Review: Arctis Prime headset provides true comfort at an affordable price

Can the cans convince a non-headphone wearing gamer to change his ways?
Can the cans convince a non-headphone wearing gamer to change his ways? Photo credit: Newshub

Aside from a few very uncomfortable seconds with the supplied wired earbuds in one of the Playstation console boxes, my headphone usage has only ever been for music listening.

But with the release of the next generation consoles - and a relatively new gaming PC - I figured it was time to truly engage and see if immersing myself in the audio could add to the stunning detail on screen, improving the overall experience.

I've used and broken more sets of cans over the years than I care to think about and so there are certain things I look for in potential purchases - primarily the cost, the flexibility and their comfort.

The Arctis Prime headset uses a standard 3.5mm cable and so are compatible with my Playstation 4 and 5, Xbox, Switch and PC and those ear cups look like pillows so it's a good start.

But does that flexibility come at a price? And will those cups be as comfortable as they look?

I've been using Steelseries Arctis Prime headset for a few weeks now and here are my thoughts.

The good

Let's start with the biggest plus of them all - in all my years of wearing headphones I can't recall having worn a set that was so comfortable from the instant I put them on.

The leather-like ear cushions combine with a soft, fully-adjustable velcro strap to ensure these bad boys fit my head perfectly.  It was a revelatory experience, one which indicated my previous purchases simply weren't good enough.

Can the cans convince a non-headphone wearing gamer to change his ways?
Photo credit: Newshub

As well as comfort, this also aids function. My ears are completely enclosed in the giant black marshmallows, helping to keep ambient noise out and ensure the sound from the games isn't lost.

And so, what of the audio output?

The high fidelity drivers are the same as the more expensive Arctis Pro headset, albeit with a slightly lower level of sensitivity. Steelseries promises crystal clear audio up to 40,000 Hz, more than twice the range of typical headsets, it says. It better be good, then.

And it is, of course. I loved the background noise of Rory McIlroy PGA Tour on my Xbox Series X, and the crowd chanting on FIFA 21 spurred me on to greater virtual achievements than I thought possible.

But it was in my chosen game, Assassin's Creed: Valhalla on the PS5, that I came to truly appreciate what I was hearing.

The sharpness of the different sounds my horses hooves were making as they galloped from a stone bridge to softer ground was fantastic, as was the sound of the birds chirping away in the background as I crept about, waiting for the right moment to attack.

It also helped when I was engaging in combat, better able to identify when enemies were trying to take my head off and shouting for reinforcements.

The headphones only play a small part in this, of course. The game developers write the games to sound this good and it's my own fault I've never experienced them in the way which they're intended.

But that's also because headphones have never been a comfortable thing for me to wear for long periods - and, finally, I have some.

Can the cans convince a non-headphone wearing gamer to change his ways?
Photo credit: Newshub

A mammoth five hour trek through Ireland, killing evil druids and trying to woo flame-haired poet Ciara flew by with not an ache or a drop of sweat to be had.

The microphone is a ClearCast one, using bi-directional design to ensure your voice is heard but background noise isn't. I didn't use it much, but when I did I was assured I sounded like a middle-aged Scotsman with a permanently angry attitude. Perfect, then!

The bonus is the microphone retracts, meaning that it's out of sight for the majority of the time I was wearing them. The easy one-handed volume control and push button to toggle the microphone mute functionality complete this excellent package.

The bad

There's not an awful lot wrong with the Arctis Prime headset for anyone who plays games like me.

Some different size options for cables would have been great - the PC connection was too long for me and meant it trailed on the floor and got stuck in my chair wheels a couple of times, but I'm being picky. 

Some kind of more easily visible microphone mute status might also have been useful - a red light indicating no-one can hear you is more reliable than pushing the button and trying to work out whether it felt like it was switching on or off.

Unlike the Arctis Pro, the Prime headset doesn't have sidetone and ChatMix, which help the more professional gamers, particularly during noisy games. I can't say I missed this functionality but if you know what they are and do, then you probably will.

Last, but not least, I am a little worried about the life of the material covering the ear cups. I haven't had a pair of headphones with this kind of cover which doesn't flake and disintegrate over time.

Can the cans convince a non-headphone wearing gamer to change his ways?
Photo credit: Newshub

I suspect this might be an indication that I'm some kind of alien, secreting a nasty acid-like substance from my ears causing it to be eaten away - but it definitely does impact on my overall enjoyment when that inevitably happens.

The good news is that Steelseries do sell new cups, so they are replaceable - but I will be interested in seeing how long the current ones can remain pristine.

The verdict

If you spend all your gaming time online and cooperating with others then you may need some of the additional functionality to maximise your experience. Not me!

I don't tend to play games requiring me to interact with other players and therefore, until this experience, had literally never spoken with another gamer via the internet.

I've been much more comfortable playing with very low or no volume coming from the television speakers - often because I'm listening to music or streaming a television show or movie at the same time.

And while this may go some ways to explain why I'm a bad gamer, it's also clear that I've been missing out on some of the overall experience.

The comfort of the Arctis Prime headset is second to none, its easy to use and priced at a point that shouldn't deter gamers like me from giving it a shot at around $200.

I'm now struggling to see when I'm going to play WITHOUT a headset. The only question remaining is whether to upgrade and get a pair of Arctis Pro Wireless for true freedom.

Newshub was supplied a Steelseries Arctis Prime headset for this review.