Corsair HS55 Stereo & HS65 Surround Gaming Headsets – New budget kings

With the new Corsair HS55 Stereo and HS65 Surround, Corsair is looking to completely dominate the budget wired gaming headset space and I dare say, they’ve done it. The HS55 retails for $89 while the HS65 Surround is a little pricier at $119 which is very affordable considering the quality you are getting. The HS65 Surround includes a USB adapter that enables multi-channel Dolby Audio 7.1 surround sound and Corsairs unique SoundID tech for personalizing the sound profile.

Both headsets boast impressive build, exceptional comfort, powerful audio and work with any device that has a 3.5mm headphone jack or a USB 2.0 in the case of the HS65 Surround. Corsair sent us both units which I have tested extensively and while there are some minor differences between the two, both are very good headsets.

Let’s get into the review.

Corsair HS55 Stereo & HS65 Surround Gaming Headsets

In terms of design, the HS55 Stereo and HS65 Surround are clearly cut from the same cloth. Both feature oblong-shaped ear cups with soft memory foam cushions that can swivel 90-degrees and slide up and down for head adjustment with a notched slider.

These are attached to a traditional headband that has a memory foam cushion for padding. They are both made out of lightweight plastic that feels strong and durable. They are also very lightweight with both coming in under 280gm with the HS65 being the heavier of the two but I doubt you’d notice it.

Both also have the same flip-down microphone on the left ear cup that automatically mutes when you flip it to the up position. Behind the ear cup is a tactile volume dial though I felt the one on the HS55 was slightly looser than the HS65. They also both have a fixed rubber 1.8mm 3.5mm cable that doesn’t transmit any friction noise into the headphone and doesn’t tangle. Both have an attached rubber strap for cable management which is nice to have.

A closer look at the two headsets does reveal some minor cosmetic differences. The HS55 has a mirror-like finish on the caps of each ear cup while the HS65 Surround has faux-grill finish making it look like an open-back headset but it isn’t. With the ear pads, the HS55 has fully synthetic leather while the HS65 has a pleather exterior and soft fabric on the inside. The HS65 pads are also a softer and therefore slightly more comfortable than the HS55.

Beyond that, the two headsets are identical with even the same 50mm neodymium audio drivers for a rich and clear stereo sound. That doesn’t mean they sound identical though. The HS65 is clearly tuned for more powerful low end bass than the HS55. Depending on your personal taste, you would gravitate to one over the other. In my case, it was the HS65.

But this was mainly in regards to music listening. In games however, I didn’t necessarily feel like the difference between the two was minor at best. Both were punchy enough that gunfire and explosions had weight to them. The stereo separation is precise with clear definition of left and right channels making it easy to discern direction with both headsets.

The biggest differentiator is of course the USB dongle for the HS65 that opens it up to audio processing and Dolby Surround sound. While the dongle is technically plug and play, you’ll still need to install the Corsair iCUE software to get the most out of it. This is especially true of the new SoundID application that’s been added to iCUE.

SoundID is a simple but effective app that generates a personalized sound profile using your answers to a series of of A/B sound tests where you pick which sounds better to you. The result is a sound profile totally unique to you and all that without laborious fiddling with EQ sliders. It’s a shame that SoundID doesn’t work with the HS55 Stereo unless of course you plug it into the HS65’s USB dongle.

Ironically, after a bit of back and forth testing, I realised that I didn’t like the way the HS65’s sounded after using the SoundID. It just sounded too anaemic and yet with SoundID off and some small tweaks to the EQ in iCUE, I got a much richer, bassier sound that I liked. Even plugging the headset directly into the 3.5mm jack of my PC sounded much more powerful and so inevitably, I turned SoundID off completely.

That isn’t to say it’s a bad idea — in fact quite the opposite and I highly recommend this to role out to all Corsair headsets going forward. Not many people like fiddling with EQ’s to get the sound they like and given how powerful the 50mm drivers in these headsets are, it would be a shame not to get the best audio possible for your tastes.

The other advantage the HS65 has over the HS55 is support for Dolby Audio virtual surround sound. As with most headsets claiming surround sound, the implementation can be hit or miss and I didn’t find enough value to keep it on when gaming.The sound does becomes somewhat more expansive but audio positioning and accuracy don’t improve. Basically, unless the game is already encoded with Dolby Surround, then the difference is barely noticeable.

Corsair iCUE software gives extra controls over the USB powered HS65

The microphone on both headsets is identical as far as I can tell and as such sound pretty much the same which is to say, good. Voice clarity is excellent with rich detail and good separation of background noise. You can decide for yourself between both headsets by listening to the samples below:

Corsair HS65 Surround Mic sample

Corsair HS55 Stereo Mic sample

One particularly odd and frustrating thing was that I couldn’t get the extra mic features provided by HS65’s dongle to work. First off, despite having a mic volume slider that was set to 100%, Windows was only getting like 5%. I tried increasing the mic input in Windows settings as well but still the result was the same. The sidetone feature was also locked so I couldn’t use that either. I’m not sure if it’s a software issue that will get fixed with an update but definitely something to be aware of.

However, bypassing the dongle and using the 3.5mm connection gave me a much better result with loud, clean audio that anybody would be happy with for game chat. It’s just a shame that you don’t get game chat balance anywhere on either of these headsets but you could do that in game I suppose.

Verdict

As you can see, whether you go with the $89 Corsair HS55 Stereo or $119 HS65 Surround, you are guaranteed to get one of the best pair of budget headphones. Corsair has adeptly secured itself a place on the leader board for best affordable wired gaming headsets. Both the HS55 and HS65 impress with their comfort, sound quality and versatility. If I had to choose, I’d go with the HS65 Surround for its punchier audio and the innovative SoundID for those who don’t like fiddling with EQ sliders. If you’re just looking for a good headset for the kids to use with the Xbox, the HS55 is a better pick. Either way, both headsets will serve you well and I applaud Corsair for what they are doing here.

Corsair HS55 Stereo & HS65 Surround Gaming Headsets – New budget kings
Corsair HS55 Stereo
8
Corsair HS65 Surround
8.5
LIKES
Excellent value for money
Very comfortable
Great sound
SoundID is brilliant
Very good microphones
DISLIKES
USB mic features fiddly
No SoundID for the HS55
8.3
Budget kings!

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Kizito Katawongahttp://www.medium.com/@katawonga
Kizzy is our Tech Editor. He's a total nerd with design sensibilities who's always on the hunt for the latest, greatest and sexiest tech that enhances our work and play. When he's not testing the latest gadgets or trying to listen to his three whirlwind daughters, Kizzy likes to sink deep into a good story-driven single player game.

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