Page 3 - Subjective Audio Analysis
As with all the audio products we review here at APH Networks, it takes quite a bit of experience and training of the ears before we can begin making a fair judgment. Even for the best of audiophiles, it can be hard to produce an exact and accurate evaluation of a product without a thoroughly familiar product to use as simultaneous reference. While I will not claim to be the reviewer of all reviewers for headphones, I can say quite a few other computer review sites have editors lacking in training for reviewing anything audio related. Give them anything and all you will get is some vague description of “awesome bass, amazing midrange, nice treble, no muffles, 10/10”. Do not get me wrong though; there are knowledgeable audio reviewers out there on respected online media outlets, but they are far and few. There are no true objective measurements for audio sound quality. As the reviewer, however, I will put the Corsair HS35 Stereo through a series of subjective tests to try to come up with the most objective rating as possible. The tests were conducted with the HS35 Stereo plugged directly into a Gigabyte motherboard.
After over 50 hours of break-in time -- well above the typical required period -- we put the Corsair HS35 Stereo to the tests. All tracks are uncompressed or high bitrate audio files. For gaming, I played Overwatch and League of Legends. First-person shooter games are probably the most crucial games to test these headphones, as gameplay can heavily rely on hearing additional sounds. The other games have aspects where audio is useful, but this is less of a factor.
At the lowest end of the frequencies, the Corsair HS35 Stereo had a very noticeable bass, almost to a point where it was overwhelming. Low end instruments like the bass guitar and drums were reproduced with a boosted presence. Unfortunately, I also heard a hollow, boomy feel in the lower frequencies, lacking the fullness or definition it the deep thumps and kicks. In first person shooters and other games, I was able to hear sounds like footsteps and explosions clearly. This is especially important in Overwatch, as there are several different paths to the same place, so knowing the whereabouts of your team and your enemies is very important.
In the midrange, we had an average sound, though it was quite recessed compared to other frequencies. The lower midrange still had some power carried over from the bass. Vocals, acoustic and electric guitars, and pianos came through, though they felt dry at times, especially near the higher end of this middle portion. Resonance in instruments like pianos or guitars was good but not great. Along with the slight dryness, midrange vocals lacked warmth. The midrange performance was reflected in games through voice lines, firing weapons, and weapon reloading. Once again, voices also play a role in games like Overwatch, as you can tell when users are using their ultimate abilities, which tells you either to hide or go towards, depending on the situation. Once again, the midrange was not bad for gaming purposes, but music revealed a bit of the inadequacies.
Finally, in the trebles, the same dryness we experienced in the upper midrange carried over here. The higher frequencies felt too bright compared to the lacking midrange, further accentuating the V-shaped characteristics of the Corsair HS35 Stereo. At the highest range, the sound was greatly recessed, which is not too surprising. In gaming situations, the treble performed as you would expect, which let me hear sharp noises like glass breaking for more environmental cues. In terms of overall balance, we have already mentioned this was very much a V-shaped sound signature with a drop off on the higher trebles. While this is not necessarily the best for audiophile listeners, these characteristics are what I would have expected for a gaming headset.
In terms of soundstaging, there was neither any amazing nor terrible aspects here. Rather, the Corsair HS35 Stereo provided me with a good amount of direction, while lacking some of the depth I would have liked. I think part of this came from the heavier bass that felt like it covered up the staging created by other aspects of frequencies. The whole reproduced image was quite flat, despite its decent width. Considering the price you pay, this is not too surprising, but I still think I would have liked a bit more depth to its sound.
When combining all of the three frequencies together, the Corsair HS35 Stereo had a bit more difficulty handling all of the sounds. Combining a bass that takes over other frequency ranges with a recessed midrange meant I often lost some detail, especially in the middle regions, in more complicated music. Of course, for gaming, this might not be a huge deal, but it does vary from game to game. In addition, all of the layers had a slight muffle to them that should have been cleaned up. Otherwise, the frequency ranges were mostly defined, though the lacking midrange complicated matters at times. Transitions between frequency ranges could also have been smoother, though it was acceptable.
Sound isolation on the Corsair HS35 Stereo was decent, as it was capable of sealing noise both internally and externally. As for the microphone, the unidirectional microphone was good at not picking up external sounds like my mechanical keyboard or mouse clicks. The recorded voice was a bit nasally in nature, but this is expected considering the frequency response of the microphone. This should work fine for things line in-game chat or Discord calls, but I would not recommend this microphone for other purposes like streaming. Otherwise, the microphone on the Corsair HS35 Stereo was quite flexible and stayed in the same position after making positional adjustments.
1. Introduction, Packaging, Specifications
2. Physical Look - Hardware
3. Subjective Audio Analysis