The Corsair HS35 is a prime example of a budget headset that manages to do everything right while trimming off the excess features to meet this price range. It is as stylish as it is comfortable, and while the microphone is a bit thin and the sound unimpressive it still offers a far better deal than most of its competition.
There is no shortage of excellent gaming headsets at and above the $100 price range, but as we start to decrease the price, the options start to dwindle. Bring the budget below $50 and it becomes harder than ever to find a headset that you can get truly excited over.
Corsair has set out to take advantage of the lack of strong competition at this price range with their $40 HS35 headset, but building a budget headset that’s supposed to stand above the crowd is easier said than done. There’s only so much the manufacturer can cram into such a cheap product before they start to lose profits.
Still, this isn’t to say that it can’t be done, so let’s see how the HS35 fares when it comes to shedding off the extra features while maintaining all the essential ones.
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|Connection||3.5 mm wired|
|Cable length||1.8 m|
|Frequency range||20 Hz – 20 kHz|
|Microphone frequency response||100 Hz – 10 kHz|
First things first, this is a wonderful-looking headset. If we had to guess its price at a glance, we’d never arrive at just $40. The finishing touches to the exterior are tastefully done with a brilliant blend of matte and gloss finishes. Plus the headset can complement many builds thanks to several color options.
The HS35 comes in all-black, back and blue, black and red, and black and green color variants, which are meant to visually complement and be used with the PC, PS4, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox One platforms respectively. Still, seeing as they all use the standard 3.5mm connection you can just get whichever variant is most appealing to you. Only the PC variant (all-black) comes with a splitter for the microphone and audio, but that’s the only difference.
Nevertheless, its nature as a budget solution becomes evident as soon as you grab hold the headset. The construction here is all-plastic and while it doesn’t feel particularly flimsy, it certainly doesn’t feel premium either. The only piece of metal on the frame is inside the headband, which at least helps add some durability to one of the parts that need it the most.
The earcups include a slot for the removable microphone that can be plugged up if you’re not using the microphone, a volume wheel, and a mute button. The earcups are large and offer a fair bit of swivel and tilt adjustments, but these are not automatically done by the headset. This means that you’ll have to manually find the perfect fit for your head. The earcups will then stay in this position until you move them and they’ll retain this position even after you take the headset off. This isn’t in any way superior to automatic adjustment, we’re just pointing out that the headphone can be more comfortable if at first it feels like it pressing into places too hard.
And speaking of comfort, we have to say we’re impressed with the way Corsair has handled such an all-important aspect of this budget headset. As you can see in the pictures both the earcups and the headband on the HS35 feature a rather thick layer of padding. This works wonders in tandem with the overall lightweight build to make this headset comfortable to wear for lengthy gaming sessions. This padding is also covered with a mesh fabric which is just what we’ve wanted to see.
Mesh isn’t nearly as good at isolating noise and keeping the bass in as leatherette so some users dislike it with a passion. We can understand why – if you’re doing everything you can to make your audio experience the best it could be getting a headset with mesh ear cushions can feel similar to shooting yourself in the foot.
However, there are two reasons why this approach simply doesn’t apply to the HS35.
- This is a budget headset. The sound quality here is not going to be amazing by any stretch of the imagination.
- This is a gaming headset. For gamers, it’s usually more important that their headset can see them through a long gaming session than it is to get a more isolated sound. In this context an okay sounding headset that you can wear for hours on end beats out a good sounding headset that will make your ears sweat and ache more quickly.
And that’s exactly what the HS35 offers. It navigates the budgetary constraints placed upon it in a clever way that doesn’t hinder the gaming experience. We don’t want to oversell it – it’s still a budget headset so of course it’s not as comfortable as the models we usually review. But all the little things we’ve mentioned – the adjustability (including swivel), the lightweight design, the thick padding, and the breathable mesh – do stack up to make it incredibly comfortable compared to most of its competition.
The microphone once again exemplifies this design philosophy that’s focused on elevating the gaming experience above everything else.
It’s a unidirectional detachable microphone with some noise cancelation. The noise cancelation is not exceptional, but it’s capable of eliminating the keyboard and mouse noises which are arguably the most important noises to cancel. You can turn off the AC while gaming or just mute the mic while someone is vacuuming or you’re airing out the room close to heavy traffic, but the keyboard and mouse clicking is harder to get rid of.
The microphone also features no windshield, which can be a big problem, but the HS35 offers a workaround for this by letting you position the bendable mic however and wherever you want – once adjusted it stays put. This again saves some trial and error before you can place the microphone in such a way it picks up your voice well enough at speaking volume, without torturing the ears of your teammates on the other side of the Discord call with popping noises, but it can be done.
These are just some of the ways in which Corsair managed to successfully make a barebones microphone stand out compared to the competition. It’s still a bit thin sounding, but it sounds no worse than the $40 competition. If anything, it sounds just as good as the microphones on some more expensive models.
From what we’ve written so far it shouldn’t be too hard to guess what kind of audio quality the HS35 offers.
It’s okay at best.
This headset is very bass-heavy, yet the bass would’ve been better with leatherette ear cushions, so the quality and punchiness isn’t the best this price range has to offer. Nevertheless, you do get a lot of power out of the 50mm drivers. The mids are forgettable and the highs are a bit weak.
In a vacuum, this can sound quite unimpressive, but the situation does brighten once we take into account that gaming is the primary focus of the HS35. This headset has a custom-tuned sound profile that expands the soundstage and puts a higher emphasis on frequencies that generally hold relevant audio cues like footsteps in competitive games.
This means that the HS35 should not be your first choice if you’re looking for a multi-purpose headset. Even at $40, you can find headsets (or better yet headphones) that are much more appropriate for listening to music.
The Corsair HS35 takes the gaming part of its identity as a gaming headset quite seriously and as such it deserves respect. Too many headsets spread themselves too thin, while trying to appeal to different audience, but the HS35 takes gaming as its top priority and just runs with it.
Overall, we have to say we are quite impressed with the Corsair HS35.
It manages to deftly avoid many of the pitfalls that other budget headsets by reputable manufacturers often fall into. It’s not a headset that you can just slap onto your head and be good to go. You have to manually tweak the earcups and then tinker with the microphone position until you get it right. But after you do so the HS35 becomes a shining example of what a budget headset can be like.
It’s got everything a gamer could want – a lightweight and comfortable build, a decent mic, good sound, and even a stylish look. It offers no extra features, but at such a low asking price this is to be expected. This is a barebones headset, but the meat has been expertly picked off the bones, leaving behind a sturdy and functional skeleton than no gamer on a budget would be disappointed with.
If you’re not a gamer then its value diminishes greatly, but we don’t see this as an issue. Just as one cannot judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, we will not judge this gaming headset by its value for non-gamers. All we can do it point out its intended use and target audience.
If your budget isn’t hard-capped at $40 then the HS35 becomes a much less desirable option, as you can easily find better headsets at the $60 price range, let alone higher, but for gamers on a tight budget, this is a godsend.