SteelSeries’ new Siberia Elite is one of many excellent headphone and headsets products released during the second half of 2013. Standing out from the crowd using a distinct style and design, how does the Siberia Elite stack up against some of the other gaming headsets we’ve looked at recently?Looking back at our first impression of the Siberia Elite, we couldn’t believe how big and bulky the earcups looked. Housing two large 50mm drivers, we feared that wearing SteelSeries’ latest was going to feel heavy on our heads. Luckily, ample padding and a comfortable headband system that uses a suspension mechanism quickly made us forget our worries. However, at a weight of over 450 grams this still isn’t a lightweight headset and this does become noticable over longer periods of use. Somewhat surprisingly, the earcups are on the small side for most ears, because there is a limited amount of space inside the large leather-covered earcups.Another aspect that immediately caught our eye was the headset’s design – with a two-part headband and several features integrated into the earcups. The headband consists of a padded/suspended band that provides a comfortable fit as well as a metal frame that keeps everything together. The combination works well, although any kind of tap on the metal part will reverberate heavily into the earcup. This is just a minor issue, but it’s something we encounted the first few times we were trying to access the earcup-embedded features the Siberia offers.
Both earcups feature subtle (usb-powered) color lighting schemes that can be configured using the SteelSeries Engine 3 software available online, and this allows for a tremendous amount of user customization in terms of finding a color scheme to suit your personality, mood or current game. Other useful features include a 3.5 mm connector for analog devices and dial controls for volume and microphone. We’ve used simiar controls with other headsets like the Sennheiser’s PC360, but having the volume controls on the right earcup still seems like an odd choice when in the middle of a mouse-controlled shooter – at least for right-handed gamers.
It’s worth pointing out that the Elite’s lighting system only works when connecting the headset through the included USB soundcard, as the USB connection powers the lights. Using the soundcard is a definite step up in terms of audio quality from the on-board audio that most PC gamers use, but is not up to the level that dedicated cards from Asus and Creative will offer. You’re able to use such a soundcard using the analog cables supplied with the headset, but you lose the ability to power the lighting feature. On the plus side, the USB soundcard (along with the software suite that accompanies it) does support Dolby headphone technology to offer simulated surround sound.
We haven’t touched on the most important topic yet – how does it sound? In our initial tests (using studio equipment and high quality recordings) the Siberia Elite came off sounding neutral almost to the point of being flat-sounding, so we decided to play around with our equalizer settings to see what the headset was capable off. This made this Siberia come alive, as it turns out it’s an extremely versatile headset that can output rich classical music just as well as bass-heavy tracks or movies.We attribute this in part to the Siberia’s excellent passive noise cancellation due to the isolation provided by the thick layers or padding and the closed earcup design, working closely together with the 50mm drivers that SteelSeries has implemented in their design. This powerful combination also caters very well to the Elite’s target audience of high-performance gamers. Subtle audio cues can easily be distinguished, and the addition of positional audio through the USB soundcard helps when trying to pin-point friends and foes in the game world.
As such, the Siberia Elite is a quality headset from SteelSeries that combines good audio performance with an excellent build quality and visual design. It’s unfortunate that several small issues stand in the way of labeling this headset as a truly great all-round audio solution, but apart from a tough fit for larger ears none of these issues stand in the way of recommending this headset to those looking to own a high quality headset that blends premium audio and premium design in a package retailing for €199,-