The SteelSeries Arctis Nova 5X Wireless sitting on some rather attractive gravel, outside

SteelSeries Arctis Nova 5X wireless review

A light, versatile and supremely comfortable headset, just lacking a touch of low-end 'oomph'.

(Image: © Future)

Our Verdict

A clear and detailed sound in combination with a comfortable build and easy-switch connections makes this headset a delight for everyday use. That being said, the slight lack of low-end bass does give pause for thought.


  • Detailed sound
  • Very light
  • Comfortable over long periods
  • Versatile


  • Slightly lacking in ultra low bass
  • Not suited to large heads

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I've never been one to be bothered by a heavy headset. Or at least, so I thought. For me, sound quality is king, and I'll happily take a chunkier model if it delivers chunky sound to match. But after using the SteelSeries Arctis Nova 5X Wireless for the past few weeks, I may have been converted to the light side.

SteelSeries' latest headset comes in at a practically featherweight 277 grams. That makes it something of a non-event to pull from the substantial packaging, as something ringing in the back of my brain still thinks that heavy = well-made. On closer inspection, however, the Nova 5X reveals a build quality that, on first appearances, goes some way to justifying its $130 price.

Twisting it around in my hands, it feels springy, with tight tolerances and smooth joints. Inside the headband is an adjustable soft-touch piece of fabric with a neon green patterned design, but really that's the only giveaway that this is a gaming headset. You can absolutely wear the Nova 5X in public without looking like you've brought your hobbies out into the big wide world.

That's helped by the fully retractable mic design that neatly tucks itself away inside the chassis of the left earcup. Combine that with a subtle, matte black finish, and there's really little to tell you this is anything other than a good-looking pair of regular wireless headphones. Given that it can switch between 2.4 GHz and Bluetooth 5.3 connections at the touch of a button, the restrained design doesn't make me feel like too much of a prize plum using the Bluetooth mode on the train.

Arctis Nova 5X Wireless specs

The SteelSeries Arctis Nova 5X Wireless with its microphone extended

(Image credit: Future)

Connection:  2.4 GHz wireless (via USB Type-C dongle), Bluetooth 5.3
Closed back
Frequency response:  20 Hz – 22 kHz
Drivers:  40 mm with neodymium magnets
Connector: USB Type-C
Microphone:  Clearcast Gen 2.X bidirectional noise cancelling mic with fully retractable boom
Weight:  277 g
Price:  $130/£130 

It's very comfortable, too. That soft-touch headband and some cushy memory foam ear cups make for a headset that barely feels like it's on my head at all. The clamping force is strong enough to keep it attached while moving around, yet light enough that it's easy enough to forget I'm wearing it.

A word of warning though: while this headset is adjustable, its top size setting is a little small. Those with a very large head may wish to look elsewhere.

When it comes to sound, the Nova 5X has some tricks up its sleeve. The 40 mm neodymium drivers are the same found in more expensive models like the SteelSeries Arctis Nova 7, a headset we rate very highly. But the real party piece here is a companion app that allows you to select over 100 presets "tailored by esports pros and audio engineers" to deliver custom EQs tuned on a game-by-game basis. 

Hmm. While there's a large selection of very different EQ settings to play with here, whether they make a huge amount of difference over one, well-balanced EQ in different games is up for debate. I switched between them in various games to see whether I could gain an audio advantage, and while they're all slightly different, I don't think the feature is quite as revolutionary as it's advertised to be.

What I can say, though, is the fantastically detailed drivers do a great job of delivering accurate, positional audio, no matter the game setting. There's a lot of shiny clarity here in almost all EQ presets, and it feels like the physical drivers themselves are doing most of the work more than the multitude of tuned EQ options.

What's lacking a little, unfortunately, is some really low-end rumble. While the Arctis Nova 5X can deliver plenty of punch when it comes to thundering drums and the odd chunky explosion, music listening (even in the Music: Deep Bass EQ setting) reveals a slight lack of 'oomph' in the bottom end.

The bass is definitely present, but no matter the EQ it does feel like the drivers are holding back a touch when confronted with a thick, round bass line. It's nearly there, but I'd like a little more for music listening on a high-bass setting. In the grand scheme of things, however, the overall balance and excellent clarity make up for it.

What's also nice is the ability to keep separate EQ profiles for the wireless connection and the Bluetooth mode, meaning I can keep the bassiest setting for thumping music on the train and a more detailed EQ for some multiplayer gaming when I get home.

The microphone is well-balanced, too, with a clear and distinct sound that cuts through background audio in the middle of the fray. Unfortunately, the discreet, tucked-away design means there isn't room for a foam shield, which can make it a bit prone to plosives. 

SteelSeries' Sonar software (all the esses, all at once) does feature Clearcast AI noise cancellation, however, and it does a pretty good job of minimising the effect.

The SteelSeries Sonar software settings for microphones, showing an EQ and Clearcast AI noise cancellation settings.

(Image credit: SteelSeries)

Battery life is impressive. The Arctis Nova 5X is rated for 50 hours in 2.4 GHz wireless mode and 60 hours using the Bluetooth connection, and those figures seem about right based on my usage. In fact, I'm often surprised by how much battery is left after long sessions, and it charges very quickly over a USB Type-C connection, too.

I also had the opportunity to torture test the set over a frantic week spent at Computex. Shoving it in my backpack, bumping it against luggage, and using it extensively over two very, very long-haul flights, the little lightweight set of cans held up admirably. That being said, the outer headband does show some light marking from all the abuse.

Buy if…

✅ You're looking for comfort: It's a featherweight headset with a very comfortable headband, and cushy, memory-foam ear cups. That means you can wear it all day without feeling the strain.

✅ You want versatility: While the EQ companion app isn't mind-blowing, the overall design, great drivers and easy-switching modes—in combination with a long battery life—means it does most things very well indeed. 

Don't buy if…

❌ You like a lot of bass: While the Arctis Nova 5X can get plenty punchy, if teeth-rattling bass is your thing you may find yourself wishing for more.

❌ You've got a big head: The top setting will be fine for many, but if you've got the sort of cranium that struggles to fit in most hats, look elsewhere. 

It's only really noticeable if you twist it in the light, though, and the rest of the unit feels as tight as it did the day I pulled it from the box.

So then, we come to price. This is positioned as a more affordable alternative to SteelSeries' slightly pricey headset range, although at $130 it's still a fair chunk of change. That being said, it is very versatile, supremely comfortable, and with excellent battery life. It's taken a lot of punishment, and is just as suited to being chucked in a backpack as it is adorning your head for a supremely long gaming session.

If you're looking for battery life above all, then there's still no beating the HyperX Cloud Alpha Wireless and its immense 300-hour rating. Still, with its bright red accents and sizable ear units, it's neither discrete nor as lightweight, and it's only got a 2.4 GHz wireless connection, making it a gaming headset through and through.

You could also go for the Arctis Nova 5X's bigger brother, the SteelSeries Arctis Nova 7 Wireless, which also boasts multi-connection options. That being said, given that the Nova 5X uses the same drivers and is much lighter, with much better battery life, personally I'd go for the cheaper model here instead.

Comfy, versatile, detailed, and with excellent battery life and build quality, the SteelSeries Arctis Nova 5X Wireless gets very close to its promise of a jack of all trades. It's just that slight lack of deep bass and a small maximum size holding it back. Otherwise? I reckon it's a bit of a winner. Lightweight has won me over, and my neck muscles are much better for it.

The Verdict
SteelSeries Arctis Nova 5X Wireless

A clear and detailed sound in combination with a comfortable build and easy-switch connections makes this headset a delight for everyday use. That being said, the slight lack of low-end bass does give pause for thought.

Andy Edser
Hardware Writer

Andy built his first gaming PC at the tender age of 12, when IDE cables were a thing and high resolution wasn't. After spending over 15 years in the production industry overseeing a variety of live and recorded projects, he started writing his own PC hardware blog for a year in the hope that people might send him things. Sometimes they did.

Now working as a hardware writer for PC Gamer, Andy can be found quietly muttering to himself and drawing diagrams with his hands in thin air. It's best to leave him to it.