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SteelSeries Arctis 1 vs 3 (2020): Comparing SteelSeries’ Affordable Gaming Headsets

When it comes to gaming peripherals, it’s hard to go wrong with SteelSeries. That applies even for its low-end gears. The Arctis 1 and Arctis 3 are two gaming headsets that fit the criteria. They won’t break the bank and still provide decent sound quality. Between the two, there aren’t that many differences, save for a few features here and there. We made this guide to clear them up and help you decide which one will suit you better.

SteelSeries Arctis 1 vs 3 Comparison Chart

ModelSteelSeries Arctis 1SteelSeries Arctis 3
SteelSeries Arctis 1 Wired Gaming Headset – Detachable Clearcast Microphone – Lightweight...SteelSeries Arctis 3 - All-Platform Gaming Headset - For PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo...
PriceCheck Price on AmazonCheck Price on Amazon
Frequency Response20Hz – 20kHz20Hz – 22kHz
Drivers40mm Neodymium40mm Neodymium
Positional AudioWindows Sonic Spatial AudioWindows Sonic Spatial Audio
MicrophoneDetachable, Noise Canceling, ClearCast BidirectionalRetractable, Noise Canceling, ClearCast Bidirectional
Connection4-Pole 3.5mm Analog, Dual 3.5mm PC Extension4-Pole 3.5mm Analog, Dual 3.5mm PC Cable
Wireless Variant AvailableYes (Lossless 2.4GHz), 20-Hour Battery LifeYes (Bluetooth 4.1), 28-Hour Battery Life
Detachable CableNoYes
Onboard ControlsMic Mute Toggle, Volume WheelMic Mute Toggle, Volume Wheel
CushionMemory Foam, AirWeave FabricMemory Foam, AirWeave Fabric
Weight0.6 lbs0.6 lbs
CompatibilityPC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, MobilePC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, VR, Mobile
Year of Release20192019
ColorsBlackBlack, White

Design

The SteelSeries Arctis 3 arguably looks more stylish than the Arctis 1.

SteelSeries Arctis 1 vs 3 Design
SteelSeries fitted the Arctis 1 (left) with a steel-reinforced headband and the Arctis 3 (right) with a ski goggle headband.

The SteelSeries Arctis 1 has an adjustable steel-reinforced headband, making it a solid pair of gaming cans. However, the Arctis 3 has got it beat on this front with its ski goggle suspension band. This spreads the weight evenly and eliminates pressure points, according to the company. As it turns out, it lives up to the claims.

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One good thing the two have in common is their ear cups. They’re made of memory foam with breathable fabric called AirWeave. Coupled with the ski goggle suspension band, the SteelSeries Arctis 3 makes for one comfortable headset with just the right amount of clamp. In the same vein, the Arctis 1 is also comfy to wear, but it’s not on par with the Arctis 3 in this regard.

As for aesthetics, it’s not too much to say that the SteelSeries Arctis 3 is more sleek than the Arctis 1. The entire Arctis line pretty much looks the same, but the Arctis 1 is more along the lines of a headset with a traditional design. This particularly shows in its headband’s steel chassis wrapped with plastic.

While the SteelSeries Arctis 1’s microphone is detachable, the Arctis 3’s is retractable. There isn’t much to debate here. However, one potential downside to detachable microphones is you could lose them, but a bit of care will go a long way.

The SteelSeries Arctis 1 comes only in black, which is pretty standard. Besides black, the Arctis 3 also comes in white.

Sound Quality

Both the SteelSeries Arctis 1 and Arctis 3 perform well in games, but the Arctis 3 is better when it comes to music.

SteelSeries Arctis 1 vs 3 Sound Quality
The SteelSeries Arctis 1 (left) is more bassy, while the Arctis 3 (right) is more balanced.

SteelSeries says it used the same 40mm drivers of the Arctis 7 on the Arctis 1. By all means, that’s a good thing, but the Arctis 1 doesn’t deliver the same audio quality. In music, its bass overwhelms the rest. In other words, you might find that it drowns out the more delicate details in songs. That’s par for the course for headsets in this price range. However, it works wonders in games, especially in action-packed shooters. In short, you’ll really feel the sound of bullets being fired.

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Meanwhile, you can expect a more balanced audio experience on the SteelSeries Arctis 3. When it comes to gaming, it does a decent job in surround sound mode for shooters. It also balances voices and other sounds well in stereo for RPG games. Neither the treble nor the bass overpowers the other when listening to music to boot.

Both headsets use Windows Sonic Spatial Audio for surround sound. Unfortunately, that means it’ll work only on Microsoft platforms, namely Windows 10 and Xbox One.

With SteelSeries’ proprietary ClearCast, their microphones let your voice come through with clarity. It’s one of the strong points of these gaming cans. You’d be hard pressed to find the same quality on their counterparts in the same price range.

Features

There aren’t that many features to work with on the SteelSeries Arctis 1 and Arctis 3.

SteelSeries Arctis 1 vs 3 Features
Neither the SteelSeries Arctis 1 (left) nor the Arctis 3 (right) have ChatMix control.

Both the SteelSeries Arctis 1 and Arctis 3 have onboard controls you’d expect from gaming cans: a microphone mute toggle and volume control wheel. We would’ve liked to see a ChatMix wheel on both to balance in-game and chat audio without fumbling in the options, though.

One thing to note here is that SteelSeries discontinued SteelSeries Engine support for the Arctis 3, but you can still activate Windows Sonic on it. The Arctis 1 doesn’t support the software either, but its wireless variant does.

Wireless Options

The wireless version of SteelSeries Arctis 1 is compatible with the SteelSeries Engine software.

SteelSeries Arctis 1 vs Arctis 3 Wireless Options
Connectivity-wise, the wireless SteelSeries Arctis 1 (left) uses lossless 2.4GHz, while the wireless Arctis 3 (right) uses Bluetooth 4.1.

The wireless options of the SteelSeries Arctis 1 and Arctis 3 are noticeably different in certain features, including their connection type.

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First off, the wireless SteelSeries Arctis 1 uses a lossless 2.4GHz connection and supports SteelSeries Engine. That means you can tweak the equalizer settings to your liking. It can last up to 20 hours on a single charge.

On the other hand, the wireless SteelSeries Arctis 3 uses a Bluetooth 4.1 connection. As mentioned earlier, it’s no longer compatible with the SteelSeries Engine, which gives the wireless Arctis 1 an edge over it. However, it’s flexible in terms of connectivity in which it can be used wired or wirelessly. It also has a longer battery life of 28 hours.

Verdict

The SteelSeries Arctis 3 gives more bang for the buck.

Despite the price difference, the SteelSeries Arctis 3 provides better value for the money you spend. It’s more comfortable to wear and delivers a more superb audio experience overall. There’s virtually nothing the Arctis 1 can offer that the Arctis 3 doesn’t. Not to mention that the latter even does just about everything better.

Sure, the Arctis 1 provides a more straightforward experience, but it’s a bit too simple. It’s more like a pair of cheap gaming cans with the SteelSeries branding. Still, it’s worth getting if budget is really tight. After all, it performs better than most competitors in its price range.

However, it’s a different story when it comes to their wireless variants. If Engine support is really important to you, then the wireless SteelSeries Arctis 1 is worth choosing over the Bluetooth Arctis 3. Needless to say, these models are more expensive than their wired counterparts.

Last update on 2020-08-08 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Vincent Lanaria
Vincent Lanaria

Senior Editor, researcher and writer passionate about running, cooking, and how technology mixes with the two.