Corsair...audio equipment?

Over the past few years, Corsair has gradually leveraged a strong brand identity in the memory market to introduce new product lines elsewhere. Corsair RAM begat flash drives, begat solid state drives, and over time they've also added power supplies and cases to their lineup. Each introduction has gone swimmingly, with Corsair power supplies generally regarded as among the best quality you can put in your machine and Corsair cases commanding high price tags and mostly earning them, going toe-to-toe with entrenched competitors like Antec and Cooler Master. I'm not sure what the most logical next step would have been, but a set of gaming headphones? That was a little unexpected.

Yet here we are, with the Corsair HS1 gaming headset in hand. The fundamentals aren't too remarkable: the ear cups are circumaural, fully enclosing the ear to block out ambient noise, and there's heavy padding on the cups and bridge. An adjustable microphone stems out from the top of the left piece and can be raised or lowered on a single axis. The HS1 is a wired affair, using a single cable with an in-line volume control and microphone toggle that ends with a USB connector.

Where the Corsair branding and attention to quality come in is the overall build. The ear cups are surrounded in soft felt and extremely well-padded, and the bridge is also soft enough that it doesn't feel like it's driving an indentation into your head. Inside the phones Corsair has installed 50mm drivers, which they claim substantially improve the quality and range of sound the headset can produce. Finally, the audio cable is braided, and naturally there are blue lights on the volume controls that will flash at you incessantly until you install the included sound driver.

On the whole the HS1 at least looks and feels comfortable and well-made. I wear glasses and have had a history of being picky about headphones. Ear buds aren't comfortable and generally don't do a great job of blocking out ambient sound, regular on-ear phones just never fit right, and so while I've always preferred circumaural headphones, I've also had to deal with them jamming the sides of my glasses into my skull. As a result, the only headphones I've ever used and been happy with have been (cue the audiophiles screaming) a pair of Bose. They're cheaply made and break if I so much as look at them funny, which is utterly unacceptable for the pricetag, but they produce crisp sound and strong lows, and most importantly, it doesn't hurt to wear them.

So with that said, Corsair seems to have made every effort to address those of us cursed with having to wear glasses. The HS1 fit gently but snugly, and believe me when I say they block out everything. At the very least, from quality and comfort standpoints you can be reasonably certain that the HS1 is a good investment.

The HS1 in Practice
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  • mrako - Thursday, November 04, 2010 - link

    Hey. Just got the dr-ga500 last week. I can briefly tell you that they are pretty good, light and comfortable for long sessions. The sound is balanced but very good-just don't expect bose level bass or any top audiophile headphones. As for the 7.1 I would tell you that I was not amazed until I played bad company 2-which was my actual reason for making this purchase. Somehow in this game the 7.1 works amazingly. A chopper flies from backwards to your side and then ahead of you and you know where it is even with eyes closed. If you are not in the middle of a firefight with many sounds you can actually hear is someone is coming from the back to stab you which is really cool. If you any further questions just give me a shout. Reply
  • Amart - Saturday, November 06, 2010 - link

    7.1 simulation is unnecessary when using decent Headphones that are known to have a good Soundstage - all you need for EAX Surround.
    Read how Binaural Sound works - you have two ears, you only need two channels and sufficient isolation.

    Gaming Headsets are a huge gimmick/scam designed to fool uneducated consumers.
    Reply
  • 7Enigma - Thursday, November 04, 2010 - link

    Dustin,

    As another sufferer of having to wear glasses I feel your pain (literally). I was pleased to discover the Seinhesser HD280 headphone a couple years ago. Very VERY good sound quality and no pain issues with extended use. Occasional reseating of the headphones is required to remove humidity if your ears sweat, but that's pretty common on any completely enclosed design. Got mine for $80 on sale and they seem to go on sale pretty frequently.

    Give them a shot sometime, I think you'll be very pleased.
    Reply
  • 7Enigma - Thursday, November 04, 2010 - link

    Please note this was a recommendation for headphones only (no mic included), just commenting on your first page of the article where you mentioned the dreaded Bose. :) Reply
  • JPForums - Thursday, November 04, 2010 - link

    I can get on board with that.
    I have a set of HD280 Pros and they are an excellent set in the $100 price range.
    (Even better for $80 as above)
    I'd recommend these for anyone who uses them for more than just gaming, though they really excel in studio listening due to their relatively flat spectrum characteristics.
    For gamers, I include the simple caveat: You need a decent sound card to make these good gaming headphones.
    Paired with a good sound card that can accurately simulate positional audio on a two speaker system, these are a beautiful set.
    Did I mention they are comfortable.
    The build quality is excellent all around.
    Though I agree with 7Enigma, they need to be reset periodically if you get sweaty ears.

    Find them on sale like 7Enigma and you can add that $20 mic and be in the same price range as these Corsairs.

    That said, I'm glad to hear Corsair didn't just put a crap set together and sell it based on brand.
    They seemed to be priced a little high compared to the competition, but not to bad for what you get.
    Given the reviews, I'd find these most useful for gaming on laptops.
    I figure anyone concerned with the sound quality will take the time to tweak them and if they are as comfortable as you say, Corsair will do fine in this market.
    There are a lot of people out there that can't tell the difference between a crap set of headphones and a good one, but they all know if it makes their head uncomfortable.
    I just hope that Corsair recognizes the flaws in their set and makes a better set to cater to the more refined crowd.
    Reply
  • demonbug - Thursday, November 04, 2010 - link

    also have a set of HD 280 pros. Good sound quality for the price, but I have to disagree about them being very comfortable. I've had them for several years, and I like them, but they are quite tight - I wouldn't even consider wearing them at the same time as my glasses, they are on the border of being uncomfortable even without (usually uncomfortable for the first 5-10 minutes, then I don't notice anymore).

    I would like to see a comparison of these "gaming" headsets to what several others have suggested, i.e. decent headphones and a cheap mic. My impression is that gaming headsets have been overpriced and cheaply made, and you can get much better value going the separate component route. It would be nice to have some way of objectively comparing them, though I do understand the hesitancy to invest in testing gear for something that only a small subset of Anandtech readers probably care about.

    I wouldn't see it as such a big deal if the gaming headset was ~$50 or less, but at the price they are asking it needs to be pretty damned good; waving away the idea of testing for sound quality because that isn't really what these are about just makes me wonder what that $100 price tag is going to.
    Reply
  • Spazweasel - Thursday, November 04, 2010 - link

    I'll second (or third) that motion. Got some Sennheiser HD280Pros myself. I wear glasses, and find these to be very comfortable, along with having excellent passive noise reduction (something around 21-22db, which is getting close to the noise reduction you get from passive shooter's headphones). The sound on the 280s is excellent, and for the money you'd be hard-pressed to better them.

    But as others have pointed out, that doesn't address the voice issue.

    I also have a Sennheiser PC151 headset. As non-circumaural headsets go, they're comfortable, and the sound (though not up to the standard of the HD280s) is quite good, especially given they're not primarily intended as music playback phones. The mic works almost too well (it's very sensitive, even to the sides and front) and gives good voice quality. Also goes for about 60 bucks, so you might want to pick up a pair of PC151s as a baseline for reasonably-priced gamer headsets.

    Nothing against OCZ, but they're moving into a well-established market. I'm going to bet these are designed by some other company and are basically OEMed, with changes in cosmetics. That being said, it's a crowded space, and OCZ's primary sell is going to be on name. They just need to make sure their OEM realizes what "good enough" really means.
    Reply
  • 7Enigma - Friday, November 05, 2010 - link

    Yeah, the noise-reduction is almost too good. My wife hates when I wear them and game because she can't get my attention even when in the adjacent room and banging on the wall. I've had both my daughter and wife scare the heck out of me (tap my shoulder or grab my leg) when playing scary FPS such as Metro2033 and F.E.A.R. :)

    But I've actually used them on a 6-hour drive in the car with my mp3 player (yes while driving). Looked very silly but being able to almost completely remove the screaming baby was the greatest thing and helped me focus on the road!
    Reply
  • mindbomb - Thursday, November 04, 2010 - link

    for surround sound on these things, don't you have to turn dolby headphone on and have windows and the game set to 5.1?

    cause i've heard that dolby headphone works very well on the asus dx, can't see why it wouldn't work well here.
    Reply
  • scook9 - Thursday, November 04, 2010 - link

    How would these compare to the Alienware TactX Headset. I got it for $75 and have been quite happy with it so far (replaced my apple earbuds from ipod.....lol)

    Seems like the 2 are directly competing in this market
    Reply

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