I listened to a variety of MP3s at different bit rates, CD audio, as well as higher definition/24 bit content. The HS1As provided a good listening platform for most music types. These are very comfortable headphones to wear, though they are somewhat heavy compared to other units. Once a user gets used to the heft of the cans, they become quite easy and enjoyable to wear.
The response on these is flat, so users looking for accentuated bass may be disappointed. Users can again adjust their sound card’s settings to improve bass by lowering the upper EQ settings by 5 to 8 dB, while leaving the bass and midrange at 0. Users will have to increase the volume of their headphones to then achieve the higher levels of bass.
The control pod has a nice heft to it, and it was easy to use. One dial and one mic mute button. So easy, Ryan can use it.
Overall I was slightly disappointed in the overall sound of these headphones when listening to music. It does not sound bad by any means, but it lacks the presence of higher end audio. The bass and midrange, even when boosted, does sound a bit thin as compared to the Grado SR-125s. While good detail comes out, it just does not have the same overall sound fullness and quality of the Grados. On the other hand, they are a big step above the Steelseries headphones, which are more aimed towards bass with a muddled midrange and treble.
The one other positive point about these headphones is that they were still very smooth sounding, so often hid imperfections or limitations of lower quality media sources. Low bitrate MP3s still sounded like low bitrate, but they did not grate on the ears nearly as much with these cans.
I watched several clips from a few BD movies in my possession that provide scenes which accentuate action, dialogue, soundtrack, and overall immersion. Examples include Avatar, Harry Potter, Serenity, and a few other random movies.
The HS1As did very well with movies. The flat EQ provides a nice environment for most dialogue, especially in action heavy scenes. It also allows very clear soundtrack reproduction in a movie environment. The cans do give a very neutral sound, so any kind of 3D surround setting can be applied without any untoward effects. The effectiveness of these 3D effects depends on the movie, but in a well mixed environment it can give a much better impression of space, sound direction, and origin.
The more robust bass and midrange from the Grados did give a greater impression of action and space, and they also did not give up any detail even in the most action packed scenes. The HS1As were not able to produce the same kind of reaction or effect, plus the sound stage was not nearly as expansive. Again, they did not sound bad, but they did not match that of the much more expensive Grado headphones. They did perform much better and more naturally than the Steelseries.
Stop! No, seriously… it is bright orange. Don’t disregard this!
Ah yes, the tests which really count for a product with “Gamer” in its name. I played a variety of games including FPS, strategy, and RPG titles (Fallout 3, Crysis Warhead, Sins of a Solar Empire, Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance, and Oblivion).
This is probably where these headphones excel. We hear a good mix of action, explosions, dialogue, and music without any of them trampling over the other. Definition is good throughout, and these are still very detailed headphones. What really helps overall is the comfort of the headphones in long gaming sessions. They do not become uncomfortable even after many hours, and honestly one’s backside is going to be far more uncomfortable than their head after 6 hours in front of the computer.
The Grados again had slightly better performance throughout, and better sound location. As many Grado fans know though, these are far from being comfortable headphones. When I first purchased these, it took me a good month to get used to the feel of them, as well as break in the ear pads. While the sound is worth it, it really is only worth it for a few hours. After that, the ears get pretty raw. The Steelseries cans do perform a bit better in gaming than in music and movies. The extra bass oomph as well as the integrated microphone make these a lot more competitive in this particular arena. But these lack the clarity of the others, and show some real disappointment when reproducing music in gaming scenarios.