14th Nov 2011
Corsair HS1A Gaming Headset
MRP: Rs 4500
Pros: Comfortable; Large ear cups; Extra pair of leatherette cushions; Great build quality; Braided cable; Foldable and portable; Large soundstage; Impressive highs.
Cons: Cheap inline volume control; Low sensitivity and harder to drive; Lack of bass extension, impact, and quality; Imbalanced tonality; Not meant for music and movies.
Asus ROG Vulcan ANC
MRP: Rs 7100
Pros: Excellent build quality; Detachable cable; Effective active noise cancellation; Suitable for music and movies; Good tonal balance; Very comfortable; High quality carrying case; Excellent portability; Looks gorgeous.
Cons: Cheap inline volume control; Faux carbon fibre accents look tacky.
Gaming headsets are much unlike your average headphone. Sound quality in this case makes way for factors such as portability, added emphasis on soundstaging, and the uniformity of the USB audio device across different systems. While it is reassuring to have an inbuilt audio solution for LAN parties, the sound quality of these devices is no match for discrete sound cards. Such headphones aren't suitable for those who have already invested in discrete soundcards.
The Vulcan looks stunning.
Our last gaming headphone grudge match featured two such devices; including one which couldn't be hooked up to a discrete sound card at all. This edition of the grudge match should interest those of you with high-end gaming audio solutions such as the Creative X-Fi and Asus Xonar series of sound cards. Both contenders do not ship with the silly USB audio devices, but instead sport 3.5 mm TRS connectors ready to be paired with your sound card or headphone amplifier.
The HS1A is built like a rock.
These headsets offer great value despite being positioned at different price points. The Corsair HS1A counts on solid build and large drivers at relatively modest Rs 4500, while the Asus ROG Vulcan ANC features active noise cancellation at a competitive price of Rs 7100. The contenders therefore will have to tread the fine balance between performance and value to emerge victorious.
Round 1: Design And Build
Corsair: A decent pair of gaming headphones doesn't come cheap. That's why the Rs 4500 sticker price of the Corsair HS1A Gaming Headset isn't much, considering the rock solid build quality on offer. With its chunky design, silver accents, and acres of cushioning, the HS1A appears twice more expensive than it really is. The quality of the hinges and the gimbal mounts is impeccable, which delivers excellent ear cup articulation. Corsair has spared no expense in cushioning these headphones. The entire headband is generously padded, while the oversized cans feature thick memory foam that that even Captain Spock would approve of.
The Corsair folds to assume a smaller footprint.
The HS1A's deep enclosures position the speakers further away from the ears. This creates a large air chamber that should help soundstaging, which in turn requires more grunt from the drivers for sufficient bass. It is for this reason the ear cups feature large 50 mm drivers. However, this generally means increased driver mass and hence lowered sensitivity. Therefore the headphones may require added amplification, which can always be avoided with clever driver design.
The HS1A includes a noise-cancelling microphone with an adjustable boom that can be swivelled back when not required. The 3 m cable is braided and terminates into quite cheap looking 3.5 mm headphone and mic jacks. You also get inline volume control and a mic muting switch, but I personally don't like the idea of adding a cheap potentiometer in the signal path. It's bad from the quality and durability perspective.
Now that's convenient.
Asus: At Rs 7100 the ROG Vulcan ANC may seem expensive, but Asus softens the blow with an exquisite carrying case that will cost a quarter of the MRP if purchased separately. This is one of the most gorgeous headsets in this price range, but the contrasting red accents on a black body may put off the more discreet ones among us. With the exception of the tacky faux carbon fibre accents, the Vulcan looks and feels quite expensive.
The build quality is spectacular, with solid steel height adjustment bands that allow it to swallow heads of any size. The high quality hinges collapse the massive device into a diminutive package with a reassuring click. A foldable design and a sturdy case make this headset convenient to carry around at LAN parties. The cable is detachable and just a shade shorter than the Corsair HS1A's. The 3.5 mm TRS connectors are gold plated and feature bespoke sheathing that looks classy.
The hardcase is worth its weight in gold.
The cans pack in impressive range of articulation, thanks to a ball and socket link between the headband and the ear cups. The joint itself is padded with foam to enhance isolation, which underscores Asus' attention to detail. The supple cushion, high quality plastics used on the enclosures, and the fine cloth shrouding the drivers point towards a no-holds-barred approach to fit and finish. These headphones justify the price with judicious use of quality materials and great design.
Score: Corsair 0, Asus 1
Round 2: Features
The Corsair features a noise-filtering mic and so does Asus, but the latter has detachable one. Additionally, the Vulcan incorporates active noise cancellation, which is pretty good value at this price range. The ANC (Active Noise Cancellation) system uses a single AAA battery (works fine with rechargeable ones) and is pretty good at silencing the system fan hum. Transient ambient sounds, however, are only marginally attenuated. Corsair may include a braided cable, but it still doesn't feel as expensive or well built as the Vulcan's detachable cable.
Score: Corsair 0, Asus 2
Noise cancellation requires a AAA battery.
Round 3: Comfort
The HS1A ships with microfiber cushions and an extra pair of bass enhancing leatherette pads, but the Japanese protein leather ear cups on the Vulcan afford way more comfort and noise isolation - even with the ANC switched off. The Corsair is a pleasure to wear with its oversized cups and a pillow masquerading as a headband, but the Asus is lighter with better articulation and cushioning. In simple terms, if the HS1A is a goose feather pillow, the Vulcan is like motorboating Christina Hendricks.
Score: Corsair 0, Asus 3
Round 4: Performance
Corsair: As explained in the design section, the HS1A's deep enclosures call for larger 50 mm drivers. Large drivers, in theory, are potentially harder to drive and may prove lethargic due to their size. However, this can be overcome with clever design. The good news is that the headphones handle the larger driver mass quite well, which leads to above average treble response. The highs were crisp and showed no signs of rolling off. In fact, the treble response is better than that of the Vulcan.
The enclosures are humongous.
The bad news is that the 50 mm drivers are harder to drive, and therefore require more amplification to generate the same SPL (sound pressure levels) as the Vulcan. Unfortunately, the utter and complete lack of any bass extension, poor bass impact and quality ultimately kills the HS1A's musicality. Everything you throw at the headset sounds thin and lacks warmth due to this shortcoming. Even the Audinst HUD-mx1 headphone amplifier cannot bring about any change in the bass response. This tonal imbalance makes the HS1A unsuitable for music and movies.
The imaging, however, is top notch. The depth of the soundstage is impressive enough to resolve the musicians and vocalists with a good amount of detail and accuracy. This is a boon for gaming, where accurate positional audio gives an added edge.
Asus employs high quality interconnects.
Asus: Unlike the Corsair, the Asus is blessed with a much better tonal balance. While the Vulcan will not blow you away with its infrasonic capability, the bass extension is good enough to render the deeper notes. Bass is tight, if not overpowering, which is just what you need - unless you are a sucker for hip-hop or Michael Bay films. The mids are very refined. This makes for smooth vocals, which are a bit forward in this case. The headset's pleasing tonality makes it render almost all forms of music with consummate ease. The soundstage is sufficiently large with good imaging accuracy. While this aspect may not compare to that of the Corsair, the difference isn't large enough to debilitate positional accuracy required for gaming. The Vulcan is an all rounder that you can use for gaming, music, and movies.
Score: Corsair 0, Asus 4
Round 5: Value
If this were a plain-vanilla headphone comparison, the Corsair wouldn't stand a chance due to its lacklustre music and film performance. However, positional audio is a pivotal parameter in this gaming headphone face-off. The HS1A bests the Vulcan in this aspect - that too at a substantially lower price, while incorporating solid build and material quality. The Corsair deserves the value crown in this context.
Score: Corsair 1, Asus 4
Cheap potentiometer in the signal path is a bad idea.
The Winner: Asus ROG Vulcan ANC
The Asus may be expensive, but the active noise cancellation feature, high quality carrying case, and an excellent build quality make it worthwhile. Its stellar performance across the music, movie, and gaming fronts is a feat unrivalled by most gaming headsets. This when combined with its portability, comfort, and dashing good looks pretty much seals the deal.
Corsair HS1A Gaming Headset
Design And Build Quality: 4/5
Overall Rating: 3/5
Asus ROG Vulcan ANC
Design And Build Quality: 4.5/5
Overall Rating: 4/5
Gaming Headphone Grudge Match!
Corsair HS1A Gaming Headset vs Asus ROG Vulcan ANC.
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