Fortunately, there are some headsets that won’t break the bank. And some are surprisingly good.
Enter stage right, the Corsair HS70. It’s the smaller and more affordable version of the company’s wireless headsets, retailing for $159 at local specialists and $179 from brick and mortar stores.
That makes it not only one of the cheapest wireless virtual 7.1 headsets on the market today, but a reasonably affordable headset generally. It’s also $10 cheaper than Corsair’s own Void Pro RGB wireless offering, which has a much larger frame than the HS70 and doesn’t come with a detachable mic.
I’ve used the Void Pro RGB for a while, and it’s a decent wireless headset. But I’ve automatically gravitated towards the HS70 for a few reasons: the earcups aren’t quite as enormous, so I find the fit is a fraction better; the HS70’s closed nature is a good alternative if you can’t afford proper noise cancelling headphones, with how little sound leaks out; and it’s really solid value for money, supporting the PS4 out of the box. (If you get the Xbox-compatible version, it also supports PC, but not PS4.)
Obviously, having a wireless headset at this price point means you’re going to have to make some tradeoffs. Being a closed back design means your movies and music won’t have that airy, natural sound that you get with open-backed headphones. Another way of thinking about it is that the overall soundstage will be a little more muffled or restricted, as air (and sound) can’t pass through the ear cup.
You’ll get around 16 hours of battery life from the HS70, about the same as the Void Pro. The wireless range is similar as well, topping out at a max of 12 metres. (You’ll be able to walk one room over and still be fine, basically.)
The huge tradeoff is really in how bassy you like your sound to be. The closed back nature means you’re losing some clarity and detail in the mid-range, which has the byproduct of emphasising things like footsteps in video games. It’s not an issue that affects voice or sound prompts (like the audio cue before every character’s ultimate in Overwatch, for instance), since games and programs like Discord will modulate other sounds by default to let your teammates’ calls come through loud and clear.
You can tweak all of that a little through the Corsair iCUE software, which has a whole bunch of presets like Base Boost. Alternatively, you could “create something that will give you PTSD no matter what”, as one YouTuber did. When you’re not trying to ruin the sound altogether, the HS70 is certainly passable. It’s not the broadest and certainly not the best choice if you’re listening exclusively to movies or music, but you have to make some tradeoffs at this price bracket.
I want to call out the volume, mute and power buttons for a second. Firstly, coming from the Void RGB, these are a huge upgrade. They’re simple buttons that you can push simply. They don’t require a great deal of force. They’re easy to use, and easy to access. The headset itself is nice and comfortable too, although that’s individual to each person: my partner Tegan found the Void RGB far more comfortable on her ears and her head.
The volume control on the headset isn’t stiff, and the microphone is detachable. That’s a lifesaver if you need some wireless headphones for work, but don’t want the gaudiness of the microphone. The general design is understated as well, rather than the typical over-the-top branding that a lot of gamer peripherals tend to adopt.
One major downside is that there’s no way to get the HS70 working with the Nintendo Switch. Some wireless headsets will work with a USB-C to USB dongle to plug the wireless receiver into the Switch’s USB port when you’re on the road, or when the wireless receiver is plugged into the USB port of the Switch Dock. Some of the Turtle Beach, SteelSeries and Plantronics headsets work with the Switch this way, but Corsair’s HS70 doesn’t (and neither does the Void RGB).
Plenty of gamers have headphones or earbuds they use especially for the commute or travel, though, so that’s less of a dealbreaker. But if you wanted to buy a headset, wireless makes a hell of a difference. The battery life isn’t amazing, but if you’re only getting in a couple of hours a day at best, then you shouldn’t have too many issues. I’ve also had no problems at all with connectivity, despite having other 2.4GHz wireless devices around in close proximity, including the Logitech G Pro wireless mouse.
All in all, there’s not much to complain about. It’s worth noting that closed back headphones, but any headphones, can be rather uncomfortable during the summer. The lack of air flowing through the ear cups means your ears can get a lot hotter than you’d like, although that’s a fact of life for any Aussie gamer at that time of year.
But for $159, the HS70 is a pretty solid all-rounder for the price. If you’re going to spend under $200, you’re generally looking at a wired headset. If you’d prefer to cut the cord, however, the HS70 is a real solid option.