January 30, 2023

Again within the day, desktop audio system actually mattered. That was over a decade in the past, lengthy earlier than gaming headsets hit the bottom and wi-fi Bluetooth headphones have been a factor. Within the early 2000s, increasingly more individuals had actual desktops strapped to their desks, so it was value investing just a little in respectable audio. The brand new Enviornment 9 encompass sound pc audio system from SteelSeries remind me of the period after I hungrily ran cables throughout my dorm room to hook up the legendary Logitech Z-680 encompass sound audio system. (I apologize to everybody who lived close to me. I swear I attempted to behave decently!)

Fortunately, it is not that onerous to improve to encompass sound as of late, though it would nonetheless price you some huge cash. The $550 Enviornment 9 connects by way of USB, so you do not have to fret a few devoted sound card, and so they characteristic wi-fi rear satellites that solely have to be linked to an influence supply and to one another. You needn’t tie something to the entrance audio system. This solves an enormous downside and makes the Enviornment 9 a way more viable possibility for individuals who do not like cables. However do you have to set up a encompass sound system when gaming headphones are cheaper, extra immersive, and kinder to your neighbors? You’ll have to resolve this for your self.


  • Glorious two-way speaker design
  • Improbable sound high quality for video games and flicks
  • Handy wi-fi again panels
  • Bluetooth assist


  • Constructed-in speaker cables could be exhausting to repair
  • Subwoofer too small for this measurement system
  • No built-in encompass sound processing
  • No 5.1 encompass sound for PS5
  • Common construct high quality

Assuming you need to fill your room with audio system, the Enviornment 9s are notable for having them in any respect. There aren’t many PC options at the moment, and so they’re principally a number of years outdated, just like the Logitech Z906 (launched in 2011). You’ll be able to, after all, set up an amplifier and join any audio system, however whoever does this most likely would not need to purchase a standalone equipment. SteelSeries strikes a fragile stability between complexity and usefulness – for essentially the most half I believe Enviornment 9 is successful.

SteelSeries Arena 9 desktop speakers

Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

Within the field you may discover two entrance audio system (each with RGB lighting alongside the bottom and rear), two wi-fi rear satellites, a middle channel, a management module, and a 6.5-inch downward-firing subwoofer. The 2-way audio system do not appear high-end, however their matte plastic housing ought to mix in with the keyboard and different PC elements. They’re additionally a lot lighter than I anticipated, which is never an excellent signal for audio tools. My greatest gripe, nevertheless, comes all the way down to the cable. The entrance and middle audio system are hardwired to the rear of the subwoofer. So far as I can inform, there isn’t any simple approach to exchange these cables, so if something goes incorrect (or in case you’re excellent at soldering), you may must throw the entire speaker out. I might have most well-liked removable cables as a substitute of additional RGB lighting.

Rear subwoofer SteelSeries Arena 9

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I can perceive why SteelSeries determined to place all their audio inputs behind the subwoofer. It retains extra cables off your desk and is a great place to position your amp and energy elements. But it surely’s additionally the one place with further connectivity, so you may want a protracted 3.5mm cable if you wish to join every other units. Fortunately, there’s additionally Bluetooth assist, which supplies you a simple approach to wirelessly stream tunes whereas your pc is off. Digital audio units such because the PlayStation 5 could be linked by way of an optical cable (there may be additionally an optical output port to ship audio to different tools).

Sadly, the PS5 can solely output 2.1 audio (two entrance audio system and a subwoofer) by way of an optical or USB port. You’ll be able to combine this sound on all of your audio system by way of the management field, however it would nonetheless simply be an imitation of encompass sound. It is a disgrace for anybody who needs a system that may run seamlessly on their gaming programs and computer systems. It is also doubly disappointing because the Logitech Z-680 dealt with Dolby Digital and DTS encompass sound from consoles and different units again in 2003 for simply $400. Contemplating the worth, I am stunned the Enviornment 9 cannot deal with native decoding.

SteelSeries Arena 9 desktop speakers

Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

At the very least SteelSeries is not making an attempt to market the Enviornment 9 as the last word dwelling theater encompass sound system. Notably, these are the primary 5.1 gaming audio system to work over a single USB connection. Sometimes, PC audio system use both three 3.5mm jacks or a digital connection akin to optical or coaxial. Because it makes use of USB, setup is simple – even for laptop computer customers who often must buy some sort of exterior sound card to make use of the 5.1 system.

It solely took a couple of minutes to attach the entrance and middle audio system of the Enviornment 9 to the subwoofer, whereas the rear audio system have been positioned on the bookshelves behind my chair. It took just a little extra effort as I needed to discover a close by outlet to energy the best rear speaker and likewise run a cable throughout the ground to the left. (In case you have a big area, you may as well use an prolonged RCA cable to attach these audio system.) On my desk, the Enviornment 9 appears to be like cleaner than the massive KEF Q150 bookshelves I often use.

SteelSeries Arena 9 desktop speakers

Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

Nonetheless, to be trustworthy, I care much more about sound high quality than aesthetics relating to audio system. Regardless of its comparatively small measurement and common construct high quality, the Enviornment 9 sounds improbable in video games and flicks. The primary monster assault in a Netflix collection. sea ​​animal shook my workplace with explosions, the sound of large waves, and the roar of an indignant monster. Through the sport Halo Infinite, I felt fully immersed in each firefight, a lot in order that I might clearly hear the enemies sneaking up behind me from the rear audio system. One Halo Infinite The match, during which everybody was provided with rocket launchers and skewers, gave the impression of I used to be within the entrance row in a 15-minute fireworks show.

Enviornment 9s are greatest suited when you’ll be able to max out the quantity, making them poorly suited to residences and small properties. (Do as I say, not as I do.) They’re peppy and punchy sufficient for video games and flicks with giant soundscapes. However the subwoofer would really like extra. A 6.5-inch ported unit appears limiting for such an costly system. I needed to crank the subwoofer’s quantity nearly all the best way to get a satisfying quantity of bass. A giant submarine would not must work so exhausting.

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