Corsair Gaming Audio HS1A Headphone Review
A Headset for All Seasons
After being impressed by the Corsair SP2500 2.1 speaker system, I geared up to give their headphone audio a try. The technology that Corsair has implemented into their headphones certainly looks impressive, but only when we hear the sound will we know how well they accomplished this feat. Read on to see if Corsair can be the next Grado Labs in portable audio.A few weeks back I was able to listen to, and review, the SP2500 speakers from Corsair. These impressed me a great deal with their clarity, depth of sound, and overall representation in all three major aspects of computer audio (music, movies, and gaming). These were the first Corsair audio products that I had a chance to listen to, but they were not the first that Corsair had released at that time. Some months before the release of those speakers, Corsair had introduced the Gaming Audio HS1 USB headphones.
Pardon the quality of the picture, my camera is dying. The boys is well constructed and protects the headphones nicely.
Steve was able to review these, and he came away pretty impressed. The built in surround functionality seemed to do well in movies and games, but was not always appropriate for all types of content. Steve gave them high marks in overall audio quality, and found nothing particularly wrong with these set of gaming headphones.
A few weeks ago I was offered the opportunity to review the analog version of the HS1 series. The HS1A does not feature the USB connection and built in DSP that controlled the previous set of cans. Instead it is simply two analog jacks which control the speakers and the microphone. While Steve was impressed with his set, I have different tastes then he does. So obviously, our impressions of these products when it comes to pure sound quality might be quite different.
Unpacking these headphones is a bit of a chore. They are packaged very nicely and securely in a pretty solid box. It still has transparent portions so the user can see exactly what they are getting. All of the manuals and warranty information is contained in a packet that is located on the back of the inner box holding the headphones. The cable and volume control pod are stuffed nicely away at the bottom of the inside box/showcase.
Once the headphones are extracted from the packaging, the first impression that one gets from these particular products is how heavy they are. They are not cheap feeling or flimsy. Instead, they have a good heft to them and all of the parts are firmly attached and mounted. They are not overly stiff when adjusting the headphones, but they do provide a pleasant resistance. The exterior just exudes quality, and these are some seriously well built products.
The cable is quite long, and it is not the typical plastic coated cord. While the cable itself is not very thick (which is somewhat disappointing to me), it is wrapped in a braided fabric which is still stiff and will protect the copper inside. Fraying and eventual disintegration at flex points will likely not occur with this particular treatment. These cans are built and designed for gamers who often transport their headphones in ways which are not conducive to keeping a product in pristine condition.
Some of the features of the HS1A provided by Corsair. Plus a nice picture. Since my camera is dying.
The exterior is all black, which differentiates these from the HS1 USB which feature some silver accents. The cushioning on the head strap is very thick and is covered in a nice synthetic leather material. It again feels very nice to the touch. The default ear pads are the micro-fiber units, but Corsair includes another pair of pads using the same synthetic leather as the head strap. These are easily swapped out, and do provide a little bit more protection from external noises as compared to the microfiber units. They also help to improve bass and midrange to a small degree, but some people might well consider the extra comfort and sweat wicking ability of the microfiber units preferable to the slightly better sound provided by the synthetic leather units. Both sets of ear pads utilize memory foam, so they are very comfortable to use without experiencing odd pressure points anywhere on the head.
The volume and sound/mic mute control is located about two feet down the cable from the headphones. It is not a bulky unit, but the texture of the plastic gives a nice tactile sensation when gripped. The controls are easily identified and easy to use. It does not light up or do anything fancy, but it accomplishes what it was designed to do.
If there were a slight problem with the design of these headphones it would be the placement and mechanical action of the boom microphone. When the microphone is in the upright position and out of the users face, it acts as a bit of a “lock” for the earcup that it is attached to. Basically it limits the range of motion of that particular cup as compared to the other side which is free moving. While this did not have a negative effect on my particular head shape, not everyone has the large, blocky unit that I do. Some users with smaller heads may notice that the left cup does not fit as snugly as the right, and this is due to the particular implementation of the boom mic. Once the boom is dropped, then it does free up the left cup quite a bit. Users will have to experiment with this to get the best possible fit. For some, it might mean that they have to have the microphone in the down position even when not engaged in multiplayer games that require communication.