When we looked at the Corsair HS50 gaming headset last fall, we were initially concerned with the build quality concessions made to keep its price down, but we ultimately came away impressed with a headset that got the job done without breaking the bank. Now, Corsair is back with the HS70. Like a superhero after a continuity reset, Corsair’s budget headset has returned with a very slightly updated look and noteworthy new powers. The cord is gone, replaced with a wireless USB dongle, and there’s now 7.1 surround sound virtualization on tap.
Once again, Corsair is going for a premium-feeling headset with a relatively budget-minded sticker price of $90. Since this headset is so similar to the HS50, we’ll be digging for differences between the two to see if the wireless connectivity and surround sound are worth the extra $40 Corsair is asking for the HS70.
Unveiling an upgraded piece of hardware means keeping the features that work while trying to bring something fresh to justify a higher price tag. The build quality on the HS70 is all about not fixing what isn’t broken. In fact, the headset is all but identical to its predecessor. The only visible differences come from what isn’t there with this headset. If you cut off the cord, you’d have a hard time telling the HS70 apart from the HS50 in a lineup.
Both headsets feature the same strong metal band and earcup harnesses, as well as the same plastic casing. The headband uses well-cushioned leatherette with a quilted-stitch pattern, and the ear cups seem to use the same material without the quilting. The actual differences between the HS70 and the HS50 are a Micro-USB charging port on the left earcup where a cord would otherwise go, and a power button on the right one. The mute button and microphone are in the same spots on the left ear, too.
That all means that while wearing them, the HS70 feels identical to the HS50. The headset offers enough clamping force to stay on without budging during normal use, perhaps until you start headbanging. The earcups swivel just enough to account for different head shapes, but not enough to sit flat on your collar when you take the headset off to get some air. The mic bends easily in and out of the way with a steel gooseneck-style boom arm and holds its position firmly.
Like the HS50, the HS70 looks good, too. However, while the mic is removable like with the HS50, the fact that the HS70 require a USB connection means you won’t usually be able to wear them outside the house. You could, however, plug them into your work computer and wear them for calls and music alike without getting a second look. Corsair went with a simpler color scheme this time, too—you can get the HS70 with white or black plastic. Alongside PCs, the PlayStation 4 is the only console supported by the HS70s, so Corsair has forgone the blue- and green-accented options offered by the HS50 to coordinate with the latest consoles from Sony and Microsoft.
Cutting the cord
The biggest difference in actually using the HS70s comes from the added wireless functionality. Corsair promises up to 40′ of range over the 2.4 GHz wireless band and up to 16 hours of battery life.
It’s a bit difficult to test the upper limits of that 40-foot promise, but I gave it a shot. I live in an apartment with a lot of walls, and I can get about 25 feet away from the USB dongle before the signal fails. The only way to get a steady signal at that distance is to stand as still as Drax eating Zargnuts in Avengers: Infinity War. That figure might not sound impressive, but keep in mind there are a few walls, some kitchen appliances, and interfering wireless signals between me and the dongle by that point. That range also closely matches that of other wireless headsets I’ve used. More importantly, I never experienced any drops or unsteady signal when using the HS70 within reach of my PC or PlayStation 4.
The battery life promise holds up pretty well, too. While I wasn’t able to time the drain down to the minute, I made it through three Monster Hunter World sessions on the PlayStation 4 and two Sea of Thieves sessions on my PC, each roughly two to four hours in length, before the headset really started crowing at me. That works out to a solid 14-plus hours on a single charge.
The identical build quality of the HS70s compared to the HS50s is mostly a blessing. This is a comfortable, attractive, and relatively light headset—but this would’ve been a good place for Corsair to surprise us a little. The HS70 headset costs 80% again as much as its predecessor, and a little extra effort in the materials or design would go a long way to justifying the price increase. For example, steel-clad or fully swiveling earcups would be welcome improvements. Even so, what’s here is good. It feels good to wear.
There’s a palpable downside to only having a wireless connection available, though. Since there’s no option to use a regular 3.5-mm analog jack to connect to a source, the HS70 can’t connect to the Xbox One, phones, tablets, or other devices with only analog outputs. You can use it with PCs and the PlayStation 4, and that’s it.
Audio and mic quality
If you dig into the spec sheet, you’ll see that aside from the wireless functionality, the hardware inside the HS70 appears to be identical to that of the HS50, as implied by matching impedance and frequency response of the 50-mm drivers and the same mic sensitivity rating. Therefore, the minute-to-minute experience with the HS70 is going to be quite similar to using the HS50s. Check out our original review for the details.
Just like with the HS50, music feels a little muted, with unimpressive-but-serviceable highs and an overall quiet presentation. The HS70s still won’t compare to music-focused headphones when used for that purpose, but they’ll get the job done if you’re the kind of person who uses headphones to listen to music instead of music to listen to headphones.
The most notable parts of the audio experience with the HS70s come from the compromises introduced by its wireless connectivity. When the headset is powered on but not pumping out audio, there’s a noticeable hiss. It’s quickly drowned out by most games, but if you’re going to listen to quiet jazz, as is part of my headphone testing regimen, you’ll likely notice it. Other wireless headsets I’ve tried have a hiss of some kind, but the one on the HS70 is much more audible than most.
Speaking of electrical noise, another issue I experienced with the HS70s surfaced when I tried to wear them while they were charging. On top of the regular hiss, the headset made a weird high-frequency electrical noise that ceased when the headphones were unplugged. To try and figure out the source of this problem, we tested with a couple of different cords and plugged the headset into the front and rear USB ports of a desktop PC, a 2015 MacBook Air, and a dedicated USB charging hub. The amount of noise varied, but it was always present.
We brought up this issue with Corsair, and the company advised us that this unwanted noise wasn’t expected behavior. The company sent us a second sample to rule out the chance that our unit had a fluke, but the hiss and interference while charging on our second sample were still present—just less prominent. To be fair, most users will probably not be jamming out and juicing up the HS70 at the same time, but freedom from interference seems like a basic box to tick with audio gear. It’s not that Corsair doesn’t know how to build a headset free of these issues, either: TR Editor-in-Chief Jeff Kampman didn’t report hiss or whine from his Void Wireless RGB cans when he tried them out in a similar manner.
Corsair’s latest CUE interface for headsets
Plugging the HS70s into a PlayStation 4 console will give you the same stereo audio as a regular wired headset. Plugging them into a PC and installing Corsair’s CUE software opens up two possibilities not available on the HS50: custom equalization (EQ) and virtual surround sound. Setting up EQ curves is pretty straightforward in CUE, and what you set there will largely be down to whatever you prefer. Credit where credit’s due, though—setting up EQ profiles in Corsair’s software is a few steps easier than with Logitech’s software right now, and that makes using the HS70 much more appealing than the competition.
A sample of the HS70’s mic
The virtual surround sound functionality is something I still waver back and forth on as a general concept—I’m rarely very impressed by it. The HS70 gets that job done, though, and in a long session with Doom the positioning felt accurate. Virtual surround still doesn’t feel very good to me, but in that regard the HS70 is no different from any other virtual-surround headphones I’ve put on.
With so many similarities to its predecessor, the main appeals of Corsair’s HS70 over its HS50 predecessor are going to be from its wireless functionality and its surround-sound virtualization. Personally, I find that I rarely want to be at more than arm’s reach away from my console controller, nor do I want to wear my headset more than a few feet from my computer. That might be because I own a pile of wired headphones big enough to worry my friends and loved ones, so I’m used to being tethered to my listening device of choice. All told, the wireless connection might not mean as much to me as it might for others. I can take it or leave it.
What I can’t ignore is that the HS70 is more expensive than the HS50, yet it loses utility by going USB-only. The HS70 is compatible only with the PC and PlayStation peripherals as audio sources, while the HS50 can plug into just about anything with a 3.5-mm audio jack, including Xbox One controllers, phones, and tablets. Given that the headset doesn’t actually sound any different than the more affordable HS50 and has to be fed from a charging source every now and again, the cord-cutting isn’t painless.
In exchange for the missing simplicity and flexibility, though, you’ll get a wireless headset with fairly good range, solid battery life, and the additional benefit of 7.1 virtual surround sound. The $90 asking price for these cans is less than what lots of other headsets out there go for, wireless or otherwise. Wired headsets like Logitech’s G Pro can go for about the same price, for just one example (although it’s worth noting that headset makers can plow resources not spent on radios into other measures of quality). On the flip side, other wireless headsets like HyperX’s Cloud Flight demand a whopping $60 more than what the HS70s go for.
Keep in mind, though, that even Corsair’s own Void Pro RGB wireless headset goes for $100 as I write this. I haven’t had experience with it myself, but TR Editor-in-Chief Jeff Kampman has a pair. He notes that they fold flat on the neck when they’re at rest, and his pair doesn’t have the same issues with hiss or noise that the HS70s do (even across multiple samples). I prefer the look of the HS70, though, and I like the steel harnesses for the ear cups.
With all that in mind, whether the HS70s are right for you will ultimately come down to personal preference. The HS50s give you the same look and feel for almost half the price, while Corsair’s Void RGB headset seems to avoid the HS70’s pitfalls for just a few dollars more than this set. If you really like the look of the HS50s but just hate wires, the HS70s aren’t a bad option, but looks alone don’t make them a standout.