As part of the lineup renewal for the popular Arctis gaming headsets, which began with theSteelSeries launched the $180 (£175, AU$200) the $100 (£100, AU$110) Nova 3 USB plus analog wired model and the $60 (£60, AU$70) analog wired Nova 1. As you’d expect for the money, the Nova 1 is a pretty basic entry-level gaming headset, but it’s made remarkable by SteelSeries’ Sonar software suite.
The headsets share the Nova Pro’s generational changes, including the fully retractable microphone, updated hi-fi drivers, and Sonar software support (for the spatial audio, parametric equalizer, microphone noise cancellation, and more). The Nova 7 Wireless comes in three versions: the 7X for the Xbox, 7P for the PlayStation and 7 for PC. The Nova 1 is also available in three versions.
- Solid audio
- Good control and surround for the money via the Sonar software
- Without the Sonar noise reduction, the microphone is hissing
- No visible mute indicator
- Bendable boom arm can cause retractability issues
The entry-level Nova 1 is fundamentally basic, and fundamental to Windows, as its quality depends on the Sonar software, which I discussed at length in thereview. Like most budget headsets, it connects via a detachable 3.5mm analog cable, and there’s a mute and volume rocker on the earcup. Its ability to tweak it using SteelSeries’ excellent Sonar software, which offers noise cancellation and equalizer controls beyond its class, allows it to deliver impressive audio. That includes surprisingly good surround.
It’s also fairly comfortable and adjustable, and doesn’t skimp on SteelSeries’ signature rotating earcup design. I don’t know how it ranks for durability, a big consideration with headsets under $100 – it’s a new design and time will tell. Unless I’m trying to break it on purpose, which I’d rather not and wouldn’t represent normal wear and tear.
On the other hand, as I was writing this I started to bend the microphone stem because the boom seems flimsy, and I seem to have pulled it out a little too far. Now it is not retreating. So there you have it. However, I’ve never been a fan of the company’s retractable microphones, and the new fully retractable designs can be even more frustrating for me. I prefer flip up because they are easier to operate with one hand and don’t require a mute indicator.
The lack of software makes this headset less appealing. The sound isn’t bad, but it benefits from the power boost you can give it with software. And the microphone has a lot of background noise without the Clearcast noise cancellation; with Clearcast and the equalizer it can get very good. The hiss shouldn’t affect the intelligibility of your in-game chat, but it’s not exactly great to hear either. And while you can mute the mic, there’s no indicator showing it’s muted, which gets annoying.
With the software you get on a Windows system, the Arctis Nova 1 can perform above its class, but without the software it isn’t quite as competitive. I wouldn’t switch from the Nacon Rig 500 HX Gen 2 for the same money.