Headset showdown: Corsiar HS50 + ST100 versus Corsair VOID PRO RGB Wireless
There are hundreds (if not thousands) of gaming headsets (or cans if you prefer) out there right now. Just about every vendor who’s ever been involved in any part of the PC DIY industry has latched on to gaming headsets, every one of them hoping to ride the explosive wave of online gaming.
It may not seem like it, but we’re still in the early days of gaming headsets. Some headset manufacturers may eventually choose to turn their attention elsewhere, while others will simply disappear altogether. There are those like Corsair, however, who just keep getting better at making top-quality cans, so we decided to compare two of their latest headsets to see how they stack up against each other.
Corsair has always been a high-end brand, probably more so now than ever before. Just look at how their keyboards and mice have evolved, and you’ll realise that there’s progress being made in not only their design, but in their functionality and build quality as well. They started out seemingly just dipping their toes in the gaming market, and they’ve grown to the point where they’re now arguably a market-leader – or at the very least, one of the leaders in the gaming hardware space.
As with all things peripherals and gaming, the vast majority of vendors choose to focus on the numbers and cater for as much of the PC gaming public as possible. Since the dedicated sound card has fallen out of favour, USB gaming headsets are the order of the day and these will continue to become more abundant in future. These headsets have a built-in audio processor, and are a true plug-and-play replacement for whatever audio controller you have on your motherboard.
Such is the case with the Corsair VOID PRO RGB Wireless. That name’s a mouthful, but it’s attached to a premium headset that continues the legacy of the original Corsair Vengeance 2000 from a few years back. Slow, but steady progress has seen this headset improve in just about every aspect, and today we have what is easily Corsair’s best effort yet.
Meanwhile, for the more price-sensitive buyer, Corsair has released the HS50 gaming headset – which comes in at a much lower price and lacks any sort of USB connectivity (and therefore built-in audio processing). It’s a more traditional option, making use of the standard three-strip stereo mini-jack for both the microphone and stereo output. This setup allows you to use your on-board audio processor – or your dedicated sound card, should you happen to have one.
Personally, I’m still a fan of this option, primarily because I already use a dedicated sound card for my gaming and general PC usage on at least one machine. On-board audio solutions, and of course the electronics used in USB headsets, are simply not able to match the audio fidelity and acoustics that a dedicated sound card is able to deliver.
That said, USB headphones with built-in processors have come a long way, and they’ve improved drastically. I imagine there’ll come a time when there’s no meaningful difference between dedicated audio solutions on sound cards or motherboards, and what’s on offer with USB headsets. It’s simply a matter of when, rather than if.
That said, the HS50 and the VOID PRO RGB Wireless are two headsets that serve two different markets. These markets are separated, from my perspective at least, by price. The HS50 is a mere R784 (from Rebel Tech), while the VOID PRO RGB Wireless sells for a healthy R1,599 (from Wootware). That’s double the price of the HS50 cans. That said, there’s functionality that separates the two devices, which is what results in the price difference.
Sonically they’re practically identical, as I suspect they use the very same 50mm neodymium drivers, and the specifications detailed by Corsair suggest as much. They both feature a 20Hz to 20KHz response range, and 32k ohms impedance. That’s nothing unexpected, and it’s in line with a host of competing products from other vendors.
That measurement doesn’t tell you much about the characteristics of the audio, however. There may be sonic differences between these two headsets – purely because of the source characteristics, because the HS50 uses an external audio processor, while the VOID PRO RGB uses its own built-in audio processor. Thus, in the hope of having as objective a comparison as possible, I used the Corsair ST100 headphone stand with the HS50.
The ST100 is a sturdy headphone stand, made out of aluminium. RGB lighting adorns its base and, of course, the Corsair logo is illuminated as well for those who fancy that sort of thing. These LEDs can be configured via Corsair’s CUE software and made to match the rest of your Corsair peripherals. The ST100 also serves as a USB 3.0 hub, with two USB 3.0 ports. Most importantly, the ST100 contains audio processing circuitry, allowing you to use the ST100 as an output device. I can’t be sure of it, but I suspect the audio controller used within the VOID PRO RGB Wireless is identical to the one used in the ST100. Don’t quote me on that, but in practice these sound very much identical, and from a business perspective I don’t think it’d make much sense to use a different controller.
Before I move on to the actual comparison between these setups, I must say that I’m very much a fan of the ST100. Not only because a headset stand is useful, but as mentioned earlier it serves as a USB hub. When using the Corsair ONE, which only has a single USB 3.0 port on the front, the hub on the ST100 is much appreciated. It’s well-priced, considering the value it has for anyone using something like the Corsair ONE. Where it could be improved with the next version is if it were to include a wireless charger as well. The flat base would be perfect for this, especially since it’s real-estate that isn’t being utilized for much of anything. This single addition would make the ST100 even better.
Comparing these two configurations (the VOID PRO RGB Wireless versus the combination of the HS50 and the ST100) is quite interesting in that you get a lot of common features for a similar price. Going with the VOID PRO RGB gives you wireless freedom, and that’s perhaps worth the R200 you’ll save compared to the ST100 and HS50 (this combination works out to R1,862). At the same time, having that extra USB connectivity and a stand for your cans is perhaps also worth it for the R200 premium. On Corsair’s site, the ST100 and the VOID PRO RGB Wireless are presented as often being purchased together, and I do see the value in that. A headphone stand is always welcome, along with extra USB ports. As always, options are great, and you’ll have to decide which setup best suits your needs.
Even though the VOID PRO RGB Wireless features official Dolby Headphone surround sound for immersive 7.1 audio, it turns out the ST100’s controller (once again leading me to believe these make use of the same electronics) also supports virtual 7.1 over stereo. The performance of each implementation varies, and even though I’d like to believe that the official Dolby Headphone for the VOID PRO RGB is better, in the games I played they’re near identical in immersing you in the game world (provided the game’s audio design is good in the first place).
So, the question is, is there anything I find disagreeable about the sets?
In my experience, Corsair is at their best when they’re making high-end products. Their lower-end offerings have improved vastly, and in some odd way the audio performance of the HS50 is testament to that. It’s because of this that I find the physical design of the HS50 unfortunate. You’ll only be able to use it in short bursts, because the headset causes discomfort on the ears and temples after an hour or so of continuous use. It’s all down to the pressure it applies on your head. I’m not sure if it’s the same amount of force as on the VOID PRO RGB, but even if it is, the ear cups on the VOID PRO are both thicker and softer, which perhaps helps relieve some of that direct pressure. I do have a big head though, so that may be to blame, but even with that said it’s something that wasn’t an issue with the VOID PRO RGB Wireless.
Regarding the VOID PRO RGB, my only gripe is that it forces you to do without your fancy sound card if you’ve invested in one. Sound cards aren’t a thing anymore by any measure, but if you own a motherboard with a fairly advanced audio solution such as those found on high-end ASUS boards (the SupremeFX Hi-Fi module on the Rampage V Extreme, for example), or some GIGABYTE boards, you’ll effectively have to sacrifice that superior audio fidelity if you’re using the VOID PRO RGB. Perhaps there may be a solution to this in future, where a USB dongle could turn that analogue stereo signal from your board into a Bluetooth signal or something. It’s a plausible, but elaborate solution, which may have too many undesired effects on pricing to be worth it at this point. Other than that, the inability to use the headset with your mobile device (which could be solved with the same dongle) is also something that could be looked at in future, adding more versatility to the headset.
Either way, there you have it. You could essentially spend a similar amount of money on two different Corsair audio configurations, and come out with a similar (if not identical) audio experience, but how easy it is to live with either will be up to you figure out. You could completely forgo all wired clutter and gain complete freedom of movement with the VOID PRO RGB – or you could stick with the HS50 and ST100 for the additional USB connectivity, the headphone stand, and the ability to use it with your high-end sound card and smart devices.
I’m not here to tell you which way you should ultimately go, as both are equally valid options (as is Corsair’s “suggested” ST100 and VOID PRO RGB Wireless combination). Whatever you decide, however, you’re unlikely to be disappointed. These Corsair headsets are fantastic.