Over-ear headphones suit a certain market. They are designed to be used usually in one place and be comfortable and as immersive as possible. The pads should sit around the ear on the skull with the ear free inside the gap. I expect to be able to wear them for several hours at a time and most have some form of microphone built-in.
The sky is the limit in terms of price and audio quality but the Siberia Raw Prism Gaming Headset (hereafter the Siberia) is aimed towards the budget lightweight end of the market. The question is can a budget product work well and be worth it or should you only look at the more expensive options?
The Siberia is designed as a lightweight and simple entry to the Steel Series range. It focuses on the most important parts of a gaming headset – comfort and simplicity. Its all plastic construction makes it very light and after a month’s usage I can report that it does not seem to have lost any strength because of it. The comfort level achieved is high with the adjustable and well padded headband standing up well to multi hour gaming and use sessions.
It has a low profile stub microphone built into the left can. I did appreciate the microphone being compact but unfortunately having it that close to the speaker did cause some problems. Loud sounds from the speaker had a tendency to leak and be picked up by the microphone and were audible on recordings or to whoever I was talking to. This did not cause any feedback problems and at low volume it was not a problem.
On the software side the Siberia works with SteelSeries’s Engine 3 configuration software. This equalizer can be adjusted to either a customised setting or to one of six presets. The microphone has an auto-optimise feature that can be switched on or off. Finally the software allows the LED rings to be set to a specific color or rotating between colours.
The Siberia has a very distinctive slightly space opera futuristic look. Personally I could take or leave the LEDs but the clean white smooth look is very appealing. I was initially concerned that the white plastic would pick up dirt but after a month of heavy use it has not done so at all and looks the same as on day one out of the box.
Colour: White, with changeable LED ring
Left-handed cable and mute button
Omni-directional – 50 – 16000 Hz
Microphone Operation Mode:Mono
Frequency Response:20 – 20000 Hz
Sound Output Mode:Stereo
Response Bandwidth:50 – 16000 Hz
Cable length: 1.5m
The Siberia requires a USB connection with a certain amount of wattage to operate. I was able use the headphones on all the machines I tried including PCs, a Mac, a Chromebook, a PS4 and with the use of an OTG cable an Android smartphone (HTC One M8). The software for the Siberia is available for Windows XP and up and for Mac OSX 10.7 and up. I found easy to use the Siberia on other systems, I just did not have access to the equalizer or colour control.
The Siberia is a grey and white plastic over the head earphones set. Each ear has a ring of padding covered in grey cloth with an internal pad over the speaker. The ring of padding is attached to a white plastic hub which is attached via a ball joint to the main headphones over the head section. The ear hub has a LED ring that can change colour integrated into it. The over the head strap is adjustable at two points in length and has another section of padding similar to the ear rings at the top inside. The left ear has the cable attachment, a microphone and a large mute button built in.
The Siberia has two LED rings around the ear caps. These can be set to any of a 16.8 million individual colors in the SteelEngine software. This setting is permanent – in other words set it on one machine and it carries on to the next machine even if the new machine does not have the drivers. The rings color can be set to be one static color or to cycle through a series of pre-chosen or random colors. The rings can also be disabled via the software settings.
Brightness can only set to one level – but this is far less intrusive than I expected. When wearing the headphones I was unable to see it reflected except in a completely dark room. It is unlikely to cause any issues for those with hypersensitivity or photophobia but if it does it can be switched off.
Both cans are labelled with an embossed L or R indicating left or right, although I found it easier to just remember that the cable is on the left.
The mute button is built into the left can in such a way that it is hard to tell that it is a button. This improves the visual look of the Siberia but means that there is no visual (or tactile) way to tell if you are muted, only an audio tone.
Sound quality is reasonable with good mid and high range sound in particular. Bass is not wonderful but for the size of the speakers it is respectable. Maximum volume is much higher than I expected and does not break up although it does introduce a slight low frequency hiss at the highest volumes. Audiophiles will not find the Siberia too impressive but for most of us it will match our needs and exceed expecations.
There is no active sound cancellation built into the Siberia, but the design covers your ears entirely and hence has a certain amount of passive noise cancelling. It should also be noted that the Siberia does not have Dolby surround sound which some will find a severe drawback particularly in first person gaming.
If the mute button is pressed a tone plays to indicate mute on or off. Mute off plays a 1 second tone and mute on plays two half second beeps.
Input and Touch
The only physical control on the Siberia is the mute button. This is the entire circular area inside the LED on the left earphone – around two inches across. The button has an audible click if pressed and plays an audible beep through the speakers.
The Siberia uses the SteelSeries Engine with drivers specific to this headset. The software is simple and straightforward to use but does require clicking on some fairly small hit boxes to launch menus. Perhaps the worst of these is accessing the LED colour changing menu which requires clicking on the colour (in the example above blue) rather than the larger grayed out area that includes the colour and the LED label.
The Siberia is very comfortable to wear. The headset is lighter than I expected from its size and style, probably partially due to the plastic construction. The ear cans were soft and fit well, although a little smaller than my large ears would have preferred, but perfect for my wife. The cans are covered in a mesh that seems slightly breathable, but after a few weeks of daily use is starting to pull away from the plastic in a couple of places.
The Siberia is connected via a USB cable which is 1.5m long. This is sufficient for laptop systems or if you are using a hub on your desk but can be a little short for desktop systems if you try to plug in at the back of a tower. It is also too short for most people’s PS4, although an extension cable such as this Belkin could be added.
Ease of Use
Basic use of the Siberia is plug and play on Windows systems. Plug in and Windows will download and load the basic drivers. To get access to the more advanced functions such as the equalizer and colour changing I needed to download and install the SteelSeries Engine 3 from here. This installs like any other Windows program and auto detects exactly which type of headphones are plugged in. Once installed the software is intuitive and simple to use, although some of the buttons were small enough to make me question if I had clicked them correctly.
Language & Math
Basic math and language abilities are helpful to use the Engine 3 driver, but if you choose not to the Siberia is literally plug and play.
Manufacturer: Steel Series
I have been using the Siberia for a month and it offers a comfortable fit and great sound at a budget price. It is well designed, light, undeniably good looking and the audio quality is surprisingly good, but it is let down by poor discrimination on the microphone and worries about build quality with the mesh coming off the ear cans within a few weeks of use. I can recommend these to anyone who will not be using the mic extensively. Their comfortable fit and sound quality are very attractive for the price.
The SteelSeries Siberia Raw Prism was released in October 2014 and is compatible with PC, Mac, and PS4. This review is based on a unit provided by SteelSeries and used with PCs, a PS4 and an Android smart phone.