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SteelSeries’ new Arctis 1 Wireless headset brings lag-free wireless audio to the Switch

SteelSeries’ new Arctis 1 Wireless headset brings lag-free wireless audio to the Switch

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A headset that’s as versatile as the Switch

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Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

If you own a Nintendo Switch, you’ve probably spent a fair amount of time researching the best ways to stream game audio to your Bluetooth headphones. Products like Genki’s Audio and Twelve South’s AirFly make it possible to do this, but in my experience, it’s not without introducing a significant amount of lag.

SteelSeries’ new Arctis 1 Wireless headset starts shipping today, and inside of its box comes a metaphorical silver bullet that will make it a must-have for Switch users, in particular: a USB-C receiver that, when plugged into the bottom of your Switch, can immediately, effortlessly stream game audio to the headset. This headset uses 2.4GHz wireless instead of Bluetooth, and the result is exactly what you’d want: there’s no noticeable lag, it doesn’t require pairing or charging, and it sounds great.

The Arctis 1 Wireless is a capable wireless audio peripheral that works with Switch as well as several other gaming platforms, including PCs, Android devices, PS4, and will work with the Google Stadia when it releases. You can use the included 3.5mm cable to plug it into an Xbox One controller. SteelSeries tells us that Samsung phones don’t work at the moment with this headset's microphone (audio output will work fine), and the jury is out on whether the Switch Lite will support audio-out through its USB-C port.

I’ve been using this headset for the past few weeks. At $99, it’s not fair to expect these to be as comfortable as my Sony 1000X M3 over-ear headphones, and they’re not (nor do they sound as good). If not for the USB-C receiver, I wouldn’t be as eager to endure this headset’s large ear cups and plastic-clad design, so it’s good that SteelSeries did include it in the box. (Also, SteelSeries, we need to have a word: these charge via Micro USB despite shipping with a brilliant USB-C receiver.)

But I had to choose between the two when I went on a flight last week, and I was surprised by how quickly I opted for the Arctis 1 Wireless. Of course, it helps that I’m an avid Switch player who wants to enjoy Fire Emblem: Three Houses during my every waking moment. It’s also a testament to how well this headset hits the target it’s aiming for.

As far as using the headset is concerned, turning the volume up and down is intuitive with its textured volume wheel. There’s a mute switch that you can toggle, too, when you’ve plugged in the included microphone. If you’re using it with a phone or tablet, the power button acts secondarily as a multifunction button. Clicking it once pauses the music; clicking twice skips songs.

It’s able to work well wirelessly across a variety of devices since the receiver is a plug-and-play affair with most USB-C devices. If your Windows 10 PC or macOS computer doesn’t have a USB-C port, SteelSeries includes a USB-C-in to USB-A-out cable. I thought that moving the USB-C receiver from one device to the other would become a pain, but it requires no more effort than switching between Bluetooth devices with my Sony headphones; when I’m on the train, I can hot-swap the receiver from my phone to my Switch, and the headset quickly picks it up. Then at work, I can pop it into the receiving end of the cable to start listening to music on my laptop.

The Arctis 1 Wireless is nearly as versatile as the Switch

Gaming or not, the Arctis 1 Wireless comes with a few issues. Depending on where you use it, the headset’s reliance on the 2.4GHz band can be its Achilles’ heel. I usually had to keep my phone in my breast pocket instead of my pants pocket while walking through downtown Manhattan or else the signal would get choppy. Then again, your locale might not be so crowded with competing signals.

I won’t be ditching my Sony headphones completely for these, but they’ve found a place in my repertoire of essential tech gadgets — especially when I travel.

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