Good wireless sound with the SteelSeries Siberia 800

Do you hate wires like I do? I especially hate them when I’m on a call with a client since I’m a pacer and even a really long cord gets in the way at some point in my pacing around the office.

For a long time I had a pair of Logitech G930 wireless headphones and while they worked well the felt heavy and I figured I could do better with sound quality.

Enter the SteelSeries H

If you haven’t heard of SteelSeries, then let me tell you a bit about them. SteelSeries is a gaming headset manufacturer that is renowned for making good headsets that are comfortable and have great sound. They came out with a wireless headset and I happened to be looking for a replacement for my G930 which was finally falling apart so I jumped on the new SteelSeries H Wireless Headset(this is now called the Sibera 800).

Parts

The SteelSeries H consists of 2 main parts. First is the headset and second is a full base station which is about the size of a current generation AppleTV.

SteelSeries H and base station

SteelSeries H and base station

This does mean that the SteelSeries H aren’t really as portable as the G930’s were since they had a single small USB dongle. It doesn’t really matter though since despite that mobility being a selling feature for me, I never used it in the years I had the G930’s.

Setting up the headphones is simply a matter of grabbing the power adapter and the USB cord and plugging them both in the proper spots. Then you’ll need to follow the concise directions to pair your headset with the base station.

Once paired simply turn them off/on and you’re off to the races.

Never without power

One of the key features I love is the dual batteries for the headset. When I had the G930 I was also using a desktop most of the time which meant I could plug-in my headphones overnight and they’d always have enough power for a day. Now that I’m on a laptop as my main machine I can’t just leave things plugged in.

The base station takes separate power and the spare battery means I can put the second batter in the base station and simply have a full battery when the one I’m using runs out.

Replacing the battery is a simple matter of twisting off the ear cup on the microphone side then swapping the full battery out for the discharged one.

SteelSeries H battery compartment and charging compartment

SteelSeries H battery compartment and charging compartment

Then put the cover back on and power the headset back on. The whole process takes about 15 seconds and then you’ve got a fully charged headset and a batter charging in the base station.

I also find the batteries last 2 days of full use which includes listening to music all day and often a call or two. This little tiny battery lasts longer and weighs much less than the batteries in the G930 I owned.

Audio Quality

I wouldn’t class myself as an audiophile. I’m not interested in the highest bit rate digital files available. I just want sound that’s clear and has no static coming across it. I’ve found the SteelSeries H to hit this criteria without issues. I can’t hear a different between the SteelSeries H and the Siberia Elite’s (which are wired) at all.

The mic is also pretty decent. It’s certainly not as good as nice as my Blue Snowball which I use for podcast or video recording but it’s entirely fine for any Skype or Google Hangout calls I get on. I’ve never had a client complain about the audio quality on a call with the H.

Comfort

The SteelSeries H is by far the most comfortable wireless headset that I’ve ever owned. The only set of headphones that are more comfortable are the Philips O’NEILL The Stretch headphones I own. They are simply lighter than the SteelSeries H since they don’t need a battery but of course they have a cord so I only use those when working in a coffee shop or traveling.

The biggest thing that surprised me about the SteelSeries H was how light it actually was. The battery is so small that it really doesn’t impact the weight of the headset. Really I think the battery for my Canon 60D is heavier than the batteries that come with the SteelSeries H headset.

SteelSeries H battery image

Look how small that battery is

After the weight, the ear cups are super comfortable. They have enough padding to never feel like they’re pushing on your head while also being large enough that your ear doesn’t get caught by them and pushed in to your head.

The tension held across the top strap is enough that they sit securely when I’m really in to a song and hoping around my office without being so tight that they get uncomfortable.

The return for connection issues

Unfortunately the first pair of SteelSeries H I got had connection issues. I tried a myriad of options to cut the issues with the connection like moving my iPhone charging station to the other side of the room or connecting only the headset to my computer (yup not even power) and nothing fixed the issues I was having.

After multiple attempts at fixing this issue and much searching online I got in touch with SteelSeries to return the headset. They issued me a number to return the headset within a few days and even when I let it lapse and came back months later (life just got on top of me) they happily opened the number back up and processed my return.

There was approximately a 4 week turn around for me to get the new headset (from the time I shipped them) but the new pair in the box fixed the issue with static across the wireless connection and dropping the connection. I now charge my phone directly beside the receiver for the headphones and directly underneath my laptop and I have never had an issue with dropping connections on the replacement set.

Compared to…

During the time I didn’t have the SteelSeries H because they were back at the factory I used a set of SteelSeries Siberia Elite as my day-to-day headset. The audio quality is comparable between the two models for music. I find both of them entirely fine to listen to anything and get great enjoyment out of it without a bunch of sound leaking or sounds outside my office getting in.

The biggest different (outside of the cord on the Sibera’s) is that the SteelSeries H is much more comfortable. The Sibera has enough tension in the head strap that after an hour they’d simply hurt my head. This is not an issue on the SteelSeries H.

The SteelSeries H also has enough space inside the ear cup that my entire ear fits in without being pressed down by the padding. The Siberia does not have that much space inside the ear cup so in addition to pinching my head it pressed painfully on my ears.

Outside of fit, when I updated my Mac to Yosemite the microphone no longer worked on the Siberia headset so I would end up getting out my secondary Mic on a large boom stand which totally defeats the purpose of the long cord on the Siberia since you can’t pace anyway.

Comparing the SteelSeries H to the Logitech G930, they are much lighter. A complaint with the G930 was that after a few hours the top of my head would start to hurt despite the padding they had. I can wear the SteelSeries H without issue for a full 8 hour working day and they feel as comfortable at the end of the day as they do at the beginning of the day. The sound and mic quality is also much better on the SteelSeries H over the G930.

Caution don’t install the SteelSeries Drivers

I’ve got a big caution for Mac users…don’t install the SteelSeries drivers. For months I was wondering why my battery on a relatively new 13″ Macbook Air was not lasting like I expected. I was lamenting how much slower my Air was at encoding video.

Then in a general cleaning of my laptop I deleted the SteelSeries Drivers since I didn’t need them for the SteelSeries H and guess what, all my performance and battery life came back.

The SteelSeries Drivers were eating so much processor time that what had been taking 3 hours to render went back to the expected 50 minutes. I may still need these drivers if I ever use my Siberia’s again, but I’d seriously look at just getting a different headset instead and count the Siberia’s as lost cause.

Yup the drivers are that bad.

Recommendation?

Yes I totally recommend the SteelSeries H headset. While they are pricey, if you use them all day they are fairly light and very comfortable.

If you’re on a bit more of a budget then I’d recommend the Logitech G930. They are a totally capable set of headphones with their only real issue being the weight if you’re going to be wearing them for many hours.