Gaming accessory manufacturers often embrace a design language that looks like they gave a hyperactive toddler an energy drink and told them to design a Star Wars spaceship from memory. Companies like SteelSeries, however, are starting to bring some sanity into this space.
SteelSeries Arctis 5 7.1
- Pricing: $100
- Availability: Out now
- Compatibility: 3.5mm/USB for use with PC, consoles, smartphones, and more
SteelSeries has launched its new line of Arctis headsets that have a mature style that I would proudly wear in public. On top of that, the peripheral maker is including some nice options like a retractable mic, slick-looking lighting, and on-ear controls. But how does it perform? Well, the beautiful package delivers some impressive audio but some other issues get in the way.
What you’ll like
Among the best looking all-purpose headsets
I love the Arctis’ looks. It has a low profile, with a retractable microphone and ear cups that are shaped like flat cylinders. It’s not trying to ape the style of a stealth bomber. It’s not trying to scream “I’m for gamers!” It looks like something an adult would wear.
But as it keeps out some of those extreme elements, it incorporates others in far more elegant manner. When you connect the headset through USB, an outer ring lights up around the edges of the cups. It looks handsome.
SteelSeries’s retractable microphone is also a smart design choice. This means you get full voice integration, but you only need to pull it out when you need it. When you don’t, you can throw the Arctis on without looking like a doofus in public. This enables the headset to serve well as a gaming device, but it’s also great for movies and music on the go.
On top of the design, the Arctis has some of the clearest audio of any headset below $100. It won’t shake your head with its bass, but it is better at articulating noises across a wide spectrum than just about any other recent headset. At loud volumes, the 50mm audio drivers accurately deliver explosions, gunshots, music, and voices all at the same time.
When testing its music capabilities using a hyperclean recording like Steely Dan’s “Hey Nineteen.” The Arctis 5 powered through the crisp highs without losing any fidelity on the lower end. Where a lot of other headsets lose some of the finer midrange instruments in a song like this, every sound has its own place in the Arctis 5. That’s crucial to delivering a high-quality 7.1 surround-sound experience in a headset, and the SteelSeries device outperforms most other competitors in this range when it comes to that feature specifically because of its clarity.
What you won’t like
Annoying comfort issues
Beauty isn’t everything. And while Arctis 5 has an enticing design and gorgeous audio, it is not very comfortable. The biggest issue is that it never feels secure. I have a relatively large head, but the cups feel so loose around my ears. They move and jostle around my head whenever I make even the slightest body adjustments. That’s incredibly annoying, and SteelSeries simply doesn’t provide enough options to fix these comfort issues.
You need to try on the Arctis before committing to buying it. If they are comfortable for your dome, then I highly recommend them based on their audio quality and design. I wish every headset looked and sounded as hot as these do.
SteelSeries provided GamesBeat with a sample of the Arctis 5 for the purposes of this review. It is available now.