With gaming and audio hardware alike, you usually get what you pay for – and when you're not paying much, then you probably shouldn't expect much. That's certainly true with a $50 (£55, AU$89) gaming headset, but Corsair's HS50 happily bucks that trend with a surprisingly premium offering.
It's a straightforward stereo headset, built for pumping your ear holes full of shotgun blasts and thumping tunes, as well as keeping you in sync with your squad via its unidirectional noise-cancelling microphone. In fact, it's pretty similar to the slightly pricier Astro A10 headset, which we recently reviewed – but in nearly every respect, the Corsair HS50 goes one notch better.
True, the HS50 probably won't blow many minds and it can't compete with much higher-end headset options, but that's not the allure here. What's truly appealing is that you can get a gaming headset this level of quality and performance for less than the price of a big new game. And that's pretty amazing.
The Corsair HS50 doesn't look and feel like a budget headset. While the very solid Astro A10 came off as a simplified, utilitarian devolution from the company's pricier efforts, Corsair's headset punches a couple notches above its weight class in both polish and build quality.
This large headset has voluminous cans that should easily fit around your entire ears, and they're plenty comfy too. Faux leather encases the memory foam cups, which gently squish against your head without applying too much pressure, and then immediately shift back into their proper form when removed. On the outside, the cans have the look of a speaker grate, curiously enough, with green or blue color accents available if you want to identify with your Xbox One or PlayStation 4. A standard black edition is also available.
You see more of a premium touch with the large metal arches that connect the cups to the headband, while also allowing the flexibility to fit on all types of heads. Furthermore, the band has sleek faux-leather with color-accent stitching on the plush inside and the Corsair logo on the top. At a glance, I'd peg this as a 100 buck headset – or pricier, even. It doesn't identify as entry-level or low-end at all, and the metal underpinnings make it feel super durable.
It's a wired, stereo headset, however, so it has a fixed 3.5mm cable coming out of the left cup. But since the Corsair HS50 uses a standard audio jack, you can plug in and use it with just about anything: game consoles, smartphones, PC, Mac, and more.
The HS50 also keeps its inputs on that cup: it has a small volume dial, along with a handy on-off toggle button for muting the microphone. There's no raise-to-mute option like on Astro's A10, but the button works just as well. Better yet, you can fully remove the microphone – also on the left cup – which makes the HS50 all the more ideal as an on-the-go headset. Just keep tabs on the mic: it's small and thin, and could be easily misplaced.
The headset looks nice, and thankfully it also feels pretty great. It'll stay in place on your head without squeezing too tight, and the large cups comfortably fit around my ears without feeling awkward or overly warm over time. Frankly, I don't have any complaints here.
That's also true with the sound quality, which is surprisingly excellent for a basic stereo headset. Corsair opted for 50mm drivers here, which are a bit larger than the 40mm drivers in both the Astro A10 and the pricier wireless Astro A20 ($149, £149, AU$249) and output sound that's just a smidge better than either of those offerings.
I spend most of my gaming time these days in Rocket League for PlayStation 4, and the HS50 didn't disappoint. The pulsing electronic tunes delivered both precise highs and solid – although not booming – bass tones, with nice differentiation between them. Likewise, the heavy boing of a well-timed jump, the thump of the ball bouncing and the explosive defeat of being destroyed by another car all rang true and clear.
Moving over to Star Wars Battlefront II, the pew-pew of my TIE Fighter's laser blasts resonated vividly around my ears amidst the thundering propulsion. The sound field doesn't feel immense, but it does come off as a bit broader than Astro's option. And the roaring engines of Forza Motorsport 7 on Xbox One impressed almost as much as the game's dazzling graphics. Almost.
Likewise, the HS50 can adeptly handle music, movies, and other media, whether you're streaming media on your console or computer or using the headset with your smartphone. Corsair's budget-priced headset doesn't have the frills of pricier headsets, such as 7.1 surround sound, but it still impresses at this price range.
The bendy, detachable microphone is very compact, but size doesn’t affect its great recording quality. Teammates heard me loud and clear when playing online, and local recordings were super sharp. Corsair says it's Discord-certified to work perfectly with the popular gaming chat service, and based on my testing, it ought to work well no matter how you choose to talk to pals.
There are obviously better gaming headsets on the market than the Corsair HS50. Of course there are! It's only $50 (£55, AU$89). But you'd be hard-pressed to find a more impressive budget gaming headset than this one.
It shines in nearly every respect, starting with the durable, premium-feeling build, which has a nicely understated appeal and comes off as a pricier device. And once you pop it on your dome and plug in, the HS50 keeps outshining its price tag thanks to full, immersive sound and strong microphone performance.
If you're willing to spend more on a headset, then you'll find plenty of perks, including Bluetooth wireless support, dazzling designs and surround sound capabilities – and those may be worth spending for. But if you don't want to splurge on a headset and just need something that's capable, versatile, and seemingly built to last, then the Corsair HS50 absolutely lives up to the task.
First reviewed February 2018.