CORSAIR VIRTUOSO RGB Wireless and Wireless SE Headset Review
CORSAIR’s Ultra-Premium Headsets are Here
CORSAIR has been steadily improving their gaming headsets over the last couple of years, with the HS70 Wireless in particular providing remarkably good sound when it launched in May of 2018 – eclipsing the performance (in this reviewer’s opinion, anyhow) of any prior VOID headset I’d tested up to that point.
While CORSAIR offers VOID Wireless headsets with the “pro” monicker already, much more premium – and expensive – options are of course available from other headset makers in the PC hardware space. In recent months we’ve looked at premium headsets from the likes of ASUS ROG, HyperX, and Logitech, and now we can add CORSAIR to the list of these high-end options – and with a price tag to match.
The new VIRTUOSO RGB Wireless and VIRTUOSO RGB Wireless SE headsets hit the market at $189.99 and $209.99 USD respectively, and bring with them some pretty impressive specs to compliment their stylish appearance. Based on brand new 50 mm drivers that CORSAIR says offer “precise, high-fidelity audio” with a 20 – 40,000 Hz frequency response (meeting Hi-Res requirements).
Both VIRTUOSO models are, as indicated by their name, wireless, using CORSAIR’s exclusive low-latency SLIPSTREAM WIRELESS when in that mode. They offer plush memory foam pads, premium aluminum construction, and 7.1 surround effects if desired (toggled via iCUE software). They certainly have a high-end look and the specs to match, but how do they sound? My subjective opinion on that subject follows!
- Frequency Response: 20Hz – 40,000Hz
- Impedance: 32 Ohms @ 2.5kHz
- Sensitivity: 109 dB (± 3 dB)
- Drivers: Custom 50mm neodymium, matched pairs
- Type: Omni-directional
- Impedance: 2.0k Ohms
- Frequency Response: 100Hz – 10,000Hz
- Sensitivity: -42 dB (± 2 dB)
- Type: CORSAIR SLIPSTREAM WIRELESS 2.4Ghz
- Connector: USB Type A
- Range: Up to 60 feet (12m)
- Battery Life: Up to 20 hours
- USB Charging Cable: 1.5m
- 3.5mm Stereo Cable: 1.5m
- Dimensions: 70mm x 100mm x 195mm / 6.69” x 3.94” x 7.68”
- Product Weight w/o cable and accessories: 360 g / 0.79lb
- Warranty: Two years
- VIRTUOSO RGB Wireless, $189.99 MSRP
- VIRTUOSO RGB Wireless SE, $209.99 MSRP
“Crafted from premium materials, VIRTUOSO RGB Wireless combines class-leading audio performance with an elegant design. From its hand-selected matched speaker drivers to its sculpted, lightweight aluminum frame and plush memory foam ear pads, no detail has been overlooked. VIRTUOSO RGB Wireless provides a gaming experience like no other, offering full wireless compatibility with PC and PS4 as well as wired USB and 3.5mm analog connections for wide flexibility.”
Out of the box the VIRTUOSO RGB Wireless headsets had a very impressive feel – and that impression got better the more I handled them. For example, we’ve seen plenty of headsets that use metal to augment their plastic construction, but here CORSAIR is using machined aluminum and it definitely enhances the overall look and feel without adding much to the weight.
The ear cups have a minimal compliment of controls, with just a textured aluminum volume roller and wireless switch on the right cup. The left ear cup has the headset’s inputs, with USB-C and the micro-USB mic input (the mic mute is integrated into the base of the boom where it attaches to the headset).
To me the VIRTUOSO Wireless SE in particular looks like a high-end Sony product. The use of aluminum really stands out (even the boom mic uses aluminum on the head and connector), giving the headset a premium feel befitting the price. The non-SE model – our review sample is in the white finish – holds its own and offers the same level of construction quality.
The non-SE model is also available in a black finish, though this white/grey/silver color scheme is eye-catching. The overall design of the standard model is very similar to that of SE, though without the aluminum ear cups and unique micro-perforation lighting of the higher-end model. The mic is also a bit different, being a smaller and less obtrusive design.
This aspect of the review process is probably the most subjective, since preferences – and head shapes/sizes – are going to vary quite a bit. Here’s what CORSAIR has to say about their approach to comfort with these new headsets:
“Everything from external and internal materials, heat and moisture resistance, weight and weight distribution, and the tension or clamping force on users’ heads has been analyzed and optimized on VIRTUOSO RGB Wireless. Premium memory foam and synthetic leather for the ear pads and headband provide plush comfort for hours of uninterrupted gameplay or listening.”
One aspect of the design I appreciated is the ear cup rotation, as these have 180 degrees of movement with a full 90 degrees in both directions – meaning they can lay flat with the drivers either up or down. This is rare, and it means they fit better against the side of the head than most headsets.
Padding is well above average, and the memory foam feels like…memory foam. It’s great. The synthetic leather pads seem to resist sweat pretty well, too. I’d rate clamping force differently between the two models, with the SE having a force a little higher than medium, or about a 6/10. It felt just a little tight on my head, but I’m a fan of lighter force of the non-SE model, which I would call a 5/10.
Overall the comfort of both versions is quite good, but during longer sessions the clamping force of the SE did cause some fatigue for me – though in fairness I hadn’t really broken it in thoroughly and headbands can be stretched a bit to ease this force.
The VIRTUOSO headsets contain new 50 mm drivers from CORSAIR, which the company says offer the same quality control of hi-fi headphones:
“Built to CORSAIR’s exacting specifications, each driver pair is meticulously hand selected and matched to within +/-1db of tolerance for exceptional performance. VIRTUOSO RGB Wireless offers the same level of manufacturing precision as high-end audiophile headphones, resulting in an unprecedented level of sonic accuracy. An impressive 20Hz-40,000Hz frequency range – double that of typical gaming headsets – ensures that everything from the loudest shot to the subtlest musical note is reproduced with amazing clarity, definition and impact.”
Using various sources (gaming, 24-bit FLAC files, YouTube streaming for compressed audio) I tested out both wireless and wired sound quality with the VIRTUOSO Wireless SE headset. Sound should be identical between the two models, but sound is not identical between the two modes.
I went with a wireless connection first (it’s in the name of the product, after all), but it’s important to note that these are not technically “Hi-Res” headphones unless you are using a USB connection. The wireless mode provides up to 24-bit/48 kHz audio, while a wired connection handles up to 24-bit/96 kHz audio.
In wireless mode the overall sound signature is warm, with prominent upper bass/lower midrange presence. Detail is highest in the higher frequencies, with a purity to the treble response that is generally found only with hi-fi headphones.
I found the wired connection to offer noticeably better overall fidelity. The sound became flatter (lower midrange hump vanished) and everything was a little sharper. That smooth, warm signature seemed to be more a wireless characteristic. Via USB audio was simply more accurate to the source.
Bass – both wired and wireless – was not as extended as I was expecting from 50 mm drivers, but more than adequate. These headsets don’t have that very low bass response up at the same dB level as the upper bass and lower mids, so the effect is that of midsize loudspeakers without a sub (if that makes any sense). It’s there, but you don’t feel it.
Detail is outstanding via USB, and very good overall over wireless – though the midrange does have bit of additional smoothness that does seem to reduce its clarity just a bit (I suspect this is the result of that added lower midrange presence). If you like a warm, smooth sound that offers good detail without being fatiguing these make admirable music headphones in the wireless mode, and for critical listening use USB.
Another standout with these – wired and wireless: the efforts to match the drivers has paid off for CORSAIR, as these have better stereo separation (and thus a wider ‘soundstage’) than any gaming headset I’ve tested in recent memory.
Dynamics are another area where CORSAIR did very well with this design, and if you aren’t familiar with this term/concept it’s basically the difference in volume between the lowest and loudest sounds. Simply put, these can accurately reproduce dynamic shifts in volume. Commercially produced music has virtually no dynamic range anymore, but games and movies absolutely do and a well mastered soundtrack sounds great with these.
While wireless audio was discussed at length above, no mention of range or battery life was made. In this regard the wireless performance was very good, and these boast a pretty long range (up to 60 feet, though walls and obstructions will lower this). The SLIPSTREAM WIRELESS technology didn’t noticeably affect latency vs. other 2.4 GHz headsets I’ve tested, but it did offer a trouble-free connection.
I didn’t do any controlled battery testing for this review, but the rated 20 hour life will obviously depend on the volume levels and use of RGB lighting. There is also some pretty advanced power management built-in to help maximize each charge, as CORSAIR describes:
“VIRTUOSO RGB Wireless’ advanced power management maximizes battery life by using an accelerometer-based circuit to automatically shut down the headet when it detects it is not in use, so you don’t have to worry about powering it off. When you’re ready to get back in the action, simply pick the headset up and it will automatically turn itself back on.”
Here is another standout area for the VIRTUOSO headsets. CORSAIR had promised a better mic than those found in any of their prior headsets, and indeed that was a weak point of the CORSAIR models I’d tested previously. That is no longer the case.
The mic produces a surprisingly full range sound that captures enough bass to almost sound like a dedicated mic, though it isn’t perfect. This design is very susceptible to breathing sounds and plosives and could use a windscreen, and it doesn’t have particularly good background noise rejection. If you’re in a fairly quiet environment it can sound very good, but keeping it away from my nose (which was causing very loud wind noise with every breath) was a must.
Control of lighting, EQ, the various sound modes, and virtual 7.1 channel effect requires CORSAIR’s iCUE software. The process of customizing lighting and sound is straightforward, and while I found the default “Pure Direct” setting to sound the best, there is full manual customization of EQ in addition to the presets.
As to the 7.1 channel surround mode, I found this to degrade the sound quality enough to just leave it off. It can certainly add a more spacious element to the sound, but it made audio sound heavily compressed, and positional effects were not the best I’ve heard. This could certainly be improved via a software update, but for now I think it’s best to stick with the outstanding 2-channel audio these provide.
The VIRTUOSO RGB Wireless and Wireless SE headsets offer very high quality sound – though their ultra premium build quality steals the show, particularly in the case of the SE model. Wired sound quality was superior to the wireless mode, but wireless was no slouch and some might prefer the slightly warmer presentation it provided.
I was a little disappointed in the 7.1 channel surround mode, but this is typically the weak point of most headsets. I hope this improves, and it could with a software update. The rest of the iCUE-powered software experience was solid, with easy customization of EQ, sound mode, and of course RGB lighting.
Microphone quality was a step above what we’ve heard from CORSAIR’s previous headsets, though it isn’t the best at background noise rejection and was very sensitive to placement due to noise generated by breathing too close to the mic. Adding a simple wind screen would help here.
In the end I had to weigh the outstanding build quality and startlingly clear, detailed sound against the asking prices of these two headsets, which are $189.99 for the standard model and $209.99 for the SE. There are so many gaming headsets out there at sub-$100 price points that these MSRPs may seem outlandish, but understand that you’re getting not only high quality audio but also some of the best build quality I’ve ever seen in a headphone of any kind – let alone a gaming headset.
They aren’t perfect, but CORSAIR’s latest headsets bring enough to the table to make them a compelling choice if you are in the market for a headset and can spend this much. They have some of the clearest and most accurate 2-channel sound I’ve heard from any headphone, but they do lack some lower bass punch and can sound a little thin at times as a result. They are quite dynamic, however, and their energetic and clear presentation may just outweigh your desire for chest-thumping bass.
Bottom line, the VIRTUOSO RGB Wireless headsets are built like tanks, have very high fidelity sound reproduction (particularly over USB), solid wireless performance with very good range, and easy to use software to customize everything. Where they come up short (lower bass response, surround effects) may or may not be a priority for you, but if you value clarity and dynamics over all else these are hard to beat.