gadg-et-oid [gaj-it-oid]


1. having the characteristics or form of a gadget;
resembling a mechanical contrivance or device.

SteelSeries Siberia Neckband Headset Review

I’ve never quite understood neckband headsets, and they do take some getting used to. The laws of gravity seem to dictate that having the band on top of your head is the most sensible location, but fashion will always try to run against the grain and thus, and for seemingly no other reason I can identify, neckband headphones were born.

The SteelSeries Siberia are actually a pretty good example of such ‘phones. They look good, they’re comfortable, they’re compact and they include a very discrete slide-away microphone as a bonus which should not be overlooked when it comes to picking a set of cans to use with your mobile phone.

The Siberia Neckband Headset claims to be made for iPod, iPhone and iPad and the inline-remote/microphone combination lend themselves very well for use with these devices. But it’ll work just as well with a MacBook Pro and any other mobile phone. The clean, crisp white design is very complimentary of Apple’s product line.

The SteelSeries Siberia Neckband really shines when it comes to comfort, the ear-cups are soft and yielding which is particularly important when they need to be pressed firmly against the side of your head for these ‘phones not to fall off. Not having a band over the top of your head is handy in hot weather, too, and seems to be more comfortable during long headphone wearing marathons. It also keeps that handy sunglasses storage spot open, which is a problem I often have with traditional headphones ( Oh god, what have I become! )

The Microphone is extremely useful for avoiding that sudden and irritating scramble to disconnect your headphones, dig your phone out of your pocket and answer an unexpected phone call. If you’re buying into the Siberia for looks, however, you’re going to have to reconcile that uncoolness of speaking on a headset with your inner fashionista.

As with SteelSeries headphones before, the microphone tucks away into an unnoticeable nub which can be grasped and pulled out into a flexible goose-neck-like microphone boom when you want to use it. This design is brilliant, and far better than ungainly fold away, clip on or detachable alternatives- all of which have drawbacks. The only trouble with the microphone is that it’s difficult to know where to place it for the optimum voice quality, you’re obviously not going to hear what you’re saying to the person on the other end of the line. But, that said, you’re likely to get better results than the microphone in your phone, even if you stick the thing up your nose.

What really matters, however, is the sound and this is where the Siberia is a little hit and miss. The sound that *you* hear is excellent, the Siberia delivers clear sound, punchy bass and all the trimmings at decent volume levels. Unfortunately, the sound that everyone else hears is somewhat less than desirable. These ‘phones leak sound like paper bag full of fog-horns, and if you like a decent ( read: excessive ) level of listening volume every now and then you’ll be hard pushed to used them in the office without getting some disapproving glances. Unfortunately, the open driver design which causes this leak, is also one of the reasons why they sound so good. You can’t, one might say, have your cake and eat it ( although what this expression means is anyones guess… I suppose you need a fork, too? ).

If, however, you’re safe in the comfort of your own home, or simply strollin’ down the street, you can get away with the leakage without offending anyone and will find the Siberia headset quite brilliant.

Last, but not least, there’s an inline volume control. It’s a standard affair with volume up/down, they feel responsive, have a decent tactile feedback and have a decent granular control over the iPhone/iPad volume. Much better than any volume wheel you’ll find, and they wont cause your sound to crackle, either.

The price of the Siberia Neckband may seem a little steep at first. But the decent sound, good looks, excellent built-in Microphone and inline-remote make it a strong contender. I was thoroughly enjoying said decent sound until I got dirty looks from my colleagues and realised just how much sound was being projected out from these ‘phones. In the right environment they’re brilliant, but you can forget using these on a bus, or in the office.

Saturday, May 28th, 2011, Featured, iPad, iPad 2, iPhone, Personal Audio.