Testing was conducted using ASUS' Xonar DG audio hardware @ 48KHz Max with 24-bit resolution on an AMD/ASRock system with Phenom dual core @ 3.00GHz, 2GB DDR3 1333 running XP SP3.
We found that overall the Corsair HS1 is a truly impressive headset with obvious close attention being paid to the finer areas of performance, which showed through when testing. Results were also very even across the range of media being played, which we also found to be an asset for the HS1.
We found that the high end reproduction of the HS1's was, as claimed, very good. It conveyed a soft, quite mature grown up feel that makes other headsets seems a little, well, childish perhaps. In nuts and bolts terms, though, what we heard was a very flat and quite dynamic mix that did not in any way sound like a gaming headset should. No, this was definitely Hi-Fi stuff. Excellent!
Again, very mellow and very flat; relatively speaking. There is a pretty smooth transition between the high end and the low end, while also being able to provide a strong listening reference point between around say 1-2KHz, which are the first things we listen to. This is because in order to evaluate a speaker or headphone for example, we first need to find the middle reference point in order to work backwards, both up and down the frequency spectrum. Effectively, it's a little bit like finding North. Once North is found everything else can be worked out. But without it things are a little bit tricky. We don't need to go on, though; the mid range sounds great in a word!
This is an area that is going to bring about some issues for people expecting that huge bass jump when they first put a headset on. Let me say now that you will not get this with the HS1. What you will get instead is a smooth flat low end that goes toward actually sounding how it would have in the mastering studio, rather than the low end garbage (which is really what it is) that many other headsets will provide. Even though this may come across as airing dirty laundry, we mention it because no doubt some users will move against the HS1 because "they have no bass man". What we are saying is that people must train their ears to pick up proper bass and start to undo the programming that more bass sounds better, because it simply doesn't. What it does do is obfuscate other more important frequencies as well as causing listener ear fatigue pretty quickly.
Some absolutely top notch audio when testing some demanding scenes. The sound of bullets flying and cartridges being reloaded is real Hi-Fi stuff and is capable of transporting the user right into the scene. We really loved the overall tonality of the HS1, which was truly able to provide that enveloping theatre experience. Not because of the surround processing alone, but the way in which the individual tones were being produced which has that gritty raw originality that gets lost a lot of the time between mastering and final playback on a users system.
Lastly, to round up the surround capabilities a little bit. Yes, Dolby Headphone works and works quite well, but a little bit of tweaking in the Corsair control panel will yield slight improvement if care is taken to match processing mode with playback material. However, what we did find interesting was the technology used by Dolby Labs to create the surround environment with only two speakers.
Now, plenty can be found on this by doing a web search, but the interesting part was that our brains were aware of the surround information being present in the mix, but at the same time we were also fully aware of there only being a speaker in either side of our head.
It was like a part of our psyche was being sold the effect very well, but part of it was always going to be totally aware that there is never at any point in time an actual array of five speakers and a sub around the room. But don't get us wrong, though, because at no point in time did we feel like the mix was only in stereo unless we wanted it to be.
There is mention made in the press paper provided about some users ears not being privy to the Dolby Labs surround techniques. Reasons given are due to the characteristics of the users ears and dimensions of the head. Now, we put forward that in fact all users can appreciate the effect, it's just that some people's brains will process it in a different way. And the result may be that the person claims the effect is not working when in fact it is, because the change to a straight stereo signal would be instantaneously evident.