SteelSeries Arctis 5 Gaming Headset Review


The SteelSeries Arctis 5 is the mid-tier of SteelSeries’ latest Arctis line of attractive gaming headsets. The SteelSeries Arctis 5 shares the exact same body and functions as the SteelSeries Arctis 3, with some additions of course. The SteelSeries Arctis 5 comes with an external USB soundcard, DTS Headphone X technology, and is the only headset out of the line with illuminating ear cups. Of course, the SteelSeries Arctis 5 also has swappable cabling to allow you to use the headset on the go with a mobile device. However, it is only when it is connected to the PC via the USB soundcard that the Arctis 5 receives the power to light up.

Like the bulk of SteelSeries peripherals, the SteelSeries Engine 3 software allows you to customize your SteelSeries product, save those settings to profiles, and configure profiles to automatically execute when games you specify load up. The lighting on the SteelSeries Arctis 5 is simple and sleek, with each ear cup being individually customizable in any color in the traditional RGB color scale. The hard switch for mic-muting works as expected across all use cases whether it be via USB or the 3.5mm cable. However, when using the Arctis 5 via USB on your PC, muting your mic has the added visual feedback of lighting the mic in red when it’s muted.

Overall, the visuals unique to the SteelSeries Arctis 5 are easy to set up, practical, and fun to use.

As for the meat and potatoes of the SteelSeries Arctis 5, the sound, the base performance of the drivers are impressive in all use cases. Speaking specifically when using the Arctis 5 with the 3.5mm cable, the Arctis 5 delivers a solid performance no matter what your sound source is.

Where the SteelSeries Arctis 5 separates itself in performance and customizability is in its USB soundcard connection. The already well-performing drivers of the Arctis are enhanced by the natural sound amplification of being powered via USB. So on the PC, the sound presentation is more pronounced and more vivid than what you would traditionally get through a 3.5mm cable. Add in the EQ tweaks open to you through the SteelSeries Engine 3 and off-the-bat you’re in for an enjoyable listening experience that you can fully control.

While you’re free to customize the EQ settings yourself, the available presets each have their own merits. I found myself toggling between presets for games, performance, music and movies for each and every listening scenario. Sometimes the music preset worked better with certain games while the games preset worked better with certain music. Luckily, once I established which preset worked best with each game, I just had to save a profile that automatically loaded that preset whenever that specific game launched.

Finding the perfect setting for various scenarios was fine as it stood before adding DTS Headphone X into the mix. It was a bit odd for me to see that the DTS Headphone X had its own group of presets outside of the equalizer’s presets. Meaning, should you want to dabble in surround sound, you’d have to now find the right combination of DTS and EQ presets to get that perfect listening experience. Do you want to use DTS’ music preset with the movie EQ preset? Or maybe this game works better with a DTS movie preset mixed with performance EQ settings. Since sound presentations are different depending on the source, it’s a tango that you have to dance if you want to avoid your DTS Headphone X surround sound experience sounding as if you’re in a tin can.

Once you found the right setting, the DTS Headphone X surround sound added to the immersion and overall pleasure in the listening experience. Hopefully there’s an update to the Arctis 5’s and Arctis 7’s SteelSeries Engine 3 interface to make this finagling a bit more intuitive. Updates are frequent enough with the SteelSeries Engine and their various peripherals, so it’s not impossible.

Until then, with extra some setting work, you can make the DTS Headphone X enhance your overall immersion just fine with any form of media you want to try it out with. The DTS Headphone X setting gives you that wider soundstage feel, just as intended.

In terms of outbound sound, ie with the mic, the mic performs quite well as it delivers your voice clearly to your teammates. This is enhanced further with the SteelSeries Arctis 5  and the SteelSeries Engine 3 interface which gives you options for tweaking sidetone and noise reduction. You have four levels of toggling for each setting, giving you decent control of how much background noise leaks in as well as how much of your own voice you hear. The SteelSeries Engine 3 also has a Live Mic Preview function so that you can get an idea of how you sound to others. This worked quite well and was especially handy.

And last but not least, the external soundcard was simple in appearance and function, acting as a handy game and voice volume balancer that is easy to access at a moment’s notice. It serves as a faster alternative to having to minimizing the game to mess around with Windows’ volume mixer. Also, just like previous SteelSeries external sound cards, the bottom is rubberized to help keep the dongle stable on your desk.

Overall Thoughts

Overall, being as impressed as we were with the SteelSeries Arctis 3, it was only natural that we’d be impressed with the other two Arctis models which simply expanded on the Arctis 3’s base functionality. That said, I personally lean toward the SteelSeries Arctis 5 being my personal favorite of the Arctis line. Our SteelSeries Arctis 7 focus will be posted shortly after this one, but I have spent enough time with each of the three Arctis units to make a personal assessment. Wireless units have many merits and the Arctis 7 has functions not found in the Arctis 5 or Arctis 3. Even then, the Arctis 5 is a VERY strong mid tier model coming in at a very reasonable $99.99.

For a straightforward and approachable price of about 100 bucks, you have a full PC gaming and audio solution with swappable cabling and portability. SteelSeries’ highest end drivers won’t disappoint you whether you’re hooked up to your phone on the road or enjoying an even more amplified experience with DTS Headphone X Surround Sound. You can add some style when on the PC with some RBG lighting effects or just be styling on the road with Arctis’ sleak new casual look. A retractable mic, on board volume and mic muting controls and an adjustable headband bring you both functionality and comfort no matter which platform you’re using.

Since all three Arctis headsets use the same exact drivers and the Arctis 3 and Arctis 5 sport the same body, you can refer to the following for the coverage of the Arctis’ base comfort and performance…

Click here for our SteelSeries Arctis 3 Base Build and Performance Review

Otherwise you can check out the SteelSeries Arctis 5 for yourself here…

I doubt you’ll be disappointed…

† SteelSeries Arctis 5 review unit provided by SteelSeries.