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SteelSeries Arctis 3 2019 Edition Wireless Headphones Review

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The Arctis 3 is a perfectly good headset, offering high-quality sound for both gaming and music, along with a comfortable fit.


  • +Comfortable fit
  • +Good sound quality
  • +Clear mic


  • Hard to customize
  • Music sounds great only on PC
  • Weakest headset in Arctis line

The SteelSeries Arctis 7 ($150) is the greatest wireless headset on the market, while the Arctis 5 ($100) is a great USB headset. What place does the SteelSeries Arctis 3 ($80), a less expensive headset with only analog connectors, have? It’s not an easy thing to say.

The Arctis 3 is an excellent headset that provides high-quality sound for both gaming and music, as well as a comfortable fit. On the other hand, you have to jump through a few hoops to get the most out of this headset’s functionality, and for PC gamers, in particular, the $20 savings over its USB-enabled counterpart isn’t worth it.


If you’ve seen the Arctis 5 and 7, you should have a solid idea of what to expect from the Arctis 3. The headset is a black, medium over-the-ear type with spacious ear cups and a flexible fabric headband. The Arctis 3’s appearance is sleek and understated, and you could easily use it on a plane, train, or automobile without drawing attention to yourself.

In the rear of the left ear cup is a volume control wheel and a mic-mute button, as well as a retractable, flexible microphone. The right ear cup is devoid of anything, which makes me wonder if it would have been better to relocate the volume wheel there. However, the buttons are not cluttered, thus there is no major issue with the arrangement.


SteelSeries is known for making the most comfortable headsets in the industry, and the Arctis line is no exception. The Arctis 3, like the 5 and 7, is extremely comfortable to wear, thanks to its flexible headband and wide, soft ear cups. You don’t have to deal with finicky notches; simply slip it on and the headband will handle the rest.

I gave the Arctis 3 to a coworker to check if he agreed with me, and he did, almost decisively. He mentioned that he had to modify the headband strap because he had a larger head than I do. Nonetheless, because the strap is Velcro-attached and can suit a wide range of skull shapes, the entire process took only a few seconds. He was particularly pleased with how light the headset felt, noting that he frequently forgot he was wearing it at all.

Gaming Efficiency

If a gaming headset doesn’t deliver in-game, it’s not worth much, but the Arctis 3 is one of the better-sounding headsets in its price range. On the PC, I tested it with Overwatch, Heroes of the Storm, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, and Final Fantasy XIV, as well as a few mobile and PS4 titles. The headset functioned admirably across the board, with no clear favorite genre.

The Arctis 3 delivers sound in a preset soundscape for console and mobile games. Voice acting, sound effects, and music all worked wonderfully together, and I was completely immersed in any adventure I picked, whether it was defending a kingdom in Final Fantasy Brave Exvius on Android or exploring strange, new planets in Star Trek Online on PS4.

Thanks to the SteelSeries Engine 3 software, which allows users to adjust surround sound and equalization parameters for PC games, I had a lot more possibilities on PC. It took some experimenting to get the proper soundscape for each game, but playing Overwatch with a performance-based surround-sound option and The Witcher 3 with an immersive stereo setting helped showcase each game’s individual sound design. In Final Fantasy XIV, adventuring through the land of Eorzea worked just as well as taking down online adversaries in Heroes of the Storm. As far as I can tell, there are no weak genres on the Arctis 3.


The Arctis 3 lacks a USB port, unlike its two more expensive siblings. As a result, I assumed there would be no software possibilities, but I was mistaken. You can change equalization and surround-sound profiles via the 3.5mm audio connection if you register your headset on the SteelSeries website and link it to your account. The only issue is that you have to go through a lot of hoops to get there.

Consider the following examples: If you purchase a SteelSeries Arctis 5 headset and want to change the sound settings, simply plug it in, launch the SteelSeries Engine 3 program, and go to town. If you buy a SteelSeries Arctis 3, you must first plug it in, then go to the SteelSeries website, create a SteelSeries account, log in to said account, enter a long product code, open the Engine 3 software, log in to your account (again), and finally tweak the settings, assuming you haven’t already succumbed to the ravages of old age.

I’m guessing the process is complicated because modifying a USB headset is much easier, but that doesn’t benefit the end user much. If you ever desire to sell or pass your Arctis 3 to a family member, the process will be complicated, if at all doable.

At the very least, the Engine 3 software meets its customary high standards. Creating new profiles, connecting soundscapes to games, and adjusting audio parameters are all quick and easy operations. The product registration and required login slows down the procedure slightly — suppose you want to alter profiles without internet access? — but everything works fine under perfect conditions.

The mic is of great quality, giving a rich, clear sound that emphasizes S and P sounds a little too much. It could be used for almost any multiplayer game, but professional streamers may require something a little more powerful.

Performance of Music

Music sounds fantastic on the Arctis 3, especially if you play about with the equalization options first. I listened to Flogging Molly, Old Crow Medicine Show, the Rolling Stones, and G.F. Handel, and the balance of music and voices was acceptable, though not subtle. Treble and bass were very perfectly balanced, and the headset handled every genre I threw at it.

On the other hand, having the Engine 3 software at your disposal is really beneficial. The sound quality of music on a mobile device is simply adequate. The voices, as on many cheaper headsets, have a very upfront quality, and while the bass isn’t bad, you can expect to hear a lot of melody and not much in the way of harmonies or rhythm sections.

The Arctis System

One of my main criticisms of the Arctis 3 is that it isn’t as good or adaptable as its competitors. The Arctis 5 is only $20 more expensive and has a USB connection (in addition to the 3.5mm port) and colored headset lighting. That’s not that useful, but there’s also a light that indicates whether the microphone is active, which is far more useful.

The Arctis 7, on the other hand, costs $150 and includes wireless capabilities. That is far more expensive, but everything nice about the Arctis 3 remains, including the beautiful design.

While the Arctis 7 is still a step above the Arctis 3, it doesn’t make sense to save $20 by skipping the 5, which is a far more tempting option.

In conclusion

The SteelSeries Arctis 3 is an excellent headset. It’s not a superb headset; that distinction belongs to the Arctis 5 and 7. It’s one of the better $80 options — considerably better than the Kingston HyperX Cloud II, for example — but its complicated software setup and just-pretty-good music performance hold it back.

The Arctis 3 is an excellent solution for PCs, consoles, and mobile devices if you want to make your gaming setup as simple as possible. If you have an extra $20 to spare, though, go for the Arctis 5. Your computer’s USB port will be grateful.


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