The SteelSeries Arctis 5 offers an impressive mic and a quality soundstage that can be adjusted to your specific preferences. The design is stylish but simple, with subtle RGB lighting that adds a pop of color without overwhelming. Despite a few minor downsides, the Arctis 5 is overall an impressive headset for its reasonable price.
SteelSeries is up there when it comes to trusted gaming accessory brands. Their line of Arctis headsets entered the playing field in 2016 so they have certainly stood the test of time. But the playing field is always growing, and it can sometimes be hard to decide which headset to grab onto in a sea of similar products. Here we take a look at the middle child of the Arctis family – the Arctis 5, sidestepping its younger brother the Arctis 3 and older sister the Arctis 7 for now.
Available from around $76-$100, the SteelSeries Arctis 5 is a popular mid-range headset, which at first glance offers a decent array of features and the promise of a quality soundstage. Let’s see if it measures up.
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Headphone: 20-22000 Hz, Mic:100Hz–10000Hz
Headphone: 98db, Mic: -48db
Headphone: 32 Ohm, Mic: 2200 Ohm
Bidirectional, Noise Cancelation, Retractable
USB or 4-Pole 3.5mm (adaptor included)
3m / 10ft
As far as gaming headsets go, the SteelSeries have kept the aesthetic of the Arctis 5 relatively simple. The headset is one color all over – available in either black or white – with a nice matte finish. The smooth texture comes with a drawback though, as it does mark easily with fingerprints and any scratches would be pretty visible, especially on the black model.
So quite a simple design overall – that is until you fire up the RGB lighting. The ring of light that encircles the ear cup and the glowing SteelSeries logo certainly does make this headset pop, but the debate remains as to whether there is a point to lighting on a headset.
Debate or no debate, SteelSeries have opted for RGB lighting on the Arctis 5, and why not? After all, if you love an LED or two in your gaming set up, why not extend this to your headset too? If anything, it makes them look nice and decorative while they are docked, so we’re not complaining. The lighting color adjustable too, and you can even set it to fade between colors.
Looking at the shape of the Arctis 5, the ear cups are a flattened oval shape which makes for a sleek look. Unlike many other gaming headsets out there, this means you can safely emerge from your gaming cave wearing your Arctis 5, plug into your phone and wear them out and about without looking out of place. The cups are also highly mobile and can be twisted to lay flat when worn around the neck.
The earpads are covered in a soft breathable fabric, with even softer cushioning. Seriously. We’re talking next-level soft and squashy. Thanks to this they feel great on your ears, but even epic softness of these levels comes with a negative. The pads are so cushiony soft that some users have reported their ears touching the inside of the earcup. Main sufferers are glasses-wearers though, so if you’re lucky enough to be blessed with 20/20 vision, you’ll probably be fine.
Let’s look at the headband. The main band of the Arctis 5 doesn’t actually sit on your head – its main purpose is stability and structure. What actually keeps this headset in place is a stretchy fabric strap found just under the main headband. This strap is adjustable and kept in place with Velcro, so you can set it to exactly your size.
A nice detail of the strap is the pattern found on the underside. It’s also interchangeable, with a range of straps available in different colors and patterns which is fun. Even though it feels comfortable and light on your head, at first glance this floppy strap does make the Arctis 5 look a little less sharply engineered than some of SteelSeries’ competitors.
But, once you get your head around just how comfortable and practical the strap really is, you will most likely grow to love it. And we must admit SteelSeries has done a good job of making this strap look as good as possible, and it actually makes the headset look a little sporty.
Features and Performance
Every great story starts with an unboxing – so what better place to start? Pry open the packaging and alongside the headset itself, you’ll find a headphone cable, a 3.5mm adaptor and a USB sound cord. It’s this USB cord, officially called the ‘ChatMix dial’, that sets the Arctis 5 apart from the Arctis 3.
The ChatMix dial allows you to switch easily between and balance the sound of the game and chat audio. It also comes with a helpful rubber grip so it can be attached to the desk. This is a nice extra to have, but if you would be happy without it, it could be worth saving $30 and going for an Arctis 3 instead (you would also be giving up on other features though such as the RGB lighting).
Of course, the number one thing most users are interested in when it comes to a good gaming headset is the sound quality. So how does the Arctis 5 measure up? The latest edition of this headset comes with upgraded DTS 2.0. With this upgrade comes a nice balanced surround sound which is good compared to other headsets of a similar price.
As is quite common with surround sound, you may experience a little detail separation when using this feature. This has been lessened through with the update to DTS 2.0, and what you do lose in accuracy and detail, you gain in immersive, broadened sound experience.
The overall soundstage of the Arctis 5 is solid. It’s loud and detailed with no distortion at loud volumes, and the surround sound can be switched off if you’re all about the detail. The bass has a particularly strong quality with even a bit of vibration, all without overshadowing the trebles. Impressive!
The above is true for PC use, at least. If you choose to use the audio jack extension to connect to a console or even to your phone, prepare yourself for a dip in the epic soundstage experienced on PC. A little disappointing, but forgivable when you think about all the good points of this headset.
Looking at the microphone, it’s retractable and very pliable but equally stays in place in just the position that you put it in. Be prepared to hear all the movements as you do set the mic in position, though, as it really does crackle loudly in your ear as you adjust it. The mic is also easily muted with small buttons on the side of the headset and overall gives a good solid performance.
To look at, the mic ending is quite large and does give us slight ‘mission control’ vibes – but I quite like this look! Our favorite thing about the mic, though, is that it lights up when muted. Never again will you second guess yourself over whether you’ve already muted or not – you’ll have a glowing reminder right in front of your face.
Another feature worth noting is the audio share option. You’ll find a 3.5mm input jack on the Arctis 5 that your friend can plug into to share your listening experience. Nice to have, but we’re not sure many people will actually use this that often.
The Arctis 5 uses SteelSeries Engine software. Here you can take ultimate control of your Arctis 5 and set it to suit your specific preferences. The DTS settings can be adjusted (or switched off) here. You’ll find some preloaded sound presets but you can also customize your own too.
Engine is also used to adjust the RGB color settings, with a nice range of options available. Choose one color, or jazz it up with color shift if you’re feeling wild. There are lots you can do with the mic settings, too. Use the sidetone settings to adjust how much you can hear your own voice, or use the ‘live mic preview’ button, to hear how your voice sounds to other players.
Thanks to the live mic preview, you can go straight into a game with the perfect mic balance and avoid any complaints from your fellow gamers (and if they do complain, you can be smug in the knowledge the problem lies with their sound settings and not your finely tuned mic!)
As with any software for a gaming headset, there are lots of customization options that many users will never get around to using. But they are nice to have and help make the Arctis 5 good value for money.
For a reasonable price, you will get a lot out of the SteelSeries Arctis 5. The sound signature is detailed and balanced, with the option of surround sound if you want to widen your listening experience (at the detriment of some detail separation). For PC, the sound is great. For console, we’ve had better.
The design is tasteful, with nice customization options particularly in the interchangeable patterned head strap and the adjustable RBG lighting (if headset lighting is your thing!).
Is there a better gaming headset out there? Sure. But the Arctis 5 ticks a lot of boxes for a headset of its range, and for around $76-$100, depending on where you buy, you get a lot for your money.
- Looks good
- Good sound and mic quality
- Great software
- Some loss in sound quality when used with a console or phone
- Surround sound causes some loss in detail
- Easily marked outer material