The Quest for the Ultimate Gaming Headphone: Part 1
Icemat Siberia Headset
Audio is much more important than many gamers admit. I cringe when I attend a LAN party and see gamers using their motherboards onboard sound with a cheap headset. They are not getting the full gaming experience, nor are they playing to their fullest potential. A good headset is just as important as a good mouse or keyboard, for it will allow you to pinpoint your enemies (and friends) location and help to immerse yourself in the gaming experience.
With this in mind I set out to find the ultimate gaming headset. Remember, sound is subjective. There are no objective tests for sound quality like there are for other computer performance tests. I can not give you a hard number like I could when reviewing a video card. Also, what I find comfortable may not be comfortable for everyone. Do not despair though, generally good sound is good sound, and high comfort is still comfort.
Things to know and look for when shopping for a headphone/headset:
Superaural: Superaural headphones sit on the ear
Circumaural: Circumaural headphones are larger and fit around the ear. Most full-sized cans are circumaural
Open: Open headphones have an open back that allows air to move back and forth. Open headphones typically have a more natural and airy sound, but do not offer isolation.
Closed: Closed headphones have a sealed back. Closed headphones offer superior noise isolation than open headphones.
USB: There are several gaming headphones that have USB inputs instead of plugging headphones into a standard sound card. This means that the headphones have their own DAC (Digital to Analogue Converter) and integrated headphone amp. Generally speaking these headphones will have superior sound to plugged headphones directly into integrated sound, but a dedicated sound card will usually have better positional audio and provide higher sound quality when paired with a good pair of headphones.
Headphone Amplifier: A headphone amp is exactly what the name implies: an amplifier to drive headphones. All sound cards have built in headphone amps so you can plug headphones into a sound card, but some higher quality headphones require external amplification. Regardless of if a headphone needs an external amp or not, most headphones will benefit from the use of a stand-alone headphone amplifier.
Icemat Siberia Gaming Headset
Icemat is a company that most gamers are at least familiar with. Their award-winning mousing surfaces have given the company acclaim that they have used to branch out to other areas of gaming. Their latest edition is the Icemat Siberia In Ear Headphone, or IEM for short. They also have a USB soundcard and the Siberia Headset that I have here for review.
The headphones come packaged with a microphone, the headphones themselves and a handy volume control. The cord on the headphones is very short so use of the volume control is necessary. The microphone can be attached to your monitor, shirt or the cord of the Siberia headphones.
Frequency response:18 - 28.000 Hz
SPL@1kHz, 1V rms:99 - 104 dB
Cable length:1.0 m + 1.8 m = 2.8 m / 9 ft.
Jack:3.5 mm (6.3 mm converter included)
Frequency response:80 - 15.000 Hz
Sensitivity (1V/P@1 kHz):-38 dB
Color choice: White or black
My Icemat Siberia Headset came in an attractive box. For $80 I feel that Icemat could do a little better with the packaging. While it looks good, the material was thin and left a â€˜cheapâ€™ feeling. The cords are stiff and unbelievably short. It would have been nice for Icemat to make the cord that is connected to the headphones two or three times as long. The cord is so short that it is necessary to use the included volume control, which in and of itself is not a bad thing.
The headphones are quite attractive. The style may not be to everyoneâ€™s liking and many may not want to wear them in public. Build quality of the headphones leaves much to be desired. I feel like the headphones could break if I look at them wrong. I was very careful with my pair the short time that I had them, but I would not want to throw them in my backpack and take them to a lan party for fear that they would not make it in one piece. Another reason not to buy these for frequent lan party use is that they are an open design and I find closed cans better suited for lan parties.
The Siberias are a decent pair of headphones. Especially for gaming, they are better than most headphones, costing less. To achieve accurate positional audio you need a large soundstage and the Siberias have a medium soundstage. While better than most headphones, positional audio with the Siberias is not stellar. To really get a better sound however, you need to spend quite a bit more money so the Siberias are good at their price point.
They have plenty of bass and impact, however they have a bit too much if you ask me as bass gets bloated. Shotguns in Counter Strike: Source seemed to echo due to the bass bloat. Midrange sounds veiled which also adds to the seemingly huge bass. The highs are somewhat shrill.
I listen to a wide variety of music so I decided to listen to some high bit rate LAME encoded mp3â€™s. The Siberias do fine with pop or rock. Again, the bass bloat is present. The highs are shrill, but not uncomfortably so. However, listening to classical made me want to cry. The Siberias just could not handle the detail that classical needs. -Why???This paragraph needs to be rewritten
Overall the sound quality is more than adequate for gaming as most games do not utilize high quality sound files, but I would not recommend these headphones for listening to music.
I was not able to test the microphone as at the time of review I was unable to get any microphones working with Windows Vista.
Comfort is a big issue for me and headphones. I do not care if a headphone sounds spectacular if I can not wear it for longer than 20 minutes. The Siberias are circumaural, which I generally find more comfortable than supraural headphones. The pads are rather thin though and even though I do not have large ears my ears would touch the screens. If you have large ears these headphones may not be very comfortable for you.
The headband does adjust itself so the headphones sit well on nearly any size head. There is a slight clamping that helps somewhat with isolation. The clamping itself however, was not uncomfortable.
The comfort level of these headphones is enough that I could wear them for two hours, however I do not think I could wear them for much longer.
The Icemat Siberia Headset offers a good value for the money as they can often be had for cheap either on sale or after rebate. I purchased my pair for $10 after rebate. I do not feel that the MSR is not descriptive of the quality of the headphones. I have purchased headphones costing much, much less and gotten better build quality and better sound quality. It is however very hard to find headphones with a wider sound stage for less money, and that is one of the most important aspects to look for in a gaming headphone. The sound stage is needed to create the positional audio effect.
If you can find a pair of Icemat Siberias on sale for $50 or less they are a good buy, if not I suggest you save your pennies a little longer and get something better.
•Good value for the price
•Adequate sound quality for gaming
•Headphones feel cheap
•Open design not ideally suited to lan parties
•Bloated, boomy bass
•Thin ear cushions
Final Score: 7.3