Corsair HS1 USB Gaming Headset ReviewnVidia_Freak - October 20, 2010
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How the HS1 performs while gaming carries the most weight. However, to get a general feel for the HS1's sound quality and how Dolby Headphone affects the sound of the Corsair HS1, testing will also include listening to stereo music, 5.1 surround sound music and 5.1 surround sound movies. The system specifications are listed below. This system is used for the duration of all of the testing.
- Processor: Phenom II x6 1055T
- CPU Cooling: Noctua NH-C12P-SE14
- CPU Fan(s): Noctua NF-P14
- Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-890FXA-UD5
- Memory: 2x2GB G.SKILL F3 PC3 12800 9-9-9-25 2T
- Video Card: XFX HD5870 1GB + BFG 8800GT (PhysX)
- Power Supply: XFX BE 850w
- Soundcard: ESI Juli@
- Headset: Corsair HS1
- Hard Drive: Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 750GB
- OS: Windows 7 Ultimate x64
- Stereo Music (Afro Celt Sound System, Vladimir Harowitz, Opeth, Sigur Rós)
- 5.1 Surround Sound Music (Opeth's The Roundhouse Tapes and Lamentations)
- 5.1 Surround Sound Movies (The Bourne Ultimatum and Saving Private Ryan)
- 7.1 Surround Sound Gaming (L4D2)
- Various headphones (Sennheiser HD 201/457/485, AKG K240/K701, Grado 325i)*
DO keep in mind that sound is very subjective. However, this review is intended to be as objective as possible. However as well, in order to give an opinion on the sonic characteristics of the HS1, a subjective comparison needs to be made. First it must be stated that as a broad generalization, the HS1 will in general be better than most other headsets because it uses 50mm sized drivers as opposed to 40mm and smaller. This is because it is physically impossible for the smaller drivers that many headsets have, to have the sonic capability of larger drivers. Also, due to an immediate lack of other headsets for testing, a variety of headphones were used that have varying sound signatures and sonic capability to give the HS1 a fair proving ground.
Listening to music on the HS1 isn't quite as fun as with a pair of high-end headphones. However, as far as headsets go, the HS1 is better than most. The 50mm drivers do offer better sound quality than 40mm drivers but the sound still isn't amazing. The HS1 is not very musical. Bass lacks depth and punch, treble lacks any sparkle and mid-range is simply there without presence. Enabling Dolby Headphone does what it always will with stereo music - it muffles the treble and smudges the stereo image together and adds reverb and some channel delays which makes it sound as though the music is being played in a tin room. Musically, the HS1 is rather dull.
5.1 Surround Sound Music:
Things don't get any better or worse here, it's just more of the same. Sound mixed for surround sound systems will sound different over a stereo system regardless of what technology it might or might not have. Enabling Dolby Headphone again muddies the sound and adds "The Tin Room" effect. It should be noted that music does not usually rely much on positional audio and that most of what is necessary needs only left, right and perhaps Centre channels. As such, Dolby Headphone is not much use here nor should this sway you toward or away from the HS1.
5.1 Surround Sound Movies:
This is where things start to look up for the HS1. Without Dolby Headphone, movies sound like they would on any pair of headphones, very sterile, very fatiguing and generally unimpressive. Sounds are either to the left, right or in front. Enable Dolby Headphone however, and a whole new world is opened for you. With Dolby Headphone enabled, movies come alive and aren't fatiguing. Movies rely very heavily on positional audio and Dolby Headphone does wonders with it. The processing creates a very involving, cinema-like experience. If gunshots are in the distance, a scream to the front right, glass breaking behind and left, the audio will come across very clearly using Dolby Headphone with the HS1. Much more emotion and feeling is conveyed through the sound and it is something the HS1 does exceptionally well.
7.1 Surround Sound Games:
Knowing what the HS1 could do with movies, I was eager to try it out with games. I switched the HS1's source to 7.1 surround sound, enabled Dolby Headphone and fired up L4D2. In game, change the audio settings to 7.1 surround sound and be transported into the game. Just as it does in movies, Dolby Headphone will make the game come to life. Auditory information comes from all around rather than simply left, right or centre. Special Infected are much easier to avoid because the positional cues are so much clearer. Keep in mind the review of the HS1 for music. The HS1 lacks bass depth and punch, treble isn't sparkly and mid-range isn't amazing. For these same reasons, for both movies and games, the HS1 won't amaze in the quality of the audio. Gunshots, being the most prevalent sound effect, will not sound powerful. However, for the same reasons, fatigue is very low, even after several hours of gaming. The presentation of the sound, however, will amaze. The sound stage is widened immensely and it's simply great fun. The HS1 delivers superb simulated surround sound where it counts the most. The microphone on the other hand, is quite average.