Hardware
Renzo  /  6 Jun 2010, 10:53
REVIEW: Steelseries Siberia v2
After some mixups and delays they have finally arrived (delivery problems). What "they" are then? Steelseries sent me yet another product to be reviewed. While we are still talking about gaming related product, this product is still a bit different from the mousepads and mice I have reviewed in the past. In the following article we are going to check how Steelseries Siberia V2 full-sized headphones sound and feel like.
1. INTRODUCTION

Usually when you think of Steelseries, the first thing that comes into mind is probably their mousepads and mice, but headphones? Now the question remains if Steelseries can offer as good quality sound-products as they do with their mousepads and mice, because people must have some expectations from Steelseries based on their selection of the other gaming products.

Not only that, but I think a lot of people underestimate the aspect of having a good sound system on their computers, without realizing how big impact really good sounds can make, especially in games. Maybe I'm generalizing a bit too much, but at least I put a lot of effort into my computer's sound system because I like to have good sound quality when I'm listening to music, watching movies or even playing games with my computer.


2. PACKAGING

There isn't really much to say about the packaging of Siberia v2. The phones come in black cardboard box that has see-through window and you can see parts of the headphones through it. Once again there is no driver cd for the USB soundcard, the driver is included in the OS like XP. From inside the box you can find the headphones, a USB soundcard and a USB cord for the soundcard. There's also some advertisement, manual and Steelseries sticker inside.


3. THE HEADPHONES

The Siberia V2 headphones I received from Steelseries are their latest effort to make a quality gaming grade product for players. These phones come with an additional USB-soundcard, 50mm driver units and are of closed type. The manufacturer lists the following highlights for the headphones:


SteelSeries Siberia v2 Full-size USB Headset highlights wrote:

- Closed type headphones
- Pull-out microphone
- Crystal clear high, low and mid-tones
- 50mm driver units
- Lightweight suspension construction
- Integrated volume control located on the cord
- Virtual Surround 7.1 USB Soundcard



The Siberia v2 design looks pretty neat.
http://pici.se/pictures/qKVYrJhBD.jpg



One might wonder what does closed type headphone mean? Basically it means that the the headphones block noise coming from outside. This is a good thing if you have noisy computer next to you, but this also affects the how the phones sound because the noise they produce can't escape from the phones either as closed type headphones also block the noise from going out from the phones. Steelseries doesn't mention how much isolation Siberia v2 offers, but I'm guessing it's around 15-20dB or so.

Other types of headphones are open and semi-open. These types won't isolate external noise too much or at all. Open type headphones also tend to have wider soundstage because the sound is not trapped inside the isolated area around your ear. What's the best type for you depends solely on your own preference. As for myself, I prefer open headphones over closed ones.

Another thing that catches my eye from that list and should be mentioned is the size of the driver units (50mm). Because of this the sound quality is usually improved from smaller units, and what's also as important is the fact that this way your ears will be fully covered by the driver units and ear pads.

The integrated volume control on the cord is a nice plus, much like the ingerated microphone. The construction seems ok, but I think there could be some problems with durability, since some parts of the Siberia V2 are made from plastic, especially the joints near driver units. I have had headphones with plastic joints/parts in the past, and none of them actually survived in the long run before breaking. Of course this can't be tested during the review, so only time will tell if these phones are durable or not.


The volume control for headphones and on/off switch for the microphone.
http://pici.se/pictures/AiCgvIEKm.jpg



Let's see some specifications Steelseries has listed on their website:


Specifications for SteelSeries Siberia v2 Full-size USB Headset wrote:

Headphones:

- 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

Microphone:

- Frequency response: 50 - 16.000 Hz
- Pick up pattern: Uni-directional
- Sensitivity: -38 dB

Soundcard:

- USB: 2.0
- Surround sound: Virtual 7.1
- Equalizer: 12 channels
- Jack: 3,5 mm (USB cable included)
- Operating systems: Win XP/Vista/Win 2000/Win 98/Win ME/Mac OS (only driver support)

The frequency response seems quite "standard" and I wouldn't think about it too deeply. Impedance is 32 ohms, which means that the phones are easily driven. So no matter the soundcard you might have, it will have enough power to make the phones perform good. Sound pressure level (SPL) of 112dB means that the phones are really loud if you want them to be.

The microphone seems very sensitive. Depending on the sound hardware you might or might not need to adjust the microphone levels. On my X-Fi soundcard I can leave the settings to defaults (50% volume, +20dB gain enabled) and volume level is pretty high already. The sound quality of the microphone is better than on my one euro toy I got from Fucu some years back. The microphone is located under the left driver of the headphones and you can pull it out or push it back in when needed. There's also a switch in the cord to turn the mic on or off at the same place the volume adjustment for the headphones is.

The USB soundcard is C-media sound chip and it doesn't sound exceptionally bad or good. The good thing is that the chip doesn't produce extra noise during silent moments, but the soundcard is also somewhat bent towards low frequencies. In combination with already bassy headphones, the effect recurs. I would probably rate the chip being on the same level as most modern integrated soundchips, losing slightly to "addon" soundcards. I also noticed that you can't make really high volumes with the USB soundcard, but one would have to be deaf if that would become a problem. (read: it's loud enough)


The USB soundcard unattached.
http://pici.se/pictures/xraJmOoCD.jpg


Note: The USB soundcard is extra, you don't have to plug it in if you don't want to.


4. SUBJECTIVE TESTING

I've been listening to music the whole time I've been writing this review. The music I listen to can be described as "everything goes" with few exceptions: I don't really listen to trance or modern pop. So rock, heavy, classical, instrumental, game music, movie music, pretty much everything goes as long as it has "good melody".

As for my own setup, I have Beyerdynamic DT990-2005 (also DT860 I don't use, and I had DT880-2003 but I sold those), Corda HEADFIVE dedicated headphone amplifier and an X-Fi soundcard. The total price for this combination is (or was back in the day) around 600 euros so it would be unfair to put around 70e headset against this kind of setup, but even so I will do some comparison between them.

Also, when talking about headphones, there is this so called burn-in period that happens during usage. Basically it means that the phones out-of-box can sound different after being listened for 50 hours or so, since drivers have "moving parts" that can loosen when the driver element is making sound and moving. Anyway, not all the headphone hi-fi'ers agree on the burn-in period. I however think that this can actually happen, but I can't state it as a fact, regardless of what I think (I think the sound of the phones changes slightly after ~48 hours of listening).

Ok, let's get to the point then. First of all, the headphones sit very nicely on your head. They don't seen to squeeze your head and they don't feel heavy at all. This is a good thing and allows the user to continue wearing the headphones for extended periods of time. However the ear pads are made from leather or pleather, and during hot days this can cause sweating since such material doesn't breathe all that well. I can actually feel the ear pads getting a bit moist after longer periods of usage, but it's nothing too serious, at least not yet since it's not really hot like it can get during summers.


5. PERFORMANCE

Siberia v2 has it's own tone that is kinda bent towards "boomy". So the user will get a bit more of bass impact and extension. The quality of bass is acceptable for this kind of headphone, and exceptional for games that have nice boomy explosions that really sound like an explosion instead of fly's fart. Mids are kind of left under the bass so I'd rate them around average or neutral. Same applies to highs, the listener can hear them but the highs don't pierce one's eyedrums, or be conspicuously absent.

The soundstage (stereo separation, wideness) seems to be typical for a closed type headphones and I have no real complaints about it, however there's also a downside that has to be mentioned. When comparing open and closed type headphones, there is an effect that one might notice and find disturbing: Say you are playing some game that has a huge open world, and you hear sounds from around you. With closed type headphones, the sounds feel like you are hearing them in a (small) room, while with open headphones it feels like the sounds are coming from an open world. This is very typical issue with closed headphones and there's very little you can do about it.

The sound has also some detail, so you can spot slight nuances from the music, but not always as you could do with real hi-fi headphones. Even so it is an achievement that some of the almost twice as pricey headphones can't do.

About the tone of the phones. Well, it's all about the user's preference, but I think the phones are a bit too "boomy". It is probably because of the closed type design, since it has tendency of increasing the effect of bass. This is of course when you are listening to music and want a bit more neutral sound, but in games all that bass is just something like "must have". Even in QW, in a game that has the most annoying sounds ever, some weapons and explosions sound rather good.

So in overall Siberia v2 sounds nice, being better than a lot of the headphones at the same price-range (say those tyos you can get from supermarkets that cost less than 100 euros), and being better than some of the more expensive ones (like sennheiser hd280pro).


6. CONCLUSION

The first thing that comes to my mind is the fact that these headphones sound rather good considering their price, I was certainly suprised by this fact. The headphones have acceptably good microphone, and the USB soundcard is great when you don't have a soundcard in your computer or it is of low quality like my laptop has. The headphones are comfortable to wear, even if the ear pads could make you sweat during hot summer days. The price of the Siberia v2 seems to be around 70 euros here in finland, which I consider quite acceptable from a product of this level.


Pros & cons:

+ Sound quality
+ Comfortable in use
+ Lightweight design
+ Extras: USB soundcard
+ Extras: integrated microphone
+ Closed type (noise isolation)
+ Very good, boomy sound in games and movies...

- ...is a bit too boomy when listening to music (reviewer's preference)
- Closed type (small room effect, added bass)
- Ear pads could cause sweating
- Plastic joints might not be durable


Overall rating: 4 / 5

If you are searching for new headphones with the specifications Steelseries Siberia v2 offers and like boomy sound, these headphones are really worth checking out.


Copyright notice: The images used in this review are property of Steelseries.
Comments
2010-06-07, 00:05
Is it rated for operation at −40C?
2010-06-07, 00:18
Removing comments not related and irrelevant to the article itself, qw.nu has site feedback forum, use it.
2010-06-07, 06:19
The way these headphones fit to the head seems to be one of the most comfortable solutions, ive had some 700SEK Sony ones with that type of fitting and never get an ache from them
2010-06-07, 19:26
Any headphones that you plan to wear a lot, you need to try them on before buying. Even small pressure on earlobe can become painful over time. Speaking from experience with these: http://www.sonido40.com/tienda/images/k271_800.jpg
2010-06-07, 19:30
I agree with Kalma here. However, I would rather recommend the extensive testing session when you are getting a real hi-fi headphone that costs a lot of money, because if you fail such purchase, you have "lost" a lot of money already, which sucks.
2010-06-08, 21:19
The Steelseries Siberia v1 has been the best "none-break" headphones i ever had (broken some before i tried steelseries). I have been travelling the around world with them several times and they look almost the same from when i bought them. The cord is also strong.. My volume controller is broken though(not been treating it good, running over with my chair etc), but the new one in the v2 looks hot! I will go for the v2
2010-06-15, 06:40
I have AKG 271 and they are comfortable, although i would actually prefer the velvet earpad version. Thought about buying that.
2010-06-15, 15:41
You could buy replacement velvet pads. Don't know what they do to sound, but Mk II comes with both types.
2010-06-18, 01:22
As I see it from the specs, 271 is closed type headphone with isolation, so if you are using pleather earpads, velour ones will most likely add comfort. Depending on the build, velour earpads might also open up the soundstage making airier sound (probably balancing it), which is usually good.
2010-06-21, 15:07
is it only me that prefer those 9euro headphones?
i think i have so far bought like 3 gaming headphones for like 50-70 euro each. But was never satisfied and then went back to my 9 euro ones in the end.
I dont know why, they are just so big and also never really fit on my head, all of them gave too much pressure to the head and there was no way of adjusting them.. maybe i have too big head.
Also there is always SO much base in them, i never found anywhere in windows where I could adjust base etc.. is there some program you can download to adjust that stuff?
2010-06-30, 22:48
razor, you should try the siberias, imo they don't put heavy pressure and they auto adjust nicely to the most 'head-types' imo they don't base too much either..
2010-07-01, 02:31
GODIS! wrote:

razor, you should try the siberias, imo they don't put heavy pressure and they auto adjust nicely to the most 'head-types' imo they don't base too much either..

The guy said "Also there is always SO much base in them" and you are suggesting him to try these phones? Siberia v2 has a shitload of bass compared to neutral headphones, a lot compared to somewhat bassy ones.

On the other hand, noone prefers 9e headphones either. Listen to something like at least Sennheiser HD595/600, Beyerdynamic DT880/990 or maybe AKG K701/702 and you will never want to go back to 9e (or 70e) toys in case you are listening to music seriously.

But well, the headphones of the review are what they are, meant for gamers with a budget, not for the hi-fi'ers who prefer quality over quantity.
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