Portability, powerful bass and an amazing soundstage rule with Corsair’s latest wireless gaming headset. It’s not without flaws, but as far as sound goes, it might just be as close to gamers’ heaven as you can get.
Louder bass for gaming
Impressive 7.1 surround sound
Mic boasts ducking
Signal not completely even
Mic sticks out
CUE software is Windows only
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Corsair is a household name when it comes to peripherals. And they’ve pretty much perfected the art of designing incredible gaming headsets at budget prices – late 2017’s Corsair HS50 is testament to that.
Yet only a few months after its successful release comes its higher end cousin in all its wireless, virtual surround sound glory. The $135 (about £100, AU$180) HS70 might not look like a powerhouse on the outside, what with its simple, understated look, but it’s a goddess in the game room.
As far as HS70’s overall look, we appreciate what they’re trying to do. With its sleek, mostly-black design, we like the fact that it’s nothing flashy. It doesn’t have any of the bells and whistles that many other gaming peripherals have, and aesthetically, it’s a good fit for users who aren’t into that gamer look.
Structurally, Corsair says that it’s made of premium rugged metal components and gunmetal trimmings that are designed to last. Obviously, we cannot confirm this for sure, but we tested it for a fair amount of time, and it feels nice and durable. The padded bits – namely, the headband and the ear cups – are made of plush foam dressed in soft leather-type material, with the headband sporting that nice quilted look that adds a luxe flair to it.
While we have used more comfortable gaming headsets with softer ear cups and more flexible headbands, the HS70 is comfortable enough as to not fatigue the wearer after hours of gaming or movie watching.
We’re not crazy about using grills as ear cup covers though. They’re not bad to look at, but they’re also not the most attractive. However, it might be just us being nitpicky, as they don’t affect the headset’s performance and handling (i.e. if the headset had an open back design).
And as long as we’re being nitpicky, the removable mic, when attached, is always right next to your face, so it’s not the easiest thing to stash out of the way if you don’t need it.
Wireless USB Transmitter and CUE Software
The HS70 uses a Wireless USB Transmitter to work wirelessly. The transmitter is nothing special or oversized enough to complain about; it’s just your typical transmitter.
However, that USB-based connection can be limiting in some instances. If you’re planning on connecting this headset with your laptop and charging it at the same time, you’re already taking up two USB ports. Of course, it’s not a big issue with PCs as they have multiple USB ports or well-equipped laptops. It might just be a little inconvenient sometimes.
On the positive end is the Corsair Utility Engine, the free software that mostly lets users make adjustments to the headset’s EQ. It’s a nifty little tool that turns the HS70 from a great headset into an incredible one.
The software not only lets you create multiple EQ profiles, use customizable EQ presets, set auto shut down settings, see battery status, sidetone, and turn voice prompts on/off. More importantly, it lets you switch from stereo to surround sound, activating the gaming headset’s impressive 7.1 virtual surround sound feature.
The only downside is that it’s only available for PC, which means the surround sound isn’t available for Mac computers as well as the Xbox One and PS4. But to be fair, the sound stage on the PlayStation does have some of those surround sound qualities.
We’re super impressed with the HS70’s performance. First of all, it has a long battery life, clocking in at around 16 hours on full charge. Secondly, its detachable mic comes through clean, and employs ducking-type compression so that any type of noise is quieted when you’re talking, and you’re voice comes out loud and clear.
Of course, the best thing about this HS70 is its sound performance. Thanks to its precision-tuned 50mm audio drivers, the sound quality is great and the frequency curve is fairly balanced. The bass is louder, giving it a lot of rumble so games as well as movies (especially those with lots of action and explosions) sound amazing through the headset. The highs might be pushed up just a little, but it’s hardly noticeable. Plus, users who might be bothered by it can simply make adjustments through CUE.
The soundstage is already great in stereo with a pretty accurate separation between the left and right. Yet with the 7.1 virtual surround sound on, it’s even more spectacular, so much so it feels like you’re sitting in a movie theater. The soundstage is noticeably wider and more dynamic with not only a great representation of right and left, but also forward, back and all the angles in between, giving it that immersive three-dimensional feel.
Finally, thanks to its low-latency, 2.4GHz wireless signal with a range that extends up to 40 feet, the sound always comes out accurate and on point. In fact, we didn’t notice any delay at all during our tests.
As far as gaming headsets go, the HS70 is as close to perfection as you can get. It has the portability many seek from their gaming devices and peripherals. It has the flexibility, thanks to its customizable settings and long battery life. And as far as sound performance, it runs like butter, with low to zero latency, a virtual surround sound that’s a stunner and lots of rumble.
There are things that could be better. One of the biggest issues is that there doesn’t seem to be a way to turn the surround sound on or off for PlayStation or other consoles. If you think that’s a deal breaker, suck it up or miss out.
At $135, this might be one of your soundest investments this year. Pun intended.
First reviewed May 2018.
Michelle Rae Uy is the Computing Reviews and Buying Guides Editor here at TechRadar. She's a Los Angeles-based tech, travel and lifestyle writer covering a wide range of topics, from computing to the latest in green commutes to the best hiking trails. She's an ambivert who enjoys communing with nature and traveling for months at a time just as much as watching movies and playing sim games at home. That also means that she has a lot more avenues to explore in terms of understanding how tech can improve the different aspects of our lives.