The growth of the gaming scene in India has led to a massive upsurge in the availability of quality gaming peripherals. One particular segment that has benefited from this is gaming audio. A steady stream of personal gaming audio products has been making its way to the market, including products from top brands such as Kingston, Asus, Razer, and Steelseries.
Speaking of Danish manufacturer Steelseries, one of its latest products in India is the Siberia Elite Prism. At Rs. 16,999, it’s a fair bit more expensive than a lot of competing products such as the Kingston HyperX Cloud II and Asus Strix Pro. Unlike Kingston and Asus however, Steelseries is a specialist in gaming peripherals and is closely associated with electronic sports and professional gaming around the world. Does that give the Siberia Elite Prism a leg up over its competitors? We find out in our review.
Design, fit and specifications
The Steelseries Siberia Elite Prism has a frequency response range of 16-28,000Hz, with an impedance of 32Ohms and a sensitivity rating of 120dB. The standard cable that is permanently attached to the headset is 1.2m long, but a 2m extension cable is also included in the box. Both of these cables are flat and tangle-resistant.
The standard connector is a UC-E6 pin, which connects to the included Steelseries USB soundcard. A couple of adapters have also been included, which convert the UC-E6 signal to either a combined 3.5mm headset plug or individual 3.5mm microphone and audio plugs. The headset has a retractable and flexible unidirectional microphone as well. The Siberia Elite Prism is compatible with Windows, OS X, iOS, Android, and the Sony PlayStation 4 out of the box, while Xbox One compatibility requires an adapter which is sold separately.
The included USB soundcard is housed inside a compact piece of plastic that takes over digital-to-analogue conversion duties from your PC when plugged in through USB. It has no controls whatsoever on it; only ports for the UC-E6 and 3.5mm plugs and a small indicator LED. You can choose to bypass the soundcard and just use one of the 3.5mm adapters to plug the headset directly into a source device, or another soundcard or DAC. However, the included soundcard ensures Dolby virtual surround capability and a few other sonic improvements, so we suggest you stick to using it.
Controls for volume and the microphone are on the headset itself. The left casing has a switch that turns the microphone on or off, while the right one has a volume knob. The casings themselves are plastic, but feature a matte finish. The cushioning on the earpads is thick and plush, stuffed with memory foam that makes the headset an absolute pleasure to wear even for hours at a stretch. Although there is no active noise cancellation, the thickness of the padding offers effective sound isolation.
The lower headband is self-adjusting and has its own padding, while the upper headband is exposed steel, holding the entire headset together. It’s a comfortable, well-built and well-designed affair, and even though design is a matter of personal preferences, we think anyone with good taste will agree that this is a beautiful pair of headphones.
The only real flaw is the size of the Steelseries Siberia Elite Prism, which makes it difficult to carry around. This is a big headset with no folding mechanism and no included carry case. Although light and comfortable enough, it’s still an immensely large product that might prove to be inconvenient if you’re used to taking your headphones everywhere with you.
One of the most unique features of the design of the Steelseries Siberia Elite Prism is its two 16-million-colour LED bands. Each casing has an LED band which lights up and glows when the headset is plugged in. You can use the included software to customise the colour or select pre-programmed colour combinations and light patterns. The light effects are impressive, and this is something that really makes the device stand out. It’s sure to get you a lot of attention if you use the headset in public.
Steelseries recommends that you install its Steelseries Engine 3 software to optimise the experience of using the Siberia Elite Prism headset. Although the headphones will work fine without it, it’s still a good idea to get the software installed. It’s an efficiently designed application, and it recognised our review unit immediately on Windows. All settings reflected immediately, from changes in the LED colour to equaliser tweaks. The software is also necessary to switch on Dolby mode for virtual surround sound, and to adjust specific microphone settings such as noise reduction, auto compression, sidetone, and volume.
The Steelseries Siberia Elite Prism is Dolby-enabled for virtual 7.1 surround sound. Although there are just two channels, the tuning ensures that there is a decent and fairly immersive sense of where the sound is coming from. This is particularly useful in FPS games, since being able to accurately pinpoint the location of enemies by their sound can make all the difference between (in-game) life and death. We go more into detail on how the Elite performed in the next section.
We tested the Steelseries Siberia Elite Prism with a handful of sources and material, including our hardware review rig running Windows, a standard Windows laptop, an Android smartphone, and a Sony PlayStation 4. Games used in the review were GTA V, FarCry 4, The Crew, and Destiny, while media used included a selection of movies and music across genres.
We started out with GTA V on our review rig. The game is known for having some of the best audio design and engineering of recently released games, and we were fairly impressed. The sound was clean, detailed and immersive. The impressive sound imaging and soundstaging abilities of the Siberia Elite Prism made for realistic depth and separation of sonic elements. The sonic signature has been properly tuned to achieve as much detail as possible, and you can hear every bit of audio with realistic depth and feel.
Moving on Far Cry 4, we were able to test the headset’s virtual surround sound capabilities. The effect can definitely be felt – turning slowly on the spot while a firefight was taking place a short distance away gave a proper sense of the effect. Although you can definitely feel the direction and depth of the sound, there’s just a little bit missing in terms of accuracy. The virtual sound stage is excellent, but it leaves the origin of the faintest sounds feeling just a little too wide and unspecific thanks to its subtlety. Most experienced gamers will still be able to pick up on these cues, though, so the slight lack of accuracy is definitely not a deal-breaker.
We used The Crew to test the tone of the sound. The roar of car engines and other loud effects such as police sirens and car crashes were punchy and powerful for the most part, although there was a little bit of thump missing. Once again, this can be attributed to the subtlety and the finesse of the sound, which keeps the audio toned down a hint and doesn’t quite let it achieve the aggression and attack that is sometimes needed to bring out the excitement in game audio.
The Steelseries Siberia Elite Prism is also great for use with movies and TV shows, thanks to its virtual surround experience. Sound was a bit soft, but comfortable nonetheless. Since the tuning is geared towards amplifying mids and highs, it works well with movies and shows. The surround isn’t quite as effective as it is in-game, but it’s still satisfying. The headset’s only real weakness is its handling of stereo music. The sound is weak and lacking in any excitement whatsoever, feeling forced and boring at times.
Finally, the microphone is particularly neat in how it retracts and can be switched on and off, but there is nothing really special about it except that when extended, it is close enough to your mouth to ensure your words are picked up clearly. It functions well, of course, but we didn’t find anything about the microphone that sets it apart from the run-of-the-mill microphones that are on most stereo headsets these days.
The Steelseries Siberia Elite Prism is undoubtedly one of the best looking gaming headsets on the market right now, thanks to its sheer size, styling, and the eye-catching LED bands. It comes with its own soundcard and software, both of which work well, and plenty of adapters and extension cables to make sure that you don’t have any connectivity issues. The sound is also excellent for the most part, with detailed and immersive audio performance with games and movies. The virtual surround effect is also fairly satisfying and detailed.
There are some minor weaknesses, such as a slight lack of accuracy with the faintest of sounds in surround mode, and poor performance with music. While the latter would be a serious concern with most headsets, it’s important to remember that these headphones are designed for gaming and music wasn’t meant to be a strong point. Furthermore, this can be improved a little bit by playing around with the equaliser settings.
On the whole, the Siberia Elite Prism is a comfortable, good looking and sonically capable headset. While it is a bit on the expensive side, rest assured that you are getting a decent return on your investment. We highly recommend the Steelseries Siberia Elite Prism to gamers looking for an immersive, detailed and good-looking pair of gaming headphones.
- Looks good; well designed
- Extremely comfortable to wear
- Soundcard, software and adapters included
- Detailed, clean sound with excellent depth and soundstaging
- Virtual surround sound works well for the most part
- Slight lack of accuracy in the virtual surround
- Could do with a bit more aggression and excitement
- Poor performance with music
Ratings (Out of 5)
- Design: 4.5
- Performance: 4
- Value for money: 4
- Overall: 4