I put the Steel Series Diablo 3 headset to the test and this is what I have to say: Before we start the review we have to get the theme music out of the way… theme music you ask?? Why yes, this is what you’ll be listening to as you read the review of course, it adds a whole new dynamic to the experience. After all what’s a headset without music! SO WITHOUT FURTHER ADO THE DIABLO III HEADSET REVIEW THEME HITec LOTec Every big blockbuster game has its share of associated accessories and peripherals and Diablo will be no exception, but are any of these novelties really worth a look? We think so. Enter our first hopeful contender, the aptly, but not too originally, named ‘Diablo 3 Headset’- for all your demonic audio needs. This beastie features not one, not two, but eighteen red LEDs.. Good thing this is a hellfire and brimstone theme or I might mistakenly think I was in a certain similarly-colored-district of Amsterdam. Rounding out the opposition will be all the tried and true headset and headset wannabes we could find laying about the bedroom/gaming wastes, in mildly working condition: the Zalman ZM-MIC1, Plantronics .Audio 370, Razer Barracuda HP-1, Sennheiser HD558 and the contender’s jealous little brother, the Steel Series Siberia V2 will be squaring off and going HEAD to HEAD er… EARCUP to EARCUP with the Diablo in 5 fantastic categories! Comfort and Ergonomics Blindfolded, unwilling subjects were asked to rate the subjective comfort level of all the headsets placed on their head on a scale of ten, ten being most comfortable; some interesting conclusions were formed. While both SteelSeries entries ‘leather’ ear cups initially felt cushy, after a short while they started to get uncomfortably hot, leading to higher-than-nominal perspiration levels. It would have been nice to see replaceable cups on these bad boys so we could use felt/cloth cushions. The Diablo also pressed up very snug against the wearer’s head which could be both good and bad; In vigorous monster-bashing sessions you can rest assured that the headset will stay where you want it, however we found the unit started to feel like it was squashing the brain after a few hours of continuous use. The Siberia’s hold felt much less aggressive than the Diablo’s death grip due mainly to the shallower angle of the headset hangers employed by the Siberia. One issue that we think is probably specific to our Diablo demo unit is the self-adjusting head strap’s elastic was far too weak to properly support the weight of the headset allowing the unit to sag down till the unit was suspended solely by the solid headband/bracket. This was irritating but we didn’t find this to be the case with the Siberia which has an almost identical strap. The Inline volume and mute switch on the SteelSeries sets was a big plus and, unlike the Plantronic’s, actually performed as intended. The braided cord on the Diablo could definitely be a little longer to avoid use of the provided dorky-looking extension. The SteelSeries retractable microphone booms are just awesome. No longer do you have to awkwardly adjust or take off your headset so you can shove food into your mouth before the next raid starts, you can just bend the mic out of the way. They are a great idea and well-implemented. Scores Siberia V2 7.5 Sennheiser 6.6 Diablo 6.4 Plantronics 6.0 Razer 4.5 Sound Quality A few in-game and lossless audio clips were used to compare the sound quality of the sets in question. What both SteelSeries headsets do very well is reproduce the low bass-end of the spectrum; we were very happy with the way explosions sounded bouncing around our skulls. Where the Siberia V2 and especially the Sennheiser pulled ahead was in the mid range and treble sections due the Diablo Headset’s biggest flaw -the use of native USB. The USB soundcard just can’t compete with a high-end PCI version even when listened to with our untrained ears. When we switched the V2 from 3.5mm to the provided Siberia USB card the audio quality degraded to the same level as the Diablo version. This USB fad should have been an option rather than the rule. That being said, even in USB mode, both of these headsets sound far superior to budget alternatives such as the Plantronics .Audio 370. In this regard you seem to get what you pay for. Scores Sennheiser 9.0 Siberia V2 8.1 Diablo 6.9 Plantronics 4.3 Razer 3.5 Zalman n/a Microphone Quality This section may not matter to many of you since you don’t have to hear yourself, however, your party members probably appreciate being able to comprehend what you are saying at least some of the time for gameplay reasons. Blind testing was performed for this test once again with several users listening to the same paragraph read by the same person over the microphone of the various headsets. The very budget Zalman, at a price of only $3, once boosted, was found to be adequate for getting the point across but also transmitted keystrokes, case fan noise and that annoying Diablo 2 carver I have locked in the basement with his incessant mumbling. On the other end of the spectrum the uni-directional mics on the Siberia and Diablo sets effectively reduced these background sounds to zero and required little to no boosting from the OS. The mics were very sensitive and frequently our communication software was activated just by breathing, even with the threshold set correctly. Voice reproduction seemed a little off as our voice-model sounded a bit higher pitched and more effeminate than usual. What was very surprising was how much better the Plantronics $30 head set sounded than any of its competitors; it was a night and day difference. The $30 set reproduced the input voice with both greater clarity and accuracy than either SteelSeries set and the foam on the Plantronics microphone eliminated the breathy ‘pop’ sounds present with the SteelSeries and Zalman units. The Razer mic was not testable because it was broken. Scores Plantronics 9.0 Siberia V2 7.0 Diablo 7.0 Zalman 5.0 Razer n/a Sennheiser n/a Build Quality SteelSeries is known for durable, well-manufactured products and this Diablo headset is definitely solid. The plastic all seems very tough while allowing for fairly low overall weight. The Diablo actually beats out the almost identical Siberia V2 in this test area as it come with a stout ‘in-theme’ braided cord that the V2 lacks. The mic boom is indestructible as always and will contort more than your sister (oh!), without failing. Besides the headstrap issue on the Diablo mentioned previously the SteelSeries build quality is very impressive. Honestly, the SteelSeries units put the Razer and Plantronics versions to shame and are almost on par with the much more expensive Sennheiser set. The Razer was the second set we were on after RMA of the first. The current Razer’s rear channels are soldered the wrong way around and the microphone has broken. Scores Sennheiser 9.2 Siberia V2 8.7 Diablo 8.5 Plantronics 5.6 Razer 3.0 Aesthetics We finally come to the section where the Diablo inspired headset truly shines, literally, those 18 LEDs are fiery bright! Now I’m not one usually into loud, overdone flashing lights and such so I didn’t really think the red LED thing would appeal to me, but the moment I found that the LEDs could be triggered by sound input I was sold. Using the accompanying software the set glows in time to all those bumping beats you put through it… pretty sweet looking if you ask me. Not into that? You can set them to pulse slowly or quickly too. The rest of the headset is just as nice as the lighting effects if not more so. The Matte finish looks very sharp and overall is much nicer than the gloss on the Siberia. The designers have also managed to capture the essence of the medieval setting of Diablo with all the edges and points used on the hangers and ear cups. It looks very menacing. That being said you wouldn’t look very trendy on the street rocking out to your iPod with it but luckily you can’t anyway since its USB only. Will it help you join the mile high club as you use it with your laptop on your flight? Probably not, but please let us know if it does so we can book a trip asap. In summation, if you are a Diablo fanboy or fangirl this look is definitely for you. Conclusion So here I sit, having taken the better part of a week analyzing steel series demonically themed headset entry into the gaming fray, with mixed feelings. What would be a great product has been betrayed by its USB-only connectivity and therefore gimped audio performance, but it’s so damn pretty and so well built its impossible to write off. Basically it comes down to how much you like Diablo. If you love it then this set is definitely worth the asking price. If not, then the Siberia V2 offers a very similar package with better audio capability and is a few bucks cheaper to boot.