Corsair are well known for their power supplies, memory, SSDs and more recently cases. They are expanding again, this time into the gaming peripherals section with a selection of mice, keyboards and headsets. I’ve been having a look, and a listen, to the Corsair HS1A gaming headset. The headset is advertised to have “amazing sound for intensive, immersive gaming”, as being “built for comfort” as well as “great for music, movies too”. I intend to find out if these claims are true and what sort of experience you can expect from the Corsair HS1A.
Corsair HS1A Headset
As I’m sure you know, the HS1A is the younger brother of the HS1. The only difference is supposed to be that the HS1s have a USB sound card attached, whereas the HS1As are two 3.5mm analogue jacks (hence the A). Closed-back earcups provide greater sound isolation, while 50mm drivers provide what Corsair claim to be high-quality and incredibly detailed audio reproduction. With a noise cancelling mic on a flexible, rotating boom, it’s easy to position the mic somewhere comfortable (if you want to use it) and your team mates or opponents will hear your cheering and jeering clearly. Finally, included in the box are two sets of earpads. One set made from a microfiber material and the other from synthetic leather, giving you complete choice as to which you use.
Now, onto the testing and what I think of the headset. The headset was used with my Auzentech X-Fi Forte’s headphone amplifier to provide clear and powerful sound. As a comparison, I will be comparing the HS1A headset with a Plantronics gaming headset I’ve had for a few years. In terms of how I will be testing, headsets and sound quality are not something that I can test absolutely but can give my opinion on how they sound when playing games, listening to music and watching films.
Game performance is pretty good, sounds are clear; directionality is present and incredibly useful to give you the edge over the competition. The lower end seems to be lacking but when playing games that isn’t always a bad thing. Some headsets use over the top bass to compensate for the lack of clarity in the top end and so the finer sounds such as footsteps can be drowned out. This means the HS1A headset gets a chance to show off how clear its top-end is but can still leave a lot to be desired in the lower end. The headset’s microphone proved to be very good with people telling me that it was clear and not overly sensitive to background noise.
Music shows similar sound reproduction but in quite a more noticeable way. Again, it was lacking the low end. Changing the earcups to the synthetic leather ones as well as playing with EQ settings resulted in the below.
EQ Settings for HS1A
This helped by a fair bit but it was still lacking. Compared to the Plantronics headset, the HS1A provided barely any bass and what bass they did provide lacked in depth. For some people this won’t matter or they wouldn’t notice but in some genres you’d miss the full depth and quality of the songs. In the more bass heavy genres you’d end up missing a lot of what the tracks have to offer and what you did hear wouldn’t be an enjoyable experience. I observed pretty much the same thing when watching films. It left action films feeling less satisfactory as explosions and the like had no real punch or power to them.
Build quality is very good. The cable is braided all the way along and the rubberised in-line remote is good. The headset is built to last as well as be comfortable. And I’m pleased to say it pretty much has comfort nailed down. Though it’s heavier than some other headsets, it’s not bulky or over-sized. A really big problem I found with my Plantronics headset was that due to the closed-cup design my ears weren’t allowed any ventilation and so would cook. After 30 minutes or so it would become unbearable. With the Corsair HS1A headset this is much improved. The choice of earpads helps but even then it’s not as bad the Plantronics.
To conclude then, the HS1A is comfortable and built well. Where it is disappointing is when you get to spend some time with them and realise the distinct lack of bass and its depth. As far as a gaming headset goes they aren’t bad, you aren’t overpowered with the bassy sounds and so can be accurate in what you hear. In addition to this, thanks to the closed-cup design, outside sounds are reduced/isolated meaning people sat near you have to shout louder to interrupt and you have to turn it up a lot louder before they’ll start to hear it. Unfortunately, onto the downsides and the first is volume. This isn’t the loudest headset and when nearing the top end its volume capabilities the sounds begin to distort. The only other real downside is as I’ve said a few times through this, the lack of bass and lack of depth to any bass that does occur. It really does ruin some music and films. Corsair advertise the headset as having clean, accurate bass but I’m afraid I can’t agree with it.
Overall, the headset is fairly average. You, of course, need a decent sound card to make the most of it otherwise you’re better going for the HS1A (which seem to review better in terms of sound stage and quality). If you’re after a purely gaming based headset then it’s not bad for the money but those after a decent all rounder I’d say you’re better going for something known to be better such as the Sennheiser PC 330s.