SteelSeries Arctis 9X Headset Review: The Best 2019 Has To Offer So Far

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The Arctis 9X is the best Xbox-focused headset we've ever used. SteelSeries

The SteelSeries Arctis 9X headset is one of the best gaming headsets I have ever used. It combines audio quality, compatibility, ease of use and comfort into one minimalistic device that you’ll never want to take off. While there are a few minor drawbacks, the Arctis 9X is a no-brainer if you’re looking at buying a wireless headset for your Xbox One or PC.

The most important thing a headset should do is be a good pair of headphones, and the Arctis 9X delivers. Games sound great, and the Arctis allows for both big, bombastic moments along with highlighting the smaller sounds. Take Apex Legends for example. Gunfire sounds loud and crisp, but I could still easily hear the direction that incoming footsteps were coming from. I’m not saying that using the Arctis 9X made me a better player, but I did have my best night of Apex Legends ever while wearing them. Granted, I’m not a great battle royale player, but still.

The second most important aspect of a headset in my book is comfort. There’s no point in using a great headset if it is uncomfortable to wear. Thankfully, the 9X is one of the most comfortable headsets I’ve ever used. The headset uses a ski goggle-style band, meaning it can easily fit any sized head without strain on your ears or top of your skull. The headset is pretty lightweight, and the ear cups are made with a breathable fabric that doesn’t encourage any major heat buildup. There is a downside to this fabric, but we’ll talk about that later.

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The Arctis 9X is sleek and functional Photo: SteelSeries

There are four different EQ presets built in, and they can be switched on the fly with a button press. If you want to really go into the weeds with your calibrations, hooking the headphones up to a PC allows you to make custom EQ settings. I didn’t bother loading up the SteelSeries software while reviewing the 9X, mostly because I thought the preset settings sounded great.

I also really appreciated the way the 9X handles in-game volume versus chat volume. Many headsets have a rocker to split between the two or some kind of switch, but the 9X has one dial on one ear cup and a dial on the other. One handles game volume, and the other adjusts chat. It’s simple, it’s easy to remember, and the volumes can be adjusted easily to lock in that perfect custom mix.

Speaking of in-game chat, the 9X’s microphone is pretty solid. I live in a somewhat noisy area, and the people I played with said the background noise wasn’t a problem for them. The mic is also reported to be clear, and works fine. While I generally prefer microphones that can be completely removed, I do like how the 9X’s mic tucks neatly into the left ear cup, and it does feel nice every time you pull it out for gaming or phone calls.

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The microphone tucks neatly into the headset when not in use Photo: SteelSeries

Perhaps the best feature of the 9X is its ability to feed multiple audio sources into the headset at once. The 9X has both a Bluetooth receiver and a way to wirelessly connect to an Xbox One (or Xbox One dongle on PC). This means you can play a game on low volume while listening to music or a podcast on your phone or tablet. It’s also great to play games while talking on the phone. The only problem there is you can’t mask the sound of you mashing on a controller’s buttons.

One annoyance I had with the 9X is that powering on the headset also turns on your Xbox One once the headset is paired. This means when I grabbed the headset to use as a regular pair of headphones for my commute to work, I would often accidentally turn on my Xbox as I was on my way out the door. Granted, I live in a small apartment, so this may be a somewhat unique problem for me, but it was still annoying to have to turn off my Xbox before leaving.

As mentioned above, the fabric choice for the ear cups is both great and unfortunate. Because the fabric is so breathable, even the slightest breeze can get through. If you do wear the Arctis 9X outside when using Bluetooth, the wind can sound incredibly loud, like having an open window in your car when driving on the highway. Of course, this is really only an issue if you plan on using your Xbox headphones outside of the house.

I also find the lack of knowing how charged the headset is somewhat annoying. The battery life is really strong with the 9X (SteelSeries reports a battery life of 20 hours), and I never had an issue with the headset running out of juice when I needed it, but a quick way to check how much time is left, or what rough percentage the battery level is at would be nice.

The Arctis 9X does come in on the more expensive side of the gaming headphones market, at $200. The headset also can’t be used wirelessly with a PS4, and requires a dongle to work with PC. That said, the Bluetooth features do add a lot of added usability. There is also a 3.5mm headphone jack on the headset, meaning you can get wired audio from a PS4, Switch or anything else if you do want to use the 9X as an all-in-one device. It should be noted that using the 3.5mm jack does disable the microphone, so this means the 9X can only be a good pair of headphones for the Switch and PS4.

While the price may be high, the quality, comfort, versatility and features of the 9X make it stand out as the best gaming headset I’ve used in 2019, and the best Xbox-specific headset I have ever used. While I wouldn’t recommend the 9X to a PS4 owner, an Xbox One or PC gamer wanting something more than a typical gaming headset should look no further than the latest from SteelSeries.

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