphone:X 2.0 processing of echo/reverb/phase/EQ from stereo signal) is question of taste. Ability to pinpoint location of multichannel sounds (5.1 or 7.1) direction/distance virtualized into stereo headphones is a question of survival in fast online 3D FPS games. It is not a matter of taste anymore...
 
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#7
The price in Euros is an insult, I am thinking about never buying SteelSeries again. It is completely insane and shameless to sell for 270 Euro some product that is in the US 250$.
We would pay in the EU around 335$ for the same product. I get it that we have VAT around 20% in the EU and US does not, that still does not explain the extra 35$.
Screw you SteelSeries for thinking we are stupid and taking us for idiots.
 

Inle

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#8
Nice interview. Can you clarify a few points:

1. Is the GameDAC a basic stereo soundcard for Windows (i.e. how many channels does it expose to Windows? 2? 5.1? 7.1?). This is crucial information for a GAMING soundcard. Stereo soundcard is USELESS for 3D positional accuracy (back/front, up/down), unless the game itself has it's own headphone virtualization like Overwatch has.

2. If you are not using DTS Headphone:X 2.0 feature (it is OFF), does the GameDAC then function as a simple 2-channel stereo (non-virtualized) sound source?

3. Can you compare to multichannel game sound into headphone virtualized 3D sound accuracy of GameDAC to the gold standards like: Dolby Atmos Headphone , SoundBlaster SBX Studio or Sennheiser GSX1000/GSX1200 algorithms? These are the best in providing 3D headphone virtualized sounds with front/back and up/down (Sennheiser) cues.
Sorry for the late reply, I've been away from my PC over the weekend :)

1) It's a stereo sound card, so you'll only get two channels to work with in Windows. There are two possible scenarios. The first one, when you set the input to "PC" in the GameDAC's menus, the Control Panel > Sound will see two devices:

GameDAC 1.jpg


The reason being - the ChatMix Dial. It needs to have two separate audio outputs to be able to split the volume between the game and voice chat app (Discord and such). You set the "GameDAC Game" as your default playback device and set the "GameDAC Chat" as the playback output in Discord/TeamSpeak/Skype/whatever and then you can use the ChatMix Dial.

When the GameDAC is set to Hi-Res mode, the Control Panel > Sound will only see a single device:

GameDAC 2.jpg


You can set it to 24-bit/96 kHz, which isn't possible when the GameDAC is in PC mode (that limits it to 16-bit/48 kHz).

The DTS Headphone:X 2.0 can be used only in PC mode. I think I made it pretty clear in my review that it's an emulated surround sound and that the headset doesn't have more than two speaker units.

2) Yes.

3) I'll gladly rate the 7.1 surround sound virtualization technologies found on gaming headsets. I don't even think this is a matter of taste - some simply work better than others. I have yet to try the Dolby Atmos on a headset (contacting Plantronics is on my to-do list), so that one won't be included.

1. Sennheiser Binaural Rendering Engine (GSX 1000/1200 sound card)
2. Dolby Headphone (some Logitech and HyperX headsets)
3. DTS Headphone:X 2.0 (Arctis Pro lineup)
.
.
.
.
4. DTS Headphone:X 1.0
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
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5. Xear Surround Max
 

halcyon

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#9
Sorry for the late reply, I've been away from my PC over the weekend :)

3) I'll gladly rate the 7.1 surround sound virtualization technologies found on gaming headsets. I don't even think this is a matter of taste - some simply work better than others. I have yet to try the Dolby Atmos on a headset (contacting Plantronics is on my to-do list), so that one won't be included.

1. Sennheiser Binaural Rendering Engine (GSX 1000/1200 sound card)
2. Dolby Headphone (some Logitech and HyperX headsets)
3. DTS Headphone:X 2.0 (Arctis Pro lineup)
.
.
.
.
4. DTS Headphone:X 1.0
No worries, thanks for the clarification. I'll take a pass on GameDac. I see no use for me (in 3D games) for stereo sound card with no multichannel sound virtualization. Already have GSX1200 and SoundBlaster X7. Hoping that the Audeze Moebius will offer the next level in multichannel to stereo headphone virtualization.
 
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#10
i am looking at getting the GSP 500 and the GSX 1000.. or just the Arctis pro with Gamedac.. you think the Sennheiser rout will be much better sound? at least worth the long term investment.
 

huzidada

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#11
Hi Inle. Was interested in these as I have a set of the them without the DAC available at a very good price. Was wondering if I can connect it to my soundcard or would it ve a problem as this uses a USB connection?
 

Inle

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#12
Hi Inle. Was interested in these as I have a set of the them without the DAC available at a very good price. Was wondering if I can connect it to my soundcard or would it ve a problem as this uses a USB connection?
Hey, sorry for the late reply, somehow I missed your post :( The "regular" Arctis Pro (without the GameDAC) comes with its own sound card so you'll be able to use it without any issues. You'll simply plug it into any free USB port.
 

huzidada

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#13
No
Hey, sorry for the late reply, somehow I missed your post :( The "regular" Arctis Pro (without the GameDAC) comes with its own sound card so you'll be able to use it without any issues. You'll simply plug it into any free USB port.
No problem at all Inle infact thank you for taking the time to reply. What I was asking is that I have a Creative Soundblaster AE5 and waa wondering if I could connect the regular Arctis pro to the soundcard
 

Inle

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#14
No problem at all Inle infact thank you for taking the time to reply. What I was asking is that I have a Creative Soundblaster AE5 and waa wondering if I could connect the regular Arctis pro to the soundcard
Yeah, you should be able to do that. The Arctis Pro comes with an adapter that turns its "USB" plug to a 3.5-mm 4-pole TRRS plug, like the one sitting above the headset on this photo I made:



All you then have to do is get a 4-pole TRRS-to-dual 3-pole-TRS 3.5-mm adapter (like this one) and that will "feed" the microphone input and pick up sound from headphone output on your sound card. You're right in wanting to keep the sound card utilized, as it's most certainly better than anything supplied with the headset (this or pretty much any other one). You won't be able to use the driver and RGB lights in this scenario though, should that be something you care about.
 
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