With the original Siberia Elite, I disliked the USB soundcard. It distorted the headset's sound signature, and also limited its volume, severely. Now, while I don't advocate listening to whatever sound you prefer at deafening levels, having the option to do so is almost always a given. When the Elite Prism was released, SteelSeries also announced that the USB soundcard has also been updated, and the new edition is miles ahead of the original.
It's louder, and the sound doesn't take that much of a severe hit. It's still altered, but not dramatically. I've heard that there might be some issues with it, but from personal experience, trying it in a number of ways, going out of my way to break it down (changing volume constantly, playing around with the available options), there was absolutely no bug with it.
As for the headset itself, there are some differences between the original Elite and the Prism, mainly in clarity, which is mandatory, considering the price-point. The Elite Prism has a tighter bass, a broader soundstage, a sharper treble and a smoother flowing mid-range. It sounds better throughout, and that's exactly the kind of change I was expecting.
Since this is a gaming-centric headset, the bass is dominant. It's kinda funny, since the original Elite seemed to focus mostly on mids. Thankfully, the potent bass is tight and fast enough to keep up with the most agressive tracks. Still, it's over-emphasised, and at times, it hits the mids quite severely, biting a note or two from its musicality.
It sounds great with electronic music, where sub-bass reins supreme, and the earth-shaking beat is mandatory. If you're interested in complexity, a number of instruments playing simultaneously however, Siberia Elite Prism will struggle to deliver.
The transition is not so subtle, as the lower-mids get a nice bump, while the upper-mids get ignored. It grants presence and a bit of emphasis to male voices, but it also takes away from instrumental sound. The upper-mids get cold and dry, not unlike those on Mionix' Nash 20, and the overall musicality takes a severe hit.
Well, here's the thing, I am not entirely certain of the treble. It's sharp, well extended, but not necessarily pleasant. At times, it sounds tinny, and it becomes fatiguing after several hours of listening. It still retains a pleasant amount of splashyness and the cymbals are there, making all the bells and whistles particularly poignant.
The original Siberia Elite had a very narrow soundstage. While the headset was large, the sound was very much confined to your head. With the Prism that changes (slightly), and the sound now envelops you. There's clear separation and you could easily pin-point where the sound is coming from. Of course, it's nothing close to an open-back headset like the HD600, or even more audiophile centric options like the BrainWavz HM5, but its miles ahead some of its most competent competitors like the HyperX Cloud. If I'd compare it with an option, that'd be Mionix Nash 20, since both seem to have a very similar soundstage, however, whilst the Nash 20 brags about being semi-open, Siberia Elite Prism makes no such claims.
The addition of Dolby Headphone also helps a lot in this regard. It gives directional sound an entirely new dimension, and though its an artificial one, in games it's more than welcome.
Most gaming headsets favor FPS-es, with the bump in the upper-bass and the lower-mids. It adds punch to each bullet fired, and makes gruff voiced characters sound all more dramatic. The added clarity helps with the competitive aspect, allowing you to pick up fine, subtle details like footsteps or grass moving. Considering the soundstage and imaging, I could easily pick up movement around me.
Last, but certainly not least, we have the uni-directional retractable microphone. The previous Siberia headset had a more miss than hit microphone. The updated version has a far better implementation of it, one that is on-par to its price-point. Voice reproduction is still perfect (nasal voice is still there to stay), you won't be using it for commentaries or pod-casts, but its clear enough and doesn't distort easily.
Mic compression and the sidetone are welcome additions, in fact the more I used 'em, the more I wondered why don't more gaming headsets have some sort of digital processing (that's actually good and useful) when it comes to microphone options.