SteelSeries Siberia Raw Prism Review – Affordable comfort
Towards the end of last week, the newly released SteelSeries Siberia Raw Prism made its way to our offices, getting us excited, as it’s been awhile since we had a chance to tinker with some newly released headsets. Naturally, we were expecting the best, as SteelSeries is a known and established leader in the gaming peripheral market. Not wanting to miss the chance to test out a new pair of headphones, I quickly swept away the competition and hurried back to my desk to start unpacking the Prism. In terms of packaging, there was nothing out of the ordinary. The box the Prism arrived in is painted in typical SteelSeries colors, with a combination of orange, black, white and grey. It looks good, but it’s not jaw-dropping. On the inside, the headphones themselves are well secured, so there’s little chance of shipping damage, however, there’s not much else to mention. There were no extensive manuals and no driver CDs included, but frankly, you don’t need either. Why? Because…
The SteelSeries Siberia Raw Prism is a simple, budget-friendly member of the Siberia family. It’s targeted at the entry-level of gaming headsets, costing $59.99. Thus, a basic packaging is more than enough, considering its price. Additionally, the headphones are USB based (which is not necessarily a good thing, but we’ll get to that later), meaning they’re pretty much plug and play. Once plugged in and on your head, one of the greatest features of the Prism become obvious – the headphones are extremely comfortable. Even after 6-7 hour gaming sessions, combined with the use of protective eyewear or regular glasses, you’ll never be bothered by their presence. Actually, you’ll easily forget you’re wearing them. Unlike more expensive headphones, the Siberia Raw Prism uses a soft mesh fabric on its cups, instead of the leather cups most high-end headphones use, and this is a GOOD thing. You can pretty much forget about sweaty ears or feelings of encumbrance. Built around a plastic frame, the SteelSeries Siberia Raw Prism is extremely light-weight, but is surprisingly flexible and sturdy.
As for the looks, well, the Siberia Raw Prism steps away a bit from its Siberi siblings. It kinda looks like the lovechild of an Apple product and some Star Trek tech. In other words, it looks great. White may not be the color of choice for some, but there’s no denying the Prism is a looker. This is amplified by the fact that the left earcup has a built-in microphone, as well as an invisible button to mute the microphone (invisible in the sense that you actually have to push the outside casing of the earcup to activate it). All these elements combined create a stunning visual appeal, and it’s one of the things I like most about the Siberia Raw Prism.
The build quality is top-notch, as you’d expect from SteelSeries. While these headphones were not built with extensive punishment in mind, the Raw Prism will likely last you a lifetime if handled correctly. It feel solid and sturdy, despite being built around a plastic frame. Oh, and it looks awesome. Did we mention the Prism looks awesome? We’ll say it again, just for good measure. The headset comes with a customizable illumination system that looks fantastic. You can select any colors you can think of, in any combination (to the extent of using specific RGB codes to set a specific shade), or you can set the headphones to shift colors in various modes. If you’re worried about having matching peripherals (I have a fixation with having red leds on everything I own and use, especially my keyboard, mouse and headphones), the SteelSeries Siberia Raw Prism won’t disappoint. Too bad headphones are generally sitting on your ears, so you can’t really see them, eh?
The only downside design-wise is the fact that the headphones come with a 1.5 meter long cable. While this shouldn’t be an issue for PC or Mac users, it might be a huge bummer for anyone planning on using the Siberia Raw Prism with a PS 4, for which the headphones have support. Unless your couch is extremely close to your console, it’s hard to imagine how a wired headphone with a 1.5 m long cable will work in your living room. This might be nitpicking on my side, but it’s definitely worth a thought if you’re a console gamer.
While the Siberia Raw Prism doesn’t come with any software within its original packaging and works perfectly on its own after simply plugging it in, you might want to install is the SteelSeries Engine 3, the software SteelSeries is providing for all its peripherals, which can be downloaded from the official page of the company. It’s easy to install, and if you already have it due to owning other SteelSeries products, the software will automatically detect the Raw Prism headset. The software allows you to easily customize some basic audio features for the Prism, as well as the lighting colors. In terms of just how much you can configure, your options are limited, so if you’re an audiophile that likes to tinker with every specific aspect, you’ll likely be disappointed. Still, for the casual gamer or user, whatever the SteelSeries Engine 3 offers in terms of tweaking should be enough, and the software has the advantage of being extremely easy to use.
On the plus side, you can also store your settings via a cloud storage system, allowing you to easily access your custom profiles from anywhere. There are some decent presets too, so if you want to easily switch between various modes (such as music or voice), you have that option too. Overall, the SteelSeries Engine 3 is a great software which works with all SteelSeries products, is easy to use and provides cloud storage, however, don’t expect extremely complex settings for the Siberia Raw Prism.
This is where things get a bit more complicated. On one hand, the SteelSeries Siberia Raw Prism provides a decent enough sound without any additional tinkering, and for casual gamers and users, it will be more than enough. It comes with a surprisingly good sound in the mid and high ranges. On the other hand, it falls short when it comes to bass and low-end sounds. Still, it’s surprisingly good overall, especially in its budget range. The Prism is similar in sound quality to the Siberia V3, and considering that model is significantly more expensive, I was happy with what the Siberia Raw Prism offered overall.
The biggest problem I’ve found with it was the USB interface, instead of the more common 3.5 mm jack. While this isn’t an issue for those that want a nice headset to accompany a gaming laptop, it’s a problem for anyone owning a decent sound-card. Most sound-cards don’t have an USB port, so using the Prism is impossible on these. A decent sound-card might have amplified the audio capabilities of the of the SteelSeries Siberia Raw Prism significantly, but due to the USB interface, we won’t know. Let’s remember though that we’re talking about a $60 headset, which generally caters to entry-level audiophiles that rarely use capable sound-cards and more often than not, are relying on on-board (motherboard integrated) sound solutions. For this customer-base, the Prism provides a more than decent bang for the buck and a really enjoyable experience.
I also have to mention that the microphone’s recording capabilities are sub-par. This is due to the fact that the microphone is located on the left earcup, rather than being close to the speaker’s mouth, so it will inevitably pick up a lot of background noise. If you’re heavily reliant on communication software such as TeamSpeak or Ventrilo, your friends might be experiencing the drawbacks of your Siberia Raw Prism’s visual design. Some tinkering with the microphone’s sensitivity levels could help, but it’s hard to get impressive results with it. Last, but not least, the headphones don’t provide digital surround, but that’s to be expected in the price-range.
All in all, I was happy with the SteelSeries Siberia Raw Prism. While it has some drawbacks (as highlighted above), it certainly is a great pick in the budget category, outshining many competitors in terms of design, comfort and audio quality. You can’t be too choosy when picking up a set of $59.99 headphones after all, and for what it costs, the Siberia Raw Prism offers quite a lot. While I found a few things about the SteelSeries Siberia Raw Prism I didn’t like, I found my time with the headphones enjoyable and pleasant, and not even the poor microphone or the incompatibility with my sound-card would deter me from using them long-term. Due to their lightweight nature, affordable price, relatively small size, extreme comfort and USB interface, the headphones make for the perfect candidate to accompany a gaming notebook.