I SEE (well, hear) a lot of headsets as Game On Australia’s technology and features editor and very few of them make me say “Ooh!”
The headset in this review – the GSP 500 – is one of those rare beasts.
Sennheiser have been making gaming headsets for quite a while and do a very good job of it, and are currently in the process of rebranding their gaming arm to EPOS.
Most gaming headsets are what is known as “closed back” – the earpiece shell is solid on the back – while higher end audiophile headphones sometimes come in what is known as “open-back” configuration, where the earpiece shell has vents/ports/is essentially open.
Both configurations offer different audio experiences; closed back headsets block out a lot of outside noise and offer a more intimate listening experience, while open back headsets let air in to create a wider ‘soundscape’ – not to mention letting you hear more of what’s going on in the world around you.
The EPOS-Sennheiser GSP 500 combine the best of both worlds with a partially open-back design and the results are absolutely phenomenal, no matter what platform you’re gaming on.
These are the equal-best gaming headphones I have ever used – the others being the closed back Sennheiser GSP 600.
The open-back element provides for great and natural sounds, particularly for bass, and like I said before, my reaction upon donning them and firing up a game for the first time was “Oooh!”
The downside of open-backed headphones is sound leaks out to the surrounding world. If you’re at home alone or in a private space, it doesn’t matter, but it does mean that if you’re on the couch playing Doom Eternal then anyone else in the room may be going to hear a somewhat muted version of the pumping death metal soundtrack, demonic roars and energy weapon fire.
The upside of sound from outside getting in is particularly apparent if you have a family who need your attention. Closed back headphones block out a lot of background noise which is great for tuning out children squabbling over which TV show they want to watch, but not as beneficial when your exasperated partner is getting angry at you because you’ve tuned out the squabbling children and their own demands you come and help because there’s something wrong with the washing machine.
Like their sister unit the GSP 600, the sound quality in this headset is amazing – detailed, crystal clear and sharp across the spectrum. From a technical standpoint, the unit has a frequency response of 10–30,000 Hz, and a 28 Ohm Impedance. I tested it with a range of games across several platforms (The GSP 500 works on pretty much everything with a 3.5mm jack – so that’s PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, tablets, and also suitably equipped mobile phones) and it performed incredibly well on all of them.
The experience went from “superb” to “sublime” when the GSP 500s were paired with an amp like the Sennheiser GX1000 or the Astro MixAmp Pro TR. The combination is, from my experience, the ultimate PC or console gaming audio experience.
When playing Red Dead Redemption II on my PC, horse hooves really thundered, when listening to music I got a great audio experience, and the sound of engines and tyres came through strongly and clearly in Burnout Paradise Remastered.
Even stepping away from the superb sound quality of the GSP 500s, the build quality is top-notch too. The hinges are metal, the plastic areas are sturdy, and while it takes a bit of time for the memory foam earpads to mould to your ears, but once they do the unit is comfortable to wear for extended gaming sessions.
The GSP 500 features a really handy flip-to-mute noise-cancelling mic on the left earcup and a handy volume control knob on the right earcup. This really comes into play on consoles, where changing the headset volume can be a gigantic pain in the neck – so being able to adjust it straight off the headset with a big, sturdy dial that stayed put.
The mic is noise-cancelling and provides very good, clear voice communication both in-game and for general audio chat; it’s positioned well when deployed and stays out of the way when flipped up.
The GSP 500 has an RRP of AUD$299 and is worth absolutely every cent of that; in my opinion they are (along with the GSP 600) the monarch of gaming headsets and an absolute must-have if you’re serious about your in-game audio.