It’s Wednesday, so… it’s time for the headphone showdown? I guess?
I just wrote up a lengthy comment on my Arctis review, because Admiral Wiem asked me what other headphones I’d listened to in that review process. It got so long that I thought I’d expand it into its own standalone article.
So, here are some quick impressions of the Arctis 5 vs. basically everything I’ve heard in the last year, to give you a better idea of why I fell for them so hard. It’s ironic because I just wrote that rambly blog about how I hate ranking headphones.
But hey we’re here, so let’s do this! Be prepared for lots of doofy pictures of my head.
From cheapest to most-expensive:
HyperX Cloud II (~$99) — The Cloud has a thicker, warmer sound than the Arctis, with a more prominent bass and grainier treble. The Clouds have a strange dip at 4khz which can take some getting used to. I actually really like the sound here, but the highs on the Arctis sound a touch more natural and smooth. The Cloud II’s leatherette ear pads, though a bit better at isolating, warm up quickly and make my head/ears sweaty. If you want a bassier, more isolating headset that’s still cheap, the Clouds are good, but the Arctis has something closer to an audiophile bright/neutral sound signature, which is crazy for the price. The Cloud II is basically a Takstar Pro 80. It’s a really great headphone/headset and may edge it for those that wants lots of low end. The cable doesn’t detach, but HyperX throws in lots of goodies.
Sony MDR V6(~$99) — These classics are a basshead headphone compared to the Arctis. They made the Arctis seem bass-light to me for the first day before I adjusted. They offer a great value in an ugly package with a permanently-attached coiled durable cable. A great mix of warm punchy bass and highs that you can still discern detail in. The soundstage isn’t as good for gaming as the Arctis, and it has no built-in mic.
Soundblaster X H5(~$99) — The sound of the Hyper X Revolver in a body that looks like they stole it from the Cloud II/Pro 80. It barely fits on my head, and it warms my ears more than the Arctis, though the cable detaches at least. There’s a very slight thickness to the mids and bass that’s not present on the Arctis, and soundstage is about equal. The Arctis has a sleeker design. The H5 is more expensive. Again it comes down to the warm/bright personal preference thing.
HyperX Cloud Revolver(~$119) — The Revolver has a great, natural sound profile that’s very similar to the quality/detail resolution provided by the Arctis. However, it’s heavier, which makes it less portable and more noticeable on your head. Its cable is not removable. It’s 40 dollars more expensive than the Arctis 3, and comes with no extras. The headband has less give/room to it for my giant head. Its design is chunky and boxy.
I don’t have a picture of me wearing these but I promise I have them.
Audio Technica M50X(~$150) — Still a great performer. Probably a better all-arounder for many than the Arctis. However, fit is not nearly as comfy on my head, with a strong clamp and earpads that are slightly too small to surround my ears. Bass is more prominent on the M50, and treble is crispier. Soundstage is better on the Arctis, and the mids/highs sound less artificial. You can’t go wrong with the M50X, like the Cloud II. Doesn’t include a mic.
Sony MDR-100 AAP(~$199) — The Arctis has a better-feeling build and a slightly better fit than the Sony. The Sony’s fold down. The Sony’s have their signature warm, punchy sound, but they’re thicker in the mids and feel lacking in clarity compared to the Arctis. They’re more than twice the price. I like the colors the Sony comes in, but the sound is…unremarkable. The included remote/mic works on modern game consoles.
Sony MDR-1A (~$299) — Same as above, really but a little more impressive. The MDR-1A is a punchy, nice-sounding, warm headphone, and the Arctis is it’s bright, cool brother. The MDR-1A is one of the most comfy headphones I’ve worn, and the Arctis matches that comfort at a fraction of the price. The MDR-1A mic will work with consoles.
Beats Solo 2 Wireless(~$299) — The Solo 2 has a good sound, but not one worth the full retail price. The comfort is poor, with a pinching sensation on my head after about 2o minutes. It doesn’t work as a gaming headset on consoles do to its Apple-style cable. Not really a contender compared to the Arctis, especially at full price. Might be a good buy now that they’re all on fire sale to make space for the Solo 3.
Bose QuietComfort 25(~$299) — The kings of isolation. Comfort is also great here. However, the Bose has a much softer, warmer, milkier sound than the Arctis. Great for when I want to have some background music while working (like right now!), not as good for detailed listening/gaming. I’d take almost anything above for critical listening tasks, even though the QC 25 is my favorite portable headphone for its isolation. The QC25 only works for console game chat if you get the Android version.
Blue Mo-Fi(~$349) — The Arctis makes the Blue Mo-Fi look silly and dumb. The Mo-Fi offers better isolation and is louder…but it’s less comfy, heavier, less portable, and less balanced and natural in sound. Even though I like the heightened, old-school sound of the analog amp in the Mo-Fi, which provides awesome bass and highs for days, I could never achieve total head comfort without a bunch of adjustment. You could by a whole bunch of Arctis headsets to give out to your friends for the price of one Mo-Fi. And that’d be a better choice.
I love many of the headphones above. However, the Arctis offers a bright, “Audiophile-esque” sound signature and supreme comfort at a low price of $79. They’re worth at least trying out because of that. Most places will accept a return if you don’t like them. Not everyone will like their treble-leaning sound signature, but I’ve never seen this type of sound done so well for so cheap. You usually have to pay much more, or do a bunch of tweaking in an equalizer, for this type of sound. And no one else has solved the comfort problem in so elegant a way, save for Sony and Bose, who both charge you more for the privilege. Thanks for reading.