Arctis gaming headphones deliver award-winning sound profiles in virtually any environment. They are comfortable, accurate, and can withstand the occasional issue of rage quitting after a bad beat.
You can find Arctis products in wired or wireless designs for PC, Mac, and Chromebook. They’re also compatible with today’s consoles, including PS5, Xbox, and Nintendo Switch.
When you want to enjoy a great moment online, even if you’re streaming podcasts or audiobooks, two models stand out above the rest when looking at this brand. If you’re in the market for a new headset, consider looking at the Arctis 7 vs Arctis 9 comparison.
Related: Why Podcasters Wear Headphones
History of Arctis Headphones
The SteelSeries headsets were one of the first designs to bring hi-fi audio to the gaming world. Before these products hit store shelves, gamers were taping microphones to their faces or using those wireless receivers for phones to manage online conversations.
Arctis became the first brand to attach a microphone to a headset, so those adaptations were no longer necessary. In doing so, they were accidentally innovative, creating the first gaming headset.
The design is familiar to anyone who has worked in customer service in a call centre over the past 40 years. You receive high-quality audio through the earcups, a chance to speak into the microphone, and a hands-free experience.
Founder Jacob Wolff-Peterson, who most people know as JWP, loved playing Counter-Strike. The first invention to come from the company was a glass surface that allowed for more precision when using a mouse for PC gameplay.
JWP went right after the early professional e-sports players, and that is the approach found when looking at the Arctis 7 vs Arctis 9 comparisons.
The SteelSeries platform was developed in 2007 to support the growing gaming ecosystem that brands like Electronic Arts, Blizzard, and Valve were creating. Although its roots are in PC gaming, consoles and mobile gamers can still experience better audio by upgrading to the Arctis series.
In the company’s first 20 years, it developed over 40 patents, including the first suspended headband for gaming headsets.
Should I Choose the Arctis 7 or the Arctis 9?
The Arctis 7 vs Arctis 9 headphone comparison is relatively straightforward. You’ll find three primary differences to consider when taking a side-by-side look at these products.
First, you can use the Arctis 7 with a wired or wireless connection thanks to an included USB-C dongle. If you want to use the Arctis 9 that way, you can use Bluetooth® or a USB-A dongle.
This difference gives the Arctis 7 about ten more hours of average battery life per charge than the Arctis 9 (30 hours vs 20 hours).
Secondly, you’ll find that the controls are slightly different when looking at the Arctis 7 vs Arctis 9 design elements. You receive a Bluetooth pairing button on the 9 that also doubles as a media control command when connected to a mobile device. You’ll also get active noise cancellation with the 9, which isn’t available with the 7.
Finally, the drivers on the Arctis 7 have the same listed specs as those on the Arctis 9: 20 Hz to 20 kHz frequency response, 32-ohm impedance, and 40mm driver. Although sound quality is subjective, those who listen to the same audio through both headphones typically feel that the Arctis 7 produces authentic, high-quality sounds better.
What to Expect with the SteelSeries Arctis 7
Everything from the SteelSeries Arctis lineup feels sleek and sophisticated. When you pick up the Arctis 7 for the first time, you can feel intuitively that it was built well. The initial impression that the flexible headband offers ensures you can get a custom fit without a massive effort.
The streamlined design ensures you can get a custom fit – and then change it if you need to enhance your comfort.
The Arctis 7 has the chat volume slider and power button on the right ear, while the regular volume controls are on the left. It’s easy to bump the slider if you have lots of physical motion while playing games. That issue isn’t critical, but it could blow out your teammate’s ears if you have a great moment – or your cat likes to talk right into the microphone.
All these controls are switched with the Arctis 9. They’re moved to the right side, including the headphone gain and microphone mute button. The left side of the headphones only has the retractable microphone and the chat-game volume mixer.
One of the nicest features of the Arctis 7 is the portable nature of its design. The earcups are flexible, allowing you to flatten them for easy carrying. It’s a little larger than you might expect, but they don’t feel heavy or cumbersome.
You have black or white as choices with the 7.
What to Expect with the SteelSeries Arctis 9
The Arctis 9 headphones maintain the traditional look of the SteelSeries while creating little features and benefits that add to the user experience from past designs. You receive a dark chassis and an elastic headband with the same portability features.
Everything that feels like an advantage with the Arctis 7 is available with the 9, but you get an L-shaped plug that eliminates the tangles that often happen with the cording in the older models.
It is a tangle-free cord with the 7, but it still gets bound up occasionally.
It uses a lossless 2.4 GHz wireless connection to ensure you receive a lag-free response when gaming. You can also take a simultaneous call with Bluetooth® while on a PC or console connection, use it for music, or even VoIP chat.
The microphone on the 9 is Discord-certified, delivering excellent clarity while offering noise cancellation benefits.
You receive about 20 hours of battery life on a full charge, even if you’re doing some nonstop gaming.
Both options provide a wired connection option with a 3.5mm cable, although you must supply your own for this feature if you purchase the 9.
The basic experience is similar for both headphones. Your question to answer with the Arctis lineup is this: do you prefer to have most of the controls on the left or the right side while gaming or working?
Does the Arctis 9 Deliver a Good Bluetooth Connection?
The issue with the Arctis 9 involves gaming or use at the edge of the dongle’s range. While it’s plugged in, the headset continuously beeps, trying to reconnect. There’s no way to stop that function unless you remove the dongle.
If the dongle came with an on-off switch, it would solve the problem without nearly the same issue. It’s not much of an issue while gaming, but it can be difficult to complete other tasks or finish a home workout with this design.
The primary issue with the Arctis 9 is its bass response. It’s a bit weaker than what you’ll get with the 7, and the audio isn’t as refined. Although it would be fair to say that the entire SteelSeries lineup struggles a little with the lower frequencies, even the 3 does a better job than the 9.
You can make EQ adjustments with the Arctis 9 to create a better audio experience, but it requires a gentle touch and lots of fine-tuning to get it right. The Arctis 7 is usable straight from the box and be improved to eliminate virtually all distortion.
If you’re playing Overwatch or another FPS and want to hear character footsteps, the Arctis 9 delivers. If you don’t care about the bass or some minor distortion, the rest of the 9’s features make it an excellent choice. It just tends to be a little tinny.
User Comfort Options: Arctis 7 vs Arctis 9
The build quality for the Arctis 7 vs Arctis 9 is virtually identical. You receive a steel headband with plenty of flexibility.
You won’t get a vertical adjustment option, but it still gives you the ski-style design that allows you to make things tighter or loser with the Velcro strap.
Both headphones come with mesh padding that won’t block the audio, so the designs feel like an open-back set. It feels a little different than designs using P/U leather, but the pros and cons there are entirely subjective.
Because there is enough breathability, you won’t feel sweat-related moisture building up around your ears during a long gaming or listening session. You can feel some pressure after a few hours, and a sweat ring does develop in a warm room. For the most part, the Arctis lineup stays true to itself with both models to create an excellent lineup.
Microphone Quality: Arctis 7 vs Arctis 9
The raw microphone sound is below-average for both headphones. You can get a better result for your teammates, clans, or conversations with the entry-level mics that most consoles use today.
You’d do better with a wired microphone. There’s no getting around that fact.
SteelSeries has introduced Sonar software that can potentially help with some of the distortion and EQ issues found in this area, but it’s a lot like trying to solve poor diet choices with an hour of exercise each day.
You’re getting the Arctis 7 or the Arctis 9 for the sound quality you hear and not for what you say to others.
If you want to record a podcast, get something else. The audio files you’d record with either product are unsalvageable – and that’s a compliment.
Arctis 7 vs Arctis 9: Which Is Better?
Unless you positively cannot live without Bluetooth for your gaming or listening needs, the Arctis 7 is the better purchase. The audio quality is that much better when comparing the two models.
Although you can gain dual wireless functionality with the Arctis 9, you’ll find less versatility with how the sound comes through – even though both models reportedly use the same 40mm driver.
It’s not unreasonable to reverse this argument to say that the dual functionality and Bluetooth are positive additions that outweigh the changes in sound quality.
That means the decision comes down to each person’s preferences. Both options have strengths and weaknesses, so it depends on how they apply to you to determine which is better.