Corsair HS50 Headset Review: Big Bass, Small Price, Few Features
Corsair's HS50 gaming headset is a frustrating set of cans. On the one hand, it's built as good as, if not better than, some of its god-tier cousins -- and it's just as comfortable, too. But on the other hand, it doesn't provide the best sound you can find for $50. Of course, budget headsets aren't necessarily known to produce tones and frequencies that cater to audiophiles, but the HS50 lacks a few key features that hold it back and could make some average users concerned.
After more than a month with the HS50, I can say that all in all, it's a good headset -- but it's an entry-level set that doesn't do a whole lot to differentiate itself from other models in its price range. That doesn't mean you should skip it if you're budget hunting or want something that's ubiquitous, working across PC, console, and mobile. But it does mean that you should weigh everything it has to offer before taking the leap.
Where some gaming headsets opt for pomp and circumstance in design, the HS50 opts for a less ostentatious affair. Available in three color options -- all black, black with green accents, and black with blue accents -- the HS50 isn't terribly interesting to look at, with the only flair coming in the form of the Corsair logo emblazoned on the outside of each earcup and black, blue, or green accents around the edges and on the headband.
Looking at the earcups themselves, you'll find that they're comfortable over-the-ear types made of cushy foam on the inside and metal mesh on the outside. The latter layer helps for ventilation and breathing and seems to work as advertised. You'll also find that the earcups swivel slightly, providing wriggle room for different ear shapes and sizes. They don't fully rotate like the earcups found on models from SteelSeries and Logitech, but overall, that's not something everyone is going to care about.
On the left earcup, there's the volume wheel, the mic mute/unmute button, and a little notch for the detachable microphone. This is also where you'll find the roughly four-foot-long plastic cable that ends in either a 3.5mm jack for mobile and console use or the included (and detachable) Y-splitter for PC.
Moving up the headset's sturdy metal frame (which feels like something you'd find on a model three times the price), you'll find that the HS50's headband is stout and comfortable. On the outside, it's covered in the thick plastic you'd expect to see on almost every gaming headset currently on the market. And on the inside, you'll find a plush cushion that sports more green, blue, or black accents depending on your model.
What I like about the build of the HS50 is that it doesn't feel cheap in the slightest. In fact, I've reviewed headsets much, much more expensive that creak and groan when you move your head -- and you won't find any of that here. I don't feel like I'm going to break the headset when I take it off, which is a huge plus for someone that's constantly transporting all of his gear from place to place.
Overall, the HS50 is a fairly comfortable headset. Weighing in at about 11 ounces, this set of cans is a bit heftier than, say, the HyperX Cloud Stinger, and after about four to five hours of use, that weight becomes apparent, causing a bit of discomfort across the top of the head.
However, the HS50's round earcups are cushy and some of the coziest ones I've had the pleasure of wearing. The wide inner cavity of the earcups provides nice, recessed areas for your ears to rest comfortably, and the plush pleather surrounding the inner areas of each earcup provides nice padding against the side of the head.
The HS50 is a bit uncomfortable to wear around the neck because its earcups don't rotate to rest against the chest, a functionality found in other headsets that would have been a nice addition here. And even if it is a small gripe, it's something that could have set the HS50 apart from other headsets in its price range. As it stands, you're better off setting this set of cans on your desk when not in use.
When used in its primary environment (gaming), the HS50 performs admirably. Playing Battlefront 2, I was able to hear most blaster bolts and explosions in thrumming clarity. For more story-driven games like Fallout 4, I was able to hear dialog well and didn't experience any muffled tones in that regard. I wasn't able to pick out directional audio all that well, but again, that's something that you pay the big bucks for. It makes sense that you can't do that here.
Since the HS50 can plug into your PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch, I also tested it out on Nier: Automata and Breath of the Wild. In each instance, the headset performed extremely well, adding deep bass tones that amplified the experience.
However, for all the things the HS50 does well when it comes to gaming, it stumbles in other areas -- namely music and movie playback. When it comes to both, the sound design of the media in question has a huge impact on the performance of the HS50. Being that the headset is innately hefty on the bass side of things, music and movies with large amounts of bass often overpower other tones. Trebles can be difficult to hear, and dialog can get muddied.
It would have been nice if the HS50 had some type of EQ setting or a piece of accompanying software that allowed users to dial in their own EQ settings. Since this is often the realm of higher-end headsets, you won't find anything that resembles that here. It's plug and play, sure, but what you hear is what you get.
The bright side is that chat audio is crisp and clear, as is the HS50's microphone. Whether I had it hooked up to my iPhone 6S Plus or my PC, my friends and squadmates could hear each and every syllable.
The Corsair HS50 is a plug-and-play, budget headset that does a lot of great things but never really sets itself apart from the pack. Its audio quality could be better, and it could use a few more features to help it achieve that.
If you're looking for a headset in the $50 range, I'd suggest checking this set of cans out, while also looking at how it compares to other sets such as the HyperX Cloud Stinger, which provides better sound quality but might not be as comfortable for some users.
At the end of the day, you can't really go wrong with the HS50, but depending on what your budget is, you can do better for just a little more.
You can buy the Corsair HS50 on Amazon for $49.99.
[Note: Corsair provided the HS50 used for this review.]