To test this headset, I will try out music, videos, and games in order to judge the sound quality and ease of use. I will also look at the quality of the microphone, testing it over normal calls as well as Skype.
Music used: SNSD (K-Pop), In Extremo (Folk Metal), Dieselboy (DnB) and Carla Bruni (Folk).
Videos used: SNSD – Genie, Oh, Gee. Watchmen.
Games used: Inception (iOS), StarCraft II (PC), Bad Company 2 (PC).
As you’ll probably be using these headphones primarily for listening to music, this is one of the most important tests. In each genre I listened to, from calm French folk to frenetic K-Pop and hard DnB, the Siberia Neckband performed admirably. Although this headset won’t challenge more expensive audiophile-focused headsets, the Siberia still provides good response, although for bassier numbers I found it a bit lacking.
One other thing worth mentioning is that these headsets leak sound in both directions — you will hear what the other people on the train are saying, and they will hear your music. Assuming you have excellent taste (don’t we all?) then this isn’t a problem, but it can be a bit annoying to have to moderate your volume levels more than you’d expect.
I cheated a bit for this section, watching only a short segment of the Watchmen and spending the rest of the time watching SNSD music videos. Still, the Siberia performed admirably, although some rumblier parts of the Watchmen were not as well reproduced as I would have expected. Still, this headset is more than adequate for watching TV shows and films on your iPhone or iPad, with good, clear sound, particularly in the mid to upper ranges.
As most game sound on the iPhone will be quite lacklustre to begin with, I decided to go in a different direction. I loaded up the Inception app, which creates a soundscape based on the ambient noise in your surroundings. As I am typing this article on a loud mechanical keyboard on a windy day, I experienced quite a clicky and whistling backdrop, which was lovely to behold. The headset did well, but better sound-canceling would have made for a much more enticing experience.
I also tried out the headset in two games for PC, StarCraft II and Bad Company 2. In StarCraft II, it is critical to be able to hear and notice when your forces are under attack, so that you can react accordingly. I found that the headset performed beautifully in this game, with the audio alerts and theme music coming in loud and strong.
Bad Company 2 was an even more enjoyable experience, as it boasts some of the best sound design in any game I’ve seen. I loaded up the best sounding level in the singleplayer game, Zero Dark Thirty, with the War Tapes audio setting. Mid-way through the level, you fight in an echoic drainage channel, which produces some incredibly moving audio in combination with a heavy sniper rifle. While the Siberia Neckband sounded good, it’s still a good distance away from the better end of 5.1 systems or audiophile headphones.
The microphone used in the Siberia is excellent for a headset; speech was clear and crisp. Incoming audio over the headphones was likewise fine, with the voice being reproduced quite well. It’s also a lot more convenient to have the Siberia ensconced around your neck than having to dig your phone out of your pocket to receive an incoming call. For all types of voice communication, whether making calls on the iPhone, on Skype or Mumble on PC, or even over Xbox Live, the Siberia proved both convenient and crystal clear.
As you’ve been reading this, you might have been tallying up a score in your head. 9, maybe 10 at a stretch? I’ve had nothing but good things to say about the Siberia’s looks, sound quality and features, after all. But here is where this where these otherwise stellar headphones fall down. Literally.
For some reason, I can’t get these headphones to rest comfortably around my head. Regardless of how tightly or loosely I fasten them, I cannot mount them in such a way that they grip my head enough. Even sitting still at my computer, they slowly but inexorably slide off my ears and into my lap. When they do stay on, they don’t seem to be properly aligned, with the speaker below where it should be. This leads to much worse aural performance than when they are purposefully held on at the right level.
This poor fit is worsened by any kind of physical activity. If you’re listening to your music whilst walking for instance, you’ll find that they slide off even more readily, meaning that you have to keep adjusting the fit if you want to keep listening to the song. This tends to diminish the cool factor of these headphones, as while they look great it is incredibly obvious to an outside observer that they do not properly fit.
You might think that I have a curiously misshapen head (and glasses) to have such difficulties, but of the half-dozen that have tried the headset in my sight, all have complained of the same hardship. The packaging mentions that this headset is for hat-wearing people, and adding a hat does seem to help it grip much better then. For the rest of us though, and for hat-wearing people that wear their hats less than 24/7, then this headset does not seem ideal. If you’d like to buy this headset, please try it out first. It may very well fit you, but it most certainly does not fit me.
The Siberia Neckband, as mentioned before, comes in two flavours. The first, the Apple edition reviewed here, costs £80 on Amazon. While this isn’t too extravagant a price, there are a lot of other iPhone compatible headsets that can be had for a lot less.
If you’re not fussed about iOS compatibility, you can also buy the original edition for just £50 on Amazon. This is a much more aggressive price, and is certainly one of the most fully-featured and stylish headsets available in this price range. On the SteelSeries store, the two models are closer in price (indeed, the original edition is €84.99 while the iDevice edition is €79.99), so this may be a case of an individual retailer offering the original edition at a considerable discount.