As far as I’m concerned, you can't improve on a Corsair keyboard. Corsair mice routinely rank near the top of our lists. But the company's gaming headsets have always been a little harder to gauge; they tend to be pretty good, but never the absolute best at what they offer. That's certainly the case with the Corsair Virtuoso RGB Wireless SE ($210), which offers perfect wireless connectivity, a comfortable fit and excellent sound — at certain frequencies.
The Virtuoso RGB SE works well on both PC and PS4, and you can indeed connect it to an Xbox One or handheld Switch with a 3.5-mm audio jack. But the device won't work with a docked Switch or mobile phones without a headphone jack. And even if it did, the audio is a little too brassy to give excellent performance for anything other than video games.
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To be fair, the Virtuoso RGB SE gets a lot more right than wrong. You can wear it for hours at a time, most games sound rich and the mic is one of the better ones I've tested. But $210 is a lot to ask for a good headset, so you may want to check out our list of best gaming headsets for cheaper alternatives.
Corsair Virtuoso RGB Wireless SE design
The Virtuoso RGB SE is a large, wireless headset, measuring 6.7 x 3.9 x 7.7 inches. The device features large, silver, aluminum ear cups and a padded black headband. The headset also has plush foam ear cups; a detachable, flexible mic and a rather fancy-looking cloth carrying case, which snaps shut like a handbag. The headset is a gorgeous device , and you can even fold the ear cups flat to stash it in a backpack.
Bear in mind that there's also a $180 version of this headset simply called the Corsair Virtuoso RGB Wireless, which has plastic ear cups and a less fancy mic. This model comes in a black or white chassis and doesn't include a carrying case, but is otherwise pretty similar to the SE model.
On the left ear cup, there's a charging port, a 3.5-mm audio port and a detachable, flexible mic that has a mute button on it. The mic itself has a helpful LED near the mouthpiece, which shines green when the mic is on and red when it's muted.
Over on the right ear cup, you get a volume wheel and a wired/wireless operation button. This is essentially the power button; the Virtuoso RGB SE, thankfully, works without power in its 3.5-mm wired mode. On the other hand, the device doesn't shut itself off completely if you forget to do so, so you could come back to your gaming setup after a good night's sleep and find your headset just about dead. (This happened to me.)
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I have two criticisms about the headset's design, although neither one is a dealbreaker. The first is that it has an RGB-enabled Corsair logo on each earcup. For the life of me, I will never understand RGB headsets, as you can't see any of the fancy, power-hungry logos for yourself, but you can always disable them. The other quibble is that there's nowhere to store the small USB dongle, which is extremely easy to misplace. I nearly lost it twice while testing it in a one-bedroom apartment; if you lose it in a full-sized house, I imagine it's never coming back.
Corsair Virtuoso RGB Wireless SE comfort
The Virtuoso RGB SE is one of the more comfortable headsets I've reviewed lately. The padded headband and gentle notches make it easy to find a good fit and keep it even on both sides. Then there are the large ear cups, which cushioned my ears without ever pressing down too hard on them or making them sweat. I wore the headset for hours while gaming, watching movies and talking to friends online, and never had to take them off until it was time to recharge.
I handed the headset off to a coworker who wasn't as big of a fan, though. She said it didn't fit well, and had trouble getting the peripheral to sit correctly on her head. So perhaps the Virtuoso RGB SE is a better fit for the wide, round-headed among us.
Corsair Virtuoso RGB Wireless SE gaming performance
First off, the Virtuoso RGB SE is designed primarily with gaming PCs and PS4 in mind. You can plug the dongle into either system and use the headset wirelessly. On a PC, you can even tweak the sound profile and mic performance with the Corsair Utility Engine (iCUE) software.
I did give the headset a test run on the Xbox One and a handheld Switch, just to see how well it worked with the 3.5-mm cord. Both systems worked fine, although the sound quality was comparable to any reasonably good music or gaming headset.
I paid much closer attention to the wireless performance with the PC and PS4, where I played titles like the BioShock Collection, Assassin's Creed Origins, Age of Mythology: Extended Edition and Final Fantasy XIV.
The first thing I noticed about the Virtuoso RGB SE is that it highlights treble and vocals to an extent that most other gaming headsets don't. There's not a tremendous amount of bass by default. That by itself isn't a problem, but the focus on vocals can give voices a brassy, forward quality that sounds a little like they're coming through an AM radio.
For the most part, though, this wasn't a problem with video game soundscapes, which tend to be treble-heavy and emphasize dialogue, anyway. The directional sound of splicers' creepy chatter was impeccable in BioShock, and Final Fantasy XIV's orchestral soundtrack sounded rich and vibrant. Because you can toggle between stereo and surround sound in the iCUE software, I imagine it would work well for hardcore competitive players, too.
Corsair Virtuoso RGB Wireless SE features
The Virtuoso RGB Wireless runs on the iCUE software, which gives users a fair number of customization options. With this program, you can toggle between stereo and surround sound, toy around with mic levels and, most importantly, tweak equalization options.
My only issue here was that no matter which of the presets I used, the headset still had that vocal-heavy sound. Bass boost alleviated the issue a little bit, but only by making the upper frequencies sound muddy. For a headset that offers so many different equalization options, it's disappointing to find out that none of the presets, or custom profiles, addressed the headset's central sound issue.
Just to make sure I wasn't simply hearing things that weren't there, I handed the headset off to other reviewers in the office — some who specialize in music headsets, and some who specialize in gaming headsets. They all agreed that the sound profile was off in the higher frequencies; some of them were actually quite a bit harsher on it overall than I was.
On the other hand, the microphone is one of the best that Corsair has ever produced. I spent more than three hours talking with a Dungeons & Dragons group on Discord, and other players spontaneously commented how much better I sounded than usual. (To be clear, my usual headset is also a high-end gaming peripheral with a pretty good mic.) Coworkers in video meetings had the same comment.
Corsair claims that the battery can last up to 20 hours on a single charge, which is true — provided you remember to turn it off between sessions. The device takes about 3 hours to charge fully.
Corsair Virtuoso RGB Wireless SE music performance
With its default soundscape, the Virtuoso RGB SE doesn't handle music tremendously well. I listened to tracks from Flogging Molly, Old Crow Medicine Show, The Rolling Stones and G.F. Handel, and in every case, the bass came in far too quiet, and the vocals nearly overwhelmed everything but the lead instruments.
This isn't necessarily a huge issue, though, since you can't really use the headset with newer phones, anyway. It's a shame, because the Virtuoso RGB SE is a gorgeous device, and I wouldn't mind at all taking it out and about with me.
Corsair Virtuoso RGB Wireless SE bottom line
At its core, the Virtuoso RGB SE accomplishes what it sets out to do. It provides great gaming sound for PC and PS4 games with excellent wireless fidelity, in a comfortable package that's easy to wear for hours on end. At the same time, for $210, it's not hard to want a little more out of it. I wish it worked with docked Switches; I wish the soundscape weren't so lackluster for music; I wish the equalization options were a little more robust.
But still, the Virtuoso RGB SE is a very good headset, even if it falls a little short of being a headset for the ages. Corsair's reputation as a purveyor of quality peripherals is untarnished — and I'm eager to see how the company innovates from here.
- More: Check out our JBL Quantum 800 review for another premium headset option