SteelSeries’ new Arena gaming speakers come in three flavors: big, huge, and massive

SteelSeries is introducing a new line of gaming-focused desktop PC speakers that provide booming sound and options for RGB lighting and 5.1 surround. The new SteelSeries Arena speakers are split into three different products — Arena 3, Arena 7, and Arena 9 — offering options ranging from simple to more ornate setups. I got to try out the Arena 3 and Arena 7, which I envision most people opting for over the pricey top-tier model. Here’s what they’re all about.

Starting at the bottom, the $129.99 Arena 3 is a no-frills two-channel arrangement with four-inch drivers for PCs, Macs, and other devices via its 3.5mm connection. The Arena 7 takes the base speakers and adds programmable RGB lighting, a floor-standing subwoofer, and PlayStation compatibility thanks to a USB-A connection — for a midrange $299.99 price. The top-of-the-line model, the Arena 9, ups 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 pad with OLED display that plugs into the woofer, all for $549.99.

Also releasing alongside the speakers is a $99.99 ear-mounted Arena wireless microphone. It’s like a headset mic without the headset, hooking over your ear like you’re in special ops and allowing you to 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 aimed squarely at Razer’s aging Nommo line from 2018, which offers similar-looking audio setups 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 offer the same or more for less money than the Razer line, with a design that’s a little more refined — if still quite gamer-y. While the Nommo Pro carries THX certification and Dolby virtual surround support in its high-end 2.1 setup, the Arenas instead opt for bigger drivers across the range (four-inch compared to Razer’s three-inch) and actual surround sound at the top end 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 front-facing bass ports — as well as quick access to a 3.5mm headset output on the rear of the right speaker. Their sound is also tunable via EQ controls in SteelSeries’ Sonar Audio software, which is a free download, and the speakers can be tilted on their stands to direct the sound upward.

At the midrange, the Arena 7 could turn out to be the “just right” cup of porridge for those that want a dedicated 6.5-inch subwoofer and some RGB flare without going full-surround overkill. This setup sacrifices one of the 3.5mm inputs of the Arena 3, but it adds optical audio for more serious sound setups. All the major inputs are plugged into the subwoofer, though the right speaker maintains that convenient headset jack beneath its shine-through LED dome. Since the Area 7 and 9 connect via USB, SteelSeries’ software suite allows the LEDs to match what’s displayed on-screen and makes it possible to custom tailor the sound profile and EQ. That USB plug is also what allows these mid and high-tier speaker setups to be used with PlayStation consoles, but sadly, the surround sound-capable Arena 9 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 them offering a nice, full sound without making my desk setup look too alien or completely garish. (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 shows a lot of promise for its capabilities and value. It gets very loud, and that woofer can rattle small objects off of your desk if you really crank it, though the Arena 7’s volume also felt at times a little prone to go from too low to too loud with just the slightest adjustments. It may require some software tuning to get it just right for your setup.

Perhaps it’s my personal aversion to desktop surround sound, fueled by my teenage years when a 7.1 Creative Labs setup gave me more wire clutter than actual sound quality, but the Arena 9 seems like a lot at first blush. 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 convenient 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. Just 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.