Nintendo’s decision to handle the Switch’s online voice chat through a smartphone app was innovative, to put it in the kindest possible terms. It also made finding a good headset for the system next to impossible, which is why we brought up the need to buy a silly licensed product just for the audio splitter in our guide to gaming headsets.
SteelSeries has since pushed us toward the Arctis 3 Bluetooth headset as another possible solution, and sent a pair to try for ourselves. The $129.99 set of headphones comes with an interesting feature set for the price, and delivered on the promise of being a better way to handle online voice chat for the Switch while holding its own in other areas as well.
The main draw is the fact that it can handle audio through 3.5mm cables as well as a Bluetooth connection to your PC or mobile device at the same time. This allows you to connect the headphones to your Switch for in-game audio while you’re connected to your smartphone through Bluetooth for voice chat on the Switch, or you can connect the headphones to your PlayStation 4 or Xbox One using the cable while piping in sound from another Bluetooth source if you want to stay on Discord or listen to a podcast.
You’ll need to mix the audio levels on the source if you’re mixing things this way however, as the headphones themselves only come with a single volume knob.
You can also remove the cable entirely and use the headphones as a standard Bluetooth headset away from your consoles or PC, and this option is made even more attractive by how well the microphone is hidden when retracted into the headset and the lack of “gamer” styling on the hardware itself.
There are no gaudy colors or flashing lights to make the headset look like a toy; SteelSeries kept the hardware’s aesthetics understated and almost bland. They don’t look like hardcore gaming gear, thank the maker, they just look like good headphones.
Sound is clear and and detailed, and delivers the sort of performance you expect for the price and feature set. The cushioning and fit are comfortable enough to wear for extended periods of time without any discomfort. You may need to make a small adjustment to the velcro on the “ski goggle” headband when you first get the headphones, but I’ve passed the hardware around my friends and family and have yet to hear a complaint.
The Arctis 3 Bluetooth headset is well above average when it comes to comfort, which is crucial when SteelSeries so clearly wants this to be hardware you use in a variety of settings for long periods of time.
The combination of wired connections and Bluetooth capability — along with a capable microphone that all but disappears into the headphones themselves — make this the rare piece of equipment that handles a strange situation well while also handling more standard use cases with ease.
It’s a gaming headset that won’t look out of place away from your PC, and sounds good enough while feeling comfortable enough that you’ll want to use it for everything. The Arctis 3 Bluetooth occupies a slightly awkward space in pricing at $129.99 — it’s either expensive for budget headphones or inexpensive for luxury headphones — but the hardware’s versatility is a strong argument in its favor.
You may be able to find headphones that sound a little better at that price if sound quality is your only concern, but it’s unlikely you’ll be able to find competition that looks and feels as good while doing so much.