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SteelSeries Arctis 7 vs. Arctis 9X: which wireless gaming headset should you buy?

SteelSeries Arctis 7

SteelSeries Arctis 7

(Image credit: Steelseries)

Both the SteelSeries Arctis 7 and Arctis 9X are on our best wireless gaming headset list, and both come with top-quality features. Depending on your budget and your specific needs, one might be better over the other for you, but it'll come down to some specific differences. Price, aesthetics, audio options, mic quality, frequency response range—these are just some of the differences between the two headsets. They might seem subtle enough, but when you get down to it, all of them combined make a big enough difference.

SteelSeries Arctis 7

This wireless headset is one of our Editor's pick for good reason. The SteelSeries Arctis 7 has an enviable list of quality features. Aside from its trademark ski goggle headband, which makes the headset super comfortable to wear, it has a battery life of up to 24 hours, volume and mix controls on the backs of the earcups, and a retractable mic. If you have a small head, the plastic top of the headband might stick up awkwardly, but it otherwise is a gaming headset that you could wear in public without embarrassment.

Audio-wise, the Arctis 7 comes with 40mm neodymium drivers and a 20Hz-20,000Hz frequency response range, which is pretty standard these days for quality headsets. Whether gaming or listening to music, this headset has "surprisingly flat response that gives it clarity and versatility, and absolutely no distortion." The bass is never muddy. The treble is never harsh. The Arctis 7 is also 7.1 virtual surround sound compatible. Unlike some other headsets that require a soundcard, all you need is SteelSeries' software and you're good to go. Of course, stereo is generally better for gaming, but if you want to kick back and watch a movie at your PC, surround sound is fun.

This headset's only downside is the mic. It can be too quiet at times, even with adjusting audio levels. Positioning it close to your mouth is an easy fix, but then again it's not the most comfortable thing in the world. However, it is noise-canceling, so the mic has that going for it.

SteelSeries Arctis 9X

Take the Arctis 7, glam it up a bit, and you have the SteelSeries Arctis 9X. Not only does it work across multiple platforms (PC and Xbox), but it also has both Bluetooth and 3.5mm support. You might have to purchase an Xbox wireless adapter, but if you're strictly a PC-only kind of person and have native Bluetooth support on your motherboard, then you only need to worry about the cost of the headset itself.

Of course, the Arctis 9X has the same ski goggle headband and 40mm neodymium speakers, but an extended frequency response range of 20Hz-22,000Hz for a little extra oomph. (That goes without saying that the Arctis 9X has the same exceptional sound quality.) The battery life is only up to 20-hours, but this wireless headset brings it home with a better mic, a ClearCast retractable bidirectional mic to be exact. It's a welcome upgrade from the Arctis 7 mic.

However, this headset does not have virtual 7.1 surround sound, only Windows Sonic support. However, you could download Dolby Atmos on PC to get a little more out of this headset. You will have to purchase the software, but there is a free trial. Other than that, the headband's green, crisscrossing lines makes the Arctis 9X look a bit garish, which takes away from SteelSeries' otherwise anti-stereotypical gamer aesthetic.

SteelSeries Arctis 9X

SteelSeries Arctis 9X

(Image credit: Steelseries)

Which one should you buy?

The SteelSeries Arctis 9X is about $70-75 more than the Arctis 7, largely due to the multi-platform support and better mic quality. Aside from a slightly extended frequency response range, you're getting the same sound quality and comfort quality with either headset. And the battery life on each is 20 or more hours.

However, if sound options are more important to you, then the Arctis 7 should be your first choice because of its 7.1 virtual surround sound capability. If you're going by at looks alone, then you probably don't find the Arctis 9X's headband attractive, which also makes the Arctis 7 a better option. 

If mic quality is at the top of your list of wireless headset priorities (aside from audio), then the Arctis 9X would be the better choice of the two. Also, if you game on both PC and Xbox, then this would be the only headset you'd need.

When Joanna's not writing about gaming desktops, cloud gaming, or other hardware-related things, she's doing terrible stuff in The Sims 4, roleplaying as a Malkavian, or playing horror games that would give normal people nightmares. She also likes narrative adventures.