SteelSeries has become one of the standards when it comes to gaming related hardware; from mouse pads, to headsets, and recently even mice. One of their most popular releases was the Siberia headphones that offered solid sound and was a favorite of many pro gamers. Fast forward to the present and before us we have the SteelSeries Siberia Neckband headset; the latest in a line of gamer-centric audio solutions.
I have never used the previous Siberia headphones aside from a brief trial while at a friend’s house. My impression was that they offered good but not great sound and had a very comfortable design. Earlier this year we got the word and saw pictures that SteelSeries would be going in a different direction with this release; from the over-the-head style of headphones to a behind-the-neck neckband. Many questions arose. How comfortable would they be? Would they have similar audio to the old Siberias or the more hallowed-out 5HV2 sound? And of the course the most pressing question: When could we get them? We are here today to answer those and many more questions.
SteelSeries is always on the ball with top notch packaging in my experience. The Siberia Neckband is no different. Solid artwork and a box that shows off the goodies inside that are just moments out of reach. On the outside we of course see SpawN from SK Gaming, a fan favorite of many aspiring Counter-Strike players. Apparently members from SK, and mainly SpawN had a hand in developing this input-wise. For gamers by gamers apparently; sometimes this is a positive (Ikari), sometimes not (Fat4lity 2020 Laser mouse).
On the back we have specifications in various languages and details on the contents of the package. The box includes the following:
- Inline volume control/cord extension
- Xbox 360 adapter
What is this? A 360 extension in a PC geared product? Oh the horror… just kidding. In reality this was one of the really cool features that I dug with this headset. With the quick switch of extension cords and removing the inline mic cable you can swap in the 360 connection cable. Very handy for those of you who spend serious time PC gaming and on Xbox Live.
- Frequency response: 18 – 28.000 Hz
- Impedance: 40 Ohm
- SPL@1kHz, 1V rms: 104 dB
- Cable length: 1.3 m + 1.4 m = 2.7 m / 8.9 ft.
- Jack: 3.5 mm (6.3 mm converter included)
- Frequency response: 80 – 15.000 Hz
- Impedance: 2K Ohm
- Pick-up pattern: Uni-directional
- Sensitivity (1V/P@1 kHz): -38 dB
First impressions of the headphones were that they look pretty damn sweet. The white cans accentuated with black; black interior cushions, and a black cushioned neckband. This motif is very similar to the older Siberia headphones. It is a stylish visual package. There is plenty of cable which is often a concern of mine with headsets/headphones as I often find myself moving around quite a bit, and even getting out of my chair to grab something while leaving the headphones on.
The microphone works great. I love these retractable/rotate away mics. There are plenty of times when I am gaming that I don’t want
The Xbox 360 connectivity works great. I tested them out on
No matter how great they look or how stylish they are the real reason you guys read these reviews is right
To be honest the whole neckband thing was a concern of mine when these were first talked about online well before they came out and it seems my concerns were a bit justified. I was curious to see how SteelSeries managed the tension to support the headphones that normally rest on top of the wearer’s head. I went into the review with an open mind regardless of first impressions, however, as I was worried there would be a lot of pressure around the ears, and some on top of them, to provide the support to keep the neckband up. To put the Neckbands on you have to pull the band apart slightly- think of how an accordion folds out- and then you put them around your neck and on your ears. At this point, the band contracts to fit more snug around your head. While the function works great, the application does not. The tension doesn’t get to you in short term use but during extended periods of time the force of the neckband caused a slight soreness. Not a particular pain by any means but it was annoying regardless. It is entirely possible that this may not affect everyone the same. Talking to my brother who has been using them lately and has a smaller head than I, even he notices it after a couple of hours.
Other than that issue the cloth cans are very comfy, and in short-term use they feel pretty good. Do they stack up to The Sennheiser HD555 or Audio Technica AD700 in terms of comfort? Not in this reviewer’s opinion in the short or long term. The bigger cans on each of the aforementioned headphones are more comfy than the smaller cans on the Siberia Neckbands. When you continue on to extended use, the over-the-head design in general seems tends to reign supreme in comfort.
I have been using the AD700 from Audio Technica, HD555 from Sennheiser, and 5Hv2 from SteelSeries at various points while testing these so I will compare the Siberia Neckbands to these headphones when appropriate.
I gave these a try in Counter-Strike 1.6, Counter-Strike: Source, and Team Fortress 2. One of the first things I usually ask about is mic quality. I tested playback in Ventrilo and in-game and it seemed pretty clear. These sentiments were backed up by others whom I gamed with that noted the quality of the microphone and being able to hear quite well.
In 1.6 the sounds overall were pretty good. Minimal distortion, though the clarity in a 24 man deathmatch server wasn’t as good as the with HD555 or AD700. It provided similar quality in positional audio as the 5HV2 without sacrificing depth of sound. Overall the sound quality in 1.6 was pretty good but not quite amazing.
I tested this out in a few Source scrims and pubs also with similar results. The ability to pick out various sounds in-game was pretty good. With the HD555 and AD700 it seemed I could pick out sound positions to a more concise area, whereas with the Neckband it was more of a general area at certain distances. Nevertheless they were still solid performers.
Team Fortress 2 is one of my new favorite in-game audio tests. I jump into a 32 man 24/7 Dustbowl (shout out to Pestgaming) and test some serious sounds being broadcasted all around. If you haven’t played a 32 man TF2 server I suggest you try it out, it’s a smörgåsbord of audio for one’s ears to consume. Overall the sound was good, but as in other games the sound stage of these cans seemed smaller than the HD555 and the even better-sounding AD700. The Siberia Neckband didn’t highlight real lows and highs
Movies and Music
I fired up my favorite video to test with, Star Wars with 5.1 AC3 sound at 440kbps. By and large I enjoyed listening through the Neckbands when not annoyed by the whole comfort issue. The audio quality was good but much like in-game it wasn’t a gamer’s life-changing experience by any means like the sound quality was with the Audio Technica AD700. It was just solid good sound. John Williams’ score sounded pretty good even though some of the high pitches weren’t quite perfect. The Siberia Neckband seemed to perform best in the middle range of sound. They do seem to provide more bass than the AD700, but the bass isn’t quite as clear and distinct.
Music wise, much like in movies, the Neckband offers significantly better sound than the 5HV2 which we recommended pretty much only for in-game audio. I had no qualms listening to my MP3 collection while wearing the Siberia Neckband. Good audio at normal volumes. Pushing volumes up provided more distortion than the AD700 but still better sound than the 5HV2. The Neckband doesn’t keep the clarity at high volumes, giving some slight audible distortion. These definitely pull quality double duty with good audio in-game and in multimedia.
I have spent a good amount of time with these so as not to rush any kind of judgment. These may not be a high-end audio solution if you are seeking perfect sound replication, but for most everyday uses they should be more than adequate. I really, really want to like these.
While I have to take points off for comfort they do get a value boost thanks to the Xbox 360 connectivity. Being able to use these on the top two competitive gaming platforms (PC, 360) is a bonus for anyone who plays on both, and in comparison to half the junk I have listened to
Overall unless the Xbox 360 connectivity is a must, I couldn’t recommend these over the AD700 from Audio Technica or the HD555 from Sennheiser. While they may only cost $75 USD, I feel the added $25-35 to get a better audio solution is worthwhile. However if you play a lot of Xbox these could be a real value for you instead of buying one high-end PC solution and another headset for your 360; just something to think about. These are good headphones with solid sound and most people, without comparing them to a higher-end solution, would probably give them even higher scores; But between their less-than-spectacular sound replication and the comfort problems, I have to take it down a step or two.
- Solid value if you also have an Xbox 360
- 360 and Inline volume control extensions
- Stylish and unique looking, eye catching
- Positional audio in-game is good
- Quality audio in games, movies, and music. Superior to the 5HV2, slightly better than old Siberias (if different at all).
- Comfort level less than thrilling, too tight and too much pressure around the ears
- Price, other audio solutions are superior at similar prices
- Neckband? Why reinvent the wheel when the old solution worked great
These could probably reach a 9 were they conventional headphones. I just could not bring myself to wear these for long durations- they annoyed my melon that much. Even though the audio is leaps and bounds better than the 5HV2, the comfort problem leads me to only giving them a slightly better ranking. Hopefully SteelSeries moves back in the conventional headset direction eventually.