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On The Bench: Corsair's HS1 USB Gaming Headset

Audio Quality, Analyzed

Comfort is well and good, but audio quality needs to be up to snuff, too. The HS1 offers a variety of listening modes, from pure stereo to Dolby Headphone-enabled virtual surround sound. In direct stereo, the headset sounds as good as the excellent Steelseries Siberia V2 (which also uses 50 mm drivers) and nearly as good as a pair of dedicated Sennheiser HD 580 headphones...and the Corsair unit is more comfortable than both. The overall effect is mostly neutral, with a little bit of forwardness to the vocals. The 50 mm drivers deliver excellent detail, with subtle nuances audible in complex music material. We listened to renaissance music from the quartet Palladian Ensemble and Loreena McKennitt’s Live from the Alhambra CD, and could hear all instruments, even those barely audible at low levels.

Bass is less robust. Even with 50 mm drivers, there’s only so much you can do. Mid-bass content from rock music, like Green Day’s American Idiot and The Crane Wife from the Decemberists is solid, but deep bass effects from Blu-ray movies lacked punch.

Once we were satisfied that the stereo reproduction was up to snuff, we moved on to virtual surround in both movies and games. No virtual surround technology is perfect, and Dolby Headphones is no exception. The default settings for 7.1 seemed a little conservative, and the overall surround effect wasn’t particularly noticeable. However, Corsair’s basic-looking but easy-to-use control panel allowed us to spread the effect out a bit, and the overall sound stage did emerge from between our ears and at least across the desktop. Note that, like many similar technologies, Dolby Headphones uses HRTFs (head-related transfer functions), which tend to affect listeners differently, so your mileage may vary. Some users can’t hear HRTF effects at all.

Even in 7.1 virtual mode, the HS1 seems to retain its ability to project excellent detail, although volume levels drop a bit. However, Corsair’s headset offers a lot of dynamic range (up to 93 dBA), and a few clicks of the large, tactile inline control boost volume to ear-shattering levels without maxing out volume. We could hear every crunch, gunshot and effect during the combat scenes in Kick-Ass, but subtle background noises, like those from the quieter passages of the Band of Brothers boxed set, were clearly audible.

  • amk09
    corsair? really? well i guess i'll have to try these baby's out.
    Reply
  • IzzyCraft
    $99 it looks like it's in competition with the G35...
    Reply
  • crazybaldhead
    Nice advertising, Loyd.
    Reply
  • agnickolov
    No technical data provided here, so I had to look it up on Corsair's web site. The dynamic range is 20Hz-20kHz, which is a very solid showing in contrast to all the other sub-par gaming headsets reviewed here on Tom's Hardware. However, it's still no match to a professional gaming headset like the Sennheiser PC 350 (10Hz-26kHz). I couldn't find HD 580 on Sennheiser's web site (discontinued I suppose), but the updated model HD 600 has a dynamic range of 12Hz-39kHz, so it's a different ball game again. In the author's defense, it's very hard to discern audio quality differences beyond 20kHz and many humans cannot do that.

    I'd say for its price of $100, this headset is a great value. For comparison, the MSRP for the Sennheiser PC 350 is $250, while it can be found online starting at $125.
    Reply
  • DavC
    agnickolovNo technical data provided here, so I had to look it up on Corsair's web site. The dynamic range is 20Hz-20kHz, which is a very solid showing in contrast to all the other sub-par gaming headsets reviewed here on Tom's Hardware. However, it's still no match to a professional gaming headset like the Sennheiser PC 350 (10Hz-26kHz). I couldn't find HD 580 on Sennheiser's web site (discontinued I suppose), but the updated model HD 600 has a dynamic range of 12Hz-39kHz, so it's a different ball game again. In the author's defense, it's very hard to discern audio quality differences beyond 20kHz and many humans cannot do that.i dont think there's hardly any people who can hear above 20kHz (or below 20Hz). i remember we tried it in a science lesson at school, out of a class of about 30, there was only me and one other person who could hear a tone upto just over 18kHz.

    I've always been under the impression 20Hz - 20kHz is the full range of human hearing. anything above or below that is pointless measuring, and of no use what so ever.

    Anyway, this headset looks good. i've never done gaming with a proper headset before, and am rather tempted by this one.
    Reply
  • 7amood
    I see no graph... just words describing what the reviewer feel.
    I only see general pictures of the headphones...
    this is not the quality review i'm used to see from tom's...
    total disappointment, but still interested in the headphone.
    Reply
  • nanonyous
    That 'easy to use' control panel is the standard C-Media control panel, which leads me to believe the audio controller employed in the headphones is a C-Media derivative, if not a C-Media chip.
    Reply
  • Collie147
    I thought the Psykos were 5.1 and not 7.1???
    Reply
  • precariousgray
    "But that capability is there, so if you’re a man who plays female characters in MMOs, you can now sound like one as well."

    Only good/interesting/informative part of this "review."
    Reply
  • ares1214
    The more products corsair releases, the better if you ask me. And for those who wanted more graphs or pictures, audio quality is something very hard to do that with. Sure, he can do a dB chart, dynamic range chart, which he already said, but thats about it. This should have been a lot of opinion, and it was, which is good. Not everybody might thing they are comfortable or not. Same with audio quality. A 20Hz-20kHz is the official hearing range of humans. VERY few can hear below/above, and those who can likely cant tell the difference. It would be a waste of money to make them go any further.
    Reply