Incredible sound, braided cords, oversized drivers – it’s not typically the hardware that makes you choose one pair of headphones over the other.  At the end of the day, choosing the right headset is a matter of comfort.  I picked up a pair of Diablo III SteelSeries headphones back when the game came out and have been using them as my exclusive headphone/microphone set for gaming.  When SteelSeries released the Siberia V2, I wanted to see what new elements this pair brought over its recently-released brother.

The first test of the Siberia V2 was an easy choice – I had a great deal of video capture and editing to do for my review of Saints Row IV.   The set features closed-type headphones.  That is to say that the cups cover your ears completely.  The padding inside the soft, thick leather cups are sound dampening, offering a bit of noise reduction while still remaining completely comfortable and sweat-free for over four hours of continuous use.  Beyond the cups, there is a soft padded band held in place by four metal flexible cables.  This band is what holds the unit in place, rather than having the harder frame resting on your skull.  This simple change to the more standard frame-with-cups design made a world of difference.

Convinced that these would be continue to be comfortable long after I needed a break myself, I took a look at the hardware behind the crisp and beautiful sound I’d been immersed in for the last several hours.  Using a pair of 50mm drivers as the engine, the sound range is better than the 40mm drivers found in most headphones in this price range.  Let’s see how it all breaks down:

The lower ranges are handled moderately well in the Siberia V2, delivering solid bass and responsive lower tones.  I’ve heard better bass response, but not until you reach a price more than double the cost of the Siberia V2.  Moving up the range, the mids are shockingly good, whether you are gaming, taking a call over Skype, or listening to music tracks.  Since the aforementioned Saints Row IV features a good deal of Dubstep, the headphones got a bit of a workout throughout the whole spectrum, but it wasn’t the only title I tested.

To fully stretch the legs on the Siberia V2 I tackled several genre staples.  Battlefield 3, Company of Heroes 2, Guild Wars 2, Shadowrun Returns, and even old-school favorite Theme Hospital.   I expected solid sound out of the more modern titles, but I was surprised to hear just how well the Siberia V2 handled low-fi music and sound effects from Bullfrog’s 1997 comedic hospital simulator.  This is due, in no small part, to the built-in soundcard that SteelSeries has fit somewhere into this ultra-light package.  The onboard processing does a bit of cleanup work with less-than-pristine audio and delivers something better to your skullbox.

I’d be remiss not to mention the retractable flexible microphone in the V2.  The flexible arm, tucked neatly into the left cup of the headset, is a far better implementation than arms that fold up next to the frame, attach via a magnet, or any other gimmick offered by most manufacturers.  While the unidirectional microphone is nowhere near as sensitive and responsive as my Snowball microphone, it does a rock-solid job of handling in-game communications or Skype calls without any noticeable interference or additional injected noise.

The USB 2.0 cable in the Siberia V2 is a bit of a departure from the normal approach.  Most companies ship with a three or six foot cable permanently attached to one side or the other.  The Siberia V2 instead has a one foot cable attached to the left cup with an integrated volume control and physical mute switch.  Also in the box is a USB 2.0 extension cable that brings the cable length up to nearly 10 feet.  I found this far more useful than I expected because, although I tend to use my laptop at short distances, I sit a bit further away while using my PC’s tower.

My Diablo III headset features some sweet graphics and branding, but it’s the deep red LED that really sets the whole thing off.  The Siberia V2 instead features a soft orange glow that looks not unlike a car cigarette lighter or the turbines of a jet.  Courtesy of the SteelSeries Engine software that I already had installed for my Apex keyboard, I was able to adjust the equalizer using seven presets including Balanced, Performance, Immersion, Entertainment, Voice, Music, or Custom, which allows me to create my own. Also in the panel you can change the intensity of the LED, turn off the light altogether, have them pulse at various intervals, or pulse along with the ebb and flow of your music.  My only wish is that they’d have installed a full LED set, allowing a larger color array.

In the end, the SteelSeries Siberia V2, or the Diablo III headest are fantastic pieces of hardware.  When you factor in the incredibly comfortable long-term usability of the headphone frames, the soft leather ear cups, and the well-executed high, medium, and lows that these headsets have to offer, it’s hard to believe that it comes with a $100 price tag (less if you catch them on sale). It isn’t often that I’m this impressed with a piece of hardware, but the V2 manages to do that and more.  If you need a fantastic and shockingly comfortable set of headphones for your next LAN party, the SteelSeries Siberia V2 are the headphones for you.