TVs & Audio | October 2, 2023
There’s no shortage of options in the market when it comes to wireless gaming headphones. Now, Corsair has entered the scene with its new HS80 Max priced at €189.99, aiming to make us forget about other brands by offering everything we need.
While the gaming market is flooded with options, users typically have to compromise on something, whether it’s sound quality, design, or special features that enhance the gaming experience. Many models cater to specific niches and do so quite well, but few can claim to do it all.
The Corsair HS80 Max aims to fill that role. These may not be the most expensive headphones Corsair offers, but they seek to strike a balance between gaming aesthetics, quality sound, and additional features.
Yes, it might be the part that surprises readers the most: the sound quality. Typically, this is the weakest aspect of gaming headphones, which tend to prioritize heavy bass for explosive gaming and techno music. Therefore, I was pleasantly surprised that Corsair opted for a more balanced sound. It’s not entirely neutral, and I wouldn’t use these headphones to appreciate the nuances of my favorite songs, but during my weeks of testing, I listened to music all day without any issues.
I did notice that sometimes the transducers struggled with certain frequencies, producing that characteristic noise, but it was sporadic and didn’t affect the overall experience. More importantly, the gaming performance was excellent. Whether enjoying orchestral moments in Starfield or getting shot at in Armored Core, the HS80 Max performed well and helped me enjoy my games.
It’s a big plus that Corsair has implemented several technologies to improve the sound experience. The most surprising one is SoundID, a feature that analyzes our ears to tailor the sound to our eardrums. No two people hear exactly the same, and even each of our ears is better at capturing different frequencies. SoundID solves all of this with a simple test, determining which frequencies we hear better on each side and modifying the sound to our liking. The HS80 Max also supports Dolby Atmos and positional audio, and the results are impressive given the headphones’ price, although they’re not the best if budget isn’t a concern.
The HS80 Max has an integrated omnidirectional microphone that captures our voice clearly. I had no issues in video calls or during my gaming sessions, and it worked exactly as expected. Perhaps the only criticism is that it doesn’t stand out, neither for better nor worse. The microphone mutes automatically when flipped up and activates when lowered, making it very intuitive. However, unlike some other models, you can’t physically remove it from the headphones.
What you won’t find in the HS80 Max is active noise cancellation technology. While the earpads block out a significant amount of external noise, they still let in the usual fan sounds, something to consider if you have a gaming PC nearby. Normally, I wouldn’t criticize gaming headphones primarily used at home for this reason, but I’m mentioning it because of the HS80 Max’s major novelty compared to the previous model: Bluetooth connectivity.
Indeed, this means you can connect the HS80 Max to your mobile phone or tablet using a dedicated button that initiates the Bluetooth pairing mode. They then appear as regular headphones in the list of available devices on Android or iPhone. In this mode, they behave exactly the same as when connected to your computer, making them very versatile. You no longer need separate headphones for your PC and mobile; you can use the same ones and enjoy the same experience.
To connect to a PC, the HS80 Max uses a USB adapter that adds a 2.4 GHz wireless connection. This is a solution adopted by other manufacturers because it’s the best alternative to a cable. The connection has a much higher bandwidth than Bluetooth, allowing for superior sound quality and minimal latency. For most people, it should be extremely difficult to distinguish them from wired headphones. Finally, there’s a USB-C connection, but only for recharging the internal battery. You might miss a traditional 3.5mm cable connection, although it’s clear that the industry is moving away from it.
As the name suggests, the Corsair HS80 Max is the definitive version of the HS80 RGB, which previously occupied the mid-range of Corsair’s lineup with a price tag of €149.99. So the design is very similar, and they share some features, but the Max stands out for offering more connectivity options and longer battery life, up to 24 consecutive hours. This Max model is available in two colors, black or white, and we had the opportunity to test the white version. These are clearly gaming headphones, but fortunately, they aren’t overly flashy or burdened with unnecessary additions.
Of course, being a gaming product, the HS80 Max features integrated RGB lighting, although it’s limited to the Corsair logo on the side of each earcup. You can customize the colors and choose from various effects through the iCue app, although the effects aren’t very noticeable.
The HS80 Max headphones are designed for durability, with fabric earpads that make them comfortable for long hours of use, even in summer, as they breathe much better than the synthetic leather earpads commonly used on these devices. I had no issues wearing the headphones all day while working, thanks to their lightweight design at 352 grams, although they may be better suited for smaller heads than larger ones. On the other hand, I really liked the controls. There are no touch-sensitive areas; instead, there are buttons and a volume wheel that feels good to the touch and can be customized for different actions.
The Corsair HS80 Max is a very capable pair of wireless headphones and should appeal to any gamer seeking a good sound experience above aesthetics and other aspects. The sound leans toward neutrality, and that alone might be reason enough for someone to buy them, especially if they’re tired of the dominant bass in the gaming sector. Integration with iCue is great if you already have other Corsair devices, and they are relatively comfortable. Among the more noticeable drawbacks is the microphone quality, which could be better, and the lack of a wired connection.
Ironically, the HS80 Max’s biggest rival comes from Corsair itself. The most obvious option is Corsair’s own HS80 RGB, as they cost €40 less and are nearly identical in most features. There are two compelling reasons to choose the more expensive option. Bluetooth connectivity will be incredibly useful for many users who switch between their computer and mobile frequently, but it’s an unnecessary addition for many others. SoundID is impressive and can genuinely change the entire experience, but it’s one of those things you have to try to know if you need it. Corsair’s biggest competitor is Razer, which also offers headphones with both Bluetooth and 2.4 GHz connectivity, the Razer Blackshark V2 Pro, albeit at a slightly higher price of €229.99. However, the price difference is small enough that choosing between the Corsair HS80 Max and the Razer BlackShark V2 Pro could depend entirely on personal preferences such as aesthetics or the software they use (Corsair iCue and Razer Synapse, respectively).