CORSAIR HS80 Wireless Gaming Headset Review
A Wireless Headset with Wired Grade Audio
The latest gaming headset from Corsair is the HS80, and it features high-res wireless audio via the company’s proprietary SLIPSTREAM WIRELESS tech, as well as Dolby ATMOS Spatial Audio effects. And this is another 2.4 GHz model with a USB dongle, which I heartily approve of. Lack of 3.5 mm input or BT support may limit its potential applications just a bit, but I think it’s worth it.
Yes, even in 2021 embracing the USB dongle headset lifestyle means you can listen to audio without the lossy compression inherent in the Bluetooth spec. To be fair, Corsair has offered wireless headsets with Hi-Res audio support in the past, but only through a wired USB connection. This new HS80 offers 24-bit, 48 kHz wireless resolution, which takes you firmly into Hi-Res territory (other wireless options are limited to 16-bit).
“Slip into the fast lane with SLIPSTREAM WIRELESS, cutting the cords for hyper-fast, ultra-low latency wireless speed offering industry-leading 24 bit/48kHz audio resolution. Intelligent Frequency Shift (IFS) ensures your wireless signal stays in the fastest lane, with the ability to detect and hop to the best available channel on-the-fly. A robust signal covers you from the desktop to the couch with up to 60ft of wireless range.”
Dolby’s ATMOS Spatial Audio is another key feature of the HS80 – and available only when using a PC (sorry, console users):
“Dolby Atmos uses three-dimensional precision game audio to immerse you in a more realistic, more intense gaming experience, and even allows you to improve your performance. Sounds with lifelike detail are precisely placed all around you, so you feel like you’re deeper inside the game – reacting faster and more accurately than ever before. Download the Dolby Access app and enjoy custom audio EQ settings. Hear your games, movies, and music brought to life in a spacious, three-dimensional soundscape.”
- Audio Driver: Custom 50mm Neodymium
- Frequency Response: 20Hz – 40kHz
- Impedance: 32 Ohms @ 2.5kHz
- Sensitivity: 109 dB (± 3 dB)
- Mic Type: Omni-directional broadcast-grade
- Mic Impedance: 2.2k Ohms
- Mic Frequency Response: 100Hz – 10kHz
- Mic Sensitivity: -40 dB (± 3 dB)
- Frequency: 2.4Ghz
- Wireless Range: Up to 60 feet
- Battery Life: Up to 20 hours
- Dimensions: 205 mm (L) x 97 mm (W) x 183 mm (H)
- Weight: 367g
- Warranty: 2 years
$149.99 USD list
“The HS80 RGB WIRELESS incorporates cutting-edge SLIPSTREAM WIRELESS technology with 24-bit audio support, Dolby Atmos spatial audio, and a broadcast-grade omni-directional microphone for exceptional voice clarity.”
The HS80 is a bit of a departure from typical headset designs, and Corsair is using some alternative materials and methods to make them stand out from most.
Controls are as simple as possible, with a power button and volume wheel on the left side, and this ear cup is also home to the USB-C input for charging and connecting to a PC for wired mode operation (a USB-C to USB-A cable is included.)
Getting back to materials, while the ear cups and the headband are plastic, the yolks are machined aluminum and the headband is both adjusted and cushioned by a stretchy fabric strap. It’s what Corsair calls their “floating headband architecture”.
I like this sort of floating adjustment, as these conform to your head size as you put them on thanks to the flexibility of the band. This works quite well, and I’ve used headphones based on a similar idea in the past.
To me, these feel just as stable on the head as standard headsets that have a clicky headband adjustment. I think this is due in part due to the fact that the ear cups fit completely around my ears, and also because there is sufficient side clamping force to help keep them in place. In other words, they never felt like they were improperly adjusted.
As to the ear cups, these feature thick pads and have plenty of available swivel to allow these to conform to different head shapes. They also fold flat – a feature I really like in headset design.
The boom mic is long and flexible, and it features the lift to mute function that I have grown used to in other headsets.
Fit and Comfort
Thanks to the elasticized fabric floating beneath the headband, the feel of the HS80 against the top of the head is a little different compared to other gaming headsets I’ve used.
I liked it instantly, but my wife tried out the headset and thought the band was a little too tight. Not to worry, there are adjustments for this band on each side, hidden from view beneath the headband. I simply added a bit of length to the band, reducing the tension a bit, and voilà. Another aspect of fit and comfort is, naturally, ear pads. Thankfully these have lots of soft foam beneath the soft, corduroy-like outer material.
This padding helps, as clamping force is just a touch stronger than what I’ve been used to with the GSP 370 – though the HS80 does feel quite secure against my head. At about 13 oz they aren’t heavy, and I didn’t have any comfort issues after longer listening sessions – particularly after I’d loosened up the floating headband a bit.
Subjective Audio Impressions
My first impression was of a clear, almost delicate sound – and then I heard some music with deep bass. These reproduce bass in a way that is reminiscent of a small subwoofer. And it isn’t “tubby” at all. Just low and very well controlled.
To see how low it could go, I decided to run some frequency tests. I found that the HS80 is capable of producing strong, controlled bass down to around the 30 Hz, and though I was able to hear/feel down to 20 Hz it does roll off pretty fast below 30 Hz. As for the rest, upper frequencies were bright and clean, and there is a bit of midrange emphasis.
The HS80 appears as an 8-channel device with up 24-bit, 48 KHz audio in wireless mode (left), or 24-bit, 96 KHz in wired mode (right)
I played around with custom EQ until reaching the conclusion that these sound great with a “smile” EQ where lows and highs are raised, but the flat EQ produces enough bass that I just went back to the “Pure Direct” mode for the rest of my testing. I have to say, the clarity and dynamics when listening to well-recorded live music (I’m partial to jazz) was a treat with the HS80 headset. They do have a pretty aggressive sound compared to some, and give me a Grado feel (bright, midrange emphasis) – well, if Grados had more bass. Don’t expect smooth, rolled off highs and recessed mids, though you could always create that sound with a custom EQ.
Naturally, this HS80 uses iCUE software to control EQ, lighting, and other device settings:
And now for my only real complaint about the headset: if you like to listen at higher volume levels, headroom in wireless mode might seem a little lacking. I had them turned up just one click away from full volume to get my normal loud listening levels, and felt like the amp was straining a bit at that level. Wired mode did increase the headroom and they can get noticeably louder with a USB cable connection, but I was still left with the impression that these were a bit constrained in the amplification department. I will stress that this is not an issue with reasonable listening levels. In fact, it wasn’t really very noticeable until I started playing with EQ. The “Bass Boost” preset lowers the overall volume level so far that it almost acts as a muting feature. It does highlight the fantastic low frequency response with the HS80, but the midrange becomes too quiet for it to be very useful (to me, anyhow).
To close out my subjective and somewhat sporadic listening impressions, once more I’ll use the word dynamic. Yes, these have deep bass and clear overall sound, but I think dynamic is the best way to describe these. There is a sense of drama from dynamics inherent in all well recorded music, and the “micro dynamics” and controlled lower bass gave these a sense of scale and power that made me stop thinking about the amplification level and headroom and started focusing on the source material instead. I still think they offer more powerful sound in wired mode, but the wireless performance is the best I’ve heard from a gaming headset so far – surpassing my previous favorite EPOS|Sennheiser GSP 370 thanks to the HS80’s more powerful, dynamic sound.
Almost an afterthought when I evaluate gaming headsets, the microphone Corsair has implemented in the HS80 defies my prejudice against headset boom mics. It is outstanding, with a sound much closer to a dedicated USB mic than I would have imagined. Is this the first gaming headset with a “broadcast quality” mic that actually tells the truth? Well, in my limited experience it actually does have a broadcast quality sound.
After making a couple of test recordings I seriously think this is good enough to start using to record our podcast each week. The sound isn’t just clear, it’s FULL. There is actual bass. It does not sound like a landline phone call. It is like comparing VoLTE to EDGE call quality. I don’t think I am overstating how good it sounds. It’s GOOD, I say.
Dolby Atmos Spatial Audio
I attempted to demo some Dolby Atmos Spatial Audio, giving up eventually on the Windows side (I really don’t want to use the Microsoft Store) and using (gasp) a Mac, instead. I knew that Apple Music has a lot of Atmos music available, so, after selecting the HS80 as my primary audio output device and enabling Atmos in the Apple Music app’s settings, I listened to some of the music in one of Apple’s Atmos playlists, and it’s pretty impressive.
The effect is a lot more subtle than I was imagining, but that was probably more to do with the mastering on the tracks I was listening to. It was certainly different from just standard 2-channel stereo, but not as spacious as some simulated surround effects I’ve heard. Or, perhaps it wasn’t even properly enabled and I’m just imagining things. (I really should do my due diligence here and download that Dolby Access app from the MS Store. I guess.)
It’s not easy to describe how something sounds in words, and I don’t have the resources (or knowledge) to do audio reviews the way that Audio Science Review does. Still, if you have heard gaming headsets in the past and were left thinking that the sound was inferior to your dedicated headphones, you might be surprised at how close the HS80 comes to high-end headphone sound.
Similarly, if you have scoffed at headset boom mics (like I have) you might fall out of your chair after hearing the HS80’s mic. I expected “chat” quality audio with these, but the full range sound really impressed me. No, it’s not quite to the level of a good USB desktop mic, but it is the best I’ve heard from a headset.
Pricing is $149.99 USD, and in my opinion that makes these a good value. I really don’t have anything else to say. I’m just happy as an audio enthusiast that we have a wireless option this good. In a perfect world this would have just a bit more powerful amp onboard, but I should probably turn my music down – a little, anyway. And, since these are my current choice of gaming headset and I happen to be an editor, they get the “editor’s choice” award. It’s logical.
This is what we consider the responsible disclosure of our review policies and procedures.
How Product Was Obtained
The product is on loan from Corsair for the purpose of this review.
What Happens To Product After Review
The product remains the property of Corsair but is on extended loan for future testing and product comparisons.
Corsair had no control over the content of the review and was not consulted prior to publication.
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