REVIEWS

Corsair HS65 Surround Review – IGN

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The Corsair HS65 Surround punches so far above its weight in sound quality that I can hardly believe it sits at a sub-$100 price tag. This mid-range pair of cans pulls that off by sticking with mostly plastic materials, foregoing any semblance of wireless connectivity, and skipping any frills that most users don’t even bother with anyway. It’s a simple and practical – yet also classically stylish – wired gaming headset that honed its audio capabilities instead of stocking up on needless flourish, and its gamble has paid off beautifully. Not to say that it’s perfect – its mic, while impressive in its own right, also has some noticeable flaws, and it has a snug fit that some might not appreciate. Still, this is one of the best-sounding gaming headsets I’ve ever tested, wired or otherwise.

Corsair HS65 Surround – Photos

Corsair HS65 Surround – Design and Feature

When it comes to design, the HS65 opts for the simple yet still classically Corsair approach, obviously taking cues from some of the grievances customers have made about the HS60 Pro Surround. Instead of a detachable mic and a separate mute button, for example, it now comes with a flip-to-mute non-detachable mic, which makes its operation more effortless and intuitive.

Besides the grille on each earcup bearing that famous Corsair ship sail logo, everything else looks unembellished and plain, which appeals to me. Too many gaming peripherals are festooned with “gaming aesthetic” trimmings, and frankly, the Corsair HS65 Surround’s design is a nice departure from that, especially its white-and-silver colorway (a carbon one is on hand as well if you prefer to stick with an all-black setup).

To keep its price down without compromising on performance, Corsair has used high-quality plastic with a nice soft matte finish for the earcups and headband, only using aluminum in the bones to reinforce the headset. If you’re worried about comfort, don’t. The memory foam leatherette ear pads and headband padding are not only plush and luxurious, but also breathable.

The only thing that might affect your comfort is the size of that headband. Comparing it to three other headsets I own, it certainly looks like it isn’t as wide as the others. My head, which is average size for a woman, feels a little cramped around the headband area. That combined with the headset’s good grippage makes me wonder if this might not be the best option for gamers with much bigger heads than mine.

The fact that its headband isn’t wide enough – or flexible enough – also puts a lot of pressure around the top part of the earcups, giving users better grippage there than around the lower part. However, that really has no bearing at all on its overall fit and performance.

What does add to your comfort are its length adjustments and earcup swivel. The band adjustment might hold during a really intense gaming session, but there’s enough resistance there to keep it in place most of the time. Luckily, the Corsair HS65 Surround is on the lighter side at 0.6 pounds (282 grams), so gravity is on your side.

You won’t find a lot of confusing dials and buttons here, just a volume dial on the left earcup. Again, if you want to mute the mic, simply flip it up. To unmute, flip it back down. Everything else, you can toggle or adjust using the Corsair iCue software.

That’s something I appreciate as someone who’s tired of feeling her way through seemingly endless headphone buttons, never really knowing which switch is for what until I actually press it. Plus, when I’m wrapped up in a game, all I really care about is the mute function and adjusting the audio volume anyway.

Finally, the HS65 Surround’s primary connection is its 3.5mm audio jack, which you can turn into a USB connection via the included 7.1 surround sound USB adapter. That again makes things incredibly easy. Simply plug it in to your computer (or console) and the iCue software should detect it instantly. No fumbling around with your Bluetooth or wireless settings. Plus, no switching headsets if you want to change devices.

Corsair HS65 Surround – Software

The Corsair HS65 Surround uses Corsair’s iCue software – the same software the brand uses for most of its gaming peripherals – and it’s as straightforward and sound-focused as ever. You can use the headset without it out of the box, but if you want to take advantage of its Dolby Audio 7.1 surround sound capabilities or tweak the current sound profile, it’s a good idea to have the software handy. And, believe me, you’ll want to toggle surround sound on at the very least.

There are three main tabs available to you on the iCue program. There’s the Equalizer, which gives you access to the 10-band EQ, the five audio presets, mic adjustments, the stereo/Dolby 7.1 toggle button, and the ability to create your own audio profiles.

Corsair HS65 Surround – Software

Next there’s a tab that allows you to set up and activate a special feature from Sonarworks called SoundID, a technology that creates a sound profile for you based on your personal preferences, which is supposed to give you a better audio experience. The tab takes you through a multi-step audio preference test that involves choosing from several different music genres then picking between A and B from several samples. When done, the technology generates a sound profile based on your choices.

I would skip this feature for now, as it feels more like a gimmick than anything useful. It profiles your “ideal sound” by technically making you pick a specific music genre, which might work if you only listen to one type of thing. If you don’t, like most people I’d assume, any profile it’ll create for you will just sound worse when listening to something outside the parameters it picked for you.

Finally, the third tab lets you toggle device settings. Among these three tabs, it’s the Equalizer you’ll likely be using the most.

Corsair HS65 Surround – Performance

The Corsair HS65 Surround may not be as feature-rich as others, but when it comes to gaming headsets, audio performance is king, and that’s where this headset truly shines. The headset supports Dolby Audio 7.1 surround sound for an even more immersive experience, but even on stereo, it delivers excellent sound quality in which all frequencies are represented beautifully and there’s decent sound imaging. On top of that, it’s pretty loud at its highest volume with only the slightest hint of distortion.

While it isn’t what I would call neutral-sounding, all frequencies are present and not one overwhelms the others. The bass is very present and actually delivers a bit of that rumble we all crave when gaming or watching blockbusters, but it’s not overwhelming. The highs are clear and detailed without being overly bright. And the mids are full without sounding muddy.

Utilize the USB adapter and toggle on the Dolby 7.1 surround sound feature in iCue, and suddenly, the soundscape is much wider and much more immersive without sounding artificial. Obviously, you’re not really getting a real 7.1 speaker system here, but the effect is as close to the real thing as you can get with a pair of headsets.

The sound imaging is even more impressive with the surround sound feature. You can really hear individual elements moving from one side to the other. Better yet, audio elements seem positioned in a three-dimensional space so you can easily hear elements relative to you, whether they’re far off to the left, moving around you, or just behind you on the right.

Running around in Psychonauts 2, which has great sound design, and Cyberpunk 2077, which is loaded with environmental elements, I could correctly place exactly where most of the individual sounds are coming from, thanks to this marquee feature. In The Batman, I was able to experience the whoosh of the fire from a molotov cocktail that was thrown from left to right and the movement of a helicopter going from right to left.

Of course, even in gaming, sound quality matters as well, and I’m happy to report that all frequencies are well-represented in both of those games, as well as Sable, which has a very detailed soundscape. Everything from the bigger elements to smaller ones like the breeze and the birds are crisp, making the gameplay all the more immersive, and the overall sound is not muddy at all.

Same thing with The Batman. Even in big fight scenes and loud car chases, you can hear the dialogue, the pitter-patter of rain, and even the flicker of neon lights despite thrown punches, gunfire, and explosions. And, again, the bass delivers that rumble without overwhelming all the other frequencies.

There’s a tendency among gaming headsets to not really be ideal for music-listening, but that doesn’t apply here. The Corsair HS65 Surround delivers just as well when it comes to tunes. With Lizzo’s “About Damn Time,” the bass sounds are again very present but not overwhelming, the vocals are detailed and crisp, the flutes are clear and bright, and Lizzo’s voice sounds rich and full. In Taylor Swift’s “August,” which has plenty of mids, both her vocals and the guitar sound rich, with the surround sound bringing even more elements to the front.

If you’re skeptical about the five different sound profiles – Pure Direct, Movie Theater, FPS Competition, Clear Chat, and Bass Boost – I get it. Often, these so-called in-software sound profiles sound so similar, there’s really no point in switching from one to the other. But, each of these five do a more than solid job of delivering the exact sound you need. The Movie Theater profile is wider and more immersive, making you feel like you’re in an actual theater instead of at your desk. Meanwhile, the FPS Competition holds back the score and brings the more gaming-important elements to the front, like your enemies’ footsteps.

Mic quality is solid but with a few caveats. It’s Discord-certified, so your voice will come out clear and crisp, but it does produce a bit of a soft hiss when you’re talking, which might be a bit distracting to some. It does a good job of isolating any background noise – I’ve pounded on my desk and clapped next to it as hard as I could, with and without speaking, and it didn’t pick up any of those, just my voice and my voice alone. On the other hand, mic volume is a bit finicky – it drops down pretty quickly so that at 50%, you’ll sound really quiet. And, at 100%, your voice will come out really loud. 75% is the sweet spot here.

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