Tech Review: Sennheiser GSP 600 gaming headset represents a rare misstep by a confident audio maker

I’ve never hesitated to recommend Sennheiser headphones to friends in the past. Their headphones have been a go-to of mine for a very long time. My years-long love affair with their HD 598 model is well documented. So when the opportunity to try out a pair of headphones from their gaming range arrived, I leapt at the chance. Sennheiser audio quality with gaming-related bells and whistles? This should be a slam dunk, I thought. Senny’s gonna show these cut rate gaming peripheral makers how a real audio company does it.

They, er, they did not do that.

Considering the GSP 600’s remarkably high price point of $399 AUD, one expects a premium product. Of the absolute best in every possible arena. But it’s not. It’s merely … fine. Kind of unremarkable, actually. And that’s by far the most disappointing thing about them.

The first thing you’ll notice about the Sennheiser GSP 600, and its cousin the GSP 500, is that they are large. Chunky headsets are the norm among gaming peripheral makers, but the GSP 600’s are bulky even by those standards. They don’t weigh a ton despite their size, but they are typically heavier than I like — compare these to something like the Plantronics RIG 800 and the weight difference is night and day. The GSP 600’s leatherette ear cups are quite comfortable, however, and don’t let the headset’s weight rest entirely on your ears. You can adjust the headband with a sliding steel bar on either side, and the indivdual pressure of the earcups using a second pair of sliders. The idea is that being able to adjust the contact pressure should help with the way the headphones fit on your head, but I really didn’t find it helped all that much. No amount of playing with the sliders seemed to make a difference, I just couldn’t get completely comfortable. Ultimately, I wasn’t interested in wearing them for more than an hour or so before ditching them for something more comfortable. The attached boom mic is equally chunky, a massive black viper than sits in your lower left-hand peripheral vision. The quality of the mic was fine, I really had no problems with it, it’s just the size and weight of the thing I found a touch distracting.

The GSP 600’s overall design aesthetic also doesn’t track with the more streamlined, modern look Sennheiser typically prefers. As looks go, these are your fairly standard “gamer” style cans with red accents over black plastic. They look like the sort of thing on-air talent would wear when commentating a football match, which makes me wonder if Sennheiser’s design doc included Twitch, but the designer only saw “broadcast” and ran with it.

In terms of features, the GSP 600 doesn’t really do anything that you can’t get in a lower-priced headset. It’s compatible with just about any system you’d care to connect it to, it comes with your choice of a single 3.5mm audio input or a split audio/mic version for use with desktop PC’s. There’s a volume knob on the side of the headset which can be turned up or down to adjust, but the thing that really surprised me was the lack of mute button. You can’t mute the GSP 600’s unless you physically turn them all the way down or dive into your system settings. Now, its not like a mute button is a universal feature but a quick check of every competitor to the GSP 600 in or around its price range has one. It’s a strange oversight and one I hope Sennheiser iterates on. They also don’t come with a USB connector so true surround sound or playing with the headset’s EQ are both out, which really surprised me given Sennheiser’s audio pedigree. There’s not even a stand-alone amp involved. Again, I want to remind you that this is a $400 headset. For it to be this bare-bones was the last thing I expected.

But how do they actually sound? Well, predictably fabulous. Its genuinely hard to fault the GSP 600’s gaming audio performance. Even without true surround, positional audio works a treat in fast-paced shooters like Overwatch and Fortnite, and games like Assassin’s Creed Origins really make the most of the headset’s wide soundstage with plenty of background noise. The bass is finely tuned so that you can still hear everything above the sound of punchy gunfire or explosions. Where I found it faltered somewhat was when the GSP 600 was used for anything else. When used for music, I couldn’t find a song that stood out at all. In fact, jumping from track to track on Spotify revealed a headset that is remarkably treble-heavy. What this means is that if you only plan to use them for gaming, they’ll sound great and you’ll never have an issue. If you want something a bit more versatile, something that can do it all, you’ll have to look elsewhere.

I really wanted to like the Sennheiser GSP 600 but its high price tag, bulky design and lack of features hold it back. There’s precious little here I feel I can recommend when there are competing headsets at the same price with a lot more to offer. It does exactly what it says on the tin, but no more than that. It wants you pay a premium price but, bereft of a single memorable feature, does little to earn it. A rare misstep for one of the world’s most confident audio makers.

THREE STARS OUT OF FIVE

Highlights: Great sound while gaming; strong build quality

Lowlights: Bare-bones features; Hard to get comfortable; Very expensive

Manufacturer: Sennheiser

Price: $399 AUD

Website: Sennheiser.com

Available: Now

Review conducted using a loaned pair of Sennheiser GSP 600 headphones provided by the manufacturer.

 

David Smith

David Smith is the games and technology editor at The AU Review. He has previously written for PC World Australia. You can find him on Twitter at @RhunWords.

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