When it comes to sim racing hardware, headphones generally aren't high up on the 'must have' list and while they certainly have their place in gaming, there's no question that most racers tend to prefer the deep rumble and noise of speakers over headphones. Unlike other genres of games, sound in racing sims tends to be more about immersion or realism than it is about being able to pin pointing your enemy across a map, such is the case for example in first person shooters. Asus are no strangers when it comes to gaming products, their motherboards, graphics cards and peripherals have been in the market for decades and they do have a reputation for knowing what gamers want. One such device of interest is the HS-W1 wireless headset. Could this headset possibly be a worthy addition to your simrig setup?
Before we begin, there is one important thing I should mention and it's that this is not a gaming headset. Asus neither market it as one nor target it toward gamers, so you might well ask, why are we reviewing this with sim racing in mind?
Firstly if you're anything like me you probably have a very understanding family who tolerate your hobby, but occasionally prefer you to keep the volume down. For me this is especially true in the evening, generally a time when most people prefer quiet rather than the earth shattering screech of a V8 engine (who wouldn't love that!). Secondly and more importantly the HS-W1 is wireless, a perfect thing to have if you own a big racing rig where things can get physical and having annoying headphone cables get in the way can prove a distraction on the track. So with the above in mind, we will look at this headset from a general use perspective, but obviously with a focus on racing and weather it still can hold up to our audio needs.
Out of the box, first impressions are positive. It's well packaged, comes with a moulded case which is perfect for those who would wish to throw it in luggage or carry bag when travelling and feels solid and sleek but is still light weight at only 170 grams. You'll note that the ear cups are not closed but we didn't find them uncomfortable or too small, fitting over the ears with very little gaps or leaks. Volume control is on the right hand side ear pod with simple up and down control which can be adjusted while you wear. A neat feature is the microphone which swivels from an on position when it's down, to an off/mute when it's up, a simple solution, but one I can see being useful on track. Connectivity wise this device uses 2.4Ghz wireless technology which allows CD quality sound (44.1Khz/16-bit) combined with 40mm drivers and a built in equaliser. Certainly nothing to right home about, but a big improvement on older less reliable RF devices.
Installation & Configuration:
The HS-W1 has a small lithium battery built into the headset which is recharged with an included USB cable. Installation was straight forward, a small USB dongle is included which is completely plug and play requiring no drivers or software to be installed prior to use. You can charge and use the headset at the same time if necessary however you will still require the dongle to be connected as the USB connection seems to be for charging only. Pairing the device took only a matter of seconds, and once done we instantly had audio and microphone capabilities with little to no configuration needed. Certainly a bonus if you're not tech savy or lazy like me.
Since this is a general purpose type product and not one aimed squarely at gaming, we tested it with a variety of everyday applications as well as of course several racing games to give a balanced overview. Applications like Skype, MSN and other general purpose programs, we found the HS-W1 more than competent. Audio was clear and crisp and the microphone provided a good clear signal with no distortion. Firing up games like F1 2012, Dirt 3, rFactor and Shift, we were pleasantly surprised at its audio quality. Bass was punchy with engine noise still giving that enjoyable deep rumble, low tones didn't distort, and high tones were clear. For a complete picture we did fire up several FPS shooters and we should note that while still more than competent audio did lack some depth in range, especially in things like explosions or gun fire. Asus claim up to 8 hours use, which is likely accurate if simple talking/chatting is what you’re after, but probably less for longer gaming sessions. Range was impressive, we were able to move around 10 metres away from our receiver before the connection cut out.
The HS-W1 is a well-balanced all round performer that surprises in many areas. If you’re looking for the pinnacle in audio this certainly is not it, but given it's features, performance, and it's price, you'd be hard pressed to find a wireless headset that ticks this many boxes. At around $50-$60 AUD market price it's incredible value and while it won't replace my high end headset for most other PC gaming, it's certainly a good trade-off for when the speakers on my sim racing rig need to remain off.
- Wireless 2.4Ghz connection
- Comfortable and stylish
- Included carry case
- Audio performance in certain game types is lacking