We have received so many requests to take a look at the SteelSeries Arctis 5 simply because it’s in that sweet price point of $99. Let’s see how it stacks up based on all the claims of the best microphone on a gaming headset and other claims that are related to Esports that we are going to ignore.
The SteelSeries Arctis 5 is competitively priced compared to the GSP 300 from Sennheiser, which are awesome and they are priced also the same as the newest member of the G series, the Logitech G433 or the very well-known HyperX Cloud 2.
|Driver Size||40mm||DTS 7.1|
|Frequency Response||20-22,000KHz||RGB Lighting|
|Sensitivity||98 db||Ear Cup Rotation|
|Impedance||32 Ohm||Box Contents|
|T.H.D.||< 3%||Product Information Guide|
|Magnet Type||Neodynium||Wireless Transmitter|
|Microphone||4-pole 3.5mm Cable|
|Frequency Response||100hz-10,000KHz||Charging Cable|
|Pattern||Bidirectional||Toslink Optical Cable|
|Sensitivity||-48 db||Headset Stand|
|Location||On Ear Cup (Retractable)||Part Number|
Design & Build Quality
The body is very light and it’s made entirely of plastic, but nothing creaks which is good and I do like the matte coating. There’s this one visible joint point though, between the 2 plastic pieces on the headband that I wish was smooth, but it’s not a big deal.
The headband is a 2 piece design with an adjustable fabric that is available in multiple colors and it supports the headset pretty well for small to medium sized heads. If you expand the fabric piece for a larger head, it will be the plastic head band that will hold the headset and not the fabric.
For me personally, the size adjustment is fine even with lots of hair, but because the ear cups swivel to sit on your neck like this, it’s a bit tighter than I want and the fabric could be slightly smoother because if there’s any movement, it’s just not pleasant. You have to get into a habit of removing the headset with both hands, otherwise the joint on one side or the other absorbs the weight and the rotation of the headset, which in the long run I think might cause the joint to fail.
The ear cups however, feel quite nice on the skin, unlike the fabric on the head band. They can breathe and there’s the angle drivers inside the ear cup for better audio direction. My only point of feedback would be to add more padding in the center of the ear cup to avoid any contact with the plastic housing underneath it.
On the left side, we get a mic mute button, that sticks out and is easy to find, plus a red LED is visible on the mike itself when you mute it, which is awesome. There’s also a volume wheel right here that has very little travel, but it completely mutes the volume at the minus position.
There’s the USB connection and a 3.5 mm input jack that is used for audio sharing, which is kind of strange. You can plug in a set of head phones and that person will hear what you hear. I cannot think of a situation where I would personally use this feature to audio share with a buddy or something.
I know it’s totally unnecessary on a gaming headset and I wish I could disable the SteelSeries logo, but the thin ambient strip around the ear cups is uniform, so it’s very visually appealing and can be configured with a few motion effects and per side color control or they can be completely disabled.
The microphone on the SteelSeries Arctis 5 sounds really good. Good low end pick up, it’s not nasally, clear vocals, there’s only a tiny bit of digital noise in the background when noise reduction is disabled. On its medium setting, if I stop speaking there’s only a tiny bit of digital noise that you can hear.
Keep in mind the microphone will still be on even if it’s inserted inside the headset to avoid bursting any ear drums. If your volume is maxed out and people are listening to you avoid handling the microphone because all that is severely picked up. It’s just unpleasant, keep your distance from the microphone because it is sensitive, you know, don’t eat the microphone, but yeah very happy with the microphone.
In the package, we get the headphone cable, a 3.5 mm adapter and the USB sound card that also acts as your chat audio mixer. So, if you use TeamSpeak or Skype or other communication applications while gaming, this is a very good way to either mute your chats, so that all you hear is the game or you can just go directly into your communications muting the game completely, or go into that middle and play around with that balance, so it’s a nice thing to have. Plus, it’s a very fitting feature to have for a gaming headset, just double check that your playback devices are configured properly.
I do like the modularity aspect of the SteelSeries Arctis 5, but this also introduces many points of failure and the main headphone cable is using the not so common USB mini B 8 pin cable. So, if you’re plugging this into your phone or a game controller, you need to use the 3.5 mm headphone adapter that is a 4 pole plug and will carry the microphone signal as well. Because of both USB and analog connections it is cross platform compatible, but the RGB lighting of course requires that USB connection.
In terms of audio performance, I think the SteelSeries Arctis 5 is a fun headset, really nice detailed sound signature without any harsh treble. The bass is fine, still allowing those deep hits to come through without overpowering the rest of the frequencies and because this is run through a USB, there is enough power so that you don’t have to worry about if the volume too low and plus the very good thing is there’s no distortion at higher volumes.
We have very good stereo imaging for spatial orientation. The sound stage is a bit small, compared to what I get on my Sennheiser Game One. In battlegrounds for example, you can pinpoint where the distant fire is coming from, but you don’t get that sense of that super large environment.
I could hear that player sneaking below me and waiting for me to come down and I knew exactly where he was, but then my aim failed me. So, for competitive play, it’s very good because the stereo spatial detail is excellent, but as soon as you enable that surround sound with DTS:X, it just completely falls apart in the audio department.
So, with DTS:X enabled, we lose all detail separation, so there’s no longer these elements that you can pinpoint and hear exactly what’s happening. It’s like a soup of audio without those distinct elements.
Many important audio cues like your footsteps, other people’s footsteps and incoming fire direction gets completely destroyed so you lose some positional awareness. You do gain a bit of that larger sense of the environment, but with the compromise of completely destroying the proper sound signature.
This makes me angry because am I the only one who thinks surround sound should die? You get much better positional accuracy and much better sound stage and much better detail element separation in your audio cues in stereo mode and there’s no need to cripple very good drivers on this headset with virtual software surround sound.
In the week I’ve been playing around with this headset, I’ve experienced a few hiccups such as, disconnection issues from the main USB port, where the headset would light up, the USB sound card would light up, but the headset would not actually show up in the software, nor in the properties until I restarted my system.
I’ve also experienced this weird volume glitch, where the volume both on the headset and then the software was maxed out, but I was not able to hear it maxed out. It was kind of low and quiet and it would only fix itself when I would move the slider back and forth and then back to 100%. Both of these issues, luckily seem to be software related, so the volume glitch only happened once, while the headset disconnection issue happened to me twice in the week I’ve had the headset.
I think SteelSeries has done a good job with the Arctis 5, making sure to check off as many of those marketing points as possible for that sweet $99. Really tasteful RGB illumination, nice design, matte black coating aside from this weird little joint point, comfortable, multiple head band colors and a really good microphone with excellent noise reduction.
The only concern would be for the size, because they don’t expand and they only rely on this top fabric head band for size expansion, which might be an issue for larger heads.