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SteelSeries Arctis 9 Wireless Headphones Review

Tested using Methodology v1.4
Reviewed Oct 29, 2020 at 09:56 am
SteelSeries Arctis 9 Wireless Picture
6.7
Mixed Usage
6.4
Neutral Sound
6.5
Commute/Travel
7.1
Sports/Fitness
6.4
Office
7.4
Wireless Gaming
5.9
Wired Gaming
7.4
Phone Calls
Type Over-ear
Enclosure Closed-Back
Wireless Yes
Noise Cancelling No
Mic Yes
Transducer Dynamic

The SteelSeries Arctis 9 Wireless are feature-packed wireless gaming headphones. They offer Bluetooth compatibility, a high-quality boom microphone, and companion software with a broad range of configuration options. They're also very well-built and quite comfortable, though their elastic ski-band headband may not suit everyone. They also have a somewhat imbalanced sound profile and struggle to deliver audio consistently. That said, they're a versatile option if you're looking for gaming headphones for your PC or PS4.

Our Verdict

6.7 Mixed Usage

The SteelSeries Arctis 9 are okay for mixed usage. They're sturdily-built, comfortable, and can be used over Bluetooth for casual listening. Their boom mic is well-suited for chatting with teammates or making phone calls, while their 20-hour-plus battery life is sufficient for most uses. Unfortunately, they're also quite bulky and filter out very little ambient noise.

Pros
  • Great microphone recording quality and noise handling performance.
  • Good battery life.
  • Impressive build quality.
  • Low wireless latency with USB dongle.
  • Compatible with Bluetooth.
Cons
  • Inconsistent audio delivery.
  • Poor noise isolation capability.
  • Bulky, heavy design.
6.4 Neutral Sound

The SteelSeries Arctis 9 are passable for neutral sound. They struggle to deliver audio consistently and lack low-bass, so sound effects may be missing a bit of thump and rumble. They also have an uneven treble response that causes some higher notes to sound dull and lispy. Thankfully, their mid-range is well-balanced, so vocals, dialogue, and lead instruments should sound clear and present. Their companion software also features a graphic EQ and audio presets to customize your listening experience.

Pros
  • Feature-packed companion app with graphic EQ.
  • Impressive build quality.
Cons
  • Inconsistent audio delivery.
  • Imbalanced default sound profile.
6.5 Commute/Travel

The SteelSeries Arctis 9 are alright for commuting and traveling. Since they're Bluetooth-compatible, they don't need their wireless transmitter to function, so you can listen to your music on your phone during your daily commute. Unfortunately, they don't filter out that much noise, so you may hear the rumble of bus engines and the chatter of other commuters.

Pros
  • Good battery life.
  • Impressive build quality.
  • Compatible with Bluetooth.
Cons
  • Poor noise isolation capability.
  • Bulky, heavy design.
7.1 Sports/Fitness

The SteelSeries Arctis 9 are decent for sports and fitness, though that isn't what they're designed for. They do a good job of clamping your head and feel stable enough for light jogs, though they're likely to fall off during intense workouts. They're also quite heavy, though their microphone does retract to reduce their bulky profile.

Pros
  • Good battery life.
  • Impressive build quality.
Cons
  • Bulky, heavy design.
  • Tight fit may not suit all listeners.
6.4 Office

The SteelSeries Arctis 9 are mediocre for office use. They're comfortable enough to wear for long periods and supply more than 20 hours of playback, so they should last you through the whole day without a problem. However, they don't filter out that much background noise, so you may hear the chatter of coworkers.

Pros
  • Good battery life.
  • Compatible with Bluetooth.
Cons
  • Poor noise isolation capability.
  • Tight fit may not suit all listeners.
7.4 Wireless Gaming

The SteelSeries Arctis 9 are a satisfactory choice for wireless gaming. Their USB transmitter allows for low-latency audio while their simple control scheme lets you quickly adjust chat mixing on-the-fly. They have a companion app with a wide range of features to let you fine-tune your gaming experience as well as a high-quality boom microphone that ensures teammates hear you clearly.

Pros
  • Feature-packed companion app with graphic EQ.
  • Great microphone recording quality and noise handling performance.
  • Low wireless latency with USB dongle.
Cons
  • Inconsistent audio delivery.
  • Imbalanced default sound profile.
  • Tight fit may not suit all listeners.
5.9 Wired Gaming

The SteelSeries Arctis 9 don't come with an audio cable but are compatible with wired connections courtesy of their 3.5 mm audio port.

7.4 Phone Calls

The SteelSeries Arctis 9 are decent for phone calls. Their boom microphone does a great job of making your voice sound full-bodied, clear, and mostly free of background noise. That said, they don't block out much background noise, so you may have trouble following a conversation if you call from a loud environment.

Pros
  • Great microphone recording quality and noise handling performance.
Cons
  • Poor noise isolation capability.
  • 6.7 Mixed Usage
  • 6.4 Neutral Sound
  • 6.5 Commute/Travel
  • 7.1 Sports/Fitness
  • 6.4 Office
  • 7.4 Wireless Gaming
  • 5.9 Wired Gaming
  • 7.4 Phone Calls

Test Results

perceptual testing image
Design
Design
Style

The SteelSeries Arctis 9 are very similar in design to other SteelSeries headphones. They feature the brand's distinctive ski goggle-like headband, cloth-lined ear cup padding, and retractable boom microphone.

7.5
Design
Comfort
Weight 0.83 lbs
Clamping Force
1.1 lbs

These headphones are comfortable. While the headphones themselves are somewhat heavy, their elastic headband does a good job of distributing its weight. The ear cups offer a pretty broad range of adjustability, and the cloth-lined padding feels soft. Unfortunately, like other SteelSeries headphones, their elastic headband can feel tight for people with larger heads and can't be expanded very far.

7.7
Design
Controls
OS Compatibility
Not OS specific
Ease Of Use Good
Feedback Great
Call/Music Control Yes
Volume Control Yes
Microphone Control Mute/Unmute
Channel Mixing
Yes
Noise Cancelling Control No
Talk-Through
No
Additional Controls Bluetooth Sync

The SteelSeries Arctis 9 have a very good control scheme. There are dedicated buttons for power on/off, microphone muting, and Bluetooth playback functions. A single tap of the Bluetooth button answers and ends incoming calls and pauses or plays media. A double and triple tap skips tracks forward and backward, respectively. There are also separate wheels for volume adjustment and chat mixing on either ear cup, though it can be hard to tell which is which as they both feel the same.

5.5
Design
Portability
L 7.7 "
W 6.9 "
H 3.3 "
Volume 176.9 Cu. Inches
Transmitter Required No

These headphones aren't especially portable. The ear cups swivel to fold flat, but their headband doesn't fold inwards to reduce their footprint. Thankfully, since they're Bluetooth-compatible, you won't need to carry their USB transmitter wherever you go. They also have a retractable boom mic, so you shouldn't have to worry about it snagging on something in your bag.

0
Design
Case
Type No case
L N/A
W N/A
H N/A
Volume N/A

The SteelSeries Arctis 9 don't have a case or pouch.

8.0
Design
Build Quality

These headphones have impressive build quality. They're mostly made of dense, high-grade plastic and have cloth-lined ear cup padding as well as an elasticized headband. Overall, they feel like they should survive a couple of minor impacts without serious damage, though their yokes and hinges do feel a little fragile.

7.5
Design
Stability

The SteelSeries Arctis 9 are quite stable. Their ski-band headband and relatively tight fit help keep them on your ears during low-intensity head movements, but they're very likely to fall off if you plan on using them for intense workouts. Their wireless design eliminates the risk of having an audio cable snag on something and pulling them from your head.

Design
Headshots 1
Design
Headshots 2
Design
Top
Design
In The Box

  • SteelSeries Arctis 9 Wireless headphones
  • USB transmitter dongle
  • USB-A to micro-USB charging cable
  • User Guide

Sound
Sound
Sound Profile
Bass Amount
-1.84 db
Treble Amount
-2.99 db

The SteelSeries Arctis 9 have a somewhat imbalanced sound profile out-of-the-box. They're missing a bit of low bass, so some sound effects and bass-heavy music genres may lack thump and rumble. While their mids are mostly flat and neutral, they have an uneven treble response that results in a lack of detail and clarity. This isn't helped by the mismatch between the L/R drivers of our unit, which is most noticeable in the low-bass, high-mid, and low-treble ranges. That said, their sound profile can be customized in-depth via a graphic EQ or presets in their companion app.

5.4
Sound
Frequency Response Consistency
Avg. Std. Deviation
1.27 dB

The frequency response consistency of the SteelSeries Arctis 9 is poor. Their audio delivery is heavily dependent on their fit, seal, and positioning, so you may have trouble achieving a consistent listening experience, especially if you have long hair or wear glasses.

Sound
Raw Frequency Response
6.9
Sound
Bass Accuracy
Std. Err.
4.02 dB
Low-Frequency Extension
57.39 Hz
Low-Bass
-6.1 dB
Mid-Bass
1.65 dB
High-Bass
4.3 dB

The SteelSeries Arctis 9 have alright bass accuracy. The low-bass range is slightly underemphasized to different degrees in the left and right drivers, resulting in an overall lack of thump and rumble, but this mismatch could be unique to our test unit. Conversely, they have an overemphasized high-bass response that adds a bit of muddiness to some tracks. That said, since their audio delivery is heavily dependent on their fit and positioning, your experience may vary.

8.1
Sound
Mid Accuracy
Std. Err.
2.59 dB
Low-Mid
1.44 dB
Mid-Mid
0.07 dB
High-Mid
-0.8 dB

The mid accuracy of these headphones is great. While there is some mismatch between both drivers, the range itself is mostly flat, resulting in full-bodied and present dialogue, vocals, and lead instruments. A slight dip in the high-mid range does make them sound a little distant.

5.4
Sound
Treble Accuracy
Std. Err.
6.11 dB
Low-Treble
-4.76 dB
Mid-Treble
-1.58 dB
High-Treble
-4.59 dB

The SteelSeries Arctis 9's treble accuracy is disappointing. There's significant mismatch between the L/R drivers in this range, so vocals and lead instruments may sound alternatively dull and lispy, though this may only be an issue for our test unit. Since their audio reproduction is heavily dependent on their fit and positioning, your experience may vary in the real world.

7.4
Sound
Peaks/Dips
Peaks
1.64 db
Dips
1.34 db

The peaks and dips performance of the SteelSeries Arctis 9 is satisfactory. The left driver has an underemphasized low-bass response, resulting in a lack of thump and rumble, followed by a bump in the high-bass range that muddies some mixes. The overemphasized mid-mids and high-mids generates some harshness while the sharp dip and following peak in the treble range makes some notes alternatively dull and piercing. The right driver has a slightly recessed mid through high-mid range as well as a slightly harsh low-treble range.

6.0
Sound
Imaging
Weighted Group Delay
0.28
Weighted Amplitude Mismatch
2.01
Weighted Frequency Mismatch
7.13
Weighted Phase Mismatch
12.19

The stereo imaging performance of the SteelSeries Arctis 9 is mediocre. Their weighted group delay falls beneath the audibility threshold, resulting in tight bass and transparent treble. While the L/R drivers are well-matched in regards to phase response, some amplitude and frequency mismatch is present. This has an impact on the headphones' ability to accurately place objects in the stereo image. However, these results are only valid for our test unit, and yours may perform differently.

6.1
Sound
Passive Soundstage
PRTF Accuracy (Std. Dev.)
3.12 dB
PRTF Size (Avg.)
7.6 dB
PRTF Distance
17.9 dB
Openness
5.6
Acoustic Space Excitation
3.0

These headphones have a passable passive soundstage. It may be perceived as quite spacious, but also somewhat unnatural. Their soundstage won't feel quite as open as that of open-back alternatives like the Astro A40 TR Headset + MixAmp Pro 2019.

2.0
Sound
Virtual Soundstage
Head Modeling
No
Speaker Modeling
On/Off
Room Ambience
No
Head Tracking
No
Virtual Surround
DTS 7.1

The SteelSeries Arctis 9 have support for DTS virtual surround and a simple speaker modeling feature.

7.1
Sound
Weighted Harmonic Distortion
WHD @ 90
0.303
WHD @ 100
0.416

The SteelSeries Arctis 9 have a satisfactory weighted harmonic distortion performance. Some distortion is present throughout the mid-range and low-treble range, but the rest of the frequency spectrum falls within good limits. This results in mostly clean and pure audio reproduction.

Sound
Test Settings
Firmware
2.4.00
Power
On
Connection
Wireless (Proprietary)
Codec
PCM, 24-bit, 48kHz
EQ
No EQ
ANC
No ANC
Tip/Pad
Default
Microphone
Boom

These are the settings used to test the SteelSeries Arctis 9 Wireless. Our results are only valid when they're used in this configuration.

Isolation
4.2
Isolation
Noise Isolation
Isolation Audio
Overall Attenuation
-10.8 dB
Bass
0.73 dB
Mid
-5.64 dB
Treble
-27.86 dB

These headphones have bad noise isolation capability. They filter out almost no ambient noise throughout the bass range and do a poor job of dealing with mid-range background noise, so you may hear sounds like the rumble of bus engines or the chatter of people nearby quite easily. Thankfully, they're quite effective at cutting down higher-pitched sound, like the hum of a nearby AC unit.

7.4
Isolation
Leakage
Leakage Audio
Overall Leakage @ 1ft
37.13 dB

The leakage performance of these headphones is decent. If you listen to your music at a high volume in a normal office environment, it may be audible to nearby coworkers.

Microphone
Microphone
Microphone Style
Integrated
No
In-Line
No
Boom
Yes
Detachable Boom
No

These headphones have a retractable boom microphone.

8.1
Microphone
Recording Quality
Recorded Speech
LFE
88.51 Hz
FR Std. Dev.
3.44 dB
HFE
6544.63 Hz
Weighted THD
0.112
Gain
19.93 dB

The microphone's recording quality is great. Your voice should sound clear, natural, and mostly free of distortion.

8.4
Microphone
Noise Handling
Speech + Pink Noise
Speech + Subway Noise
SpNR
32.44 dB

The microphone's noise handling performance is impressive. People that you're speaking to should be able to understand you clearly, even if you're in a loud environment.

Active Features
8.0
Active Features
Battery
Battery Type
Rechargable
Continuous Battery Life
20.3 hrs
Additional Charges
0.0
Total Battery Life
20.3 hrs
Charge Time
5.6 hrs
Power-Saving Feature
Auto-Off Timer
Audio While Charging
Yes
Passive Playback
No
Charging Port micro-USB

The SteelSeries Arctis 9's battery performance is great. They supply over 20 hours of continuous playback time and have an auto-off timer to help conserve charge, which can be adjusted in their companion app. However, they take over five and a half hours to recharge, which is longer than alternatives like the SteelSeries Arctis 7 2019 Edition.

8.0
Active Features
App Support
App Name SteelSeries Engine
iOS No
Android No
macOS Yes
Windows Yes
Equalizer
Graphic + Presets
ANC Control
No
Mic Control Adjustable Level
Room Effects
No
Playback Control
No
Button Mapping No
Surround Support
Yes

These headphones are compatible with the SteelSeries Engine companion software. It's easy to use and offers support for functions like a graphic EQ, audio presets, mic volume adjustment, changing the length of their auto-off timer, and enabling surround sound.

Connectivity
7.1
Connectivity
Bluetooth
Bluetooth Version
4.1
Multi-Device Pairing
No
NFC Pairing
No
Line Of Sight Range
303 ft
PC Latency (SBC)
174 ms
PC Latency (aptX)
N/A
PC Latency (aptX HD)
N/A
PC Latency (aptX-LL)
N/A
iOS Latency
144 ms
Android Latency
117 ms

The SteelSeries Arctis 9's Bluetooth connectivity is decent. They don't offer multi-device pairing solely via Bluetooth, but you can connect to your PC with their USB dongle and stream media via Bluetooth from your phone at the same time. Their latency on iOS and Android mobile devices is low enough to make them suitable for watching videos without significant audio delay. Since apps and devices compensate differently for latency, your real-world experience may vary.

7.7
Connectivity
Non-Bluetooth Wireless
Non-BT Line Of Sight Range
153 ft
Non-BT Latency
71 ms

These headphones deliver good non-Bluetooth wireless connectivity. When using their USB transmitter, their latency is low enough to use them for gaming without experiencing significant audio delay.

0
Connectivity
Wired
Analog Audio
No
USB Audio
No
Detachable No
Length N/A
Connection No Wired Option
Analog/USB Audio Latency
N/A

The SteelSeries Arctis 9 Wireless don't come with an audio cable, but they do have a 3.5 mm jack that should allow you to use them with a 1/8" TRS or TRRS audio cable for passive audio playback or sharing audio with another pair of headphones.

Connectivity
PC / PS4 Compatibility
PC/PS4 Analog
Audio + Microphone
PC/PS4 Wired USB
No
PC/PS4 Non-BT Wireless
Audio + Microphone

These headphones offer full audio and microphone compatibility with PC and PS4 systems, whether you're using their included USB wireless transmitter or a 1/8" TRRS cable, though an analog audio cable isn't included.

Connectivity
Xbox One Compatibility
Xbox One Analog
No
Xbox One Wired USB
No
Xbox One Non-BT Wireless
No

The SteelSeries Arctis 9 aren't compatible with Xbox One consoles.

7.0
Connectivity
Base/Dock
Type
Wireless USB Dongle
USB Input
Yes
Line In
Yes
Line Out
Yes
Optical Input
No
RCA Input
No
Dock Charging
No
Power Supply
USB

These headphones come with a USB wireless transmitter. It's only compatible with PC and PS4 systems.

Differences Between Sizes And Variants

The SteelSeries Arctis 9 Wireless come in only one color scheme: 'Black'. You can see the label for the model we tested here.

If someone comes across a differently-equipped variant, let us know in the discussions below so that we can update our review.

Compared To Other Headphones

The SteelSeries Arctis 9 Wireless are premium wireless gaming headphones that are essentially the PC/PS4 version of the SteelSeries Arctis 9X Wireless. They offer impressive build quality, a 20-hour battery life, and Bluetooth compatibility, so you can stream music from your phone while gaming. Unfortunately, they do a poor job of blocking out background noise and are quite bulky. For alternatives, take a look at our list of recommendations of the best wireless gaming headsets, the best PS4 gaming headsets, and the best gaming headsets.

SteelSeries Arctis Pro Wireless

The SteelSeries Arctis Pro Wireless are more versatile than the  SteelSeries Arctis 9 Wireless. The Pro have a better-balanced sound profile out-of-the-box, block out more ambient noise, have a better-performing boom microphone, and last longer off of a single charge. They also come with a 1/8" TRRS cable that allows for full audio and microphone compatibility via analog connections. The 9 have slightly lower Bluetooth latency and a broader range of microphone volume adjustment in their companion software.

SteelSeries Arctis 7 2019 Edition Wireless

The SteelSeries Arctis 7 2019 Edition Wireless are slightly better for wireless gaming than the SteelSeries Arctis 9 Wireless. The 7 come with a  1/8" TRRS cable that allows for passive audio playback and microphone usage, deliver audio more consistently, and have a better-balanced default sound profile. Their battery life is longer too. Meanwhile, the 9 are Bluetooth-compatible, so you can use them to listen to music from your phone as you game. They also have an easier-to-use control scheme.

SteelSeries Arctis 9X Wireless

The SteelSeries Arctis 9X Wireless and SteelSeries Arctis 9 Wireless perform similarly overall but suit different audiences. The 9X are Xbox One-compatible and use essentially the same connection as Xbox One controllers to seamlessly connect to Xbox One consoles and PCs that have Xbox One Wireless Technology without the need for a dongle. The 9 use a USB dongle that allows them to connect to PC and PS4 systems, but not Xbox One consoles.

Logitech G PRO X WIRELESS LIGHTSPEED Gaming Headset

The SteelSeries Arctis 9 Wireless are slightly more versatile for day-to-day use than the Logitech G PRO X WIRELESS LIGHTSPEED Gaming Headset. The SteelSeries are Bluetooth-compatible, offer on-the-fly channel mixing, and block out a little more background noise. However, the Logitech are better-built, have more features in their companion software, last longer off of a single charge, have lower non-Bluetooth audio latency, and have a better-balanced default sound profile.

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