When it came to PC gaming headsets, SteelSeries had a simple yet widely excepted approach to their units. A light frame holding the two ear cups with a suspension band in the center that rests comfortably on the users head. Can’t argue with comfort can you? Well since 2004, SteelSeries has made several iterations to further improve their iconic design. Months ago SteelSeries raised the bar again to bring us the SteelSeries Siberia Elite headset. But what does the latest PC gaming headset have to offer? RFMag dives deeper in this product review.
Well we mentioned the almost decade-long run with the fan favorite series of headsets, so lets see how much has changed from design of the 2004 model up to the Siberia Elite. Evolving from the open ear felt cups, you now have memory foam under a leather skin on each ear. Following the script, you still have the suspension headband but now with even more padded leather. The overlaying frame that holds the whole headset together makes a leap from plastic to actual steel for the first time. (SteelSeries steel! They took long enough!) Also, when connected via the included USB sound card, the headset receives the power it needs to illuminate the sides of the earcups in up to 16.8 million different color settings thanks to the SteelSeries Engine 3.0.
In terms of design, the SteelSeries Siberia Elite is as beautiful as it is comfortable. The headset comes in either white or black, yet both look exceptionally sleek in their own regard. There’s much to appreciate with simple aesthetics that can be customized to the user’s liking. It feels as if you are wearing the world’s lightest couch cushion around your head as you are in contact with nothing but soft padded leather. However, the big plush leather earcups are not just for comfort as they formed a perfect sound isolating seal around my ears while giving way just enough to wear comfortably over my glasses. If you wonder about the potency of the sound isolation, my desk leaves my head a foot and a half away from the living room TV. The only time I could notice the TV is when I was not actually playing a game.
Sure, sound isolation is a notable feature. However, the Siberia Elite has about 9 years worth of add-ons to mention. Starting off on the hardware directly, you have convenient controls for mic-muting and volume control on the left and right ear cup respectively. The left ear cup houses a retractable mic with a bendable body for easy management. The Siberia Elite comes with an extension cord to help facilitate your more unique desktop cable management scenarios, an adapter to a mic-in and stereo-out splitter for users who want to stick with their own sound card experience, a 3.5 mm 4-pole connector for use on mobile devices and the Mac OS, and the aforementioned SteelSeries USB sound card that opens up even more functionality. The sound card itself is a good solution for those using machines with sub-par or non-existent sound cards. It even has inputs for audio and mic in case you want to give your own headset a try with SteelSeries’ sound presentation. (Why would you?! The Siberia Elite is right there!)
Now if you connect the Siberia Elite directly with the included SteelSeries sound card, you will open the door to color customization on the ear cup LED’s, noise-canceling for the mic, an LED on the head of the mic indicating when it is muted, and access to deeper customization via the SteelSeries Engine 3.0.
The SteelSeries Engine gives you controls for 10-band equalizer for your Siberia Elite, toggling for mic feedback, a switch for Dolby surround sound, a dial for mic volume, option for mic compression, and the ability to save all these settings in profiles that automatically load depending on what game you’re playing.
Having used/reviewed headsets with in-line controllers, I could see benefit in placing the core controls on the earcups. While I enjoyed their use, I never actually clipped an in-line controller to my person. I usually wrapped on something stationary where it was easily and comfortably accessible. Now with the mute and volume dials sensibly on the earcups, cable management is just that much easier. The mic transmits quite clear and I like the clear bright LED indicating when mute. Since I’m a bit of a loud speaker, I always use mic feedback on my gaming headsets – to keep myself from bordering on yelling when casually chatting. Unfortunately, I didn’t really hear myself speaking as well as I would have liked, even when I set feedback to the highest setting. What came across was a sort of metallic echo, if you can imagine it. Mic compression did not change how I sounded to others too much. Perhaps my deep voice doesn’t leave much for altering.
Sound comes rich and clear with the headset which is easily appreciated thanks to the isolation. The Dolby surround sound is nice, but I appreciated it more with movie-watching or music-listening than with gameplay. Perhaps just a personal preference, but the raw sound without bands tweaked is usually the way I go when it comes to PC gaming. Still, if you want mess around with treble, bass and all that but lack the experience to tweak it sensibly, there are presets ready via a drop-down for you to try.
The SteelSeries Engine 3.0 and the included soundcard make the Siberia Elite a complete package. The SteelSeries Engine 3.0 provides all the options you need to tweak your experience and save your profile game by game if you care to do that. There’s much to say about the ease of use with the software as setting screens are intuitive and have help pop-up icons on each feature, explaining to you the purpose of the function you are about to finagle. You can even copy profiles to avoid building your settings for each game by scratch. I was a sucker for the color settings that changed with my presets when Battlefield 4 or Titanfall loaded. It was even more expressive for me since I was using the SteelSeries Rival (that Infinite Ammo reviewed) in conjunction with the Siberia Elite – both managed by the SteelSeries Engine 3.0. All settings changing simultaneously as games loaded. What you’re seeing below are samples of the profile changes as BF4 and Titanfall launched. Sure, colors are not the only things saved in profile presets, but I figured this visual was easier to digest to make the point.
The SteelSeries Siberia Elite is a solid buy @ $199. Since I paired the Siberia Elite with the also-SteelSeries-Engine-3.0-supported SteelSeries Rival mouse, I find myself hooked to the duo. The Siberia Elite handles any gaming or listening scenario perfectly. My only draw back was with the mic feedback, a feature usually handled perfectly by TurtleBeach in their headsets. But that could just be my needing to learn how not to speak so loudly on gaming headsets. On the quality end, its all up to preference, and with the SteelSeries Engine 3.0, I cannot see anyone NOT being able to tweak the headset to their liking. Last but definitely not least, it just may be the most comfortable PC gaming headset that I have worn to date. Anyone who asks me my PC gaming headset preference is going to hear me say the SteelSeries Siberia Elite for quite a while. Definately take the time to look into the Siberia Elite on the main product page here…
† Main SteelSeries Siberia Elite image taken from SteelSeries product page.