SteelSeries introduces a new line of gaming-focused desktop PC speakers that offer explosive sound and options for RGB lighting and 5.1 surround. Split into three different products – Arena 3, Arena 7 and Arena 9 – the new SteelSeries Arena speakers offer options ranging from simple to more ornate setups. I got to try the Arena 3 and Arena 7, which I imagine most people opt for the expensive top model. This is what it’s all about.
From the bottom, the $129.99 Arena 3 is a no-nonsense two-channel arrangement with four-inch drivers for PCs, Macs, and other devices via the 3.5mm jack. The Arena 7 takes the basic speakers and adds programmable RGB lighting, a floorstanding subwoofer and PlayStation compatibility thanks to a USB-A connection – for a mid-range price of $299.99. The flagship model, the Arena 9, elevates the formula to a 5.1 surround setup by adding a center wedge speaker, two wireless wall-mountable rear channels and a small desktop control panel with OLED display that plugs into the woofer, all for $549.99.
In addition to the speakers, a $99.99 ear-mount Arena wireless microphone will also be released. It’s like a headset mic without the headset, which hooks over your ear like you’re in special operations and you can chat while listening through the Arena speakers. It charges via USB-C and uses a USB-C dongle (it also comes with a USB-A adapter) for 2.4GHz wireless on PC, PlayStation and Mac.
These SteelSeries speakers seem entirely focused on Razer’s aging 2018 Nommo line, which offers similar audio settings of 2.0, 2.0 with RGB and 2.1 with RGB and a subwoofer from $129.99 to $599.99. Each of the Arenas offers the same or more for less than the Razer line, with a design that’s a little more refined – though still quite gamer. While the Nommo Pro has THX certification and Dolby virtual surround support in its high-end 2.1 lineup, the Arenas instead opt for larger drivers across the entire range (four-inch compared to Razer’s three-inch) and true surround. sound at the top for a lower price.
The budget-friendly Arena 3 2.0 speakers may lack fancy features like RGB lighting, but they allow up to two wired 3.5mm devices and Bluetooth connections to pump through the four-inch drivers and bass ports on the front – as well as fast access to a 3.5mm headset output on the back of the right speaker. Their sound is also tunable via EQ controls in SteelSeries’ Sonar Audio software, which is free to download, and the speakers can be tilted on their stands to direct the sound upwards.
In the mid-range, the Arena 7 could prove to be the “just right” cup of porridge for those wanting a dedicated 6.5-inch subwoofer and some RGB flare without becoming full-surround overkill. This setup sacrifices one of the Arena 3’s 3.5mm inputs, but adds optical audio for more serious sound setups. All the main inputs are connected to the subwoofer, although the right speaker retains that handy headset jack under its translucent LED dome. Since the Area 7 and 9 connect via USB, SteelSeries’ software suite ensures that the LEDs match what is displayed on the screen and it is possible to customize the sound profile and EQ. That USB plug also allows these mid and high speaker setups to be used with PlayStation consoles, but unfortunately the Arena 9 with surround sound is limited to 2.1 output on Sony’s compatible systems.
In my limited testing of the Arena 3 and Arena 7 speakers with my desktop PC and Mac laptop, I found that they offered nice, full sound without making my desk setup look too alien or completely gaudy. (If you don’t mind a touch of RGB, mind you.) I normally prefer a 2.0 setup to keep things off the floor, but the Arena 7 promises a lot for its capabilities and value. It gets very loud, and that woofer can rattle small objects off your desk when you actually turn it on, although the Arena 7’s volume was also a little prone to going from too low to too loud at times with just the slightest adjustments. It may require some software tuning to get it just right for your setup.
Maybe it’s my personal aversion to desktop surround sound fueled by my teenage years when a 7.1 Creative Labs setup gave me more cable clutter than actual sound quality, but the Arena 9 seems a lot At first sight. Paying as much as a flagship game console for a desktop 5.1 speaker setup sounds a bit irrational when most people just opt for a gaming headset – and SteelSeries has some strong options to consider there.
Even with the prevalence of wireless and wired gaming headsets, there’s a nifty charm to having a nice computer speaker setup that gives you better-sounding audio for everything from your games, music, and videos to even work-from-home Zoom calls. Try not to accidentally kick the subwoofer under your desk. That thing is heavy with some pretty sharp corners, and no amount of bass or good sound will drown out the tears.