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 Sennheiser GSP 500 through a series of subjective tests to try to come up with the most objective rating as possible. The tests were conducted with the GSP 500 plugged directly into the integrated sound card on our Gigabyte motherboard. Gigabyte motherboards generally have excellent sound quality based on our RMAA tests. To verify the results, cross-testing was done using the dedicated headphone amplifier on the Auzentech X-Fi HomeTheater HD.
After over 50 hours of break-in time (Well above the typical required period), we put the Sennheiser GSP 500 to the tests. All tracks are uncompressed CDs, FLAC, or LAME encoded MP3s at 192kbps or higher. For gaming, I played Overwatch, Fortnite Battle Royale, and League of Legends. Shooter games are probably the most crucial games to test these headphones, as gameplay can heavily rely on hearing and interpreting information found sounds. The other games have aspects where audio is useful, but this is less of a factor.
I normally would start with the big three regions, but with an open back headset, it only makes sense for me to answer the soundstaging question first. Soundstaging is frequently linked and limited by physical dimensions, no matter how great the driver or speaker. With the Sennheiser GSP 500, it was amazing to hear how much an open back pair of headphones provided in terms of soundstaging. Both the width and depth blew all the other gaming headsets I have tried out of the water. I should say most gaming headsets provide an adequate amount of direction and depth to help in video games. However, the GSP 500 was on another stage -- pun intended -- of its own. In music, the openness was nice to hear and in games this aspect was helpful.
Going back to the regularly scheduled programs, at the bottom of the big three frequency regions is the bass. While most open-back headphones would suffer in its bass performance, especially as the low end can be lost to the external environment, the GSP 500 reproduced this low end nicely. It had a good rounded characteristic with enough oomph. It was slightly boosted, but not to the point where it was distracting. Maybe Sennheiser was trying to compensate for its open back design. In games, the lower-end frequency is useful to listen for keeping aware of other players from their footsteps and movement noises. Having a sufficient bass is also nice in other games like racing games to hear a satisfying engine rumble.
In the middle, the midrange frequencies sounded good with a natural wooden resonance in instruments like pianos and guitars. Vocals too provided a good natural resonance. Overall, the lower-mids followed the lower end with a good defined sound that produced motion. This was heard in bass guitar riffs and the like. The upper midrange region still felt damp without any dryness creeping in. Overall, I am quite pleased with the middle region of the GSP 500. Clear midrange sounds are still important in games, despite the V-shaped trend of most gaming headsets, as users need to hear things like voice lines and gun reloading for various cues.
At the top, the treble frequencies were produced with a sharpness and sounded bright. In violins and flutes, you could hear a bit of shrillness. High hat clashes also seemed a bit clashy, which could be attributed to dryness at the top end. The top end was also a bit boosted, to the point where we could hear some more of the deficiencies from the dryness. Higher frequencies are important to listen for in games, as sounds like glass breaking or gunshot firing can be heard to give gamers cues about direction and location of their opponents. When we combined all three regions together, we get a fun-sounding balance, built from a solid bass foundation and supporting of the middle region plus the treble on top. I did not find the midrange to be recessed, but the V-shape was present due to the boosted nature of the bass and the treble.
In terms of layering, the Sennheiser GSP 500 had only a few issues handling complicated music. All the parts could easily be heard and the GSP 500 was up to the task of differentiating each voice. However, the result was a bit messy. This may not necessarily play as big of a deal in gaming situations, but for music, this was distracting and not as clean as I would have liked. Frequencies were still separated enough to be distinguished, while still feeling cohesive enough for a smooth transition between the multiple frequencies.
If there is one area the Sennheiser GSP 500 will not be great in, it is the sound isolation, as sound can easily leak out while allowing external noises to enter in. If you use these headphones in a noisier environment, you may find yourself cranking up the volume. Clearly, this is intrinsic to its open back design and the trade-off to get a wide sound stage is really going to depend on your preference. Personally, I like the open back as my gaming room is in a relatively quiet area away from other things, but you should keep this in mind when picking the GSP 500.
In terms of microphone performance, the GSP 500 did not let me down, though there are a few things to note about it. This microphone recorded me without any nasally sound, which is something you cannot say for most gaming headsets. The upper end still sounded slightly compressed. In addition, the microphone did not do a great job at noise cancellation, as external noises like keyboard presses were easily heard. Even so, the quality of the microphone is quite good, and I could even use it for some casual streaming. However, those with a larger audience base would probably still want something to capture their voice more naturally.
1. Introduction, Packaging, Specifications
2. Physical Look - Hardware
3. Subjective Audio Analysis