SteelSeries Arctis 5 Review
Thanks to our good friends at SteelSeries, I recently was given an Arctis 5 headset to review, and I must say that my first impressions were very mixed. It didn’t look flashy, it had a middle-of-the-road feel for both weight and sturdiness and it wasn’t wireless. From someone whose baseline headset is the Logitech G933, it was the exact opposite of what I had become used to. After using the headset for 30+ hours, however, my opinion on it has done a complete reversal.
When I started reviewing headsets, I broke my review down into categories upon which I based the overall quality of the headset. I quickly received feedback that while these categories were helpful in determining if a particular aspect of the device was acceptable, readers were also interest in the less quantifiable aspects of peripherals, my personal and subjective opinion on it. How it feels.
With that in mind, I’m going to delve into my impressions of the headset and then list its technical scores at the bottom for those interested.
As I mentioned at the beginning of the article, as I unboxed the Arctis 5 I had mixed feelings. I tried to keep an open mind, but I couldn’t help comparing it to my previous headsets based on its appearance alone. Besides the lack of wireless functionality (which is an issue for me as I am a pacer) the biggest sticking point was the lack of adjustability on the ear cups. I could not expand the headset to make it fit my big head, and for a headset that retails at $129.99CAD (~$100USD) this seemed to be a deal breaker.
What I quickly realized was that this headset used its elastic band under the headband as its adjustability. I simply had to apply a light amount of force to pull the ear cups comfortably over my ears and the elastic band stretched with me. While I was expecting this to create an uncomfortable upwards pressure on my ears, it did just the opposite. This light upward force alleviated much of the pressure and weight of the headset that is usually felt on the sides of the head.
It was this exact moment that I began to fall in love with the Arctis 5, and appreciate it for the unassuming masterpiece that it is.
Once I recovered from the unexpected comfort level, I began actually using the headset. The clarity and range of sound it delivered rivalled or surpassed anything I had used before. And then I booted up Discord. Apparently, the Arctis 5 is classified as a certified device by Discord and it recommends that I use it for optimal performance! Well, better do that then. The moment that follows my initial Discord test is the most shocking that I will experience with this headset.
I hop into a channel with some friends, not having warned any of them I am using a different audio setup and the very first words I am greeted with are “Wow, I love your new microphone, it sounds even clearer than your usual one!” This had me taken aback completely, as I use a Blue Yeti standalone USB mic as my standard. To have the dinky-looking bendable and retractable microphone on the Arctis 5 provide a clearer sound than that was almost unthinkable.
It was quickly revealed that while it may be very clear, the mic did have the drawback of being much less sensitive and I was forced to adjust my settings accordingly. But still, huge kudos to SteelSeries on that level of performance from a headset mic.
Overall, my experience with the Arctis 5 was nothing but pleasurable. After its subtle first impression gave way to powerful performance and comfort that lasted through 5+ hour gaming sessions, the Arctis 5 earned my respect and admiration.
Sound Quality: 4.5/5 The dynamic range on this headset is all I could ask for. It delivers crisp highs and deep lows simultaneous and without any recognizable distortion. It also offers pinpoint-precise directional cues through its DTS Headphone:X v2.0 surround sound.
Microphone Quality: 5/5 The Arctis 5 rivals $200+ standalone mics in clarity with its ClearCast, Discord-Certified bidirectional microphone. I don’t think there is anything else to be said.
Comfort: 4/5 While it could take some getting used to, I found the elastic headband provided much-welcomed relief from the pressure that headsets put onto the ears and the sides of the head. The ear cups themselves are soft and fit nicely over the ear, providing a long-lasting comfort for those late-night gaming sessions.
Durability: 4/5 The lack of excess moving parts between the headband and ear cups truly creates a feeling a sturdiness in the headset. The flexible and retractable microphone is nigh unbreakable as it is designed to be moved around into various positions.
Compatibility: 3.5/5 While the SteelSeries website says the Arctis 5 is only compatible with PC, Mac and PS4 via USB and mobile devices through the 3.5mm analog jack and does not list the Xbox One at all, I was able to use the headset with my Xbox One by plugging the 3.5mm jack straight into the chat adapter. It does get a little messy with the length of cord and the built-in chat/game equalizer, however, and certain features are only available with PC/Mac.
Overall Value: 4.25/5 Overall, this headset feels like the dark horse of the gaming peripheral world. It sits comfortably in the middle tier of the Arctis lineup, and I must say I would be quite excited to have the opportunity to test the rest of this line and see what improvements could have possibly been made to the Arctis 7 and Arctis Pro.
The performance delivered by this headset is seriously impressive and I can confidently say that those who make the investment in the Arctis 5 will be more than satisfied with everything it has to offer.
For more information on the Arctis 5 and other SteelSeries peripherals, visit: https://steelseries.com/