Fair warning, there will be a lot of implied “at this price point” statements in this review. With an RRP of just $39.99, the Corsair HS35 punches up in just about every category.
A wired gaming headset with absolutely no frills, the Corsair HS35 sets itself apart by being pretty good at everything you need it to do. The microphone’s adjustable (so you don’t overdrive it during those shouty multiplayer moments), while the drivers have a good, clean dynamic range and reproduce the band of frequencies you need for gaming with little effort.
What it doesn’t do is light up or connect via USB. Nor does it have gold-plated plugs or active noise cancellation. It’s also plasticky and a little on the light side. But, for $40 or thereabouts, you’ll get a headset that you can take into battle and that will serve you well. It’s certainly good enough to qualify for our best cheap gaming headsets list.
Find out what we like — and don’t like — about it in our full Corsair HS35 Stereo Gaming Headset review.
Corsair HS35 Stereo Gaming Headset review: Design
The Corsair HS35 is the gaming headset equivalent of a TJ Maxx little black dress; classic good looks and style, but on a budget. In an era where manufacturers signify special features with LEDs and glowing rings, this minimalism is welcome. Though wired and cheap, the headset’s cable is long and reassuringly tough.
Most of the HS35 is made from matte black plastic; the cups, hinges and the outer headband. There’s one inset ring that’s glossy black on each cup. The only deviation from the scheme is a tasteful, inset, chrome logo. It’s worth flagging up that the set is also available with red, green or blue padding and cabling. The color I tested is called “carbon,” which made me wonder why the other choices aren’t called “blood,” “grass,” and “antifreeze.”
The hinged cups are classic ovals though, at first glance, a little shallow for closed phones. The left cup is where you’ll find a discrete volume control wheel and, below that, a mute button. It’s also where you attach and lock in the microphone stalk. If you don’t need the mic, the socket can be covered with a black rubber grommet.
One of my favourite design elements was the use of smooth mesh cloth over the cup padding. It may be a personal thing, but I find leather or plastic less comfortable.
Corsair HS35 Stereo Gaming Headset review: Comfort
Confession time — my ears stick out. They look like teacups glued to the sides of my head. Those shallow cups on the HS35 worried me, but there was space enough. As it turned out, the smooth cloth and soft padding made a good seal without being too tight.
Though the outer headband is black plastic the inner is an aluminum strip with an attenuated, plastic ridge. It adjusts really easily across the head. Light headphones are not necessarily comfortable headphones, but the HS35 benefits from being solid rather than weighty.
There’s enough flexibility at the hinges and give in the padding that I forgot I had it on after I switched from game-playing to admin. With the mic stowed away, you might even be tempted to take it on your daily commute (though I’d draw the line at jogging).
Corsair HS35 Stereo Gaming Headset review: Gaming performance
With just a straight TRRS 3.5mm connection, there’s no software to install with the HS35 (on any platform), so you can plug straight in and start gaming. So, that’s what I did.
With a headset in this class, you don’t expect a great deal. You want the audio to be crackle-free and for the drivers to handle the loud rumbles and crashes of Doom: Eternal without it sounding like a pub band covering Metallica in the middle of a bar fight. You need stereo separation clear enough that you can hear enemy fire in Superhot and know where it’s coming from.
The HS35 does this with aplomb, but it also delivers beyond that. The bass and mid response was clear when racing a souped-up Mini hatchback in Dirt Rally 2.0. There’s no active noise cancellation, but the closed cups do the job for you. In fact, they worked well enough that I missed an Amazon delivery. C’est la vie.
Microphones can be a weak point in cheaper gaming cans and the bad news is that you won’t be recording your next album with the Corsair HS35. It works, but is much better at picking up mid and treble than bass — the opposite of the drivers. It also lacks a pop-guard out of the box, which you’ll need to cut down plosives and sibilance. Thankfully, adjusting the mic away from the face improves reproduction, too.
Corsair HS35 Stereo Gaming Headset review: Music performance
Here’s that phrase again: the HS35 performed well in our music test at this price point. There was an audible bass response from 20Hz upwards in our frequency test, but more importantly, it handled our playlist of classical, metal, folk and electronica consistently and well.
The HS35 favours the bass end of the spectrum; common enough in cheaper, closed-cup headsets, but the mid-range was refreshingly wide too. There was little of the artificial squeeze towards the centre you can hear in less solidly built headphones.
How does that translate to English? It works well with both traditional and electronic instrumentation, lending warmth and air to both. The only thing missing was some sparkle at the top end; all that bass and mid masked some of the treble. That’s not a huge problem in gaming, but if you use the HS35 to listen to music, you may want to compensate a little on the device side.
Corsair HS35 Stereo Gaming Headset review: Features
The Corsair HS35 doesn’t really do “features.” It’s a wired gaming headset with a detachable mic and that’s pretty much all she wrote. The wire terminates in a solid, 3.5mm jack plug that will connect to consoles or laptops and a headphone/mic splitter is included in the box, for PC gamers, with separate jacks. The jacks fit snugly, without pop, crackle or any other rice-based cereal noises.
I’m a fan of the detachable mic stalk and its flexible, gooseneck design — common to Corsair headsets. It’s so easy to position the microphone anywhere you need it, but not so easy to flip away when you don’t. Then again, that’s what the mute button is for so — full-disclosure — I am only pointing it out because I’m reviewing the headset. I did have one gripe, and it was small. Why make the mic detachable? The cable is connected with flexible moulding and that’s a failure point. Equally, though, some folks prefer not to have to rummage around their desk looking for a headset cable when they need it.
Corsair HS35 Stereo Gaming Headset review: Verdict
Some no-frills gaming headsets holding onto the bottom of the budget ladder strike you as cheap out of the box. I’m reminded of my Grandma’s old saying “buy cheap, pay twice.” Well, my Grandma never played Sniper Elite 4 with the Corsair HS35.
It’s not fantastic but, at this price point (that phrase again) it does exactly what a gaming headset should, functionally and competently. Budget products should never be a chore to use; a hurdle to overcome or a bottleneck in your system. They shouldn’t be so ugly you hate having them on your desk or built so poorly they break in a couple of months.
So, the fact that the HS35 does everything it’s supposed to do and does it quite well overall is welcome. There’s no point in being snobbish about that.