In the eight and a half years that I have been doing reviews here at LanOC, I’ve had the opportunity to work with SteelSeries on every one of their headset launches. But in that time none of the new headsets have been a completely new design. They have revamped the H and Siberia lines multiple times and even had a few variations that were close to an all new design like the Siberia Elite. But recently they actually introduced a completely new headset product line called the Arctis. Like their H series they have a couple of variations but for the launch they sent over the Arctis 5 and I’ve been testing it out and I finally have a little time to sit down and talk about it. So let's dive into the new features then see how they perform.
Product Name: SteelSeries Arctis 5
Review Sample Provided by: SteelSeries
Written by: Wes
Pictures by: Wes
Amazon Link: HERE
|Headphone Frequency Response||20-22000 Hz|
|Headphone Impedance||32 Ohm|
|Headphone Total Harmonic Distortion||< 3%|
|Headphone Volume Control||On Ear Cup|
|Microphone Frequency Response||100Hz - 10000Hz|
|Microphone Sensitivity||-48 db|
|Microphone Impedance||2200 Ohm|
|Microphone Noise Cancellation||Yes|
|Microphone Mute Toggle||On Ear Cup|
|Connector Type||USB or Single 3.5mm, 4-Pole Plug via included adapter|
|Cable Length||3m, 10ft|
|Adapter||Single 3.5mm, 4-Pole Plug|
Product Information Guide
USB ChatMix Dial
3.5mm 4-Pole Adapter
|Compatibility||PC, Mac, Mobile, PlayStation, Xbox|
Before jumping into the packaging for the Arctis 5, let me first point out that because this was a very special launch for SteelSeries there were a few things in our box that wouldn’t be in a retail box. This happens sometimes, but they were cool enough that I thought you guys would all like to check them out. So to start off, SteelSeries shipped the Arctis 5 in a second box for us and when I got into it op top of the actual packaging was this transparent paper with a note highlighting this isn’t a gaming headset, it is a headset designed for gamers.
So what I can only assume is to show that this is a completely different direction for SteelSeries, the actual packaging is a complete departure from what SteelSeries has done. The front of the box is all white with lines with just the Arctis name down in the corner. This doesn’t tell you what model is in the box so hopefully it's not the retail packaging, but it does look cool. The back of the box has the model name and with it photos of the headset from two different angles as well as a picture of the controller in the cord. Down at the bottom are a few features explained with numbers on the photos showing what they are talking about.
When you open the box up, right on top is another paper, this time explaining that they don’t think any gamer is alike. They go on to talk about how they believe headsets for gamers shouldn’t be like obnoxious toys defined by their specifications. The best part to me was that they also point out gamers have compromised sound quality, comfort, and mic clarity for far too long. Even just admitting that is a huge step, especially with more and more gamers dropping gaming headset to get audiophile headphones and just using addon or desktop microphones.
So when I opened everything up there were two things up on top that I’m fairly sure were media only things. They included a pack of stickers with things like Get Rekt and a few memes on them. The other thing was a cool credit card sized USB drive with the Arctis branding on it. The USB drive came with all of the press photos and documentation so I know that isn’t coming with the headset.
So when most people open up the packaging this is what they will find. The Arctis headset sitting in a formed plastic tray. The inside lining of the box has the same lines as the front of the box, but with colors filling in a lot of the shapes. Once you pull the headset out, you can lift the tray up and up under it is a box with all of the included accessories. You also get a product information guide booklet and a paper with an emote on it asking if you love the headset.
For accessories, they have all of the cords for the Arctis 5. You get a long USB cable with a control knob, the cable that runs from the headset to whatever you are hooking it up to, and a 3.5mm adapter end.
Photos and Features
It only takes one look to see that the new Arctis line is completely different than SteelSeries’s previous headset lines though it does take a few features from each. Gone are the big round earcups from the H series and in place are lower profile oval earcups with a flat outside. The earcups are still enclosed though like the H series. For the headband, they went with a design closer to the Siberia line than the H series with its suspension band. The earcups pivot off of a weird bend that allows a little more flexibility but still lets you sit the headphones down completely flat if you want.
So the suspension headband of the Siberia headsets is one of my favorite features and I was really happy to see the Arctis 5 have something similar. Unlike the Siberia, though this design doesn’t have spring loaded springs in the headset, they went with something a little simpler. The headband is elastic and just wraps around two points on the headset. In fact, they use Velcro on each end so you can remove the headband and clean it or swap it out with one of the difference designs that SteelSeries sells. Unique designs could also be hand made to really do something custom, hopefully, we see some on Etsy in the future.
The earcups have a microfiber finish that is soft and shouldn’t get too hot. Inside from there the speakers are covered up by a tight mesh. The earcups are large for an around the ear fit for most people but they aren’t super deep. I will be curious to see how the new design is for comfort. For drivers, they went with 40mm Neodymium drivers and they have a frequency range of 20-22000 Hz. The Siberia’s ha a 50mm driver so this isn’t SteelSeries just carrying over the same drivers that they have used forever now. The new drivers have the same range on the low end but have a little more range up high. With a sensitivity of 98db, they are drastically different than the older 80db drivers, this should mean higher volumes without having to crank the volume up.
The microphone design is also a complete departure from past SteelSeries designs. They once again have a flexible boom that can be pushed into the headphones but the boom seems a little stronger. The microphone on the end of the boom is also larger but when tucked away it takes up almost no room at all. The new microphone has the same frequency range of the previous model but is now Bidirectional rather than Unidirectional. It also has a better sensitivity as well at -48db. They also included noise canceling to help cut down on outside noise. The microphone now also has a red LED in it to let you know when you are muted but this only works when running full USB.
At first glance at the Arctis 5 in the packaging you would think it is a wireless headset but that is just because the cable is completely detachable. The left earcup has that connection along with a few other things. For starters next to the tiny connection is a 3.5mm headphone jack for audio sharing. Next to it is a volume control and a push button microphone mute button.
For cords and connections, SteelSeries did a few things that are interesting. To support the wide variety of options that they have listed they went with a modular cable system. They did this with a few of their recent headsets but for the Arctis 5 things are a little different. The headset itself has its detachable cable. That cable uses a tiny USB-like connection that plugs into the headphones on one end and on the other it can be plugged into the USB cable for PC use or the 3.5mm connection for consoles and mobile devices. The USB cable for your PC is the only way you get the RGB lighting effects and it also has an inline control box that lets you adjust between chat and in game noise levels. I’ve seen this in the past with a few console setups prior to the current generation consoles but for the PC this is really unique. The two connection options cover most things but I really wish they would include a third adapter for the traditional split 3.5mm setup, for people who want to use their own audio cards or for some laptops that still have the older configuration.
When running the Arctis 5 via USB on your PC it opens up a few different options. On top of getting all of the RGB lighting, you also have a few adjustments you can make when using SteelSeries Engine 3. This is the same software that controls all of SteelSeries’ modern products and as you can see below, when you have multiple hooked up and open up the software you get your pick of what you want to control. For the Arctis 5 when I booted things up I was prompted to update the software then after that it wanted me to do a firmware update on the headset.
Clicking on the headset once everything was up to date brought me to a page with a photo of the headset on the left and on the right a line of adjustments that can be made. The photo lets you see the headset and from there you can click on the lighting controls by the individual ear or together, I will get back to that in a minute. On the right, you have control of how to tune the USB sound card with a 5 point equalizer or a few presets. There are also things like DTS 7.1 and dynamic range compression. SteelSeries packs in so many options that you have to scroll down to get to the other half. Personally, I wish the software just had a page for the microphone and a page for the headphones. I almost missed the second half of the options and I’m sure others will as well. The microphone options let you tweak noise reduction, volume, and the sidetone. Sidetone picks out outside noises and feeds them into your headset to help you listen for things like your kids, the doorbell, or slendermen.
When you go to adjust the lighting, like I said before you can pick from each ear or you can link them together and control them with one setting. You can set a static color or get into colorshifts or multicolor breathing options. SteelSeries does a great job here, a lot of companies will give you a standard colorshift and call it a day. But they give you multiple color presets or let you make your own. You can also adjust the speed of the colorshift or breathing.
The last thing I wanted to show wasn’t in the software at all, but how the Arctis 5 shows up in windows. In order for the USB controller to be able to flip between in game noise and your coms it shows up as two devices. One is automatically set to default communications device and the other is regular default device.
Audio Quality and Comfort
For testing, I split my focus up into audio quality and then comfort. Both are equally important and for some reason most headsets don’t seem to get it right on both. Starting with comfort I used the Arctis 5’s day to day meaning I had a chance to use them for short and extended periods of time. My initial impressions of the headset were mostly just surprise at how loose the fit was. Most headsets fit my head tight, pushing up against me but that wasn’t the case at all this time around. They fit my big head perfectly, but they did the same for my wife as well with her much smaller frame. The light fit was more comfortable right out of the hole. The earcups just barely fit around my ears and the earpads were soft and comfortable. In fact, I didn’t have any complaints at all in my initial use. Even extended testing went really well with the only issue coming up being my ears getting a little warm. This is an issue I have with just about every design and the Arctis 5 actually was less of an issue than normal, especially for an enclosed earcup design. The top band worked well and by using the elastic band rather than the spring design there weren’t any noises or issues. The Arctis 5 was actually one of the most comfortable headsets I’ve ever used, up there with the Sennheiser PC 350’s. SteelSeries actually managed to make this headset more comfortable than the Siberia line that I love so much.
For audio testing, I focused on music, movies, and in game performance but I did also slip in a little testing with voice coms as well just to round things out. Like I had initially thought when looking through the specifications the higher sensitivity was noticeable right away and the volume control on the headset came in handy to help turn things down when I didn’t want to crank it up. This is a nice improvement over past SteelSeries headsets over the SteelSeries USB audio cards, in the past they were quiet and when turned up there was distortion. In all three primary situations, the audio performance of the Arctis 5’s was an improvement over all of the other gaming headsets. They were up there with Kingston Clouds, and I say that while holding the clouds to be a step above the rest of the gaming market. The Arctis 5 isn’t, of course, competing with high-end audiophile headphones, but I do think that people who prefer that route will recognize that SteelSeries has done a great job, especially in this price range.
The microphone performed well in my testing as well, being noticeably clearer than past SteelSeries options. Filtering out the background noise helped a lot as well. With the large window air conditioner in my office running the headset didn’t pick it up at all. Using a mechanical keyboard did require me to crank the filtering all the way up to keep it to a minimum and even then some still did slip through, but you might not be driving your team crazy now if your mic is still on when typing. The red LED in the microphone was helpful when I had the microphone extended out but not really if you try to use the microphone when it's pushed into the headset unless you have better peripheral vision than me.
It didn’t really have anything to do with actual performance, but I did want to show off the lighting as well. A lot of companies are going crazy with bright lights. While SteelSeries did still include RGB lighting, I don’t think this is too much at all. It wasn’t too bright and the simple ring around the earcup and the backlit SteelSeries logo is almost simple enough to call clean. Plus you can turn it all off if you want.
Overall and Final Verdict
In the past, SteelSeries has been great about finding a design that works and sticking with it with only a few changes over time. So the introduction of the Arctis line is a huge deal for them and it is most likely an indication of the direction SteelSeries is looking to go in the future. That direction if you ask me is positive, but prior to the Arctis launch I think that was up in the air. Being a big fan of Sensei, I hadn’t really been impressed with the move away from that design to the Rival. But In my time with the Arctis 5, I’ve been extremely happy with the headset. SteelSeries managed to take the suspension headband that I love about the Siberia series, improve it, and combine it with the best of the H series. This along with having a lighter fit makes the Arctis 5 comfortable over extended periods of time. The new drivers and enclosed earcups also translated to improved audio performance in my testing. The same could be said for the microphone, an area that SteelSeries headphones have been a step behind on. Beyond the two big concerns of comfort and audio quality, the Arctis 5 also had a unique and very useful volume control in the USB sound card that let you adjust your communication audio and in game audio mix to help make adjustments in game. That combined with the volume and mute right on the headset made for great control outside of software. I was also a fan of the slightly more subtle RGB lighting where most gaming headsets go with in your face lighting.
As far as downsides to the Arctis 5, I had a lot more trouble finding them. My main issue was with the lack of an adapter that split the connection into 3.5mm jacks for both microphone and headphones like all quality sound cards give you. You are forced to use the USB sound card or be without your microphone on PCs.
All in all, I was extremely impressed with the new headset and if this is any indication of what is to come from SteelSeries I’m excited. The Arctis 5 is right up with the Cloud headset for quality and I actually think it is more comfortable. On top of that, it is a little more compact and it has the RGB lighting and in game audio mix controller. With an MSRP of $99.99 at launch, it is priced well for the features and it keeps it priced below what most people could do combining a low-end audiophile headphones with a Modmic. All in all, I think the Arctis 5 is a great headset and I think I may have to pick up a pair of the Arctis 7’s to replace my current wireless headphones if they perform this good as well.
Live Pricing: HERE