Sennheiser GSP 550 Review
If you're in the market for a new (gaming) headset you've got plenty of companies and models to choose from. Every gaming company has at least a few headsets on offer these days, and while those headsets made by dedicated gaming companies can definitely be worth their while there is something to be said for going with a company that's been working with audio since the 20th century.
Sennheiser has been developing gaming headsets for a while now and their GAME line headsets are some of the most popular ones out there in the professional scene, so when Sennheiser released their newest effort we felt obligated to take a look at it. The GSP is a 7.1 Dolby surround sound PC headset which promises to be the ultimate gaming headset for PC gamers. Let's see if that rings true.
Sennheiser GSP 550 - First Impressions
Contrary to the more subtle looking headsets in the GAME line the GSP 550 looks a tad more expressive. The headset as a whole looks pretty substantial and almost military thanks to the black and olive green colorway. It's not the most beautiful thing in the world if you're asking me, but it's also not distracting or garish so I don't mind the design at all. It's not like you notice the design of a headset when it's sitting on top of your dome anyway.
The GSP 550 comes with a completely detachable cable which makes it easier to pack in if you're going somewhere which is always a bonus as far as I'm concerned.
There's not a whole lot to the unboxing experience here (and there shouldn't be, to be fair). Inside the box you'll find the headset and the detachable cable which connects to the 7.1 Dolby dongle.
Aside from that you'll also uncover the standard documentation, as well as a small leaflet informing you that you've made the right decision by purchasing the GSP 550.
The headset sits in a custom cut foam material, and that coupled with the detachable cable makes for a headset that's gonna be easy to transport safely.
Build and comfort
Comfort is definitely one of the most important considerations when deciding on a new gaming headset. After all you'll be wearing the thing for hours on end.
The GSP admittedly doesn't look like the most comfortable headset around but that preconception fades rather quickly once you start wearing the headset. It has an adjustable headband containing an adjustable hinge system, which changes where exactly the majority of the clamping force takes place so that you can further customize the fit. Once you've found the ideal fit (which means 'extend the headset all the way out' with most units for me thanks to my large head) the GSP 550 is definitely superbly comfortable. Thanks to the open back design and the breathable velours ear pads you're also not likely to have any issues with heat.
I'm almost always wearing a headset when I'm working (and of course I also wear one when gaming) so I get plenty of opportunities to wear headsets for multiple hours and I never felt like I had to take the GSP off for a little bit, and for me this is easily one of the more comfortable headsets around.
There's nothing to complain about as far as build quality is concerned either. Most of the product is made out of a flexible plastic (which also aids with fit and comfort) but I didn't really feel like I had to go easy on the headset or something like that. I've been extensively testing the flex of the headband but I'm confident in saying that you won't be able to break this headset under normal conditions. Just take care to not stuff the GSP 550 in a backpack that's filled to the brim, for example.
On the surface the GSP 550 might not feel as premium as other headsets that use more rigid materials, but the stuff that they've used here does provide a terrific fit and great comfort, which is obviously one of the most important features of a gaming headset.
Sound and mic
Sennheiser products have been used to record some of the most legendary records on the planet so this should certainly be the category where the GSP 550 absolutely shines, and boy does it shine.
I won't claim that I'm an expert audiophile or anything but I do know a thing or two about sound and the GSP 550 delivers in spades. It's first and foremost a gaming headset, so let's talk about the gaming performance. I tested this headset in a variety of games and genres (including Overwatch, CS:GO, some Assassin's Creed titles, and even the Phoenix Wright Trilogy) and to the surprise of absolutely no one it handled those with ease.
Pinpointing exactly where that enemy Junkrat is launching his nasty bombs from by sound alone is no issue at all, but neither are bombastic explosions in more immersive single player games. What needs to be mentioned here is the equalizer. The GSP 550 comes with (very minimal) software which has four different EQ settings at the time of writing: off, music, esport, and game.
These aren't arbitrary settings either. The esport setting in particular distinguishes itself by offering a much flatter and less bass-heavy experience which makes it great to use when you're tryharding in a multiplayer game and don't want to be distracted by the thumping bass of the explosions and gunfire around you. It doesn't sound nearly as immersive and beautiful as the other EQ settings, but much like you want to reduce the visual clutter in a competitive game by turning off distracting video settings you also want to stay away from distracting audio cues.
Whenever you're not playing a competitive game you owe it to yourself to select a different EQ setting though. The GSP 550 is without a doubt the best sounding gaming headset that I've ever used. It delivers a clear and accurate sound experience all across the park, with heavy and thumping low ends and bright, clear mids and highs.
The 7.1 Dolby option works great in games that properly support it as well; it's not as effective in every game but that's the case with nearly every virtual surround sound option. You can toggle it on or off via the dongle (its status is indicated with an LED) so it's easy enough to experiment with it a bit.
I ran the GSP 550 through my dedicated headphone testing playlist to see how it handles music (something where a lot of great gaming headsets fall short) and it handles the wide variety of genres that can be found there with ease. I handed this headset off to some of my friends and family, a group which ranges from 'what is an iPod?' to semi-pro musicians, to see if I was perhaps getting a bit carried away but all of them were as excited with the sound quality as I was. The GSP 550 definitely lives in the absolute top end of the spectrum when it comes to sound quality.
The mic is great too. It's certainly one of the clearest and most natural sounding microphones on a gaming headset that I've heard so far, and it does a great job at filtering out loud and annoying background noise. There's also no sudden sound level drops or warping so this can definitely be used for longer, more serious voice applications. If you're a streamer or recording artist I'd obviously recommend you to go for a dedicated external mic, but as far as gaming headsets go this is one of the best mics I've used to date.
In short: there are plenty of gaming headsets which sound great, but the GSP 550 takes it up a notch. That's perhaps to be expected from an audio company with such pedigree, but that didn't stop me from being absolutely impressed by the sound.
"The GSP 550 is without a doubt the best sounding gaming headset that I've ever used"
Features and ease of use
The GSP 550 isn't exactly what you'd call packed with features. There is an overall volume dial on the right ear cup which is easy to find without looking and pleasant to use, and you can mute the mic by moving it upwards.
The mic gives some tactile feedback whenever it passes the 'mute threshold', which makes it pretty easy to tell whenever you've crossed said line but I would have perhaps liked to see a little LED indicator in the mic arm itself to indicate the state of the mic. This obviously isn't some insurmountable defect, but rather something small that they could improve on.
The headset connects to your PC through a USB dongle which has a button to toggle the 7.1 Dolby surround on or off, and that's all there is to the dongle. Not a problem for me, but people who like to fiddle with chat balance or toggle all sorts of settings via their hardware are going to be found wanting more with the GSP 550.
I do like the included software. It's by no means as expansive as what some competitors are offering but it has everything I personally want, and it's all packed in a lightweight little program. The software allows you to choose between the 4 EQ profiles, toggle noise reduction on or off, and set the sidetone or turn it off completely. Again; people who like to fiddle with every imaginable setting will be somewhat disappointed here, but I never found the software lacking. They could add a couple more EQ profiles or let you tweak the EQ yourself however.
Last thing I should mention: this is an open-back headset, which means that the ear cups have a (partially) open design. This gives you a wider soundstage and generally a better sound, but it does mean that it's not that good at blocking out outside noise and that it does leak some sound. If you're constantly gaming in a very loud environment or your gaming station is right next to the family TV or whatever you'll want to be aware of this fact before purchasing.
If you're looking for the absolute best sound and mic quality in a gaming headset you've found your last stop. The GSP 550 is the best sounding gaming headset that I've had the pleasure of testing so far, and it comes in an extremely comfortable package carrying a phenomenal microphone to boot.
If it fits your budget you can literally not go wrong with the GSP 550 if you're a PC gamer. It's great for competitive gaming (partially due to the 'esport' EQ setting) as well as cinematic gaming and listening to music so this is certainly a product that'll handle whatever you throw at it with ease.
It is an open-back headset though, which means that it's not the best at drowning out outside noise. It's also relatively plain in the sense that there aren't a whole lot of extra features on the hardware and the software is pretty bare-bones. If you're gaming in a noisy environment or you like to fiddle around with all sorts of settings you should keep that in mind.
Aside from these minor drawbacks (being open-backed isn't a drawback but I mention it because most gaming headsets are closed-back) the GSP 550 is without a doubt one of the best headsets to grace the gaming landscape.