Reviews
SteelSeries Siberia Elite Prism

By Jorge Figueiredo - February 3rd, 2015

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Recently, I reviewed the ‎SteelSeries Siberia V3 Prism headset, and found them to be a decent pair of headphones. While they sounded good, they didn’t blow me away, and the lack of in-line control caused me to scratch my head in puzzlement. SteelSeries also sent along another pair for review: the V3’s big sister, the Siberia Elite Prism. Let me tell you, even after spending a small amount of time with it, my experience with that headset was a lot different. Comfortable, easy to use, and great-sounding, there is a reason why these headphones are named “Elite”.

‎The packaging that is wrapped around the Prism Elite is informative and sleek – as per SteelSeries’ usual standards. Inside the box are the headphones, a 2 metre-long extension cable, a 3.5mm 4-pole connector, a splitter with two 3.5mm 3-pole connectors, a USB sound card, and a quick-start guide. The headphones feel very solid, and have some weight to them. The “backbone” of the headband are a pair of solid metallic bands that are anchored to the earcups. Attached to the anchor points are the two ends of the inner headband that make up the SteelSeries Suspension system. The inside face of this headband is coated with a multi-segmented foam coated in faux leather, and the rest of the band is coated in rubber.

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Box contents.

While the earcups are coated in the same soft, breathable material as the inside of the inner headband (with branded fabric on the inside to cover the electronics); and while they are comically large (they are pretty massive), they fit easily over your ears. Thanks to the memory foam inside the breathable surface of the pads (and the tension provided by the steel bands), a very effective seal is formed without diminishing the comfort of the unit. Honestly, I have worn these for hours on end, and they feel great. On the outside of the left earcup, there is a retractable microphone with an adjustable stem and the 1.2 metre-long cable (flat and tangle-free) that allows you to connect the unit to the various connectors that ship with the unit (thanks to a proprietary format). On the bottom of the right earcup is a 3.5 mm jack that serves as an extension for your audio source, so that you can share the signal with a friend.

One of my more notable complaints about the V3 Prism was the lack of in-line volume control. Well, the Elite Prism is a whole other story and has one of the most interesting designs for headphone controls ever. Upon pulling the Elite headset out of the box, I was disappointed to see that there was no in-line volume control located on the sturdy ribbon cable. When I first plugged in the Elite, each of the inside rings (located within the outer sides of each earcup) began to glow. It was only then that I realized that the edge of each of these LED-lit rings were covered in rubber and…yes! These were actually the controls that I was looking for. The left ring controls mute while the right one controls volume. This is a great design element – not only are they easy to use, but they look pretty damned cool (and there is no remote unit on the cable that can get caught on things).

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The microphone is really good at picking up sound. Check out the LEDs on the side, too!

The first thing that I tested out was the USB sound card, which grants the Elite additional functionality thanks to the SteelSeries Engine 3.0 software. Similar to the V3 Prism, The SteelSeries Engine 3.0 allows you to configure the lights on the outside of the Elite Prism’s earcups to be any one of 16.8 million colours. You can also set the lights to colour-shift, “breathe”, and even pulse based on the volume of sound that is being played through the headphones (this is the AudioTrigger illumination effect – a new feature). The SteelSeries Engine also enables you to engage active noise cancellation with the microphone (and when you mute the headset, an LED lights up at the tip of the microphone). These features, including a 10-band equalizer (for complete sound customization in multiple application-initiated profiles), make a compelling argument to use the USB sound card.

Indeed, when I fired it up and took it through a few different games, videos, and music, I was very impressed. Similar to the 9H, the USB sound card did a great job with audio, presenting my ears with a wide range of dynamic audio. I really enjoyed the level of clarity of these things – the noise isolation from the earcup fit (and tension) was perfect, and while it nullified most of the noise in my environment, I could still hear important sounds (like the smoke alarm). While no headset with a single driver in each earcup can deliver true surround sound (in the purest sense), the Elite Prism Dolby surround sound experience was great, and it gave an immersive experience in Battlefield 4 and in Skyrim. The lack of multiple driver sources was somewhat compensated by smart use of sound fields and volume direction – but nothing beats a multi-driver headphone (or surround sound speakers).

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SteelSeries Suspension helps keep these comfortable without compromising sound isolation.

Like my experience with the 9H, the performance of the USB sound card (as impressive as it is) does not hold a candle to a good internal sound card. While this might be a slight to the USB sound card, it is also more props to the headset, which handles the sound admirably. Each of the sound tests that I threw at the Elites with the USB sound card just sounded nicer when I performed the same tests while the headphones were paired with the Sound Blaster (thanks to the dual 3.5mm connectors). The 50mm drivers in the Elite Prism headphones really hammered the bass without sacrificing mid-tones or the high accents. Regardless of activity, I would recommend these headphones whether you have an internal sound card or not (since you can use the competently-performing USB card if you need to).

Similarly, microphone quality was excellent regardless of whether I was using the USB sound card or my own. With the SteelSeries Engine 3.0, the microphone worked well in capturing my voice and creating a nice voice profile when I spoke into it. Just as before, though, using my internal sound card worked just as well (though, truthfully, the cancellation on the USB sound card was a little bit better). Either way, you can’t go wrong with this well-constructed microphone.

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Share audio with a friend without loss in quality!

So is the SteelSeries Siberia Elite Prism worth the $199 price tag? That depends on what you’re looking for. If you don’t have a sound card (or if you’re stuck with an on-board sound card), the Elite Prism’s USB sound card is effective and offers a decent gaming, video-watching, and music-listening experience (thanks to a powerful level of customization) through the headphones (which sound really amazing). Of course, if you have a good sound card already, the Elite Prism is more than up to the challenge of representing your audio – and it will do so excellently. Keep in mind, though, that you will be using the dual 3.5mm connector rather than the USB sound card, so you’ll lose the SteelSeries Engine 3.0 functionality – so no LEDs or fancy-pants sound profiles (in the SteelSeries Engine, anyway). Either way, with great build quality, fantastic sound, and well-designed controls, the Siberia Elite is a worthy set of headphones for many uses with your PC, Mac, or PS4. The Siberia Elite Prism is available on SteelSeries’ own website, as well as Amazon.ca in jet black or arctic white.

Click here to see a few more photos of the SteelSeries Siberia Elite Prism Headset. »

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