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Audio and mic quality

Once I cued up some of my favorite tunes through them, my ears found that the HS50s are not bad at all. I'd even be willing to say they sound great, considering that $50 price tag.

The audio from these cans is pretty accurate. It's a little muted-sounding compared to the sound from my Audio-Technica ATH-M50x headphones, and it leans heavy on the bass. This voicing felt especially apparent when listening to tracks like Miles Davis' "So What."  The highs drop out somewhat compared to the M50x headphones, which felt especially apparent to me in one of my old favorites, Thee Michelle Gun Elephant's "Akage no Kelly."  The mid-tone character of the HS50 is, again, pretty accurate, suffering mostly because of the rather quiet presentation overall. I'd prefer a more lively sound with less bass, but these do need to appeal to mass-market listeners and gamers.

After plugging the HS50 into my Xbox One X controller, I also took the time to watch part of the UHD Blu ray disc for Blade Runner. When Leon shoots Holden near the beginning of the movie, their voices sound noticeably duller during a side-by-side listen with my Audio-Technicas. In Rise of the Tomb Raider, the reverb that comes off the shotgun isn't quite as expansive as it should be, while footsteps in Assassin's Creed Origins seemed quieter than they ought to be for gamers who might want to use those sounds as a way to track enemies.

To be clear, none of these characteristics are dealbreakers at this price point. The Audio-Technica cans I used for comparison are three times as expensive as these babies, and the ATH-M50x doesn't even come with a mic. The HS50s will sound fine for most people unless you do a side-by-side with more expensive cans. My only real complaint about the listening experience with the HS50 is that the seal on these closed 'phones isn't great at keeping sound either in or out. People near you will hear a little bit of your audio if you have it cranked, and these aren't going to sub for noise-cancelling headphones like some higher-end closed headphones might.

We know what it's like to listen to audio on the HS50s now, but a good mic is just as important for any headset worth its salt. The voice quality from the HS50's mic isn't amazing, but it's just fine for the price. I spent about an hour talking with a friend over Discord without any complaints about being heard. Same goes for in-game voice chat, too. I also didn't notice or get remarks on a ton of outside noise, so it seems the HS50s do a sufficient job of blocking environmental sound (if your chat app of choice doesn't do noise-canceling to begin with).

Here's a sample of how the HS50's unidirectional mic sounds:

Speaking of Discord, Corsair touts the HS50s as Discord Certified. Discord describes the process that leads to this badge of honor in some detail on its site. As far as I can tell, the company is trying to replicate the results of Neumann's KU 100 dummy head or a similar instrument without actually using one. Instead, it's hollowed out a cheap foam mannequin head and stuck a mic inside before playing back a recording and subjectively comparing it to a control sample. I'm not sure the company's definition of "fresh and squeaky-clean" sound is universally applicable, but it might be better than nothing as far as third-party testing goes.

Discord also performs general compatibility testing with its software, but there's just not that much going on with the HS50. If this headset was more complex—let's say a wireless, RGB LED beast covered in buttons—it might make more sense. Discord is a popular piece of software, and it makes sense that some gaming headset software might be incompatible with it. These cans are simple wired stereo headphones, though. They transmit an analog signal with no encoding or post-processing in between. Ultimately, the HS50s are Discord Certified, but I just don't think that means much in this case.

Conclusions

For just $50, I'm going to call the HS50s a solid pair of headphones. They offer reasonable audio quality and a solid mic built into a sturdy, comfortable base that should last through some heavy use. You'll look pretty classy while you use them, too. They're also compatible with just about every platform, from PC to console to mobile—one size fits all.

You're usually missing out on a lot more at a price point like this, so I have to give Corsair some kudos for their execution with this pair of cans. The value proposition here is a good one. If your budget is bigger, you'll get more by spending more, but here in this $50 spot, though, the HS50s come TR Recommended.

 

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