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.