Page 3 - Subjective Audio Analysis
Reviewing audio devices requires extensively trained ears, lots of experience, and sufficient technical knowledge. Even for the experienced auditioner, it may prove challenging at times to obtain an accurate evaluation of a product without a thoroughly familiar product to use as a simultaneous reference. Furthermore, many self-proclaimed audiophiles are susceptible to biased write-ups due to placebo effects from false advertising. While I am not going to even try to claim that I am the only trustworthy or best evaluator for sound, it is fact that most computer review sites have editors who are insufficiently trained in reviewing audio equipment. Give them practically anything and all you will read about goes along the line of "good bass, nice midrange, awesome treble, really clear sound, 10/10". While there are many knowledgeable audio reviewers at various respected online media outlets, they are by far the minority.
As I have mentioned in my past audio reviews, there are really no true objective measurements for sound quality. As the evaluator, however, I will put it through a series of subjective tests to try to come up with the most objective rating possible. Yes, it sounds like a paradox. For all tests, I plugged the wireless transmitter into a USB port on my motherboard. After over 100 hours of break-in time -- well above the typical required period -- I put the Corsair HS80 Max Wireless to the tests. All tracks are uncompressed or high bitrate audio files. I tested the headset without any surround effects active and with the equalizer set to a flat response. For gaming, I played VALORANT, League of Legends, and Palia. 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.
Starting with the lower end, the Corsair HS80 Max Wireless was passable. At the lowest end, everything sounded a bit under-powered, leading to a bit of emptiness in the bottoms. Moving to the mid-bass, there was a gradual increase in amplitude, which provided a good amount of punch and groove that was heard in things like electric bass lines. However, I also noticed this increase continued into the higher bass, which resulted in the whole region sounding boomy. I think part of the problem stemmed from the lack of bottoms, which caused an overall lack of definition or roundness. In games, the bass region is where you will hear things like footsteps and other cues. While they are audible, they were not necessarily of the highest quality.
Moving to the midrange, the emphasis from the higher bass continued into this region with a continued muddiness here. Everything else was heard, including vocals and instruments. However, as we continued up this region, I started to hear a bit of a recession in the middle. While wood instruments like pianos and acoustic guitars came through with decent warmth, it lacked the natural resonance that I would have liked. In video games, things like voice lines and gunshots are in this region, which were audible but lacked a bit of life and clarity.
In the trebles, the Corsair HS80 Max Wireless performed a bit strangely. While I am used to gaming headsets overemphasizing the treble region, the HS80 actually seemed to pull even further back in this region, continued from the upper midrange. As such, it lacked brightness to the sound. Even instruments like flutes and violins sounded flat and boring. Worse yet, this affected vocals too, making them feel dark and uncomfortable. In games, the trebles are heard through cues like glass breaking, but even these sounded more artificial than usual. Overall, the sound signature is a bit like a hill, except with a more noticeable drop-off in the trebles compared to the bass. The HS80 Max Wireless peaked around the mid-bass to low-midrange, and that was it. This really made the whole experience rather uncomfortable and dull.
With included support for Dolby Atmos, you might expect the soundstaging out of the box to be passable. Without the virtual effect, the Corsair HS80 Max Wireless felt closed off and the sound felt as if it were coming from inside your head. Even audio that was meant to simulate a wider effect felt lacking with the HS80 Max Wireless. As such, the imaging characteristics were not very immersive and lacked realism. In gaming, I was able to determine the direction of footsteps and audio cues, but the headset was not deep enough. I may not be the best VALORANT player, but the HS80 Max Wireless still could have been refined here. With Dolby Atmos active, the soundstaging was improved a bit with more depth without feeling too artificial, which is good. Even so, I am a bit hesitant to rely on these software effects to overcome the physical inabilities.
Moving to layering and frequency separation, a lot of the characteristics we discussed previously affected the Corsair HS80 Max Wireless negatively here. Details were able to be heard in isolation, but when multiple voices came through, we started losing details in the midrange and trebles. The sound felt muddy, and it lacked clarity. Everything felt a bit like a mishmash of sounds together, which caused the frequencies to not sound separated. Interestingly, I could also notice some dips within frequency regions, which was not good for sound cohesiveness. Overall, the veiled nature of the upper half of the frequencies could have been cleaned up for a clearer sound.
For sound isolation, the Corsair HS80 Max Wireless was decent. Its passive noise cancellation with the over-ear design was good at removing external noises, even if we have fabric pads. There was a bit of sound leakage with the HS80 Max at louder volumes, although at normal volumes, it should be fine.
One area that the Corsair HS80 Max Wireless performed decently in was the microphone test. I used Audacity to record and export the captured audio as MP3 files. With the microphone somewhat angled at my face, I felt like it captured my voice relatively clearly while also not capturing too much of the background noise from my computer. Everything sounded mostly natural, although it sounded a bit like I was speaking through a tunnel with a slight nasally effect. This is similar to what we have seen from most gaming headsets. For voice chat or communications, this will do just fine, but I would not recommend this for anything more like streaming or podcasting.
In terms of battery life, the Corsair HS80 Max Wireless was quite strong. Corsair quoted up to 65 hours without the RGB LED lighting on, and I was able to reach 60 hours easily before getting a low battery indicator. Corsair also quotes double the battery life over Bluetooth. A full charge was reached within two hours, which is great. As for wireless range, I was able to get excellent range and I could move all over my house without getting any drops or skips in audio, which was more than 15m in distance from my headset to the transmitter with multiple obstacles in the way. I also did not notice any wireless lag when gaming or watching videos with the HS80 Max Wireless over the USB transmitter and receiver.
1. Introduction, Packaging, Specifications
2. Physical Look - Hardware and Software
3. Subjective Audio Analysis