When SteelSeries introduced their Siberia Elite I couldn’t have been more excited. Sadly after testing I was left with a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. They weren’t as comfortable as the Siberia v2 and I had a few audio issues as well. To the point where we even tried replacing them mid testing thinking my set might have been bad. In the end they weren’t terrible, but considering their price they didn’t live up to what they should have been. At our last LAN SteelSeries pulled me aside and had me try out a prototype Elite with a few changes and later they invited me to visit their Chicago office to check out their revamped product lineup. Well they listened to both us and the customer reviews on Amazon and made a few big changes with their new Siberia Elite Prism headset. Today I’m going to kick the dust off the original Elites and compare the two headsets to see if those changes are enough.
Product Name: SteelSeries Siberia Elite Prism
Review Sample Provided by: SteelSeries
Written by: Wes
Pictures by: Wes
Magnet Type Neodymium
Sensitivity (dB) 120 dB
Total Harmonic Distortion (<x%) 1 <x%
Driver Size (mm) 50 mm
Impedance (Ohm) 32 Ohm
Frequency Response (Hz) 16-28,000
Mic pattern: Unidirectional
Impedance: <2.2K Ohm
Sensitivity: -44 dB
Length: 1.2 meters
Extension cable: 2 meters
Connectors: 3.5 mm 4-pole & 3-pole x2
Black & White
The packaging for the Siberia Elite Prisms didn’t really change other than the updated photo on the front of the box. This time around we have a black headset where last time we had a white Elite. The Elite Prism is still available in both colors, but they did make a few small changes that I will get into in the next section. As for the box I love that you can see what you are getting right on the front. Around back there is a second photo, this time with the lighting on. SteelSeries used the back to kind of cover all of the key features. I would like to see a full specification listing here though, hiding the specifications always makes me wonder if you are trying to hide something.
Inside the box the headset sits in between two formed pieces of plastic that keep it from moving around. The plastic lifts up and under it you will find all of the Elite Prisms accessories. I will go over them in the next section as well. For paperwork you get a small user guide and then a black and white SteelSeries sticker.
Features and Photos
At first glance you would really have to look hard to spot any differences between the Siberia Elite and the Siberia Elite Prism. They both share the same design, with just a few small changes. That means they have the same thick padding look with two large earcups that are well over an inch thick. Beyond that you get the same suspension design that has made all of the Siberia headsets so comfortable only with the Elite the top bar is cut from aluminum and is thinner than the standard Siberia’s. All said they look a lot like huge earmuffs except without the fur.
The Elite Prism has the same USB sound card that the Elite and the 9H also have. It hooks it via USB and you have three connection options. You have microphone and headset plugs as well as a tiny plug. That same plug is on the end of the Elite Prisms cord, you keep it all digital using this plug. That plus is also the only way to be able to light up the LEDs on the sides of the earcups, going full analog won’t power them. The USB sound card has two rubber feet on the bottom typically, this review sample came in missing those feet though as you can see in the photo below.
The main cord on the Siberia Elite Prism is four feet long, this is really short compared to any other normal headset but don’t worry SteelSeries includes an extension cord. They used the flat never tangle cord design that we first saw on the Flux In-Ear Pro’s. While it might seem completely unneeded for such a short cord, they also included a Velcro cord strap to wrap your cord up when you aren’t using it.
The small USB like connection on the sound card and on the Elite Prisms cable can also be found on the rest of the accessories. SteelSeries gives you the option to plug directly into the sound card or you can use one of the two other adapter cables. One has double analog jacks for microphone and headphone connections on most PCs and the other has a single connection that handles both. The latter you normally see on phones, tablets, and thin laptops. They also include a cord extender, the default cord is really only useful when hooking up to portable devices that you have on or near you, hooking up to a PC requires a little more cord. Even when using the extension cable you still have the option to use one of the two adapter cables or the USB sound card.
One of the really unique aspects of the Elite Prism and the original Elite are the LED rings on each earcup. Not only can you set them to glow any color at all, but they also have a few other functions. When you twist the one on the left it mutes your microphone and turns an LED light on to let you know the microphone is muted. The right one controls your volume controls when you turn it. Each has a small rubber ring around it with dimples to give you a good grip. Just to give you an idea of how far they turn, the volume control turns about 180 degrees while the mute hardly turns at all. I like the SteelSeries logos on each earcup as well, they don’t use very much branding and it helps keep a clean look.
One of the small changes when going to the Prism from the original Elite was to actually anidize the aluminum support arch that runs from earcup to earcup. The original black model was all black but had a silver arch that looked completely out of place. The new look might seem like a small change but it looks MUCH better. So the Siberia Elite Prism uses that arch to give the whole headset a solid base but when you put them on the only thing that touches the top of your head is a suspended pad. This is the same design that the original Siberia and the Siberia V2 used as well. This design normally feels lighter and frankly it forms to fit your head a little better without having to use as much padding. The strap on this model is rubber on top with a SteelSeries logo embossed into it with small inch wide leather pads on the underside.
One of the other big changes was to move from the extremely thick microphone design on the original Elite and actually use the same microphone from the H Wireless. Looking at the specs this is actually a fairly significant downgrade microphone wise, but the old design was inflexible in your way. Hopefully the change won’t hurt actual performance too much, but I know initially it is great to see the microphone be easier to use. Just to give you an idea of the difference I dug out our original Siberia Elites and got a comparison shot as well.
Down under the right earcup there they also slipped in another headphone port that you can use to share what you are listening too with a friend. I absolutely love this feature but also completely forget to use it when it would actually come in handy!
The last and biggest change when going from the Elite to the Elite Prism was in the earcups. While the Siberia Elite looks like it should be the most comfortable headset because it looks like it has two large pillows for earcups, but this didn’t end up being the case for me and a lot of other users. The earcups were actually too thick and they ended up pushing on your ear rather than sitting around your ear. While I could see a difference when I compared next to the old model, it wasn’t until I busted out my trusty measuring tape that I was able to see just how much things changed. They went from under two inches and added around a half inch of space to get to 2 and 3/8th. I will find out in the comfort section if this was enough to fix the comfort issues, but it is promising to see that they made changes.
Audio Quality and Comfort
Let’s be honest, the original Siberia Elite came in needing to really perform considering the popularity of the Siberia V2’s, In the end I wasn’t really impressed with the comfort and audio performance. There really are only two things that a headset needs to do well and it underperformed. SteelSeries took this into account when moving to the Siberia Elite Prism. As you saw in the previous section, they opened up the earcups to try to fix the comfort issues. They also swapped out the microphone to a smaller more flexible model and I’m told they worked on the USB sound card slightly to work on the sound. After getting the photos of the Elite Prism, I spent a lot of time using them when working, gaming, and even while watching the LCS Worlds group stages this past week. The reason I spent so much time was because my initial impressions of the Elite Prisms showed a big improvement in comfort, but small issues would become big issues during extended use.
In the end I found the changes were enough to fix the discomfort issues that I ran into with the originals. Now that the earcups fit me properly I was able to keep them on for hours at a time without any issues. I did notice that my ears warmed up more when my office got a little warm, this is an issue for most headsets for me but it was slightly more of an issue this time around due to the larger earcups. So my next concern was did the changes change the comfort levels for people with smaller heads. Remember my wife found the originals to be comfortable when I didn’t. I had her try these without any issues once again. All in all I was very happy with the changes! I wouldn’t say that the Siberia Elite Prisms are worlds above the extremely comfortable Siberia V2’s, but the thicker earcups are nicer making them a nice improvement.
Moving to the audio testing, as I mentioned before I used the Elite Prisms while gaming, watching TV, and also for music while working. When testing I flipped between the USB sound card and also using my own sound card via the audio jack. The original Elite had distortion issues when using the USB sound card and turning it all the way up. I can confirm I didn’t run into this issue at all during my testing. I did however notice like before that there is a fairly large difference in potential volume levels between the USB sound card and hooking directly to my PC. While the sound performance is now great with the USB sound card, I think they still have the overall volume limited to prevent the distortion from happening. Honestly the levels that you can get are most likely great for most people, it was only when I really wanted to crank things up I switched over to the analog connection. So in the end the audio performance has improved, but the USB Sound card is holding the Elite Prism back. Maybe in the future SteelSeries will consider using a DAC or something similar for a collector’s edition.
Let’s also not forget that SteelSeries also changed the microphone this time around. Spec wise the original microphone was actually really kickass and in order for them to make the design smaller and flexible (the original was very inflexible because of its thickness) they moved to the microphone from the 9H. So what did that mean spec wise? Well for frequency range we went from 75 – 16000 Hz to 11 – 10000 Hz and sensitivity went from -38 dB to -44 dB. So all around this was a drop in performance. How does that translate into real world performance? Frankly not as much as you would think. I basically only use my microphone to make phone calls, skype calls, and to talk to my team when gaming. In all of those situations, the lowered performance microphone is still more than enough to do exactly that. In fact, I still had to turn the microphone volume down because no one wants to listen to me banging away on my keyboard and breathing heavy when gaming. So while I do wish the Elite Prism still had the awesome microphone that was on the original, I will take the thinner design that actually moves and stays where I put it anyday!
With the Siberia Elite Prism coming with its own USB sound card you get an additional benefit. You get access to the SteelSeries Engine 3 software. This is the same software that works with most of SteelSeries’s current product lineup, there are still a few things that use the older version as well but they have been hard at work converting things over. That means if you have invested in other SteelSeries products you can use one program to tweak and tune everything you have plugged in.
When you first open up the SteelSeries Engine 3 it will load a page with all of the different devices that you have hooked up as well as devices that you have used and don’t have hooked up any longer. In this case you can see that I have a few currently listed. From here you can click on any of them to load up the settings page for that device. There is also a library page. That page is where you can load a program from your PC that you would like to automatically prompt new settings for any or all of your devices. A great example of this would be having specific key bindings or even lighting when you play specific games.
Also from the homepage you will actually get notifications when you need to update your SteelSeries software. Clicking update will take you to the download page. I really hope in the future they are able to work in being able to download and update right in the software. Also for whatever reason my software is up to date but it is still prompting me to update.
So when you get into the settings page for the Siberia Elite Prism there are really only a few important things you can adjust. You have a full equalizer that you can toy with yourself or set to one of the many defaults that they provide you. You have the option to turn on Dolby, the microphone noise reduction, and auto microphone compression. Personally, I hate the way the Dolby sounds but I do run the noise reduction to help cut out background noise. Microphone sidetone actually feeds a small (and adjustable) amount of your microphone audio back into your headset. This can be nice so you can confirm when your microphone is on or if you need to listen for kids or an alarm when you have your headset on. Lastly you have the microphone volume, I think everyone knows what that is for. Each one of the options has a small question mark in the top right corner that you can click on and get a quick explanation of what each option does, this way you won’t need to keep this review printed out at your desk when setting your settings.
The last and coolest option is the small LED option that is next to the photo of the headset in the software. When you click this you have full access to the full color spectrum to set the earcup LED color. I of course went right for a LanOC orange to start things off, but I also toyed with purple and a few other colors that also look amazing on the Siberia Elite Prism. If you want you even have a few options to let it color change. I would really love to see them expand on this a little to let you pic the colors and how gradual of a change you want to see, currently you can only select from the options available.
So I mentioned all of the colors that you can run. I didn’t know the best place to put this nitpick but I found that the colors I selected were a little off from what actually shows. When going for LanOC orange I ended up with a yellow moving to what was basically a red gave me the night orange that I was looking for. In the end I got the same end result as what I was going for, but I do wonder if there isn’t a little tuning they could do on this to try to match this up a little better. On a side note, the headset lighting looks amazing!
Overall and Final Verdict
With SteelSeries launching a full audio product lineup today I have a feeling that some people aren’t going to even realize that the Siberia Elite Prisms are a lot more than a renamed Siberia Elite. Frankly to stick with the Prism theme that wouldn’t have had to change anything, because the original Elite has the full color lighting. SteelSeries took the chance to look at the Elite and make a few changes to make their flagship headset more of a proper flagship model. Their original had a few key issues that we along with a lot of their customers ran into. They changed the earcup design to increase comfort, swapped out the microphone with a more flexible model, tuned the USB soundcard, and anodized the arch black for the black model and changed the earcups from white to black on the white model.
So did the changes help? In short yes, very much. The original Siberia Elite has been sitting stored away for months because I wasn’t able to use it over extended periods of time. The Elite Prism though hit the nail on the head and was very comfortable for me. The change to the black arch was great although I think now the black version looks worlds better than the white model because of the earcup change. Just like before, I loved the tangle free cables, they do such a great job that you really don’t notice until you go back to a normal cord. The same goes for the integrated audio and microphone controls, they are great to have right on the earcups.
The Siberia Elite Prism wasn’t perfect though. I did still have some issues with the audio levels for the USB sound card being lower than what I could get through analog. It wasn’t a deal breaker by any means, but it is worth keeping in mind. I also nitpicked a little on the LED colors not really lining up with the colors I selected in the software. I had to use what was basically a red to get a real orange. That is trivial though. Really the only issue I still have is with the overall price. While I think SteelSeries has finally made a headset deserving of its name I do think that the market is going to be a little limited at this price point. People spending this much on audio are few and far between, especially when a lot of gamers are young. Gaming headsets in this price range generally are wireless.