A low-frills premiere audio experience.
SteelSeries’ revamped Arctis Nova line has built upon the already fantastic foundation laid before it, while doubling down on sound quality and features people actually care about. The Arctis Nova 1 headset is no different; it’s a low-frills experience that puts audio quality front and center and wraps it all up in a comfortable design that you can enjoy for hours on end.
SteelSeries Arctis Nova 1 – Design and Features
The SteelSeries Arctis Nova 1 features a complete redesign from the previous generation, sporting a new off-white colorway with breathable gray earcups and a stretchy gray support band – a first for the Arctis 1 line. But, unassuming looks aside, the Arctis Nova 1 is a powerhouse under the hood, featuring the same high-end 40mm audio drivers found in its older siblings, the Arctis Nova 3 and Arctis Nova 7. This means support for PS5’s 3D Tempest audio and Microsoft’s Spatial Sound options on PC and Xbox right out of the box.
On first pickup, you’ll quickly realize the Arctis Nova 1 is extremely lightweight, weighing a meager 236 grams. The lightweight plastic build is perfect for on-the-go use and all-day comfort. It utilizes a wired 3.5mm headphone jack connection and supports just about every modern device including PS5/PS4, Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC, Steam Deck, Oculus Quest, and more. Really, anything with a 3.5mm auxiliary port is fair game.
The left earcup is home to all of the on-device controls, including a small volume dial and mute button for the microphone. Gone is the detachable microphone, and in its place is a fully retractable noise-canceling microphone that sits flush with the device when not in use. This change may seem subtle, but it allows you to utilize the headphones for music or podcasts without worrying about where you placed the microphone when you’re ready to game.
The updated ClearCast Gen 2 noise canceling microphone is also a welcome upgrade as it can reduce background audio by up to 25dB, making all your comms sound clearer and less distracting for your teammates. It does lack any of the AI-powered upgrades that the rest of the Arctis Nova line boasts when used on PC, but it’s still a very serviceable mic that sounds great out of the box.
Aside from its fantastic sound quality, the highlight of the SteelSeries Arctis headsets has always been the excellent level of comfort – and the Arctis Nova 1 is no exception. Featuring what SteelSeries calls its ComfortMAX system, the Arctis Nova 1 includes AirWeave memory foam ear cushions that are both soft and very breathable. They work great for those who wear glasses, too, as they don’t press against your head. The headset is now height-adjustable to accommodate your perfect fit, and the earcups now have the ability to rotate and lay flat when not in use.
By far the most welcome addition is the stretchy headband at the top of the headset that helps to distribute its weight and virtually eliminate any fatigue from extended wear. The previous generation Arctis 1 was the only headset in the lineup to exclude this headband, and honestly, it’s one of its best selling points.
The entry-level and budget gaming headset market is a crowded space, and while the Arctis Nova 1 may not have a “premium” feel when it comes to build quality as some of the other headsets around its price point, it more than makes up for it with superior sound quality and comfort.
SteelSeries Arctis Nova 1 – Software
The Arctis Nova 1 doesn’t require any software as it supports PS5’s 3D Tempest audio and Microsoft’s Spatial Sound options on Xbox and PC out of the box. However, it can take advantage of some of the Sonar features in the SteelSeries GG app on PC such as the fantastic Parabolic EQ settings which can truly take your audio experience to another level. For a more detailed look at what Sonar can do, check out our review of the SteelSeries Arctis Nova 7 headset.
SteelSeries Arctis Nova 1 – Gaming
In an age where wireless audio seemingly rules our lives, there’s still something quaint about a headset that utilizes a 3.5mm audio connector. The Arctis Nova 1 can connect to just about every modern console without requiring any special wireless transmitters or pairing. Simply plug in and play.
I tested the Arctis Nova 1 across a variety of different devices including PC, PS5, Xbox Series X, and Steam Deck, and was pleased with the audio results from each one. Most notably, the 3D Tempest audio support on PS5 for games like Returnal and Horizon: Forbidden West make this headset sound far better than it has any right to at its price point.
On PC, I took advantage of the Sonar audio enhancements from the SteelSeries GG app with games like Destiny 2 and Valorant and was once again shocked at how precise everything sounded. If you’re using this headset on PC, I highly recommend using it in conjunction with the Sonar enhancements as it takes it from great audio to downright amazing. The virtual surround sound is incredible, and being able to discern enemy location without solely relying on a radar is something that can’t be understated.
Aside from the fantastic audio quality found across the entire SteelSeries Arctis Nova line, I was thoroughly impressed with how comfortable this Arctis Nova 1 is. It’s the same design as the Arctis Nova 5, and a big improvement over the previous generation Arctis 1 headset with the addition of a height-adjustable frame and stretchy overhead band. I cannot praise these headsets enough for their comfort. Seriously.
In addition to gaming, I also spent some time listening to music and watching movies with the Arctis Nova 1. While it’s definitely no replacement for a dedicated pair of headphones tuned for music, I was impressed with the sound quality, nonetheless. Punchy bass that doesn’t distort at louder volumes, a great midrange, and decent highs make for an all-around great headset for entertainment purposes in addition to gaming.