Corsair HS65 Review
Audio is a critical aspect of your gaming setup if you're even a little bit of a competitive gamer. It's extremely important that you're able to hear where your enemies are coming from so that you don't get flanked, for example, and having a finely tuned audio setup can even net you a couple of kills through smokes or walls. You'll also need a microphone in order to communicate vital information to your teammates, so a headset with a built-in microphone is just a really handy solution for most gamers.
Luckily, getting a decent audio setup doesn't have to cost you an arm and a leg. You don't have to fork over hundreds of dollars and get yourself an audiophile setup or headset in order to get an edge in competitive games. Corsair wants to add another piece of evidence to that claim with the HS65, a mid-tier gaming headset that offers surround sound and the ability to have a custom sound profile created for you based on your preferences. All of this is bundled in a thickly padded headset that can be connected to pretty much any device out there. Our reviewer has the full Corsair HS65 review for you to see if this product is worthy of your time and money.
Corsair HS65 - First Impressions
If it weren't for the attached microphone you wouldn't know that the HS65 was a gaming headset if you didn't recognize the sails of the Corsair logo. It looks very clean and minimal, with mainly matte black elements all over and a slightly glossier rasterized texture on both ear cups. I really like the simple and clean look of this headset.
Inside the box of the HS65 you won't find anything aside from the headset, the jack-to-USB dongle (which you need to enable surround sound and tweak the EQ and all of that) and the usual documentation. That's perfectly fine with me: the HS65 is a mid-tier headset so I don't expect a premium unboxing experience.
Build and comfort
Despite being made of mostly plastic (reinforced with metal in some parts) the HS65 feels very solid and durable. It's also quite small, making it a headset that's easy to forget about when you're wearing it. There's no audible noise or creaking when twisting and turning the headset, and shaking your head won't reveal anything moving around on the inside like you sometimes get with other headsets where you can hear/feel the cable moving around. The sound isolation is above average, too. If you really want to drown out all outside noise you'll want a noise-cancelling headset, but the HS65 does just fine at drowning out talking people, fans, or other household noises.
The top portion is decently twistable but it's not very bendable. This means that there's quite some clamping force when wearing the HS65, and if you have a larger head (like I do) then it can get uncomfortable. I should say that I have an almost comically large head, though: I once was trying on helmets at an army surplus store for fun and none of them fit me, just to give you an idea. Your experience with the clamping force might be different, but for me it's a bit too much.
Something else that I'm not a fan of is the ear cup material. I know that this is highly subjective but I prefer fabric materials over leather(ette) options, and after wearing the HS65 for longer periods of time I felt my ears get a bit too warm for comfort. The padding is extremely luxurious, though: both on the headband and the ear cups there's a generous amount of memory foam, resulting in a snug and comfy fit. If your head isn't above the average in size and you don't have anything against leatherette materials you'll be absolutely fine when it comes to comfort, but for me personally this isn't it.
I do have to say that I like the direction that Corsair is taking with their headsets: both the HS80 RGB USB and this headset look subtle, sleek, and classy, and I absolutely prefer that over more outlandish designs. I don't like the material choices they've made here, but that's completely subjective: I know a lot of people who love leather and fake leather materials.
Sound and mic
After tweaking around with the EQ a bit (for which you will need Corsair iCUE software) I found the sound of the HS65 to be really nice, especially if you consider the price that this headset is being sold for. Due to the fact that it's a closed-back headset it's not the widest sound out there but I truly had no issues listening to this headset for longer periods of time.
I recently reviewed the more expensive HS80 RGB USB and if I had to choose between those two purely on sound quality I would choose the HS65 every day of the week, except maybe on very hot days because the HS80 has more breathable ear cups, but you get my point. The bass initially is a bit lacking, but after customizing the EQ I managed to create some sound profiles that I really liked, and this goes for both gaming and content consumption.
For gaming, the imaging is certainly good enough, though the rather narrow soundstage doesn't do the HS65 any favors. Still, I never felt like I was at a disadvantage when gaming, and when using the premade FPS EQ config (which dials down on the lower tones in favor of more important sounds in the higher register such as reloads and so on) I had no issues locating my enemies ingame. I won't say that this is the best headset that I've experienced on either front (gaming and media consumption) but it most definitely punches above its price point if you're asking me.
The same goes for the microphone: this is easily the best microphone I've heard on a mid tier headset. My voice sounds clear and natural with no breakups whatsoever, even with a fair amount of background noise from a floor fan and the street. The people at Corsair can rightfully pat themselves on the back: as far as I'm concerned they've raised the bar for headset microphones in this price range.
What's rather unique to this HS65 is that you can let it create a sound profile for you. If you use Sonarworks' SoundID (this is integrated into iCUE, so no need to download separate stuff) it will give you a number of preselected musical excerpts to choose from, and then that bit of music gets passed through a bunch of filters and EQ settings, whereby you have to choose the one you like most (out of two choices) at every step. Eventually, SoundID comes up with a custom sound profile that suits your needs.
I won't say that I am an audiophile but I do know a thing or two about audio quality, and I was pretty disappointed with the sound profile that SoundID came up with for me. I tried it again a couple of times to see if it was maybe a fluke, but I never really liked the results that I got better than my own configured EQ profile that I created the old school way. You could of course say that I have bad taste in audio, but then I would expect SoundID to come up with a bad sound profile that I personally like, like it was designed to do. To me, it really only came up with flat profiles.
SoundID is a cool feature if you're asking me, and I'm excited to see what it can potentially become in the future, but for now I'd just try it out to see if it works for you if you happen to like everything else about this headset, but I wouldn't consider the SoundID to be a selling point. At least not from my experience.
Update 19th of May 2022: After publishing my review, Corsair informed me that they found a software issue with SoundID and encouraged me to try it again after downloading an iCUE software update. I of course did just that and I have to say that the results are better this time around. The result that I got was a lot closer to what I would consider a nicely balanced sound (for me; these things are subjective) for music and content, so I do have to adjust my opinion on it somewhat. It's not extremely useful for gaming, but it's something cool to try out at this point. The only thing I would add is the ability to further tweak your custom sound profile and have SoundID serve as a 'starting calibration' for people who like to really perfect their sound.
In any case: SoundID (after the update) is a pleasant addition and definitely something you should try, though I wouldn't use it for competitive gaming as it's really something that's aimed at content consumption if you ask me. The FPS profile is much better for competitive gaming.
Mic Sound Test
Features and ease of use
The HS65 is a pretty basic headset, all things considered (I don't mean that as an insult, by the way) so you won't find a lot of controls on the product itself. There's a volume wheel on the left ear cup, and you can mute the mic by flicking it in its upright position, and that's it.
For me, that's perfectly fine. I rarely find myself using anything but the mute and volume controls on a headset (I control all other features through software or not at all) so I don't need anything else. The volume wheel is also nicely positioned: I didn't find myself accidentally manipulating it when I wanted to readjust or remove the headset.
In Corsair's iCUE software you can select or create EQ profiles, though I really only found the FPS Competition profile to be of any use to me personally. All the other ones didn't really offer anything meaningful over the profile(s) that I created myself but of course that's mostly down to personal preferences. You can also use the aforementioned SoundID to create your own sound profile, and you can adjust the mic volume and sidetone volume.
I really love that Corsair have added the possibility to activate sidetone here. It's something that I always enable on my gaming headsets, and I'm not sure if I can main a gaming headset without having sidetone anymore as I feel almost kind of naked without it.
Corsair's iCUE is a rather heavy piece of software but it's extremely easy to use and understand, and configuring your HS65 should be a breeze, even if you have no experience with these kinds of things at all.
There's really not that much to say about the Corsair HS65. It doesn't come out the gate guns blazing with all kinds of crazy promises and features. What Corsair is trying to offer here is an extremely solid and reliable mid tier headset and as far as I'm concerned they perfectly succeeded.
The HS65 is a lightweight, subtle looking headset with good audio quality, a stellar microphone, and the ability to choose and create your own sound profiles in the software. What more could you want from a gaming headset?
There are some things that I don't like, but those are mostly personal. The clamping force is too much, for example, and I don't like the leatherette materials that they've used. SoundID is also kind of useless to me in its current iteration, but those are all things that don't hold this headset back if you can look past them or if you even (in the case of the material choices) prefer them.
If you don't want to spend a ton on a top tier gaming headset and you're looking for a lightweight mid tier gaming headset then the HS65 is a really good choice.
Update 19th of May 2022: Corsair have informed me that there were some bugs in the SoundID implementation. In its current form it's definitely something cool to try to configure your headset for content consumption. I've added a portion to the 'sound and mic' section to reflect this.