Hi Michael! Thanks for reading, and for the great question.
I’ll probably explore this more in-depth in a future article, but here’s a “short” version.
I think the Cloud Alpha’s are better by a hair. And that many people, depending on their needs/tastes, won’t agree.
Sound is the big differentiator for me.
I like the sound of the Alphas quite a bit more than the Arctis 5's…which is still a great-sounding headset. The Arctis headset has a pleasant airyness to it, and a bit less aggression in the bass. But it doesn’t have the clean, impressive sound that the Alphas have.
Now, if you were used to open headphones and looking for a gaming headset, I do think the sound of the Arctis will be easier to adjust to. But for me personally, the Alphas sound better.
Both headsets are pretty evenly-matched on features, though the Arctis does include a now-redundant (thanks to Windows Sonic) surround dongle and fun RGB lighting. But I don’t get that excited about lighting after the first week.
I know a lot of people like lighting though!
Both headsets are ridiculously comfy, so there’s no real winner there either. They both have somewhat shallow ear cups with really nice padding…so neither is perfect for the “I don’t want things touching my ears” user. But I love how they both feel on my head.
Build-wise, I think the Alphas are a bit better. I really like the lightweight build of the Arctis series and their use of athletic-grade fabrics… but I love the new leatherette on the Alpha pads so much! It’s so soft!
The one area where the Arctis totally STOMPS the Alphas is the mic.
The Arctis mic sounds comically better.
The microphone is going to be the one thorn in the side of the Cloud Alpha during its whole time on the market. It’s not bad…it’s just not that much of an improvement over the old Cloud II. And there are many better-sounding mics at this price and even at lower prices. The Arctis, the G433, the RIG 400, and the Astro A10 all have better-sounding mics, just to name a few.
If the Alphas didn’t have their luxurious, unbelievably good sound signature, and solid build/leatherette, it’d be impossible to recommend them over the Arctis. But I’m a sucker for sound quality and comfort in particular, and I don’t do a ton of streaming or online chat compared to other users, so the so-so mic doesn’t kill the Alphas for me.
I’m sure that Steelseries is carefully studying the Alphas, and that the Arctis 2.0 is going to be a really impressive thing! Their current product is still competitive if you value mic quality or really want lighting at a decent price.
My short comparison got kind of long.