Corsair HS1 Gaming Headsetby Dustin Sklavos on November 4, 2010 12:01 AM EST
Conclusion: Needs More Cowbell
As Corsair's first gaming headset, the HS1 is a strong opening but there are some weak points Corsair needs to figure out. One of my biggest gripes may be one of the easiest to fix: put the drivers up on the Corsair site. It's a small request, but I barely keep CDs around anymore and getting the most out of the HS1 shouldn't involve having to store the CD in a safe place. Calibration out of the box isn't that hot either: the headset is capable of producing decent lows, but the way it's tuned when you plug it in obscures that and threatens to blow your eardrums with tinny highs.
On the plus side, the USB connector makes setup a cinch (as long as you have the CD) and you bypass any interference/static from onboard audio. That's good news for noisy (cheap) laptops and desktops, and it's also nice that you only need a single USB port and one wire instead of separate headphone and microphone jacks. (The downside is that if you have a nice audio card in your system, it goes to waste, so keep that in mind.) As a pure gaming headset, the HS1 also gets the job done. The biggest credit may actually be just how comfortable the HS1 is: Corsair clearly designed these to be worn for extended periods of time. Sound quality in games is excellent, though some may have better experience with the simulated positional audio than I did.
At the end of the day it's going to be a matter of whether or not you want to drop a crisp Franklin on a gaming headset. A lot of higher quality kit is floating around in the same price range, so Corsair isn't exactly gouging you with the HS1. The 50mm drivers—when properly tuned—can definitely produce sound that beats most speaker sets below its price range (as it should). The sound is also better than the $30-$50 headsets I've used, though that's like saying your car is better than a used Kia Spectra.
I think the real shame is that the HS1 isn't the same kind of homerun Corsair struck when they entered into the power supply and enclosure markets. It's not a bad product—certainly a solid one, actually—but it's not mind-blowing either, and it doesn't set a high water mark. Still, you can't discredit a piece of kit because it's merely good and not amazing. If you're in the market for a comfortable gaming headset and are willing to fiddle with it to get just the right sound quality, you could do a heck of a lot worse than the Corsair HS1.