SteelSeries has been offering top-shelf gaming peripherals for years now—mice
, and their signature series of headphones
. Their products aren’t cheap but for the money you know you’re getting a quality piece of gear for your console or high-end gaming rig. They recently asked us to review their latest headphones and I admit to being intrigued and a little confused by the products: versions of the 7H and Siberia V2 headsets, but tailored to the iPhone, iPad and iPod.
Regular readers know I am no friend of Apple, their overpriced products or the thorough cheapening they’ve done to portable gaming with the iPad and its innumerable apps. That said this review isn’t about Apple products, but two 3rd party accessories for them. And the headphones themselves are fantastic.
These headsets are truly top of the line. Again, they aren’t bargain priced—they run $100 and $130 for the Siberia and 7H, respectively—but you’re getting the best quality for your money. The builds are sturdy and classy, and the sound fidelity on both sets is fantastic. I’m not sure where that extra 30 bucks comes in on the 7H because I couldn’t tell any difference in performance or build quality between the two, but of course there are some differences.
The Siberia comes in typical Apple white and has a somewhat “spindly” appearance. I don’t mean to say it looks weak or fragile, its frame just has a light, open look to it. The ear cups are connected by two plastic-coated metal bands. An under-slung cushioned strap, suspended by adjustable cables from either ear cup bracket, supports your head and keeps it from rubbing against the frame. This suspension system makes wearing the Siberia feel somewhat floaty and unrestricted, something I wasn’t expecting but appreciated. The strap tends to shift, however, and could potentially mess up your hair; I wore it before and after a trim and it was more comfortable after, so people with longer or curly hair might want to keep that in mind.
The 7H is the more traditionally constructed of the two; the ear cups are attached to a thick, flexible band of plastic which is padded on the bottom. The ear cups have more mobility than on the Siberia, with both swivel and tilt joints. The cups can even be removed for travel and storage. The 7H comes in black, with an extra set of cloth pads if you prefer those over the standard leather.
The 7H and Siberia share a number of features as well. Both have studio quality isolation pads, large enough to comfortably accommodate even my massive open-car-door ears. They also have retractable microphones in the left ear cup, and a handy mic volume control built into the cord that even lets you answer a phone call by pressing on the Steel Series button. There’s no doubt that these are superb headsets…which makes their application all the more puzzling.
These are expensive, high-end gaming headsets. Now I’m not using the old canard that Apple products don’t support games—with Steam’s recent integration into the Mac platform and many of Valve’s best games fully playable on Macs, I must grudgingly concede that Macs are legitimate gaming platforms. But these headsets aren’t even explicitly designed for Mac computers, but Apple portables, and they have the audio jack for those portables and nothing else.
Both the 7H and Siberia for iPod, iPad and iPhone use, out of necessity, Apple’s proprietary TRRS input plug for both audio and voice transfer. They work beautifully as headphones for a slew of common devices—I used them on my scratch-built gaming PC, my Phillips MP3 player, and even my DS Lite—but if you want to utilize the full headphone and mic functionality you need to use them with Apple’s portable devices. The only way to use both features on other devices is to buy an adapter. I’m not saying this choice of plug is wrong; the headphones are made for Apple’s portable devices, so they automatically need to use that composite plug. My issue is, well, why?
Why would I spend this kind of coin on large, studio-type headphones for a portable device? I’m certainly not going to toss a pricey headset into my backpack or gym bag, and I’d rather not use such a large device for portable music, computing or gaming anyway—I’d get some nice earbuds instead. As I said, these headsets are geared toward serious PC gaming. The iPad’s repertoire of Fruit Ninja, Plants vs. Zombies and Cake Mania don’t exactly call for the immersive aural experience that these headphones deliver. Buying these bad boys for Angry Birds is overkill and cumbersome, plain and simple. I’d recommend them for serious PC gaming, but SteelSeries already offers versions of these headsets that work with the standard 2-plug setup or even USB, so if you’re in the market for a PC headset you might as well get the 7H or Siberia that works with a PC out of the box.
As to communication with the iPhone, the size is the main issue; a smaller, more affordable headset or Bluetooth earpiece would be preferable to the 7H and Siberia’s luxurious size. Pulling these big headphones out to answer a call on the subway is impractical and under the circumstances, probably looks a little goofy.
I know, every market has its high-end top dollar peripherals, but the quality and size of the 7H and Siberia are just ill-suited to Apple’s admittedly bargain-flavored portable gaming, and they are just too big to use as your primary smart phone headset. The 7H and Siberia are the kind of investment I’d keep safe and sound at home, plugged into my PC. I’d recommend them whole-heartedly for serious gaming or studio work but they’re the last thing I’d lug around for my tablet or MP3 player. If you want the quality and style of the Siberia or 7H for your gaming PC or home audio setup, get the standard or USB models that SteelSeries already offers. Unless overkill’s your thing, I’d use something much smaller, cheaper and more portable for gaming on Apple’s portables.