By: Jonathan Kwan
October 28, 2006
After reviewing the Icemat Siberia In:Ear last month, it's fairly interesting how we never had a chance to review its bigger brother -- the actual, full size Icemat Siberia. It's definitely not a new product the gaming industry, but it sure is something that a lot of gamers enjoy talking about. Does this pair of headphones live up to its name? Let's just say, it's my chance... err... I mean APH Networks' chance to give my... err... our opinion in regards to this product. Icemat Siberia, here I (I meant we) come!
Our review unit came from Denmark using DHL in a well-packed cardboard box that's still in relatively great condition even after traveling halfway across the world. It's exactly the same type of box that safely enclosed our SteelSound 5H V2 to our doorstep a few weeks back.
On the left side of the box is a Tagan Turbojet Series 1100W (Yes 1100W!) computer power supply that we'll look at in a few weeks. We'll worry about that in a couple week's time, for now let's focus on the Icemat Siberia set of 'cool looking' headphones (As Icemat claims).
Our review unit came in a retail box with Icemat's distinct light blue variation packaging to evoke a sense of 'icy' and 'cold' feeling complimentary to the Icemat brand. The retail box is made of cardboard with a large enough clear plastic window in front to display contents partially inside; the back of the packaging outlines what's in the box along with specifications. Clean and straight to the point with no excessive information to cram it up.
As usual, before we move on, let's take a look at the Icemat Siberia's specifications. The following information were obtained from Icemat's website and modified slightly by us to clarify certain points:
Frequency response: 18 - 28.000 Hz
Impedance: 40 Ohm
SPL@1kHz, 1V rms: 99 - 104 dB
Cable length: 1.0 m (Headphones itself) + 1.8 m (Extension cord; attached to volume module ad mic) = 2.8 m / 9 ft.
Jack: 3.5 mm (6.3 mm converter included)
Frequency response: 80 - 15.000 Hz
Impedance: 2K Ohm
Pick-up pattern: Uni-directional
Sensitivity (1V/P@1 kHz): -38 dB
Out of the box, you will receive the Icemat Siberia itself, extension cord with integrated volume control module, clip on microphone, short information sheet, Icemat product brochure, and interestingly, a 6.3 mm converter for connection to other audio equipment such as a receiver. The default connectors are 3.5 mm mini jacks for maximum compatibility with your computer's sound output.
Although many, including me, would consider Icemat as a pure gaming company, Thomas over at Icemat clears up some confusion for us. In regards to that, he said that the Icemat was "more of a mainstream product" -- but also developed with "highly respected gamers" -- therefore to accommodate both markets.
That explains why the 6.3mm converter was included in the box. On the other hand, the sound components of this headset were developed by respected gamers with an aim at the mainstream crowd. Therefore, this is not 'only' a gaming headset, it's supposedly multipurpose. Let's see how the Icemat Siberia performs in both areas as we rate it later in our tests.
The Icemat Siberia design is unique on its own. The first thing many will notice is its dual headband design. The headband that would actually make contact with your head is the one in the bottom, while two solid plastic cables fly over the top to carry electrical/sound signal from one side to another as well as solving the important job of retaining the shape of the headphones. Like SteelSound's 5H V2, it's designed this way so only one single wire leading up to the left cup is required instead of two separate wires for two separate channels.
The headband that would actually make contact with your head is a soft, thin but wide leather covered with 'that fuzzy warm material' at the bottom. Attachment to the headphones are made by four limited retractable wires with two on each side, therefore no manual adjustment is required for use. I found this extremely convenient and very comfortable to use since it exerts a minimal amount of pressure to the top of my head.
The Icemat Siberia is based on an open design, so they are not designed to isolate noise of any type. Others may also be able to hear what you are listening to, depending on their distance away from you as well as the volume the headphones are outputting.
In regards to Icemat Siberia's cups, the padding is very thin, and therefore the distance from your drivers to your ears are reduced. This will affect performance to a degree, especially the performance in treble; we'll go over this in our testing section later in this review. The surface area of the drivers to ear is also larger than most gaming headsets -- but this way it can accommodate larger ears more easily.
One of the biggest gripes about it is its ability to be transported. Unlike SteelSound's 5H V2 which can be easily dismantled into three pieces, Icemat's Siberia headphone (Or consider it a headset if you count in the separate mic) can neither be dismantled nor folded, much similar to Everglide's s-500. The only difference is that the Everglide s-500 includes a drawstring bag for transport and these don't.
The extension cord with integrated volume control module and clip on microphone. I am not a big fan of these kind of thick plastic wires with straight line textures running up and down (Reminds me of those orange Home Depot electrical extension cords). Anyway, I found the non-removable 1 m cord way to short for my liking, so using the extension is basically required without a doubt. It comes with a sound control module with a 3.5mm headphone jack at one end with the wire going out the other to the audio source. The mic is pretty much identical to the one that comes with Icemat Siberia In:Ear; on the mic itself is an on/off switch and can be attached to the extension cord. The connectors on the other end are color coded to prevent confusion.
Rating by Specification
Treble: Treble is not handled too well by these pair of headphones -- much to my surprise. Since it's developed by participants in the gaming industry, I expected an amount of treble to an extent to properly hear shattering glass and reloads within a game. It possesses none of the boosted treble we've seen with other audio gaming products (But although it is not exactly a gaming product, the treble is still not as clean as the Shure E2c, which commonly referred to as lacking in treble), and it is not distinct.
Midrange: The midrange are generally lacking. In reality, if you were to use this for gaming, it's not that bad, but for general music usage, there are better choices out there. If you use it for VoIP or in-game voice chat, it is capable of doing such a job well enough to an acceptable performance level.
Bass: Better bass than SteelSound 5H V2. It's clean, fairly rounded and distinct. Another contributing factor: Due to its physical design of the padding around the cups, bass will be further enhanced with the drivers closer to your ears.
Frequency Separation: If it's in a game, it's acceptable -- but again we must mention its lack of treble. Therefore, frequency separation itself is limited by the frequency it produces -- if high frequency can not be reproduced as nicely as other headphones, then there isn't too much to say for its separation between lower frequencies (Bass) and higher frequencies (Treble).
Rating by Real World Performance
Music: In general, they are better than other gaming headphones we've seen, but in general they are better for quieter type of music (Not anything metal-ish or lots of instruments). Saying that, it has nice bass, but treble and midrange are not very clean and a bit on the lacking side.
Gaming: The headphone drivers are closer to your ears, so it might be a contributing factor to decreased soundscaping performance because it is not as 'hollow'. They are pretty average for headphones; nothing spectacular but still acceptable for gaming (Even though they are not originally designed for this purpose as the manufacturer claims). Bass is nice and footsteps can be clearly heard -- but treble can be worked on to better reproduce the high frequency sound effects such as shattering glass, scopes, and reloads. To be honest we've seen much better performing headphones in this area, and the SteelSound 5H V2 is still what we prefer for better gaming performance.
Nicely designed headphones that are both good looking and comfortable to wear. Open design and driver close to ear placement allows great bass performance, but the treble as well as midrange has a considerable amount of room for improvement. Not a bad choice for gaming, but the SteelSound 5H V2 proves to be higher performance headphones despite less bass and not being as comfortable in gaming. Also, how portable these headphones are disputable. Looking forward to a revision of the Icemat Siberia multipurpose headset!
Special thanks to Thomas over at Icemat for making this review possible.
- The rating 7/10 means "Great product with many advantages and certain insignificant drawbacks; but should be considered before purchasing".
- The rating 6/10 means "A product with its advantages, but drawbacks should not be ignored before purchasing."
- More information in our Review Focus.
Nice looking headphones and comfortable to wear. Lacking in treble and midrange with not very clean sound; not really designed with portability in mind.