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Corsair HS35 Budget Gaming Headset Review

Corsair made a cheaper version of their cheapest headset

Photo taken by Alex Rowe.

I liked the Corsair HS50 when it first launched a couple of years ago, and I said they would probably sell a lot of them. Today, that older model is still a great take on the HyperX Cloud II formula for $50, which is half the normal price for that class of headset.

In my head I like to imagine there was a meeting at Corsair where they proposed pulling the same trick again, and sticking it to their competition even further. To that end, they launched the Corsair HS35 in the back half of last year. It’s a low-end take on headset design principles that used to cost ~$99, and while it doesn’t match the quality of that price tier, it’s still better than what I’ve come to expect from a $40 gaming product.

If I worked at Turtle Beach or HyperX right now, I’d be furiously designing a response.

Photo taken by Alex Rowe.

OVERVIEW

The Corsair HS35 (official product page here) retails for $40 and often goes on sale. I got mine for $30 at Best Buy, and I’ve seen them fall to that price a few times at other outlets as well.

Its standard black model comes with a permanently-attached 1.8m cable, a PC y-splitter adapter, and a detachable microphone. It’s also available in red, green, and blue variants designed to appeal to owners of the Switch, Xbox, and PS4. Those console colors have a 1.1m cable and no y-splitter.

Finally, there’s the HS45 which retails for $50. It’s the same base headset as the standard HS35, but it also includes the surround sound USB dongle from the Corsair HS60 in the box.

Just like the HS50, the HS35 has 50mm drivers, memory foam padding, and integrated mic mute and volume controls. It even retains the little rubber Corsair logo plug for the mic hole. The tuning, isolation, and overall build quality are where the big differences come into play.

That screw in the center shouldn’t be there. Photo taken by Alex Rowe.

A SCREW LOOSE

Before I get into my standard review categories, I have to mention a build issue with my personal pair that almost ruined it for me.

On first opening and listening to the headset, something was very wrong. The sound was out of phase and the bass was rolled off. I started Googling other impressions of the headset to see if I was just crazy or if something might be broken. A quick physical examination revealed an extra loose screw was stuck in the center of the right ear cup, trapped in a hole there by the magnet behind the driver.

The culprit! Photo taken by Alex Rowe.

This screw was acting against the driver and preventing the diaphragm from vibrating correctly. I pried the screw out of there, checked all the holes to make sure it wasn’t missing from one of them (it wasn’t), and resumed listening.

Upon removing the screw from the center of the ear cup, the sound was so much better, and more like what I expected. I’ve never experienced this particular type of quality control issue with a headset before, so I’m guessing it was an outlier, but I thought I’d mention it just in case you run into it.

It’s the sort of thing that a quick quality check should have caught, and might point to production line issues.

The headset includes a little rubber plug with the Corsair logo on it for when you’re not using the mic port. A nice detail. Photo taken by Alex Rowe.

SOUND QUALITY

The HS35 has a fun, consumer-style sound tuning. It’s not as precise or accurate as the HS50 or HyperX Cloud II, but instead offers a tuning that’s tweaked to sound “impressive.”

Like the HyperX Cloud Stinger, it’s still an enjoyable listen in spite of its obvious sculpting. The bass has prominent emphasis, lending some warmth to the lower mids but not totally veiling or mucking them up. The bass isn’t the most precise in the world, with a thumpy and thick character, but it’s still okay.

The midrange has a darker tone than it should, which makes female vocals sound artificially nice and smooth, but makes some instruments a little thicker and woolier than they’re supposed to.

The treble is bright and a bit ragged, but without causing overt pain or fatigue. Listening to jazz, trumpets get right up to the point of “yikes” without going over. I’m guessing the treble response was tuned to assist with footstep placement.

They’re not the most accurate for music then. But for gaming and movies these are an enjoyable time, which I’m guessing was the intended use case. They lend a nice resonance to explosions. Their soundstage is good enough for enemy location. They work well with surround sound software, too. I tested them with both Windows Sonic and Dolby Atmos and had no complaints.

The HS50 presents a better and more accurate sound, but these are still usable as far as v-shaped signatures go. My brain adjusted to them after one afternoon and I’ve enjoyed using them for several days as my sole headphones. I can’t un-hear the overt thickness in the midrange, particularly on acoustic music, but they’re still fun for explosions, throaty car engines, and weapon sounds.

The drivers are slightly angled, leaving room for your ears inside the pads. But the foam rebounds rather quickly. Photo taken by Alex Rowe.

COMFORT/ISOLATION

Like the HS50, the HS35 uses memory foam padding in the ear pads. Also like that more expensive pair, it’s not a very slow-rebounding foam.

Aside from that, every comfort feature is different compared to their more expensive predecessor…and I’d give the nod to the HS35 in almost every way. The ear pads use a basic cloth covering with a slightly rough texture, similar to most Turtle Beach products, but with a nicer overall feel. I didn’t find the cloth scratchy on my face even over a longer session, and they breathe well enough to not cause much ear sweat.

The headband pad is a master class in headband padding. It’s big. It’s soft. It’s wonderful to touch. It floats on top of your head and never asserts itself. If I could get this level of headband pad on top of every single headphone, I’d be content. It’s much softer than the stiff padding on the top of the HS50, and although that padding never caused me a personal issue, it wasn’t as nice as this.

Clamping force is also softer than the HS50, which was my other small gripe with that headset’s comfort. The HS35 holds on perfectly tight, and very nearly “disappears” thanks to its soft padding, something the HS50 couldn’t manage.

Again, I’m not saying the older model was uncomfortable. But if an upgraded HS50 adopted the thicker headband and slightly lighter clamp of this newer pair, it would be exemplary.

Isolation suffers on the HS35 due to the cloth pad material, but the foam inside the pads is still dense enough to provide more sound blockage than other models with cloth pads like the RIG series. The bass- heavy sound signature also helps with isolation when you’re out and about. I used these in a loud coffee shop with no issue, and didn’t have to crank them up past my usual listening level.

This headband pad is everything headband pads should be. Photo taken by Alex Rowe.

BUILD AND DESIGN

Aside from the ridiculous screw issue mentioned above, the build is about all you can hope for out of a $40 gaming headset. The frame is made of lightweight plastic, but the adjustment sliders are metal. Further, they click in and out with a nice authoritative snap. Like the thick headband pad, the adjustment clicks here put a lot of other expensive pairs to shame. I have two extra adjustment clicks to spare, out of nine total, on my larger head.

The sides of the ear cups have a shiny metallic Corsair sails logo, and while it seems like it’s a textured sticker and not a true metal piece, that’s more forgivable on a cheap headset than on a higher-end one. The top of the headband features an embossed “CORSAIR” logo, and while it’s a little old- fashioned, it doesn’t bother me. The ear cups are lined with a shiny plastic accent that seems sort of unnecessary, and I wish they had gone without it.

Many of the screws are exposed, but there are no sharp plastic edges to worry about. The headband has a good bit of flex to it which should help with throwing these in a bag. My headband makes a small popping noise sometimes when I first expand it to put on my head, but outside of that my pair has developed no other creaks or squeaks after several days of heavy use.

In an ideal world the cable would be detachable, but that’s the only real complaint I can lob at this design, especially for this price. The control buttons are well-placed. The profile of the headset is subtle and doesn’t scream “gamer” at the outside world. And the little rubber piece that covers the mic hole is just as classy a touch here as it was on the HS50.

Unlike on the more expensive HS50, the pads here are easily removable. That’s great if you want to change them out in the future, or if your model has a random screw hanging out inside of it.

The top of the headset has the Corsair logo stamped into it. Photo taken by Alex Rowe.

MICROPHONE

The microphone is fine. It’s solid. It’s average. Not bad for the price! It’s rather sensitive to positioning, and I have to fiddle with it each time to make sure it’s not picking up my breath or over-modulating. It doesn’t seem to have any kind of integrated pop filter, but buying one for a headset this cheap would be a little silly.

If you make sure it’s off to the side or pointed properly at the corner of your mouth, you’ll get an okay sound out of it. It’s designed to provide some small level of acoustic noise canceling, but that also means it has a tinny quality in common with a lot of other mics that pull this trick.

You can hear a short sound sample of the microphone here on my personal site.

The controls on the HS35 are large and easy to find. Photo taken by Alex Rowe.

EXTRAS

The only real extras on the HS35 are a mic mute button and a volume wheel. There’s no obvious indicator on the mute switch about which position actually mutes the microphone, something that could be solved with a better graphic next to it. It’s muted when pushed in, for the record.

Fortunately, the volume wheel is smoothly stepped, with no major channel imbalances. So if you prefer to do your volume controlling on the headset, this lets you do that.

The cable is a little bit springy, but feels better than it has any right to for something this cheap. It has an integrated rubber cable tie attached to it, and the plug is stamped with a Corsair logo. These are the sorts of small details I don’t really expect at this price.

The adjustment sliders are metal, and there’s a little pad to prevent the ear cup from scratching up the support yoke. Photo taken by Alex Rowe.

QUICK COMPARISONS

The HS35 has a lot of other cheap headsets to fight against.

Its forebear the HS50 helped push down the entry level price for “good gaming audio,” alongside other excellent releases like the HyperX Cloud Stinger, the Astro A10, the RIG 400, the Steelseries Arctis 1, and the recent Razer Kraken X. Now gamers have a plethora of cheaper choices that sound and feel much better than the usual toy-like nonsense that used to dominate the low-end of the headset industry.

Many of the ~$50 headsets offer performance that edges out the HS35. The Cloud Stinger, Arctis 1, RIG 400, and HS50 all sound better. The Kraken X offers surround software, a sleeker design, and a mic that’s much easier to position. The Arctis 1 and the Astro A10 both offer better mic performance overall, with the A10 having one of the best mics I’ve ever used on a headset at any price.

Still, at the lowest end of the price ladder, I think the HS35 offers a serious challenge to any Turtle Beach product and to the recent HyperX Cloud Stinger Core. The Stinger Core has a permanently attached mic, a dual-sided entry cable, and a thinner headband than the HS35, all of which are less appealing design decisions to me personally.

Photo taken by Alex Rowe.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The Corsair HS35 is a solid, streamlined, cheaper take on the now-classic HS50. The sound is warmer and less precise, the microphone is a bit worse, the isolation took a hit, the build quality isn’t as good, and mine had a loose screw inside.

However, the headband pad is massively improved. And you’re still getting the entire core feature set of the HS50 for less money.

If you’re trying to get the cheapest possible “decent” gaming headset, you make sure the HS35 is on your considerations list. It offers a good features package in a reasonable-looking design, and it performs well enough that you’ll have fun, especially if you’re not the most ardent audio fan.

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Alex Rowe

Alex Rowe

I write independent game reviews and commentary. Please support me directly if you enjoy my work: https://xander51.medium.com/membership

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