For headsets, I generally favor those that are of a neckband design. I’ve picked up a few over the years both with and without a mic to use. Meeting SteelSeries at CES 2011, one of two new items they were showing off was their Siberia Neckband for iPod, iPhone, and iPad. SteelSeries was nice enough to send a unit over to me to test out as I was very curious to see how well they worked.
The SteelSeries Siberia Neckband for iPod, iPhone, and iPad looks like it belongs in the Apple family. Each of the 40mm drivers are encased in a white plastic design that should be familiar to fans of SteelSeries. Inside they are lined with cloth and each cup has some soft padding to help with comfort.
In my recent review of the Siberia V2, I expounded on the great mic design. Well, the Siberia Neckband also features the awesome flexible and retractable mic found on the V2 as well. There’s a myriad of positions you can put the mic in with its flexible arm and when not in use, you can hide it out of the way inside the left earpiece. It’s definitely one of my favorite mic designs out there.
I do wish the headset came with a longer cord though. As is, it’s OK but an inch or two more would’ve given some better breathing room in my opinion. There’s a control unit that sits a little high on the cord that can control the volume, fast forward, rewind, pause, or answer the phone when connected to one of the Apple products. Where it’s placed, you barely see it out of the corner of your eye, but you can operate it without looking at it. Still, a few inches further down the wire would’ve been ideal.
To hold the headset in place, the Siberia Neckband features a retractable band that aids in compressing the headset to the sides of your head. To put the set on, you pull the Sibera Neckband’s earpieces, extending the neckband, place the headset over the ears, and let go. Now, I’m used to much smaller earcups and a thin plastic piece that hangs on the ears to keep behind the head headsets in place. The way the Siberia Neckband works, it can get a little bit uncomfortable when in prolong usage. I’ve had my ears become a little hot and did some adjusting multiple times when using the headset for more than twenty minutes. I think because of the large design in the earpieces as well as the neckband, it puts a lot more pressure on the sides of the head than traditional behind-the-head headsets. It wasn’t as comfortable as others I’ve used, which is a little disappointing.
Another problem I ran into with the way the headset stays on your head is that it easily slips off for those with hair around the ears, such as those of my wife. She had a rough time keeping the Siberia Neckband to stay on and when moving her hair out of the way, she said it felt there was too much pressure on the upper half of her ears. Moving a little bit, the Siberia Neckband fell off pretty easily from her head. This can be a pretty big detriment to those that would like to use the headset on the move, such as walking or running. For those on long commutes on a train or a plane, that isn't such an issue. In contrast to my other behind the head sets, they easily stayed on her head since they relied on a plastic piece as well as having smaller ear cups.
Sound, though, is top notch and I expected no less given my experience with the Siberia V2. I don’t have an Apple product, but I attached the headset to my HTC EVO 4G and listened to various musical selections as well as participating in a few games from my various emulators and my library. Sound was crystal clear with very good highs and mids. Lows were pretty good too with some solid thumping coming from songs with heavy bass.
The mic also did a pretty good job of picking up my voice, but since there’s no noise cancellation built in, it also picked up sound around me pretty well too. When doing some recording tests, I captured more than I would’ve liked around me and if this set is built for iPhones in part, some noise cancellation would’ve done some good in making for a better voice experience. Other than that, my voice came in loud and clear with the mic so the party on the other end shouldn’t have any problems hearing you. Just make sure there’s not too much going on around you when you are talking.
If you don’t have an Apple product, the Siberia Neckband does work with other phones, using my EVO 4G as the example. I tried to use the inline control but the only thing I could get it to constantly do was to pause and play the music. Some fiddling let me skip tracks, but it was inconsistent on which way it skipped. It also turned on shuffle play but I could never consistently reproduce the results. At least I was able to talk with the mic during phone calls, so the major functions do work well with non-Apple products.
I had some high hopes for the Siberia Neckband for the iPod, iPhone, and iPad but in the end they turned out to be an average product. They sound great, but the design does have some flaws to it. At $90, I had a few too many issues that prevented me from giving a high grade to them. As is, they are an OK set that are only recommended for those with short hair like me. It’s great that SteelSeries is able to get these in the Apple Stores to sell though as I hear it can be hard for third parties to get their products in official retial channels for sale. SteelSeries does make some awesome headphones, but the Siberia Neckband for the iPod, iPhone, and iPad, in my opinion, is not one of the better ones that they produce.