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:
The Siberia v2 design looks pretty neat.
- 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
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.
Let's see some specifications Steelseries has listed on their website:
- 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
- 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.
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: 4½
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.