SteelSeries Arena 9 review: Bringing 5.1 surround sound back to gaming PCs

When upon a time, desktop laptop or computer speakers essentially mattered. That was a lot more than a ten years back, extensive before gaming headsets stuffed the land and wireless Bluetooth headphones ended up any very good. In the early 2000’s, much more people today also had actual desktops computers chained to desks, so it was truly worth investing a bit in good audio. SteelSeries’ new Arena 9 encompass seem Computer speakers reminds me of that period, a time when I eagerly strung cables throughout my dorm room to link Logitech’s famous Z-680 encompass audio speakers. (Apologies for everyone who lived near me. I tried using to continue to keep points civil, I swear!)

Luckily for us, it’s not as tough to go surround sound now – though it will nonetheless price you a ton. The $550 Arena 9 link around USB, so you really don’t have to worry about a specialised audio card, and they aspect wi-fi rear satellites, which only require to be linked to energy and each individual other. There’s no need to string everything to the entrance speakers. That solves a huge discomfort point, and it makes the Arena 9 a much far more feasible possibility for the cable-averse. But is location up a encompass sound program really worth it when gaming headphones are more cost-effective, more immersive and kinder to your neighbors? You will have to come to a decision that for on your own.


  • Great two-way speaker style
  • Superb audio good quality for gaming and motion pictures
  • Hassle-free wireless rears
  • Bluetooth assistance


  • Created-in speaker cables may possibly be hard to fix
  • Subwoofer is tiny for a program this dimension
  • No onboard surround audio processing
  • No 5.1 surround for PS5
  • Average construct top quality

Assuming you do want to fill your home with speakers, the Arena 9 are notable for existing at all. There usually are not numerous Computer possibilities currently, and they are typically numerous many years aged, like Logitech’s Z906 (produced in 2011). You could, of course, established up an amplifier and hook up whichever speakers you would like, but anybody undertaking that almost certainly is just not in the market place for a self-contained package. SteelSeries is putting a sensitive equilibrium amongst complexity and convenience – for the most part, I believe the Arena 9 is a good results.

SteelSeries Arena 9 desktop speakers

Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

In the box, you will uncover two front speakers (equally outfitted with RGB lights along their foundation and rears), two wireless rear satellites, a center channel, a regulate module, and a 6.5-inch downward-firing subwoofer. The two-way speakers do not just truly feel high-finish, but their matte plastic casing ought to blend in with your keyboards and other Pc elements. They are also far lighter than I envisioned, which is rarely a good sign with audio equipment. My greatest gripe, even though, arrives down to the cabling. The entrance and heart speakers are really hard-wired to the rear of the subwoofer. From what I can tell, there’s no quick way to change individuals cables, so you happen to be trapped chucking the overall speaker if something goes erroneous (or receiving extremely common with soldering). I’d substantially instead have removable cables in its place of superfluous RGB lighting.

SteelSeries Arena 9 subwoofer rear


I can comprehend why SteelSeries chose to include things like all of its audio inputs at the rear of the subwoofer. It will get much more cables away from your desk, and it’s a wise put to property the amplifier and power components. But which is also the only put with an aux relationship, so you may need to string a very long 3.5mm cable if you want to plug in any other equipment. Luckily, there’s also Bluetooth assistance, which provides you an quick way to wirelessly stream tunes when your computer is off. For products with electronic audio, like the PlayStation 5, you can connect them via an optical cable (there’s also optical output port to pass seem to other equipment).

Regretably, the PS5 can only output 2.1 seem (two entrance speakers and the subwoofer) in excess of optical or USB. You could upmix that audio across all of your speakers by way of the control pod, but that would nonetheless just be simulated encompass. Which is a disgrace for any individual who desires a technique that can seamlessly get the job done across their gaming units and personal computers. It really is also doubly disappointing because the Logitech Z-680 managed Dolby Electronic and DTS surround processing from consoles and other units all the way again in 2003 for just $400. For the selling price, I am surprised the Arena 9 are unable to manage their possess decoding.

SteelSeries Arena 9 desktop speakers

Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

At the very least SteelSeries isn’t really trying to drive the Arena 9 as an excellent surround audio procedure for your house theater. What is noteworthy is that it’s the initially 5.1 gaming speakers that perform about a single USB relationship. Normally, Computer speakers either rely on three 3.5mm jacks or a digital link like optical or coaxial. Because it really is relying on USB, set up is basic – even for notebook buyers, who would generally have to get some form of exterior audio card to use a 5.1 process.

It only took a number of minutes to get the Arena 9’s entrance and heart speakers hooked up to the subwoofer, although the rears located homes on bookshelves powering my desk chair. Individuals took a bit extra exertion, given that I had to come across a nearby outlet to power the appropriate rear speaker, as very well as string a cable throughout the ground to the left just one. (If you’ve obtained a massive room, you can also use an additional long RCA cable to link those people speakers.) On my desk, the Arena 9 seems cleaner than the big KEF Q150 bookshelves I commonly use.

SteelSeries Arena 9 desktop speakers

Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

I will be honest, even though, I care far extra about seem excellent than aesthetics when it will come to speakers. Irrespective of their somewhat modest size and ordinary establish good quality, the Arena 9 sounds amazing across video games and videos. The opening monster assault in Netflix’s The Sea Beast rocked my business with explosions, the seems of big waves and the rumble of a pissed off monster. Whilst taking part in Halo Infinite, I felt totally immersed in each individual firefight, so considerably so that I could obviously listen to enemies creeping up powering me on the rear speakers. One particular Halo Infinite match, which geared up anyone with rocket launchers and skewers, sounded like I was entrance row in a 15-moment extensive fireworks display.

The Arena 9s are finest when you can crank the quantity as a great deal as possible – building them unwell-suited for flats and more compact houses. (Do as I say, not as I did.) They are peppy and energetic plenty of for online games and films with massive soundscapes. I would have liked to see a larger subwoofer, while. A 6.5-inch ported device for a technique this high priced just feels limiting. I experienced to push the subwoofer’s quantity dial nearly to its optimum to get a enjoyable volume of reduced-finish punch. A much larger sub wouldn’t will need to perform so difficult.