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In 2001, SteelSeries’ first achievement, then known as Soft Trading, came onto the market: the Icemat. This glass mouse pad collected a lot less dust and dirt than the usual cloth mouse pads. That meant that you didn’t have to take your mouse ball out of your mouse all the time to clean it before the mouse functioned properly again. A seemingly elegant solution with big implications for competitive gamers – the kind of gamer that’s becoming more common at the turn of the millennium.
This problem-solving approach and the focus on the professional gamer is the foundation of virtually all SteelSeries products. You can see that immediately when you look at the first headset that SteelSeries launched on the market in 2004: the Siberia v1 Gaming Headset. Where before as a gamer you had to do it with normal headphones or a typical gray ’90s headset, the Siberia was one of the first headsets for gamers to combine the comfort of a full-fledged headset with the speech capabilities of a headset.
You can clearly see the appearance of the Siberia v1 no longer fully in line with current trends. Nevertheless, the snow-white design itself remains quite solid. Fourteen years ago SteelSeries introduced a number of standards with this Siberia v1 that can be found in their headsets to this day. If you are familiar with the SteelSeries Arctis line, you will immediately recognize the elastic in the headband. This elastic makes SteelSeries headsets float on your head, as it were: a big step forward in terms of comfort. With the rise of the professional gamer, and with it competitive multiplayer, the tactical element of playing together became more and more emphasized. To give gamers the opportunity to interact with their fellow players during these multiplayer sessions, SteelSeries introduced a clip-on microphone to pin to your shirt with the Siberia v1.
With its successor Siberia v2, SteelSeries once again took the advice from gamers to heart and the design was improved by the addition of larger 50mm drivers. This resulted in larger shells and thus a better seal against ambient noise was immediately realized: an absolute added value for the pros. The Siberia v2 also featured the signature retractable microphone hidden in the left ear cup. This microphone was a significant advance in both use and sound quality over the version 1 clip-on microphone. The Siberia v2’s larger drivers not only provided more bass response, better immersion and earcups that closed off more, it also provided that SteelSeries gaming headsets were instantly seen as a serious, high-quality audio product. To support the ambition of multi-usability for gamers, SteelSeries made the headset’s volume and pause buttons fully compatible with the then wildly popular iPod Classic and second generation iPod Touch.
The Siberia v3 Prism played a little more on the aesthetic side by adding LED lighting in the ear cups. This was also the first Sibera headset that could be connected to USB without an additional extension cable or sound card. All developments within the Siberia series are clearly attributable to the wishes of gamers. The various Siberia headsets not only show nicely that SteelSeries is constantly looking for improvements specifically for gamers, but the advancements in various technologies and console generations also trickle down into the design choices. One of the last Siberia models, the Sibera 840, hit the market in 2016. This headset is not only compatible with the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, it is completely wireless and has 7.1 surround sound. That’s quite an improvement since Siberia v1.
The models and developments of various SteelSeries headsets are quite intertwined. The Siberia line is by no means the only headset caller that SteelSeries has developed over the past twenty years. Many of the different headsets have evolved over time into new models with different names. The Siberia 840 that just came by is, for example, the successor to the H-Wireless. The H series – the H stands for Heritage – was first released in 2009, about five years after the Siberia v1: the Steelseries 3H USB Connector Foldable Lightweight Gaming Headset. Where the Siberia line emerged as a solution for gamers looking for high-end, multi-purpose headsets, the Heritage denominator for SteelSeries marked a return to basics: audio solutions for competitive, professional gamers.
SteelSeries took the problems of the professional gamers seriously: they traveled a lot and they played longer consecutively. This resulted in H-series headsets that are very light and fully foldable. Where the ear cups of the Siberia line were still covered with a synthetic leather variant, the well-known soft fabric, which you will also find on the latest Arctis models, makes its first appearance with the 4H. This is to prevent heat build-up during long sessions and to increase comfort. To ensure that competitive gamers are not distracted during matches, the 9H even features double-walled ear cups. This so-called box-in-box construction is also used in music studios to increase sound insulation.
The H-Wireless, as mentioned, later developed and renamed the Siberia 840, also marked the arrival of the expanded Base Station. That makes the H-Wireless the perfect middle way between the multi-usability of the Siberia line and the practical, professional solution of the H-series. Console gaming has become a lot more common and these gamers also liked to use the surround sound options that were already common in PC setups at that time. The Base Station made this possible. Battery life was also a major drawback of most wireless headsets. Thanks to the delivery of two batteries that could be charged alternately in the Base Station, you as a gamer were never without power: a solution that SteelSeries still uses in their top-line headsets to this day. Another unique feature of the H-Wireless is the so-called Share port. This input makes it possible to connect a second, wired headset to the H-Wireless, so that someone can listen with it. For example, console gamers could provide audio to two people during a couch co-op with one wireless headset.
In the meantime, SteelSeries’ drive for innovation has created the Arctic denominator. Once again, the company has taken a very problem-solving approach. This results in gaming headsets that are not only Dual Wireless, but which also take extra into account the comfort and appearance. In this way, SteelSeries with the Arctis series not only provides headsets that can give you a competitive advantage during multiplayer gaming, but the sound quality and multi-usability are thought out in such a way that you can also take these headsets outside with you.
It is interesting to see how the different techniques and design choices developed over the years come together in the Arctic line. Naturally, the Arctis headsets are characterized by the floating headband construction that was introduced about sixteen years ago on the first Siberia headset, but you can also find, for example, the soft fabric covering of the 4H from 2007. In addition, the dual battery system with the Base Station, introduced in the H-Wireless, has been used in the Arctis Pro – the headset that topped our Headset Round-Up last year.
The most recent Arctic 9 is indicative of the progress SteelSeries has made over the past twenty years . This headset is compatible with all recent consoles, smartphones and handhelds. Thanks to the Dual-Wireless options, the Arctis 9 can also be connected wirelessly via bluetooth as well as 2.4Ghz. This while the battery lasts about twenty hours; quite an improvement over the ten hours of the H-Wireless.
The Arctic headsets are a lot more complete than the Siberia game headsets the company uses started, and that is not only due to the technological leaps of the past twenty years. SteelSeries products are characterized by a sharp look at the wishes of gamers. SteelSeries has also succeeded in combining the practical approach and the great ease of use with sound quality that can appeal not only to gamers, but also to critical music lovers. And you don’t see that often.