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SteelSeries Arctis 9X Wireless
HEADPHONES REVIEW

Usage Ratings - Version 1.2
7.2
Mixed Usage
8.0
Critical Listening
6.7
Commute/Travel
6.9
Sports/Fitness
7.1
Office
6.8
TV
7.6
Gaming
Type : Over-ear
Enclosure : Closed-Back
Wireless : Yes
Noise-Cancelling : No
Mic : Yes
Transducer : Dynamic

The SteelSeries Arctis 9X are good gaming headphones that have great audio quality and are designed to work with the Xbox One wirelessly without the need for a dongle. These headphones connect directly to the console, just like you would connect a wireless controller. They have a great microphone for online multiplayer games and are comfortable for long gaming sessions. They can also be used via Bluetooth, and you can stream music from your phone while you play on the Xbox One simultaneously. However, like most SteelSeries Arctis headphones, they don’t isolate against ambient noise and their audio delivery is prone to inconsistencies across users. On the upside, they have great battery life and are also compatible with the SteelSeries Engine software.

Pros
  • Great audio reproduction.
  • Clear sounding microphone.
  • Comfortable and durable design.
Cons
  • Might be tight for some.
  • Restrictive since designed to only work with Xbox One.
  • Audio delivery is prone to inconsistencies. Sensitive to glasses, fit, and positioning.

Test Results
Design 7.0
Sound 8.1
Isolation 5.6
Microphone 8.4
Active Features 7.6
Connectivity 7.0
Update 6/19/2019: We've updated the Xbox One compatibility value of the 9X to reflect support for both mic and audio.

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7.0

Design

The SteelSeries Arctis 9X are fairly well-designed gaming headphones. They resemble most of the rest of the Arctis lineup, but these headphones are specifically designed for the Xbox One, on top of being Bluetooth compatible. They look the same as other Arctis headphones, but with a green-accented headband. They are comfortable and well-built headphones with a complete control scheme that's useful for gaming and casual listening sessions.

Style

The Arctis 9x are pretty much like the SteelSeries Arctis 7 2019 Edition but for Xbox One, with a green accent color on the headband. The headset is all black, just like the Arctis 7 2019 Edition. The overall look is sleek and simple and is the same as most of the Arctis lineup, with a ski-band headband. These headphones have wide cups with a retractable microphone and their headband frame is one piece of metal, unlike the plastic build of the Arctis 3 2019 Edition and Arctis 5 2019 Edition.

7.5 Comfort
Weight : 0.82 lbs
Clamping Force
:
1.0 lbs

The Arctis 9x are comfortable gaming headphones and they have the same design as most Arctis headsets. The earcups are well-padded and there’s room for most ear sizes and shapes. The padding material is soft and porous, which allows a bit of airflow. However, some people might feel like the cups are a bit shallow. The headphones also feel a bit tight, especially on larger heads, and the length of the strap limits the size adjustment options.

8.5 Controls
Ease of use : Decent
Feedback : Great
Call/Music Control : Yes
Volume Control : Yes
Microphone Control : Yes
Channel Mixing
:
Yes
Noise Canceling Control : N/A
Talk-Through
:
N/A
Additional Buttons : Bluetooth Sync + Presets

The control scheme of the 9x is great as you get plenty of buttons and wheels, which are not only great for gaming but also nice to use with your phone for casual listening sessions. You get access to a mic-mute button, a channel mixing wheel, and a volume wheel. Also, there’s a Bluetooth button that serves for music and call management, and the power button lets you cycle between EQ presets.

6.3 Breathability
Avg.Temp.Difference : 6.2 C

The SteelSeries Arctis 9x are somewhat breathable, due to their porous padding on the ear cups that help with airflow a bit. You might still feel a difference in temperature when wearing them for long periods of time, and they won’t be suitable for most sports. However, they should be fine for casual gaming sessions.

5.4 Portability
L : 8.6 "
W : 7.0 "
H : 3.5 "
Volume : 211 Cu. Inches
Transmitter required : N/A

The Arctis 9x are bulky gaming headphones, and their footprint is about the same as the other Arctis headsets. They don’t fold into a more compact format, but their cups swivel to lay flat, which makes it easier to slide them in a bag or to wear comfortably around your neck.

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

These headphones don’t come with a pouch or case to protect them when you’re on the move.

8.0 Build Quality

They are well-built headphones with dense cups and a metal headband frame, which is sturdy yet flexible. The retractable microphone is malleable and feels well-made. These headphones should survive a few accidental drops without suffering too much damage. They feel more solid than the plastic-made Arctis 3 and Arctis 5 models.

7.5 Stability

The Arctis 9x are fairly tight on the head, which gives them a secure fit on the head. They should be fine for a light jog, but these gaming headphones aren’t designed for physical activity. Their build is bulky and heavy, which can sway around with heavy head movement. On the upside, they are wireless, meaning you won’t have to worry about a cable getting hooked on something, which would yank the headphones off your head.

Cable
Detachable : N/A
Length : N/A
Connection : N/A

These headphones only come with a USB to micro-USB charging cable. Unfortunately, while they have a 1/8” audio jack, they don’t come with a cable.

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Headshots 1
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8.1

Sound

The SteelSeries Arctis 9X are great-sounding closed-back gaming headphones. They have a punchy and powerful bass, a well-balanced mid-range, and a great treble range. However, their bass might lack a bit of sub-bass and their treble can be a bit too sharp on some S and T sounds. Also, they fail to deliver consistent audio reproduction across different users, so your listening experience may vary. Overall, most users will be satisfied with these since they're versatile for music and gaming. You can also easily EQ them in their app, but we measured these headphones without any applied EQ settings.

8.2 Bass
Std. Err.
:
2.38 dB
Low-Frequency Extension
:
38.86 Hz
Low-Bass
:
-4.03 dB
Mid-Bass
:
0.57 dB
High-Bass
:
2.44 dB

The Arctis 9x have a very good bass performance. LFE (low-frequency extension) is at 39Hz, which is within good limits. Low-bass, responsible for the thump and rumble common to EDM, hip-hop, and video game sound effects, is lacking by about 4dB, but this won’t be too audible. However, the response goes over our target curve in high-bass, which adds a bit of boominess and muddiness to the overall bass.

Their bass delivery varies noticeably across users and is sensitive to the quality of the fit, seal, and whether you wear glasses. The response here represents the average bass response, and your experience may vary.

8.9 Mid
Std. Err.
:
1.51 dB
Low-Mid
:
1.92 dB
Mid-Mid
:
1.27 dB
High-Mid
:
-0.4 dB

The mid range response of the Arctis 9x is excellent. Throughout the range, they deliver an accurate reproduction of vocals and lead instruments. There’s a small overemphasis of just over a dB, but this won’t be very audible. There is also a small mismatch in low-mid, which makes the right driver a bit thick sounding and cluttered, but this will barely be audible.

9.0 Treble
Std. Err.
:
2.24 dB
Low-Treble
:
-0.63 dB
Mid-Treble
:
1.88 dB
High-Treble
:
-0.48 dB

The treble performance of the Arctis 9X is excellent. The response throughout the range is well-balanced and fairly even. There's a small bump around 10kHz, which will make some sibilants (S and T sounds) a bit sharp and piercing, especially on already bright tracks. However, not everyone will hear this as intensely, and their treble delivery consistency is sub-par. They are quite sensitive to positioning and the response here represents the average response, so your experience may vary.

5.3 Frequency Response Consistency
Avg. Std. Deviation
:
1.47 dB

The frequency response consistency is sub-par. Their bass delivery is sensitive to the quality of the fit, seal, and whether you wear glasses or not. We’ve measured about over 10dB of maximum deviation at 20Hz, which is noticeable. So, if you have a lot of hair between the headphones and your ear or have glasses that are not flush to your temple, then you may experience a noticeable drop in bass. In the treble range, we measured more than 15dB of deviation in response at 3.5kHz, which is not good and very noticeable.

8.2 Imaging
Weighted Group Delay
:
0.45
Weighted Amplitude Mismatch
:
0.65
Weighted Frequency Mismatch
:
2.34
Weighted Phase Mismatch
:
5.67

The SteelSeries Arctis 9X have great imaging. Their weighted group delay is 0.45, which is within good limits. The GD graph, however, shows that its group delay crosses over into the audibility threshold at around 70Hz and before 40Hz, but it is not enough to affect the tightness of the bass significantly, especially that most of the bumps are under their LFE. Additionally, the L/R drivers of our test unit were well-matched, ensuring accurate placement and localization of objects (voice, instruments, footsteps...) in the stereo image. However, these results are only valid for our unit, and yours may perform differently.

7.2 Soundstage
PRTF Accuracy (Std. Dev.)
:
3.49 dB
PRTF Size (Avg.)
:
5.73 dB
PRTF Distance
:
21.61 dB
Openness
:
5.4
Acoustic Space Excitation
:
2.6
Correlated Crosstalk
:
0.0 dB

The 9X have a decent soundstage. The PRTF graph shows a lot of pinna activation, but it’s not very accurate. On the upside, there's a deep 10kHz notch present. This suggests that the soundstage will be perceived to be relatively large, but a bit unnatural. The good PRTF distance helps to bring the soundstage in front of the listener’s head, but their closed-back design makes them less open-sounding than some open-back headphones like the Astro A40.

7.7 Total Harmonic Distortion
Weighted THD @ 90
:
1.268
Weighted THD @ 100
:
1.516

The harmonic distortion performance is good. The THD in the bass range is slightly elevated, which means these headphones might have trouble reproducing clean bass at high volumes. On the upside, THD levels in the mid and treble ranges are within good limits, and these ranges are more perceptually relevant.

5.6

Isolation

Like most Arctis headsets, the Arctis 9X have sub-par isolation performance. They won’t be suitable to use in loud environments like public transit, as their fit doesn’t isolate against a lot of ambient noise, which will seep into your audio. On the upside, they don’t leak too much at higher volumes, meaning you might be able to drown out more noise by raising your listening volume.

4.5 Noise Isolation
Isolation Audio
:
Overall Attenuation
:
-10.57 dB
Bass
:
0.06 dB
Mid
:
-9.61 dB
Treble
:
-23.05 dB
Self-Noise
:
20.71 dB

The isolation performance is poor. The SteelSeries Arctis 9X don't have active noise cancelling and don’t isolate in the bass range, meaning they will let in the rumbles of airplanes and bus engines. In the mid-range, important for blocking out speech, they isolate by about 10dB, which is okay. In the treble range, they reduce ambient noise by about 23dB, which is decent for reducing sharp sounds such as S and Ts and A/C noise.

7.8 Leakage
Leakage Audio
:
Overall Leakage @ 1ft
:
35.49 dB

The leakage performance is decent. The significant portion of their leakage sits between 400Hz and 3kHz, which is a relatively narrow range and mostly concentrated in the mid-range. This means that their leakage will sound fuller than that of in-ears and earbuds, but not as loud and full as open-back headphones. On the upside, the overall level of the leakage is not very loud. With the music at 100dB SPL, the leakage at 1 foot away averages at 35dB SPL and peaks at 50dB SPL, which is the noise floor of most offices.

8.4

Microphone

Integrated
:
No
In-line
:
No
Boom
:
Yes
Detachable Boom
:
No

The SteelSeries Arctis 9X have a very good boom microphone. In a quiet environment, speech recorded or transmitted with this mic sounds full-bodied, clear, and easily comprehensible, but slightly bright. In noisy environments, the mic rejects a very high amount of ambient noise, making these headphones good to use in very loud places like a gaming event.

8.3 Recording Quality
Recorded Speech
:
LFE
:
85.99 Hz
FR Std. Dev.
:
3.35 dB
HFE
:
9805.86 Hz
Weighted THD
:
0.46
Gain
:
15.13 dB

The boom microphone has great recording quality. LFE (low frequency extension) is extended down to 86Hz, which is very good. This means voice recorded with the Arctis 9X will sound full-bodied and clear. The HFE of 10kHz is also very good, which ensures a detailed and present speech. However, the 10dB bump after 2kHz makes the sound of this microphone noticeably bright, which, although it won't sound neutral, could help with cutting through the game audio.

8.5 Noise Handling
Speech + Pink Noise :
Speech + Subway Noise :
SpNR
:
34.17 dB

The boom microphone has great noise handling. It achieves a speech-to-noise ratio of about 34dB, which is remarkable and indicates it can separate speech from noise even in the most demanding environments, like a gaming event.

7.6

Active Features

The SteelSeries Arctis 9x have great battery life. While they don’t a power-saving feature, they can be used via their Bluetooth connection while charging and can also be used passively with an 1/8” audio cable, although they don’t come with one, unfortunately. These headphones are also compatible with the SteelSeries Engine via their USB connection for good customization options. However, the USB cable is only used for charging and to gain access to the software, as you can’t use them wired via USB.

7.5 Battery
Battery Type
:
Rechargable
Battery Life
:
28 hrs
Charge Time
:
2.4 hrs
Power Saving Feature
:
No
Audio while charging
:
Yes
Passive Playback
:
Yes

The Arctis 9X have an excellent battery life and offer about 28 hours of continuous playback and only take about two hours to charge fully. You can also use their Bluetooth connection while they are wired to your PC for charging, which is convenient. Additionally, while they don’t come with a 1/8” audio cable, they can still be used passively.

8.0 App Support
App Name : SteelSeries Engine
iOS : No
Android : No
Mac OS : Yes
Windows : Yes
Equalizer
:
Graphic + Presets
ANC control
:
No
Mic Control : Level
Room effects
:
No
Playback control
:
No
Button Mapping : No
Surround Sound : Windows Sonic Spatial Audio

These headphones are compatible with the SteelSeries Engine 3 app, but they need to be connected via the USB cable to show up in the software. However, you won’t be able to use them wired via USB on PC. In the app, you get a nice 10-band EQ, you can edit the 4 presets, on top of being able to control microphone levels and sidetone. The app is easy to navigate as everything is on the same page and you don’t have to go through different tabs. You can also save different profiles and switch between them inside the app. Additionally, you can disable the Bluetooth auto-startup when the headphones are turned on. Note that while these headphones support Xbox’s native Windows Sonic Spatial Audio, you can’t control it inside the app.

7.0

Connectivity

The SteelSeries Arctis 9X are fairly versatile headphones since they can be used wirelessly with the Xbox Wireless Technology on the Xbox One, can stream music from a Bluetooth source at the same time, and if you have a 1/8” audio cable, you’ll also be able to use them wired for audio support. We had to test the headphones using an Xbox Wireless Adapter on a Windows 10 PC to better represent their real performance, but they may perform slightly differently directly on Xbox One. 

6.0 Bluetooth
Bluetooth Version
:
4.1
Multi-Device Pairing
:
No
NFC Pairing
:
No

The SteelSeries Arctis 9X are Bluetooth-compatible, which is convenient if you want to stream music from your phone when gaming on the Xbox One.

7.2 Wired
OS Compatibility
:
Not OS specific
Analog Audio
:
Yes
USB Audio
:
No
PS4 Compatible
:
Audio Only
Xbox One Compatible
:
Audio Only
PC Compatible
:
Audio Only

Even though the SteelSeries Arctis 9X don’t come with a 1/8” audio cable, they support audio over their 1/8” jack. However, even when using a TRRS connector, the microphone isn’t supported, whatever the platform we tested it on.

4.6 Base/Dock
Type
:
Wireless USB Dongle
Optical Input
:
No
Line In
:
No
Line Out
:
No
USB Input
:
Yes
RCA Input
:
No
PS4 Compatible
:
N/A
Xbox One Compatible
:
Audio + Microphone
PC Compatible
:
Audio + Microphone
Power Supply
:
USB
Dock Charging
:
No

Update 06/19/2019: We've updated the Xbox One compatibility value of the 9X to reflect support for both mic and audio. The 9X uses the same proprietary wireless connection as the Xbox controllers and the Microsoft wireless adapter. So although the wireless adapter will not work with the Xbox One, the 9X will work without it, so the score has been adjusted.

Technically, the SteelSeries Arctis 9X work with the Xbox One thanks to the Xbox Wireless Technology, which is also available on PC, meaning a dock isn’t necessarily needed. However, since our testing PC doesn’t have the technology built-in, we purchased an Xbox Wireless Adapter to better represent the performance of the headset on the Xbox One. With this adapter, you can fully use the headset on PC, but it won’t be compatible with the PS4, and obviously won’t be needed on the Xbox One.

7.9 Wireless Range
Obstructed Range
:
41 ft
Line of Sight Range
:
70 ft

With the dongle and the Xbox Wireless technology, we measured about 41ft of obstructed range and 70ft of direct line of sight range, which should be more than enough for you to play games from the comfort of your couch. Also, when using the headset over Bluetooth, we measured 55ft of obstructed range and about 140ft of line of sight range. This means you could probably walk around a small office or to the next room over without losing connection to your Bluetooth source. However, wireless range is dependent on many factors, including your device’s signal strength, so your results may vary.

7.4 Latency
Default Latency
:
77 ms
aptX Latency
:
N/A
aptX(LL) Latency
:
N/A

With the Xbox Wireless Adapter, we measured 77ms of latency on the Arctis 9X, which is decent. It’s over what most wireless gaming headsets get in this test, but we don’t expect most people to notice the delay. Over Bluetooth, we measured 263ms of delay, which is also a bit more than most Bluetooth headphones. Some people will notice a delay with video content. Note that Bluetooth shouldn’t be used for gaming.

In the box

  • SteelSeries Arctis 9X headphones
  • USB to micro-USB charging cable
  • Manuals

Compared to other Headphones

The SteelSeries Arctis 9X are good gaming headphones that set themselves apart, as they were designed for the Xbox One specifically. They use the Xbox Wireless Technology to connect to the Xbox One just like you would with a controller. However, they won’t be as versatile as other models as they don’t work with the PS4 or with a PC without an adapter or the built-in technology. See our recommendations for the best gaming headsets for Xbox One, the best gaming headsets for PS4, and the best gaming headsets for PC.

Astro A50 Wireless

The SteelSeries Arctis 9X and Astro A50 Wireless are both good gaming headphones, but for different reasons. The Arctis 9X have a better microphone recording quality and their battery life is also noticeably better. You can also stream music from a Bluetooth source at the same time as playing games. They can also be used passively with a 1/8” audio cable if you have one, while the A50 don’t have the appropriate jack. On the other hand, the Astro A50 are more comfortable and have lower wireless latency. They also deliver sound more consistently across users than the 9X.

SteelSeries Arctis 7 2019 Edition Wireless

The SteelSeries Arctis 7 2019 Edition Wireless and the SteelSeries Arctis 9X are fairly similar headphones, but the 7 will be a better option for most as the 9X are designed for Xbox One. When used wirelessly, we measured lower latency on the 7 and they also support voice chat when used wired. On the other hand, the Arctis 9X is also Bluetooth compatible, meaning you can use them on-the-go with your phone. Other than that, the build of both headsets is pretty much identical and as comfortable.

SteelSeries Arctis Pro Wireless

The SteelSeries Arctis Pro Wireless are better headphones than the SteelSeries Arctis 9X. Their wireless latency is lower, they have a slightly better sound quality (although you can EQ both headsets in the SteelSeries Engine app), and they also a nice dual-battery system that lets you charge a battery while using the other one. Both are Bluetooth-compatible, but the Arctis Pro Wireless also have full mic and audio support when used wired on all consoles. However, if you mainly play on Xbox One, the Arctis 9X will offer better value as they are quite cheaper than the Arctis Pro Wireless.

Plantronics RIG 800LX Wireless

The SteelSeries Arctis 9X are better performing gaming headphones, but the Plantronics RIG 800LX Wireless are more versatile since they can be used with both PS4 and Xbox One and on PC, while the 9X are designed for the Xbox One only. The RIG 800LX also have better wireless latency. On the other hand, the Arctis 9X have a nice companion app with customization options, and they are also Bluetooth compatible and don’t require a transmitter to work. Their microphone recording quality is noticeably better and their overall build feels more solid. If you only play on Xbox One, the Arctis 9X is the better option, but if you need a versatile headset, the RIG 800LX might be a better option.

Conclusion

7.2 Mixed Usage
Decent for mixed usage. These good gaming headphones can also be used with your phone thanks to their Bluetooth-compatibility. They have a great audio reproduction but, unfortunately, they don’t isolate against ambient noise well, which means they won’t be the best option for commuting. Also, their bulky design isn’t ideal for sports and working out. On the upside, they have a long battery life that won’t need daily charging. For gaming, you get a great microphone, but these won’t be the most versatile headset as they were designed to work with the Xbox Wireless Technology on the Xbox One and on some PCs.
8.0 Critical Listening
Great for critical listening. The SteelSeries Arctis 9X have a punchy and powerful bass, a well-balanced mid-range, and a great treble range. However, their bass might lack a bit of sub-bass and their treble can be a bit too sharp on some S and T sounds. Also, they fail to deliver consistent audio reproduction across different users, so your listening experience may vary. Overall, most users will be satisfied with these since they're versatile for music and gaming. You can also easily EQ them inside their gaming software.
6.7 Commute/Travel
Okay for commuting. These gaming headphones can connect via Bluetooth to your phone and offer a great battery life that will be more than enough for long trips. They are also comfortable to wear for a while, but might be a bit tight for people with larger heads. Unfortunately, they don’t isolate well against ambient noise and won’t be good to use in public transit if you want to get rid of deep engine rumbles. They are a bit bulky, like most gaming headphones.
6.9 Sports/Fitness
Passable for sports. The SteelSeries Arctis 9X are a bit breathable thanks to their porous pads, but you will still feel a noticeable difference in temperature when working out with these and will sweat more than usual. They are also a bit bulky and might not be the most stable option, even if they have a tight fit. On the upside, they are wireless and you won’t have to worry about having a cable in your way.
7.1 Office
Decent to use at the office. The SteelSeries Arctis 9X are comfortable to use for a while, and their battery life will last you longer than a normal workday without a problem. Their fit also does a decent job to isolate against work environment noises like ambient chatter and A/C noises, but they won’t be the best isolating option. On the upside, they aren’t too leaky and you shouldn’t disturb surrounding colleagues when listening at high volumes.
6.8 TV
Okay for watching TV. If you watch content on your Xbox One or you are using an Xbox Wireless Adapter, you’ll get low enough latency to make them suitable for watching video content wirelessly. If not, and you’re watching over their Bluetooth connection, you’ll get a noticeable delay. On the upside, they are comfortable and have a great audio reproduction.
7.6 Gaming
Good for gaming. These headphones have a great microphone and a very good sound quality, which you can also EQ in their great app. They are comfortable for long gaming sessions and you shouldn’t have any latency issues when using them wirelessly with the Xbox One or Xbox Wireless Adapter. However, these headphones won’t be the most versatile option as they were designed to only work with the Xbox One or with a PC that has the Xbox Wireless Technology, or an adapter.

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