SteelSeries Arctis Nova 5X Wireless Review


I’ve never been a fan of massive headsets. Or at least that’s what I thought. For me, the most critical thing is sound quality and I will gladly take a more massive model if it provides equally powerful sound. But after using the SteelSeries Arctis Nova 5X Wireless for the past few weeks, I may have crossed over to the lightweight side.

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The latest SteelSeries headset weighs practically like a feather, 277 grams. This makes pulling it out of its substantial packaging something of a non-event, as something rings in the back of my brain still thinking that it’s massive = well-made. However, upon closer inspection, the Nova 5X reveals a build quality that, at first glance, goes some way to justifying the $130 price tag.

When you roll it in your hands, it feels springy, with tight tolerances and velvety joints. Inside the headband is an adjustable, soft-touch material with a neon green pattern, but that’s really the only selling point of this gaming headset. You can absolutely wear the Nova 5X in public without looking like you’ve taken your hobby out into the wide world.

This is helped by the fully retractable microphone, which can be neatly hidden in the housing of the left earcup. Combine that with the subtle matte black finish and there’s really little to say that this is anything other than a good-looking pair of regular wireless headphones. Considering you can switch between 2.4GHz and Bluetooth 5.3 connections at the touch of a button, the restrained design doesn’t make me feel like a geek when using Bluetooth on a train.

Arctis Nova 5X Wireless specifications

(Image source: Future)

Connection: Wireless 2.4 GHz (via USB Type-C dongle), Bluetooth 5.3
Closed at the back
Frequency response: 20 Hz – 22 kHz
Drivers: 40 mm with neodymium magnets
Connector: USB Type-C
Microphone: Bidirectional Clearcast Gen 2.X noise-cancelling microphone with fully extendable boom
Libra: 277 gr
Price: $130/130 lbs

It is also very convenient. The soft-touch headband and comfortable memory foam ear cups make the headset barely feel like it’s on your head. The clamping force is forceful enough to keep it in place as you move, yet lightweight enough that it’s effortless to forget I’m wearing it.

One word of warning though: although this headset is adjustable, its top size is a little diminutive. People with a very enormous head may want to look elsewhere.

When it comes to audio, the Nova 5X has a few tricks up its sleeve. The 40mm neodymium drivers are the same as those found in more high-priced models like the SteelSeries Arctis Nova 7, which we rate very highly. The real highlight of the event, however, is the companion app, which allows you to select over 100 presets “customized by esports professionals and audio engineers” to provide a custom audio equalizer tuned individually for each game.

Hmm. While there is a enormous selection of very different EQ settings to play with, whether they make a huge difference over a single, well-balanced EQ across games is debatable. I switched between them in different games to see if I could gain an audio advantage, and while they are all slightly different, I don’t think this feature is as revolutionary as it is advertised.

However, I can say that the fantastically detailed drivers do a great job of providing correct, positional sound regardless of your gaming settings. Almost all of the EQ presets offer a lot of clarity, and it seems like the physical pickups do most of the work rather than the multitude of tuned EQ options.

Unfortunately, there’s a bit of a lack of really low-level rumble. While the Arctis Nova 5X can deliver plenty of power when it comes to thunderous drums and the odd massive explosion, listening to music (even with the Music: Deep Bass EQ setting) reveals a slight lack of oumph in the low-end.

The bass is definitely present, but regardless of EQ, the drivers seem to hold back with a chunky, round bass line. It’s almost everything, but I would like a little more for listening to music with high bass. Overall, though, the overall balance and excellent clarity make up for it.

Also nice is the ability to keep separate EQ profiles for wireless and Bluetooth mode, which means when I get home I can keep it on the lowest setting for pounding music on the train and a more detailed EQ for some multiplayer games.

The microphone is also well-balanced and produces clear and crisp audio that cuts through background sounds in the middle of a fight. Unfortunately, the circumspect, concealed design means there’s no room for the foam cover, which can make it a bit prone to explosions.

SteelSeries’ Sonar software (all versions at once), however, supports Clearcast AI noise reduction and does a pretty good job of minimizing the effect.

SteelSeries Sonar software settings for microphones, showing Clearcast AI equalizer and noise reduction settings.

(Image source: SteelSeries)

Battery life is impressive. The Arctis Nova 5X is rated to last 50 hours in 2.4 GHz wireless mode and 60 hours with Bluetooth, and these numbers seem about right based on my usage. In fact, I’m often surprised by how much battery is left after long sessions, and charging is very quick via the USB Type-C connection as well.

I also had the opportunity to torture the set during a crazy week spent at Computex. Putting it in a backpack, bumping it against luggage, and using it extensively on two very, very long flights, the diminutive, lightweight set of cans held up admirably. That being said, the outer headband shows lightweight signs of any abuse.

Buy if…

✅ Are you looking for comfort: It’s a feather-light headset with a very comfortable headband and spongy memory foam ear cushions. This means you can wear it all day long without feeling tired.

✅ You want versatility: While the EQ companion app isn’t stunning, the overall design, great drivers, and effortless mode switching – combined with long battery life – mean it does most things very well indeed.

Don’t buy if…

❌ You like a lot of bass: While the Arctis Nova 5X can be really powerful, if you like tooth-rattling bass, you may want more.

❌ You have a massive head: The best setting will be fine for many people, but if you have the type of skull that won’t fit most hats, look elsewhere.

It’s really noticeable, though, if you turn it up to the lightweight and the rest of the device feels just as tight as the day I took it out of the box.

So we come to the price. This is positioned as a cheaper alternative to SteelSeries’ slightly more high-priced headset offerings, although at $130 it’s still quite a chunk of change. That being said, it is very versatile, extremely comfortable, and has excellent battery life. It took a lot of punishment and is equally suitable for throwing in your backpack as it is for decorating your head during particularly long gaming sessions.

If battery life is your primary concern, HyperX Cloud Alpha wireless networking is second to none and delivers a massive 300-hour battery life. Still, with its radiant red accents and enormous earpieces, it’s neither circumspect nor that lightweight, and it only has a 2.4 GHz wireless connection, making it a full gaming headset.

You can also opt for the Arctis Nova 5X’s bigger brother, the SteelSeries Arctis Nova 7 Wireless, which also offers multi-connection options. That being said, given that the Nova 5X uses the same drivers and is much lighter, as well as having much better battery life, I would personally choose the cheaper model here.

Comfortable, versatile, detailed, with excellent battery life and build quality, the SteelSeries Arctis Nova 5X Wireless comes very close to delivering on its promise as a jack of all trades. Only this slight lack of deep bass and diminutive maximum size hold it back. Otherwise? I think that’s a bit of a winner. The lightness convinced me and my neck muscles cope with it much better.

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