Headsets are a complex thing. The addition of a microphone usually means a vast increase in price over a standard set of headphones, and in some ways the fact they are for the PC/Gaming brigade also means they cost more than a similar pair.
Sometimes this is a cause for great frustration when you're reviewing a product that is merely average, because it becomes even worse in light of the ridiculous price tags.
As online gaming becomes more popular and people start to meet up for LAN gaming sessions then a headset is something that is an unavoidable expense. They are also thankfully useful as a VOIP device if you don't wish to splurge out on a dedicated phone.
So with their uses as a all-around pair of headphones, but also with VOIP and Teamspeak applications, the demands on a headset are many and it takes someone special to be able to adapt all these various uses into a single product.
Thankfully SteelSeries made their name with exceptional headsets and of these the Siberia proved very popular. Today I take a look at the updated Siberia, unsurprisingly called the Siberia V2.
SteelSeries Siberia V2
Before we take a look at the technical specifications, let's have a look at what has been updated on the new Siberia V2 headset :
4. The primary cord is shorter in length for optimized use with portable gear and comes with an additional extra cord for use with stationary computers.
It's lovely to see a genuine list of improvements. Sometimes manufacturers can be guilty of "refreshing" a product purely to reinvigorate sales even if nothing has really changed. Not so here with all the updates being meaningful.
As always our technical specifications are taken directly from the manufacturers website to ensure they are as upto-date and accurate as possible.
- Frequency response: 10 - 28.000 Hz
- Impedance: 32 Ohm
- SPL@1kHz, 1Vrms: 112 dB
- Cable length: 1,0 m + 2,0 m = 3,0 m / 9,84 ft.
- Jack: 3,5 mm
- Frequency response: 50 - 16.000 Hz
- Pick up pattern: Uni-directional
- Sensitivity: -38 dB
So SteelSeries have genuinely given us an updated product. Let's get a close look.
SteelSeries have followed their standard packaging arrangement for the Siberia V2 with a combination of charcoal grey, light grey and orange. It works very well on all their other products and works equally well here. The front of the box contains a few of the highlighted features along with the standard clear panel to enable a good look at the headset prior to purchase.
The top of the box shows how many gaming clans are using the SteelSeries with probably the largest set of logos we've seen on a gaming peripheral.
Flipping the packaging over it's clear SteelSeries haven't wasted a single inch of the packaging space. Absolutely nowhere on the box is there an unused space. The rear has the marketing blurb in multiple languages and a small technical specifications panel.
Even the base of the box is used to provide information about SteelSeries generally.
Everything is very clearly laid out throughout the packaging, but I'd definitely like to see at least some breathing room given. It's all so busy that you start to almost tune out. I understand the need to provide swathes of information in multiple languages, but a bit of nothing wouldn't hurt either.
Opening the box and taking the Siberia V2 out we can see them in a vacuum formed holder like so many headsets. A nice touch is that these are in a dark grey similar to that found on the box which helps highlight the white colouring of the headset, and also the coating is slightly furry which feels much nicer than the standard clear plastic found on so many others.
The Siberia V2
It's nice to take a product out without being inundated with needless frippery, especially for a headset that needs very little description. We don't want a 40 page manual and three different CDs. Plug and go.
Having taken the headset out of the inner package it's time for a closer look at the much heralded features.
A Close Look
Following the generalities, let's look closely at the main parts of the Siberia V2.
Purposeful is the first adjective that springs to mind when looking at the Siberia V2. Nothing needless, everything designed to be light and robust. The main headband is very comfortable and auto-adjusts to the size you require, something that is a boon especially when gaming as they are taken on and off regularly. The two loops are springy and should absorb any shocks that the headset endures.
Naturally I haven't thrown them around, but I don't doubt for a moment that should you drop them in disgust at that last frag, or knock them off the desk, they wont flinch.
SteelSeries have gone for an open backed design which should provide a nice airy sound, although at the expense of the peace and quiet of anyone in the same room as you. The hinging allows the bottom of the cans to move out, but not in tighter. So if you've got a square head you're in luck, but if you look like you were pushed through a snooker triangle at birth they might not quite clamp to your head as hard as you like.
The ear pieces themselves are well padded and covered in extremely soft leather. They are large enough to cover the ears of all but perhaps a international rugby prop or ex-heavyweight boxer.
The top of the headband has a very tasteful SteelSeries logo screen printed onto the very comfortable headband.
The Siberia V2 comes with loads of cable and, thankfully for those with pukka soundcards, it comes with jacks rather than a USB plug. As you can see the jacks themselves are gold plated and not merely just enough gold to make it look good but a very deep lustrous plate.
There is a nice remote volume control about two foot down the cable that has an easy-to-grab microphone mute and a nice volume control. Anyone who has switched from Skype to a game and then a film knows that volume is not the same for everything.
Two foot after the remote is a breakout extension so if you use front panel connectors you're not lumbered with miles of cable you don't need. Both the connector and the end of the extension are plated in an equally high-quality gold plate.
The only slight downside is that the cable isn't braided like we've seen on other headsets, rather it's the fairly standard plastic coating. Disappointing on a headset around the £65 mark.
The microphone as a far cry from some of the more obtrusive ones we've seen. Unlike many the Siberia V2 doesn't have a "hard" microphone that can get in the way, rather the microphone is kept within the left ear piece and you can pull it out when necessary. Just grab the mic and pull gently and it stands up proud.
You can then bend it to your requirements, and it will stay there happily like a fixed model until you push it back in. The whole action is exceptionally smooth and easy.
Finally, although the Siberia V2 we have on test are white, SteelSeries also produce them in what can only be described as fire-engine red. Given their Siberia cognomen the red doesn't make a lot of sense but if you want something very different indeed there is no denying they look very cool. So here are a couple of pictures from the SteelSeries website.
Headset testing is one of the more enjoyable facets of this as they don't require days of overclock testing or detailed repetitive benchmarking, rather you just plug them in and watch a few films, stick on some music while browsing the net or play a few games.
Of course with something that can't be benchmarked the results are subjective.
Firstly we wanted to check the microphone. The quality of a microphone is, after all, the reason this is a headset and not just a standard pair of headphones. Utilising Skype and MSN for conversations, and Audacity for personal testing, the microphone proved excellent. She can sell all the sea-shells she likes without distortion or a loss in clarity.
Music and Films
With their open back and large drivers I'd expect great music reproduction and sure enough they easily handled everything I could throw at them. From NRG with its pumping rhythms and deep bass, through all the genres until we ended up at what my dad used to describe as "guitar noise".
With any music reproductions it's important to not only test the extremes of the aural spectrum by utilising a combination of bass tests and the Bee Gees, but to also see how well they handle full sonicscapes and the transition from loud to soft. No matter what I tested it gave very clear sounds throughout the testing and in some cases enabled me to hear things that I hadn't before. Sgt Pepper, OK Computer and the Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking in particular revealed new depth that had previously gone unheard.
Films naturally gave an equally impressive result as the two are not dissimilar. Despite being a stereo headset even films that use a lot of surround effects gave a wonderful listening experience.
It's always tempting to do the gaming first, after all not many people buy a headset purely for audio. However it's always worth taking a good look, or in this case listen, at the general performance first. Games have so much variance with EAX effects and similar that it's always handy to have a base-line to work from. Unlike our performance tests that have a solid list of games to play, the testing of audio devices is much more fluid as we discover new aural pleasures.
The results from the music and film testing were such I couldn't resist starting with one of the greatest sonic experiences currently available, Need for Speed Shift. As someone who has played racing game and simulations since Turbo and Monaco GP in the arcades I can say without hesitation that Shift has the best racecar noises yet heard. The Siberia V2 does full justice to these with everything from the rumble of the GT500 to the whine of a fully specced Carrera GT being replicated excellently.
Having tested something very loud, it's time to test something quieter. The Silent Hunter series is the premium replication of submarine warfare during World War 2 and the recently released Silent Hunter 5 takes place back out in the Atlantic as part of the U-Boat Wolfpack. Much less a test of volume or the ability to handle multiple sounds at once, this is a fabulous test of how the Siberia V2 deal with exceptionally precise effects, sometimes at barely audible levels.Despite the increased size of the speakers within the upgraded SteelSeries headset they are capable of being driven by the smallest hull creak. Again a very impressive result.
Finally to the more likely use of a headset such as this it was time to test first-person shooters. For this Far Cry 2 and Modern Warfare 2 were tested as both provide good gun noises and a nice combination between uneasy silence and hellacious battles. In what is proving a common occurrence the Siberia V2 never flinched in its ability to not only give us the audio we desire but also allowing us to hear hitherto unheard sounds.
I feel a conclusion coming on.
So have SteelSeries taken a winning formula and tinkered too much, or have they refined something good into something great?
Thankfully, they've refined them.
Sonically the Siberia V2 are exceptionally impressive and unlikely to be beaten without going on to a dedicated HiFi pair. The only caveat is that I don't need my headphones to make me go deaf, nor do I like so much bass my heartbeat changes. If you do desire exceptionally earth moving volume and bass then these wont be for you. That isn't to say that they are bad in those areas, far from it, merely that if you have extreme needs to be fulfilled in those areas you might be disappointed.
It doesn't matter if you're a movie buff, an audiophile, or merely a gamer seeking to make the best boom you can, the Siberia V2 will get it done.
The microphone is particularly good. It doesn't pick up the surrounding room noise and can be positioned pretty much wherever you choose. Assuming you don't decide to position it in your mouth you wont have any problems with your Ps and S' either. Especially noteworthy is the method SteelSeries have chosen to attach the microphone. None of that "flapping against your headband" here. It slides in and out of the left ear-piece smoother than a buttered lothario.
Finally comfort. These are deliciously light on your head and easy on your ears. I've been wearing them for about 8 hours a day over the past week and not once felt the need to remove them, nor the problem of "hot ear" that you can get with leather cups.
It took some time and lots of pondering, but I have thought of a few issues. Neither of which are massively problematic, but obviously I need to cover all points. The cable is quite disappointing because although it's plenty long enough and comes with great quality gold plating, nonetheless for this price we'd like to have seen braiding rather than the standard plastic coating. Other than that the only slight issue is that open backed headphones mean it's difficult to have them very loud without your partner complaining. Of course the open backed nature aids the clarity of audio reproduction, but it's worth mentioning.
SteelSeries have refined an already award winning design and come up with something that improves in all the areas you'd hope for, without compromising anything or adding unwanted features just to "add" things.
- Great sound quality
- Long cable
- Microphone solution
- Open back design
- Cable not braided
Thanks to SteelSeries for proving the Siberia V2 for todays review. Discuss in our forums.