Review: SteelSeries Arctis 5

Some of the best cups you’ll ever touch

I’ve been using the SteelSeries Arctis 5 as my main headset on my PC since getting them a few weeks back, and frankly, I don’t see myself going back to my far more expensive Astros. This headset fits, keeps my hair from being a mess, doesn’t make me hot, and sounds great.

My favorite headset thus far, but it isn’t without its faults; specifically everything to do with the microphone.

Product: Arctis 5
Manufacturer: SteelSeries
Input: USB (PC), 3.5 mm Headphone Jack (Console)
Output: 7.1 DTS (PC), Stereo (Console)
MSRP: $99.99

I have a huge head and finding things to comfortably fit it has never been easy. I played football in eighth grade and getting a helmet to fit me was difficult, hats never look good on me or fit, and headsets typically feel like they are crushing my head with two sound-producing furnaces.

Thankfully the crack geniuses at SteelSeries have finally created a headset that is both super comfortable and doesn’t make me sweat my balls off when using it for an extended period of time. The cups are big enough to comfortably sit over my ears, and the material is soft and breathable. Instead of using the classic expandable design of other headsets, size is adjusted purely via a flexible band across the top, similar to what you’d find in ski goggles. This means you don’t have plastic resting uncomfortably on your head and the fit is far more adjustable than plastic that snaps into place.

Sound-wise, at least playback, is great. Everything seems balanced quite well without being flat at default settings, though equalization is fully customizable in the SteelSeries Engine software. I’m no audiophile but these just sound better than my Astro A50s, which run $200 more. That said, 7.1 is only supported on PC via USB, while only stereo is available via a 3.5mm plug for consoles, so the A50s are a bit more universal. 

Now for the bad: the microphone. Basically, everything that could be wrong with the microphone is. While it is retractable, the area that it comes out of the headphone is up too high, meaning every time it is extended it must be adjusted downward to your mouth (your face may vary). The microphone detects audio on both sides of the mic, supposedly in an attempt to block out background noise, but in my tests, it does a poor job, easily picking up the sounds of me typing on my mechanical keyboard a normal distance away. While I appreciate that the microphone has a light on it to let you know when it is muted via a button on the back of the left cup, the light is insanely bright, enough to be distracting, especially if you play in the dark.

While the mic quality might be a little better than a cheap basic headset you’d find in the electronics section at a typical store, I wouldn’t buy this headset expecting professional quality. Not terrible for communicating on games, but for podcasts and livestreaming you’ll want something different. The included dongle that allows adjusting the volume between game audio and chat audio serves its purpose but mostly feels in the way since I chose not to use the mic more than absolutely needed.

Aside from a great fit and fantastic playback, the customizable lights on each of the cups is something you won’t find in many (if any) other headsets. Each cup is outlined with a circle of RGB lighting and the SteelSeries logo. I’m not a huge fan of brand names being plastered on my stuff, but these are just too sexy to say no to. Plus you can set each cup to any color you can think of, have them cycle colors of your choosing, or turn them off if you hate turning on anyone fortunate enough to be in the room with you. 

For $100, this headset is hard to beat. You get a super comfy fit, great sound, fancy lights and a not-so-great microphone that is thankfully optional and retractable. Plus you can get this here headset in black or white varieties, or the $50 more expensive wireless version if you hate cables; I’m honestly considering it. SteelSeries has outdone itself and the competition this time. I just hope the second generation can fix the microphone issues.

[This review is based on retail hardware provided by the manufacturer.]

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Jed Whitaker
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