A gaming peripheral doesn't need to be fancy if it works well. This philosophy powers the SteelSeries Siberia v3 ($70 on Amazon), an affordable headset with a wonderful combo of minimalist design and utilitarian features. If you want a steadfast companion for online gaming that doesn't require much maintenance, the Siberia v3 is one of your better options.
Save for other SteelSeries headsets, the Siberia v3 doesn't resemble much else on the market. Rather than having an adjustable headband with lots of padding, this peripheral opts for two rigid metal bands and a flexible headband underneath. The headband not only adjusts to any head size without requiring manual tweaking, but also looks very cool.
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The ear cups are also well designed — they're big without being overwhelming and eye-catching without being ostentatious. The over-the-ear design is large enough to fit just about anyone, and a generous amount of padding around each one helps keep things comfortable.
The left ear cup also sports an extendable, bendable microphone and a button to mute it. Most headsets in this price range have rigid, nonretractable microphones, so the Siberia v3's stylish, flexible mic is a welcome design choice.
The most important part of the Siberia v3's design, however, is that it does not use a USB connection. While USB headsets have their advantages, simplicity is not one of them. With a simple audio jack and an adapter that splits into both audio and microphone jacks, the Siberia v3 is easy to connect to just about any device, with no software required.
The Siberia v3 isn't designed like most other gaming headsets, but that works to its advantage. I actually prefer its flexible headband to the manually adjustable alternatives on most devices. There's no fine-tuning, and no chance that you'll wear the device with anything less than a perfect fit.
Thanks, in part, to its novel design, the Siberia v3 is quite comfortable to wear. The peripheral is neither too loose nor too tight, and the device's lightweight construction means that it doesn't weigh down too heavily.
One of my co-workers also gave it generally positive marks but was not quite as enthusiastic as I was. He said that the flexible headband felt tight, but he also has a much taller head than I do. Otherwise, he agreed that the ear cups were comfortable and that wearing the peripheral for a few hours at a time would not present a problem.
Because the Siberia v3 does not possess any software, there's no way to alter its audio performance. Fortunately, the headset sounds good, even if it doesn't quite get to the "great" tier. I tested the device with both Titanfall and Assassin's Creed Unity, and found it perfectly suitable to both a multiplayer shooter and a more cinematic action/adventure title.
In Titanfall, it was easy to discern where my attackers (both fast-running pilots and enormous battle mechs) were. Assassin's Creed Unity presented stealthy footsteps and francophone conversations with clarity.
The only problem with the Siberia v3 is that you can't fine-tune the sound balance from game to game. Not having to monkey around with software is a worthwhile trade-off, in my opinion, but it may bother hardcore audiophiles or tournament-level players.
A co-worker told me that the microphone sounded a little bit hot and bass-heavy but otherwise crystal-clear. While I wouldn't recommend using it to record your latest indie single, coordinating your team in an online shooter shouldn't be a problem.
The Siberia v3's music quality is very similar to its gaming performance: good overall, but not customizable. I tested the headset with a variety of tracks from G.F. Handel, Old Crow Medicine Show and Flogging Molly, and was reasonably pleased with the results.
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The headset didn't really favor treble or bass, but each track was completely audible and not muddled in the least. With a generally bright soundscape and clear sound, the Siberia v3 didn't quite measure up to models like the Corsair H2100, but it sounded pleasant overall.
While you probably wouldn't want to run out and buy the Siberia v3 just to listen to some tunes, you also won't necessarily need to invest in another peripheral just for music.
The Siberia v3 is simple and inexpensive, which are its biggest strengths, but it also limits its target audience. Audiophiles, tournament players and inveterate tweakers will have to look elsewhere (and spend more money). However, if you want an intuitive and comfortable headset that you can also use with your phone or console, the Siberia v3 is a strong choice.
Size: 3.9 X 8.3 X 7.7 inches
Weight: 9.9 ounces
Connection: 3.5 mm audio and microphone jacks
Frequency Response: 10 – 28,000 Hz
Marshall Honorof is a Staff Writer for Tom's Guide. Contact him at email@example.com. Follow him @marshallhonorof and on Google+. Follow us @tomsguide, on Facebook and on Google+.