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SteelSeries Arctis 5 Gaming Headset Review

We Take You Through The Features Of The SteelSeries Arctis 5 Gaming Headset And Ask If It's Worth The Money

Updated: Mar 7, 2022 11:55 am
Steelseries Arctis 5

The Arctis series of gaming headsets from Steelseries is one of the most popular (and lucrative) to grace the peripheral marketplace – with many (including ourselves) crowning the Steelseries Arctis 5 headset as one of the best gaming headsets around. While the Arctis family is made up of several different iterations (1, 3, 5, 7, 9, pro), today we’ll be taking a closer look at the Steelseries Arctis 5 gaming headset.

The Arctis 5 headset hits that perfect sweet spot between price and performance. It comes to shelves at a shade under $100 and ticks many of the boxes users crave when it comes to a gaming headset purchase. While the Arctis range is one of the most attractive-looking headsets in the game, it brings much more to the table than that. With a very well-balanced sound profile that makes both gaming and music sound great, it’s hard to find any real negatives when it comes to this headset.

Specifications

Below we have outlined the main specifications of the Steelseries Arctis 5 gaming headset:

Steelseries Arctis 5 Specs
Headphone Frequency Response20 - 22,000 Hz
WirelessNo
Battery LifeN/A
Drivers40mm Neodymium magnets
MicrophoneUni-directional, noise cancelling microphone
Weight280

Inside the Steelseries Arctis 5 box, we see:

  • SteelSeries Arctis 5 headphones
  • 8-pin USB main audio cable
  • USB ChatMix Dial
  • 1/8” TRRS adapter
  • Manuals

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Setup

The Arctis 5 was a relatively easy headset to set up, however, a couple of fundamental setup steps are required before you can start enjoying this headset. Like all Arctis headsets, the 5’s require the Steelseries Engine in order to utilize some of the unique features this headset offers. Simply go to the product page and download the Engine from there.

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As this headset is fully modular, you will need to plug a few cables in to get things up and running. Luckily for some, Steelseries has labeled each cable so you can easily determine which cable goes where. For PC users wanting to use this headset for competitive gaming, the handy USB sound card will need to be used in order to obtain maximum power and some additional features. This is all fairly rudimentary stuff though, and shouldn’t cause too many issues for anyone looking to buy this headset.

You have a couple of different adapters to choose from, making this headset compatible with almost every platform and device.

Design

When it comes to design, the Arctis family rarely lets us down. Once again, the Arctis 5’s keep the same old family design traits that have been such a hit over the years. While we’ll be reviewing the all-black version, the Arctis 5 headset does come in a white version too.

Steelseries have given the Arctis 5 their typical sleek and stylish aesthetics. It’s the kind of headset that wouldn’t look out of place walking around the shops or on public transport – even with the retractable mic that sits out slightly. The Arctis 5’s offer up two fairly large, closed-back oval earcups which have been finished with a matte texture. Outlining the earcup is the signature RGB ring which contrasts very nicely with the black color theme. The RGB can be fully customized in the Steelseries software package, but right-out-the-box it looks pretty good.

On the rear of the left earcup, users have access to volume and microphone controls. A small dial can be used for adjusting the volume, whilst the microphone mute button does pretty much what it says on the tin. Strangely, this headset comes equipped with an audio sharing feature that uses an auxiliary cable in order to do so. Next to the main headset cable, you have a 3.5mm audio port, allowing a friend to tune into what you’re watching/listening to. The microphone retracts from its housing on the left earcup and feels flexible and firm. It too comes with a little RGB lightning zone which can be customized in the software package.

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On the inside of the earcups, Steelseries has used a breathable fabric for the padding. The fabric feels very soft and is designed to ensure increasing temperatures around the ear aren’t going to be an issue. The earcups are connected to the headband via a single metal clasp which does have rotational versatility. The headband is simple in design and doesn’t house any Steelseries branding – that can be found on both earcups in a subtle embossed fashion.

The headband is comprised of steel and plastic, feeling both robust and slightly on the rigid side. It has a matt finish similar to the earcups, with an inner fabric adjustable headband to make sure everything fits nicely. Whilst the headband does offer good comfort and requires very little tampering, it can be quite abrasive when wrapped around your neck. Furthermore, because the clamping force of this headset is quite high, when sat around the neck, the Arctis 5 headset can feel a little claustrophobic.

Overall, however, the design of this headset is very good. It brings stylish looks to the table and plenty of on-the-fly controls to make quick tweaks a lot easier.

Build Quality

Moving onto build quality, I have to reiterate what I’ve said in previous articles, the Arctis lineup of headsets feel extremely sturdy and robust. SteelSeries has used high-quality materials in the makeup of this headset and it’s clear to see. Whilst the Arctis 5 is mostly comprised of plastic, steel has been used in more vulnerable areas such as the yokes and the headband. Any plastic that is used in this headset, however, feels very durable and stood up extremely well during our robustness tests.

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The headband offers up a good amount of flexibility and feels on the sturdy side. Metal is used for all the connection points in this headset too, meaning it’ll stand up nicely to the occasional rage outburst or drop. The fabric used on the headband feels thick and abrasive, whilst the earcup lining is breathable and soft. You can remove/replace the ear padding on this headset, however, the act of replacing the pads is a little tricky and requires a bit of dexterity – so just keep that in mind if you do plan on getting through a few.

On a less positive note, the yokes that connect the headset to the headband is an area that does concern me a little. Because the earcups are quite heavy (relatively speaking) and connect via a single point, I can certainly see this being an area of failure somewhere down the road. Furthermore, the swivel mechanism found at the top of the yoke doesn’t feel the hardiest if truth be told. If you were to pull these off by one ear, over time I could see that also being a problematic area.

As mentioned above, the microphone retracts from its housing and is made of a versatile material that offers excellent flexibility and rigidity. It sits in its housing quite firmly and can be positioned to your specifications quite nicely. The controls found on the headset feel rock solid and have a nice actuation feel when in use. The cables are all fairly standard and shouldn’t cause too many issues any time soon. One area I wasn’t overly pleased with, however, was the sound card game/chat balance controls. The dial felt far too sensitive for me personally. I’d of preferred it to offer a little more resistance, making minute changes that much easier.

With everything in mind, I have to praise the Steelseries Arctis 5 headset for its general build makeup. As far as gaming headset under $100 go, this one feels very good indeed.

Comfort

For the most part, the Arctis 5’s are an extremely comfortable headset. If I sound a little surprised when saying that, it’s because I am. Whilst testing the Arctis pro +GameDAC, I was left a little unimpressed with the comfort that particular headset provided. However, the 5’s don’t seem to struggle in this department at all.

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Let’s start off by discussing that headband. Because Steelseries have opted for the ski-goggle style headband instead of the more generic adjustable headband, users don’t have to fool around with adjustment mechanisms to find the perfect fit. All you need to do when using the Arctis series is to pop the headset on, and you’re away. You do have some adjustment with the headband, meaning if it’s applying a little too much pressure on the roof of the skull, you can always reduce the tension. In my personal experience, however, it wasn’t necessary. One thing I will say is that, if you do plan on using this headset with a hat or hoody, it can get a little tight for headroom.

Headband aside, the next most important area when concerning a headset’s comfort is the ear cup padding. Steelseries have used a memory foam padding inside a soft-weave fabric which is both breathable and non-abrasive. Whilst the earcups do provide good comfort, on the whole, there have been mentions of people’s ears coming into contact with the inner walls of the headset. For me, that wasn’t a problem, however, if you have large ears, it might be worth double-checking the clearance before diving in.

Finally, the lightweight design of this headset (280grams) allows gamers to practice for longer and harder. It also makes using this headset as part of your everyday setup a very viable option.

Overall, I have to say the headset feels great when in use. Off memory, I believe I gave the Steelseries Arctis Pro a mixed review in terms of comfort. Luckily, that was not the case in the Arctis 5 headset.

Performance

So, design out of the way, it’s time to take the Arctis 5’s through some performance scenarios to see how they sound. The following section will be a look at gaming performance, music enjoyment, and microphone quality – all the while, comparing the Arctis 5 headset to some of the similarly priced alternatives that currently reside in today’s market.

With that in mind, let’s dive straight into it.

Sound

I started off the sound portion of the performance review by listening to a number of different music genres and styles. Ultimately, this gives me a greater understanding of what sounds this headset can produce. It also allows me to get a better picture of its sound profile, how the frequencies have been tuned, and how well-balanced the sound is. Kick-starting with some electronic music, it’s safe to say I was impressed with what this headset provided right-out-the-box. Without touching any EQ or sound settings, the first thing that struck me about this headset’s sound profile was jus how well-balanced they sounded. Now, I’m not saying this headset provides audiophile levels of sound, but as far as gaming headsets go, this one is pretty damn good for music.

Whilst it doesn’t offer an overly boomy sound profile, there was definitely a good amount of punchy bass to hear when listening to numerous genres. Whilst the mids feel warm and prominent in the mix, great for electronic and rock music, the high-mids, and highs aren’t nearly as crisp as I’d like. Comparing these to the Sennheiser GSP370 headset, the Arctis 5s definitely offer a more prominent bass profile. Having said that, the highs seem a little weak in the mix and could use some bolstering – in my opinion.

Next up, was gaming. Now, I was a little anxious before testing this headset out in my favorite titles because many great gaming headsets showcase strong high frequencies – an area I feel this headset falls a little short in. However, after playing CS:GO for around an hour, it was safe to say I was happy with the experience.

I started off by playing some deathmatch – my normal routine. I do this to first, warm-up, but more importantly, it’s a good way of understanding how clear the spatial awareness and sound cues are. Deathmatch usually has around 20 players running around and shooting simultaneously, meaning a good headset will easily be able to pinpoint each individual noise. Luckily, that was the case with this headset. After warming up and getting a good understanding of the sound cues this headset provided, I took the Arctis 5 for a spin in a competitive scenario. This is where subtle noises and a missed footstep can be the difference between winning and losing. At first, I was very confident in this headset. I could hear gunshots clearly and footsteps were open and obvious. One thing I wasn’t overly impressed with, however, was how big the spatial awareness was. The sound profile gave the impression of a small world, with people’s footsteps sounding fairly loud in comparison to say, background noise. This isn’t overly problematic, just a small negative when compared to some other headsets that provide better immersion.

I came to a pretty similar conclusion across most gaming genres. Most of the time, the bass notes were nicely balanced between the mids, whilst spatial cues seemed to be on point. Overall, I feel the Arctis 5 headset offers a great all-round sound that works for both gaming and general-purpose use.

Microphone

The microphone used in the Steelseries Arctis 5 feels very similar to that of the other headsets in the Arctis family – which for me, is a huge plus. The fully retractable, bidirectional mic has a great frequency response of 100Hz – 10,000Hz, providing a clear and full recording of your voice. Unlike other microphones of this price point that come equipped with tinny-sounding microphones, the Arctis 5 provides plenty of bass and warmth.

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In terms of clarity, I found the Arctis 5 to be near perfect, with only slight background interference from the signal itself. Thanks to its bidirectional pickup pattern and noise cancellation technology, the recordings provided by the microphone are noticeably better than its competition.

In less positive news, this microphone is extremely sensitive to ambient noises. Typing on a mechanical keyboard, for example, will no doubt leave your teammates in utter rage at how loud they can be. Unfortunately, breathing, typing, and TVs can be heard with ease in the background. You do have the option to fine-tune your microphone in SteelSeries Engine, but even then it can still be a little frustrating.

Comparing this to the Razer Kraken Tournament edition, one of the better microphones out there, I’d have to say the Arctis 5 headset probably just takes the win. However, they both offer a very good account of themselves. If I was to compare it against the Corsair HS60 Pro Surround, on the other hand, it would be a landslide victory for the Steelseries.

Features

At the under $100 price range, features can really make or break a gaming headset. They play a serious role in the user experience of a headset and can majorly impact a consumer’s decision. With that in mind, the Arctis 5 headset is one of the few gaming headsets at this price to offer an abundance of useful features. Steelseries wasted no time equipping this headset with plenty of top features, so let’s waste no further time and take a look at the best of the bunch.

Steelseries Engine Software

Steelseries Engine 3 is one of the best peripheral software packages currently on the market, giving users access to a tonne of options when it comes to the Arctis 5 headset. Whilst the controller deals with the game/chat balance, the software package handles everything else this headset has to offer. Users can fully customize the sound of the headset by customizing the EQ settings (or choosing one of the presets), allowing you to fine-tune the sound to your unique requirements.

Alongside audio changes, users can access dynamic frequency compression, DTS surround sound (which we’ll discuss shortly), microphone tuning, and RGB as well. A great software suite that pretty much does it all.

DTS Surround sound

DTS surround sound, for those unaware, is virtual surround sound provided by the headset. We haven’t touched on this in great detail because I feel it’s a gimmicky feature. Having said that, some people do actually use it and have given positive feedback after doing so.

The surround sound can be toggled using the Steelseries Engine package, where users can then fine-tune the experience into music, gaming, and TV. Once enabled, surround sound changes the sound profile of your headset to try and make sound cues and spatial awareness more obvious. Now, whilst this does have an effect on your gaming experience, for me, it kind of destroys the audio performance of the headset.

Whilst it does provide some immersive value and certainly helps hearing footsteps in unique scenarios, for the most part, it feels a little unfinished.

Game/Chat Balance Controls

Game/chat balance is a cool little feature that comes housed in the USB soundcard adapter. It allows you to find the right volume balance between your in-game audio and your chat room.

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So, if your teammates are a little too loud, simply reduce the volume in the chat. Alternatively, if you need to boost your teammate’s comms, simply do so by adjusting the balance into a more chat-oriented position. It’s a simple little feature, but one that comes in handy on a regular basis if you’re into your competitive play.

Our Verdict

So, there you have it guys, our comprehensive review of the Steelseries Arctis 5 gaming headset. As we come to the end of the review, we like to round up our final thoughts and conclude whether or not we feel this headset is worthy of your consideration and cash.

Ultimately, the Arctis 5’s are a middle of the road gaming headset that offers good comfort, excellent sound, great value, and a bunch of cool features to boot. Whilst it isn’t going to win any awards in the audiophile category, it certainly puts up a good account of itself when compared to similarly priced alternatives. Coming to shelves at a shade under $100 makes this headset one of the best value for money headsets in its price category and just one of the reasons it got the best gaming headset for under $100 award.

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Comparing this to the Razer Kraken Tournament Edition and Corsair HS60 Pro Surround, for me, there is one clear winner. The Arctis 5 headset not only looks and sounds better than the two alternatives, but it also comes with a bunch of cool features and comfort too. Whilst the build quality may let this headset down ever so slightly, features and microphone clarity make it for it in abundance.

Overall, if you’re looking for one of the best gaming headsets in the $100 price region, the Steelseries Arctis 5 gaming headset will serve you well.

SteelSeries Arctis 5
SteelSeries Arctis 5
Weight 0.3 KG
Cable Length 3.1m
Audio Jack USB/3.5mm
Frequency Response 20Hz - 22,000Hz

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