Continuing my tour of high-end headsets, I obtained the SteelSeries 800 (formerly known as the SteelSeries H Wireless) to review. I’ve been using an Astro A50 setup for years and, having recently tried out the Turtle Beach i60, the Siberia 800 was the last one on my radar.
The Siberia 800 comes neatly packaged, and contains a surprisingly useful amount of cables. Aside from the obvious power cords, you also get an analog and mobile cable and a chat cable for your Xbox if you happen to own one. Finally, the inclusion of four different power plugs to use in various countries is a great touch. This was the only headset I’ve seen that does this, and it is a very considerate gesture for anyone who travels or happens to not live in the USA.
If you haven’t owned a wireless headset before, there are few extra steps to get things started. However, with the help of some straightforward instructions, SteelSeries makes this easy, and within a few minutes or less you will be good to go, ready for a whole new world of audio goodness. Out of all the wireless base stations I’ve used, the Siberia 800 is the most stylish, featuring a small digital display that shows you volume level while letting you navigate menus and options.
One caveat: If you want to make use of the Dolby Digital virtual Surround Sound option (and you will, trust me), you will need to buy an optical cable not included with the package. That said, buying a Toslink to Optical Mini plug from your local tech shop or off Amazon solves the problem neatly. You can still use the headset normally via the USB connection, but you won’t have the surround sound option until you get the appropriate cable. (Something like this will work)
The build quality of the Siberia 800 is very sturdy and feels solid without being overly heavy. I found them very comfortable to wear due to the soft ear cups that cushion against your head. Despite this, they become a little too tight after a few hours of use, and I found myself adjusting them on my head here and there.
I’m not an audio expert, but having used a variety of high-end headsets I can say with certainty that the Siberia 800 matches the competition. I found them to be nearly identical to my Astro A50s, with no truly discernible difference. The Surround Sound is just as good, and a variety of games, music and movies all sound amazing. If you haven’t used a high-quality headset before, your ears will be blown away. And even if you have, they will be very happy with any sound the Siberia 800 puts out.
You can play around with a few different sound presets, as well as make use of the ChatMix feature which dampens game sound when people talk. Conveniently, the most common presets are all able to be toggled directly from the headset without having to access the base station (though you can toggle them there as well).
The Siberia 800 comes with two batteries, and SteelSeries claims 20 hours of battery life per one, which I found to be pretty accurate. I feel like I got roughly 18 hours of life from each battery, and this was with long sessions of use, but I never timed it exactly, and I suspect with somewhat lighter use, the batteries would last longer. Still, as the battery life was long enough to not worry about anytime soon in a day, it’s nothing to complain about.
Charging and switching the batteries is a fairly simple affair. The base station doubles as a charger, and your unused battery slots into the side of the base station to charge. The display not only shows the current level of battery in use, but also the one charging. Swapping out the batteries was a bit more involved, requiring you to twist off the right ear cup, pull out the battery, slot in the other before twisting the ear cup back on.
The lack of wires is nice, but comes with a downside – in order to switch batteries, you not only have to remove your headset for around 20 seconds, but also temporarily lose sound while you swap batteries. I got quick at switching them out, but it is not something you want to do in the middle of a match of Dota 2 or any other fast-paced multiplayer game that requires near-constant attention.
The last feature to discuss is the retractable microphone. This is an interesting, if slightly imperfect design. When not in use the microphone can be pushed into the headset. This is nifty in minimizing the headset’s profile so you don’t have a mic sticking out, but is that really a concern? I never thought so, anyway. The problem with this design is that when you pull the microphone out to use it, you have to take a minute to wiggle it into place.
Other than that, the microphone delivers a crisp, clear delivery for voice chat or recording. There is also a microphone mute button on the bottom of the right ear cup which you can easily reach and up press with your thumb. The end of the microphone lights up in red when muted, though I found this a distraction in my peripheral vision.
If you are a fan of SteelSeries products, or are looking for a great entry to high-end gaming headsets, than the Siberia 800 will do you well. It is an investment, but I didn’t find it overpriced. The sturdy design, top-notch audio, and long battery life justify the price tag. If you’ve got the cash, treat your ears.
- Great audio quality
- Includes two rechargeable batteries
- Power plugs for various countries
- Comes with analog and mobile cables
- Easy microphone mute access
- Retractable microphone is cool…
- But requires some wiggling to position
- Needs separate cable to enable virtual surround sound on Mac
- Briefly lose sound while you switch batteries
- Volume slider placement on headset