Steelseries Siberia 800 review: A great wireless headset let down by its microphone

Steelseries Siberia 800

For a wireless gaming headset, the Steelseries Siberia 800 sure does come with a lot of cables. Open up the box and you’d be forgiven for thinking you’ve bought the wrong headphones, as there’s a whole other mini box crammed inside it with more cables than you know what to do with. This is mostly because, unlike a lot of wireless headsets, the Siberia 800 uses a dedicated transmitter box that can be connected to a variety of different devices instead of a traditional USB dongle. Don’t get me wrong, it still feels like a slap in the face when the whole point of wireless headphones is to get rid of said wires, but there is method to this cable-hogging madness.

You see, the Siberia 800 (and its nigh-on identical, Bluetooth-enabled sibling, the Siberia 840) has been designed for use across as many platforms as possible, including consoles, PC and mobile, with the transmitter acting as a sort of AV receiver for all your different audio sources. To be fair, it’s nice that Steelseries has been so accommodating here, as there are plenty of other headsets out there that make you pay extra for additional cables.

Its bundled ‘chat’ cables for Xbox 360 and Xbox One may date it somewhat, but there’s plenty of more modern bits and bobs in here, too, including an optical S/PDIF cable for your TV and PC, a regular 3.5mm analogue cable for wired use, another 3.5mm analogue cable with a flat, right angle jack that’s supposedly for mobile devices but is actually no different to any other 3.5mm cable, and a mini-USB to regular USB for PC and consoles.

You’ll also see Steelseries raving about how it supports Dolby’s 7.1 surround sound, either in Dolby Digital or Dolby Pro Logic IIx form via its optical and USB connections. But let’s face it, when any given pair of headphones only comes with a maximum of two speakers, you’re not really getting proper 7.1 surround sound. It’s physically impossible. Instead, it’s all done at a software level, where your audio drivers do a little bit of jiggery-pokery and add extra virtual audio channels to best represent what it thinks 7.1 surround sound should, well, sound like. It doesn’t do a bad job, actually, at least over USB, but don’t be fooled into thinking it’s going to completely transform your listening experience.

Steelseries Siberia 800 transmitter

Admittedly, the flexibility provided by the transmitter box will likely be lost on most PC owners, as I’d guess a fair number of you don’t have your main gaming rigs set up politely next to your living room TV. As a result, you may want to consider a slightly less convoluted headset if you’re largely going to be using this for PC gaming and nothing else. For all the hassle involved in setting it up, however, the Siberia 800 certainly doesn’t disappoint when it comes to overall audio quality.

Regardless of whether I was using them wirelessly or tethered via its 3.5mm analogue cable sans transmitter, the resulting audio was clear, crisp and wonderfully balanced. I certainly didn’t feel like I was missing out on its virtual surround sound when using its wired connection, and the bass was kept in check at all times. Whether it was listening to the gentle guitar strumming of Final Fantasy XV’s overworld them or hearing the huff and puff of Tacoma’s ever-present sanitation drone accurately whistle and wheeze round my head as I floated through the space station, the Siberia 800 delivered on all fronts irrespective of volume level, creating an immersive soundscape I’d happily listen to for hours.

I say hours – I still had to shuffle the memory-foam padded headband around every half hour or so, but on the whole they were more comfortable than other headphones I’ve used recently. That’s largely down to the Siberia 800’s large, circular ear cups, which practically melted away against my face. These have also got memory foam padding, but it’s the faux leather finish that really makes them feel soft against your cheeks. Most of the time, I barely even registered they were there.

Yep, the Siberia 800 comes with every cable to go in these ports.

Yep, the Siberia 800 comes with every cable to go in these ports.

The Siberia 800 is attractive enough to wear on the move, too, and its closed-back design means you can happily wear them without disturbing others. That said, I was disappointed to see numerous scuff marks appear on its plastic frame after just a ten-minute journey at the very top of my backpack on the way to the station one day. The glossy ear cup covers also attracted no end of fingerprints – which is a shame considering you’ll regularly need to remove them in order to replace its rechargeable lithium battery. Thankfully, you shouldn’t have to do this too often as the battery is rated for 20 hours use, but simply putting them on will still leave the odd imprint as you adjust the fit.

Still, any extra hassle that comes with keeping the Siberia 800 clean is far outweighed by its disappointing retractable microphone. This slots into the left ear cup, and can be roughly adjusted to your liking, but the quality of any resulting chat wasn’t great, to say the least. It will just about get the job done when playing together with your mates online, but using it for calls was a bit of a muffly mess. For my money, the Sennheiser GSP 350 is still king in the headset microphone arena, but then I found those weren’t nearly as good in terms of overall audio quality.

Other little extras you get with the Siberia 800 is a microphone mute button next to the main power button, and an adjustable volume ring on the top of the right ear cup. The latter doesn’t control your PC’s master volume, but it’s still quite handy to have for making those slightly finer adjustments in-game when there are no other volume controls to hand. Annoyingly, the slider just carries on turning regardless of how much volume’s actually available, but at least it makes a small beeping sound when you’ve hit max volume.

Steelseries Siberia 800 microphone

Alternatively, you can always cast your eye over to the transmitter’s smart OLED display for a real-time gauge of where your volume levels currently sit. The transmitter also shows your headphone’s current battery level, and if you pop the second bundled battery inside its little charging nook, you’ll see how much charge that one’s got, too – another generous addition that goes a long way to justify its £210/$260 price.

As much as I like the Siberia 800, though, I’d still expect a better microphone at this kind of price. Again, if you’re not the type of person who plays a lot of online games, then this won’t be much of a problem, as the quality of its overall audio is superb. As long as you’re down with the extra hassle of setting it up and adding each individual audio source one by one on the transmitter menu (yes, really), then I say go for it. For those after a great pair of headphones and a great microphone, however, the Siberia 800 probably isn’t the best gaming headset for you.

15 Comments

  1. Sakkura says:

    You don’t need more than 2 speakers for surround sound. You only have 2 ears, and so long as the HRTF makes all the changes to the sounds that would have happened with 8 speakers in different places, it is literally impossible to tell the difference.

    • Koozer says:

      Personally I find virtual surround in practice never sounds quite convincing enough. My brother has a Logitech headset with multiple physical speakers in each earcup that sounds miles more convincing than my “normal” (high end) headphones with virtual surround. I don’t know how much of that is Logitech’s software at work though, being tuned specifically for games.

      • gunny1993 says:

        2 good quality drivers over 10 cheap shitty ones anyway of the week.

        Also do logitek make a multiple driver headset?

        • intel352 says:

          Logitech doesn’t have any multi-driver headsets. Guy is full of hot air.

  2. Sp4rkR4t says:

    Pls stop.

  3. cairbre says:

    I have these headphones after I ripped my wired pair out of the pc and broke the jack. I find them pretty good but turning off the transmitter box means going into a few different menus which is annoying. The lads on discord have said I sound more tinny too.

  4. FesterSilently says:

    Holy Leaping Christ, $260?!

    I can (personally) recommend a couple (goddamned good-sounding) options with solid microphones:

    – Skullcandy Crusher Bluetooth Wireless ($150)
    – Bluedio Victory Bluetooth ($180)

    Both sound *amazing* (for sub-$200, wireless headphones). The Crushers have stunning bass, and have a battery life *damned* close to the touted 40 hours(!); the Bluedios have a clearer, more separated sound, but only(!) a 12-hour battery life.

    I’ve been using both for a little more than 6 months, split about evenly between music and gaming, with a wee bit of movies thrown in; again, I *absolutely* recommend either, for ~$100 less than the reviewed Steelseries cans.

    /steps daintily off soapbox

    • Beebop says:

      Clearly you’d disagree but I tried loads of different bluetooth options and not one of them had a small enough lag to be realistically gameable. My Steelseries set does the job.

      • FesterSilently says:

        On the contrary – I am *absolutely* with you, in that argument!

        I *still* refuse to jump to wireless keyboards or mice, I still use my *wired* XBox controller for PC, I’ve got multiple pairs of wired full-size headphones and high-end wired earbuds…you get the idea.

        Friends have been trying to sell me on various wireless/bluetooth headphones for YEARS, and I flatly refused to even hear them out (no pun intended); a little bit for the sound quality, a LOT because of the infamous and ferocious *LAG*.

        I don’t recall what got me researching down that particular rabbit hole this past Spring, but I spent 2-3 feverish days/nights watching video reviews, reading dozens of HeadFi.org, headphonia.com, majorhifi.com, soundandvision.com, etc. reviews, and reading exhaustive amounts of treatises on the evolution of Bluetooth technology.

        After all that dross, I thought I’d try the two above-mentioned ‘cans, with the expectations that I’d try ’em out and return the lesser pair after a trial period (thank you, Amazon Prime).

        They both received stellar reviews, possess the latest (at the time) Bluetooth standard (4.1 & 4.2, respectively)(purported to eliminate lag and increase audio quality) and be (relative) bangs for the buck.

        For wholly different reasons each, I loved – and kept – them both.

        And, Tom Clancy as my witness, there is no detectable lag during such games as: Rainbow Six: Siege; Sniper Elite 4; Starcraft 1 & 2; Overwatch; Company of Heroes 1 & 2; Total Warhammer 1 & 2; Crysis; Dishonored, Prey 2017; Wolfenstein New Order & Colossus; Alien Isolation; Far Cry 4.

        I’m not sure which headphones you’ve tried or when, but I’m here to tell you that *these* particular sets of cans are good to game with, and I am a starry-eyed convert, Mr. Beebop, sir. ;)

        (EDIT: I don’t want there to be *any* implication that I am disparaging whatever cans you’re currently using, or that these two I’ve got are any better than yours – I’m only saying they’re okay for me to game with, and they both sound GREAT.)

    • intel352 says:

      The Steelseries P800 is the PS4 variant, $186 at Amazon. I bought it even cheaper on sale at Walmart early this year. Love it as part of my media center, excellent audio fidelity. I don’t screw around w/ it’s Dolby support, since it’s only virtual surround anyhow.

  5. Everlast says:

    SteelSeries has some of the worst customer support I’ve ever experienced also. I’ve had two pairs of their headsets break after 3 months of light/normal use. They ignored all support requests. I’ll never give them a dime again.

  6. Alien says:

    Best headphones I have ever used for gaming:

    Beyerdynamic DTT 770 – they are closed but have an extremely transparent sound with a great soundstage. They sound very good with some kind of virtual surround (Dolby Headphone etc.)

    I have got other good HP, but the open ones – like the Fidelio X2 – don`t give you the kind of immersion you get with closed HP.

    What I am looking for is a receiver like the one from the Siberia 800. The only ones I know are the Astro Mix Amp and the DSS2, but both have bad sound quality (and I think the Siberia 800 receiver has no good sound quality either)

    Does anybody know a good HP receiver with virtual surround? The Smyth Realiser is the only good gaming HP receiver I know, but it is simply to expensive ($2000) and has too much pro features.

  7. cultiv8ed says:

    I’ve had a pair of these for over a year and they’ve been a solid, dependable set of headphones. Compared to the (cheaper) turtle beach wireless set that a friend bought and subsequently returned a week later for constantly dropping out and sounding robotic.

    I’ve not had any issues with the mic, but i’m not a twitch streamer or anything so the quality isn’t hugely important to me.