SteelSeries are one of the hottest gaming brands around, so I’m very happy today to have their flagship gaming headset, the Siberia Elite Prism, in the eTeknix office. The Siberia series has long proven to be a big hit with the gaming community, especially their excellent V2 and more recently, the V3 versions of the headset, as they offer great performance for a very reasonable price; something that has made them a smash hit with the eSports community.
The Elite Prism more than doubles the price of the V3 headset, but promises a lot more features and functionality for desktop users, such as multi-format support, USB and 3.5mm connectivity, Dolby surround processing and a whole lot more, so I have pretty high expectations of what this headset should be capable of.
As you can see from the specifications below, it’s certainly packing a lot of features and should be a great headset, so let’s get right to it and take a closer look at what the Elite Prism has to offer.
The packaging for this headset is really nice, it has all the hallmarks of a premium product and a really nice image of the headset on the front.
Around the back, there’s a few extra details about the SteelSeries Engine, which will allow for surround and EQ processing, as well as customisation of the headsets built-in LED lighting.
In the box, you’ll find everything you need to get you started and more. There’s a quick start guide, a 4-pole cable for mobile devices, dual 3-pole for aux devices, such as your PC, an extension cable and a USB sound card with proprietary connection for the headset, as well as a pair of 3.5mm jacks for headphones and microphone, giving you a huge array of connection options to support many different gaming systems and devices.
All of the cables are of a very high quality, with flat, tangle-free, rubber coated cables.
The headset comes hard-wired with another high-quality cable and a proprietary connector, which can be connected to any of the multiple connection cables that are included in the box.
As if the Elite Prism didn’t have enough connectivity options included in the box, the right ear-cup also has a headphone jack. You can use this to connect another set of headphones, so you can share your audio with a friend; not the most practical feature in the world, but a cool addition none the less.
The headset just oozes premium quality and the mixture of soft finish metals and rubber coated white surfaces looks absolutely stunning.
The metal headband support is very well finished and mounts to the rear-center of the ear cups, while the left to right cable runs through the inner suspension-style headband.
The inner ring of each ear cup is actually a control wheel – turn this one and you can control the master volume level; great for making quick adjustments while enjoying your favorite media. There’s another on the left ear-cup that can be used to mute or unmute the microphone.
Much like the other Siberia series headsets, the microphone has a flexible and retractable boom that pulls out of the bottom of the ear cup. This is a really nice solution compared to a detachable boom as you can still hide it out of sight, but you’re not going to misplace it like you can a detachable one.
The headband is nice and strong, offering good support over your head. Instead of an extending slider on the side, the outer headband is fixed, while the inner section uses a suspension mounting.
On one side, you’ve got a lovely white finish, with an embossed SteelSeries logo on the top.
The inner section is treated to some luxurious padding that will help provide a comfortable fit for those long gaming sessions.
As you put the headset on your head, the inner band automatically stretches out, providing you with the optimum fit.
The ear cups are an over-the-ear design and are treated to a thick padding for improved comfort levels.
It looks super thick, but the padding is actually only half as deep as it looks. The black leather is just extended over the back of the ear cup to further add to the esthetics; it works too, the headset looks stunning!
Connecting the headset to your system is really easy, especially with so many options available. I’ve opted for the USB sound card for my primary tests as this will allow me to use the downloadable SteelSeries Engine to tinker with EQ settings and more.
Once connected, the headset sparks to life and the inner ring of the drivers gives off a gorgeous orange glow; this colour can be set in the Engine software RGB selector panel.
The software is really nice, with a simple and easy to use layout that makes it easy to adjust a wide range of settings and profiles on the headset. When I connected the headset, the first thing that came up was a firmware update for the headset, naturally, I installed that straight away and it only took around 30 seconds to complete.
When I first set up the headset, I immediately got to work with a few of my favourite albums and I have to admit that I was incredibly disappointed by the stock performance. The maximum volume was appalling, with no power behind it at all. I mean, it sounded good, but there was just no “wow” there, no power, nothing of the sort and that’s a real shame for a headset that teases you with such powerful looking drivers.
The trick to this headset it seems lies in the EQ. The headset is heavily restricted at stock settings and encourages you to play with the profiles and the EQ. There are pre-set profiles for the lazy, but I was only really happy with the settings you see below. This brought the headset into the performance range I was looking for, unlocking the maximum volume levels through the EQ and damn, does it sound good. Blasting through anything from hip-hop to death metal was a real treat and the detail in the sound is great; so long as you put in the EQ tinker time first.
Gaming performance on the Elite Prism is great, the stereo separation on this headset is amazing, giving you a huge and open soundscape that fools your ears into hearing bigger speakers that are at a good distance from you, rather than small speakers strapped to your head. This means that distant sound effects and effects that pan across the soundscape have incredible range to them and that only gets better with the Dolby mode enabled. I generally hate virtual processing, but I have to tip my pretend Fedora at SteelSeries, as watching a few scenes from The Hobbit and Transformers 2 proves just how far surround processing has come; very impressive.
There is of course a catch, with the Dolby mode enabled, I ran into more volume troubles and even with the EQ, I found the max volume was cut down again; this is getting bloody ridiculous SteelSeries, this is a powerful headset and I would like to use that power as I see fit please!
Gaming performance on the Elite Prism is much the same as above, incredible, distortion free sound with exceptional sense of direction from the sound. The microphone is pretty great too, it’s clear, the sensitivity is good and the fold away design is nice for when you just want to enjoy a few single player games.
Connection the headset to my PS4 worked perfectly, no problems there and the microphone worked great again for team chat. Mobile device performance was surprisingly good too, if anything, it was a little better, as my phone pushed more volume through the headset. This sparked me to ditch the USB sound card and wire the headset directly into my Silverstone 600Ohm headphone amp and DAC. I immediate lose the Dolby processing and any EQ settings from the headset, but I was able to run the drivers as they were intended and I have to say, the headset sounded sublime enough to satisfy my inner audiophile. It seems SteelSeries issues lie with a power restricted USB sound card; something they may be able to address with another firmware update.
There’s no getting around it, this is a premium headset and it comes with a premium price tag to match. At around £180 they’re very expensive in terms of consumer headphones, putting in them in the firing line of some of the best headsets I can think of; the Astro A40, Astro A50, ASUS STrix 7.1, several Sennheiser sets and more.
I really like this headset, I really do. It looks absolutely gorgeous and it’s by far one of the most comfortable and well-designed headsets I’ve ever had the fortune to pop on my head. Unfortunately for SteelSeries, I’ve never once bought a set of headphones or a headset based on their design, as its raw performance that I care about and rightly so.
The Siberia Elite Prism has what it takes to tackle the big boys in this part of the market, its sound quality is nothing short of amazing, but it comes with a few minor drawbacks that hamper the enjoyment of the experience. The first would be the lack of volume over USB, this should be the premium part of the listening experience, as you can tap into the EQ and the Dolby settings, but it’s just too darn quiet to really get lost in the moment of your favourite movies as you crank up a Hanz Zimmer score, or when you’re playing a single player game of GTA V and you want to hear your favourite radio station mid-rampage. Of course, using my amp soon brought the headset to life, but at the cost of some features and I see little point in paying for USB features, only to sideline them for something a cheaper headset could achieve. Then the fact I feel obligated to push the EQ up to get the volume and sonic performance I’m happy with is a pain, as I found myself settings quite a few profiles for different types of music, different games and it just seemed silly, given I’ve got headsets that sound great from the moment I connect them, until the moment I’m done, with zero tinkering. Again, that’s not to say this is a bad headset, I think it’s great overall, it could just be a little better with the volume options improved.
The microphone performance is great, the Dolby feature sounds as good as any virtually surround is likely to get and remarkably convincing, the build quality is exceptional, the design is gorgeous and while expensive, the headset does fall in line with other premium grade headsets.
- Crystal clear sound
- Can handle huge adjustments of the EQ without distorting the sound
- Good quality microphone
- Comfortable fit
- Stunning aesthetics
- Easy to use software
- Wide range of connectivity options
- Multi-format support
- Volume over USB is too low
- Dolby performance is great, but further hampers the volume
- There are similar priced headsets that offer better out-of-the-box performance
“A great headset that would no doubt put a smile on your face if you bought one, it looks, feels and sounds incredible, but the volume limits are something many competing headsets don’t have to deal with.”
Thank you SteelSeries for providing us with this sample.