Sound DesignThe headphones utilize 50 mm drivers, which are slightly larger than most of those found in headphones in this particular price range. Typically less expensive units will utilize 40 mm drivers, and depending on their design can be inferior in sound to the slightly larger 50 mm units. Bigger is not always better though, as we shall see (or hear).
Driver placement and baffle design are also quite important to sound reproduction. These are sealed cans, as compared to open units like the Grado SR series of products. For gaming situations sealed are the better choice, as there are plenty of other noises around a user (especially at LAN events) which will ruin any kind of immersion. If a user has a quiet environment to work and play in, then open ear designs could be the better solution.
The inner box is again quite thick, and that little packet in the back contains all the documentation for the product.
The driver is not perpendicular to the side of the user’s head, but rather is perpendicular to the ear canal (for the most part). This should provide slightly clearer audio overall, as well as provide a neutral point for HRTF type (3D Surround) audio processing. The cups themselves are circumaural, so they should not touch the ear for most people, but rather surround it. This helps to seal the chamber from outside audio interference, and also reduces the possibility of uncomfortable pressure points on the actual ear itself.
The cable is quite thin, which is slightly disappointing to me. While I am certainly not blindly following the Monster Cable people with the “thicker is ALWAYS better” philosophy, there is merit in what they are saying when dealing with analog audio. The overall cable length is around six feet, and we will typically see these headphones being attached to the motherboard audio outputs. These outputs, except for one or two exceptions, are not amplified on most motherboards. When we consider the thin cable and the length of it, the resistance may become an actual issue for effectively driving the 50 mm units in the headphones. I am by no means saying that Corsair should have used 12 gauge ultra-pure, long crystal copper cables with an external copper weave to cut down interference to maximize audio quality, but they could have certainly done better than what they have.
Corsair has tuned these headphones to be fairly flat in terms of EQ. Other headphones may try to wow users by tuning their drivers to accentuate bass and treble, all at the expense of a smooth midrange and richer detail. Certainly headphones like this will grab attention, but can be very tiring after a while, or exhibit muddled detail due to the detuned midrange. Because of the flat EQ, users who want expanded range at either end of the spectrum can use their soundcards to control the sound to their liking. While bright and detailed sound can be turned down to accentuate bass, muddled audio can only be improved upon so much on the output side. By providing a detailed, yet flat EQ, a user can more easily adjust the sound to their liking.
Audio is going to be subjective to everyone. While some peoples’ tastes may intersect now and then, we all have our personal preferences. This is why audio reviews can be tough for both readers and reviewers, as they will invariably be completely opposite to another person. I will do my best to convey my impressions of this audio, but in the end the best test is actually listening to the products and finding the best fit for the individual budget.
The cord is quite long, but nicely packaged up when the full length is not needed. The braided cable seems very strong and resistant to wear.
I compare these units primarily to an older pair of Steelseries 5 headphones, which are very similar in overall design to the HS1As. I also strap on the legendary Grado SR-125s. I consider the Steelseries to be decent sounding headphones for gaming use, but not accurate or detailed enough for music. They are fair in movie use, but will not convince a listener that they are in any kind of theater. The Grados on the other hand have very detailed audio, provide excellent bass and midrange, but still represents treble in a natural way. These are good for any kind of audio, and have an excellent soundstage.
I tested these headphones with both the Asus HDAV 1.3 Deluxe and onboard motherboard audio provided by the Realtek ALC 889 Codec.