For PC enthusiasts, the name “Corsair” is a familiar one. The company has long been producing many products to help us fill out our PC builds, including chassis, PSUs, SSDs and of course, memory. Recently, the company has launched yet another new category of product – audio – and the first product to grace it is the HS1 gaming headset.
According to Corsair, the HS1 headset has a balanced audio curve. A lot of other headsets out there use what’s referred to as a ‘double hump’ audio curve, where the bass and treble are artificially enhanced to provide a greater impact on the user, but the side effect is that it can cause serious fatigue and distort the original sound.
Many people still do the same manually with an equalizer, I did many years ago too, but this often results in a loss of fidelity in the midrange and subtle sounds get drowned out with booming bass and piercing treble. This balanced sound curve on the HS1 does result in a perceived loss of bass if you are used to the more boomy type from other headphones, but your ears do adjust to the loss and will probably thank you for it.
One problem I personally noticed is the midrange is quite cold or harsh, and lacks some warmth that can be found with some Sennheisers, even with EQ adjustments it can’t be tamed. But this is a common trait and not something you should be too concerned with, as again, this is all subjective.
With regard to the equalizer, it does provide a broad frequency range, with a large emphasis on bass, as it starts at 30Hz leading to 60, 120 and 250, so if you prefer the more boomy type of bass, you can use the EQ to regain some. 12 presets are available, but use very aggressive adjustments, so it’s best to dial in more subtle values. Custom preset saving is provided with a very simple interface. Set the values, enter a name in the box below the custom drop-down list, then press the plus, and to remove, press minus… simple as that.
Audio testing was conducted through a variety of music, ranging from Steve Vai, Static X, Holst’s Planets and some Johnny Cash for good measure. Games included Dead Rising 2, Borderlands and Mass Effect 2. I did experiment with the various Dolby settings as well as using unprocessed audio. For the most part, the Dolby Headphone setting did help push the audio sound-scape forward, which helped a lot in-game, but rear positional was easily mistaken for side.
With 7.1 enabled and Dolby disabled, I was confronted with the usual in-head center audio, something I’m quite used to. During frantic moments of ballistic onslaught, the rampant screams of zombies and helpless escorts in Dead Rising 2, audio remained clean, even with the typical sounds of a casino in the background.
When listening to music, I still prefer no post-processing in order to fully grasp detail, while the Dolby settings helped reduce auditory fatigue, it does remove some of the subtle sounds like the various background shuffles of an orchestra or fingers resting on the strings of a guitar. The closed-back design also performs well and blocks out a lot of background noise, but can result in sweat building up around your ears, which is mostly absorbed by the felt pads. Even after 3-4 hours use, the headset remained comfortable and you forget it’s there during intense gaming.
Corsair’s first entry into the world of audio is very impressive, despite the headset being USB based. What it may lack in form it certainly makes up in function. A fair bit of work must of gone into the drivers as well since the Dolby Headphone effect does add an extra dimension to the sound without compromising too much on audio quality.
The only problem I noticed is a slight clicking sound when changing audio options, but this is very subtle and not going to influence playback. The promotional video about these headphones also hinted towards further audio developments, and if they are anything like the HS1′s, we’re going to be in for a treat. If you have $100 to spend on a headset, I would without question recommend these, and for that, they receive our Editor’s Choice award.
What’s next for Corsair, keyboards and Mice? We shall see.
Corsair HS1 USB Gaming Headset
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