At a Glance
The Siberia Neckband is a solid attempt at providing a single headset for multiple activities, but that versatility isn’t enough to make up for poor sound isolation and comfort.
SteelSeries’ original Siberia Headset has been a popular choice among gamers, DJs, and even music lovers since its 2004 debut. Unfortunately, the successor to that model, the $90 Steelseries Siberia Neckband Headset, falls short of the well-loved original when it comes to both comfort and sound quality.
The Siberia headset is made mostly of lightweight plastic, yet it seems surprisingly durable. The flexible neckband has enough give to accommodate a head with far more mass than mine, and the neckband rests low across the neck.
On first sight, I assumed the bulky, shiny-white earpieces would look comically large. But once you put on the headphones, the earpieces actually look sleek and smaller than I had expected. However, a definite setback is that the headphones don’t fold up compactly—I found myself transporting them around my neck rather than sacrificing space in my purse or laptop bag.
The large earpieces feature soft pads that cover my ears completely. But despite the cushioning, these earpieces are what ultimately made the headphones uncomfortable for me, as the large size coupled with the behind-the-neck design meant that the Neckband quickly pulled down on my ears. Initially, it felt like just a bit of pressure against my head, but after about ten minutes of use, the problem became a real irritation. I relieved the annoyance somewhat by rotating the neckband upwards and resting it on my ponytail, but the headphones still pull down over time—and, obviously, not everyone has a headphone-supporting ponytail. Larger-headed friends who tried the Siberia complained of the same problem.
The Siberia’s cable hosts an Apple-style inline remote—the newer, three-button version—for controlling volume and playback/phone functions. (Unlike some three-button remotes, the playback button didn’t work when plugged into my Mac; it did work with my iPhone and iPod.) A nice feature is the hidden, retractable microphone that slides in and out of the left earpiece.
The Siberia’s lack of comfort is, sadly, not its only problem. Although audio quality isn’t bad, the Siberia offers little to no noise isolation—to keep my music or game audio from bothering those around me, I had to keep the volume at an incredibly low level. The result was music that sounded flat and lacked dynamics unless I wanted my coworkers to hear Lady Gaga’s every word or “ra ra.”
Macworld’s buying advice
The Siberia Neckband is a solid attempt at providing a single headset for multiple activities. The pull-out microphone makes the Siberia useful for gaming (and, I suppose, for hands-free calling when used with an iPhone, though not while driving). The low-slung fit across the neck may even be tight enough not to fall off while listening at the gym. However, versatility isn’t enough to make up for the fact that the Siberia Neckband Headset doesn’t isolate sound very well and isn’t comfortable enough for extended use.