Games these days involve almost all of our senses. I guess smell isn’t included yet because none of those scented oil devices we used to see every year at E3 ever panned out, but just about everything else is sometimes part of a game, including touch if you are using a force feedback controller. Sight and sound are especially important, as they have specific entries in our GiN game review charts. Graphics are of course the thing that most games live and die on these days, but sound can really make or break a game too, or even make for a better game if you have the ability to hear effects more clearly.
Most of the time for my personal gaming, I use my normal television speakers when playing on a console, as I think most of us probably do. I only have the factory package that came with my television, but it’s pretty good, or at least I thought it was until very recently. Even over on my gaming PC, I bought a good pair of Logitech speakers as opposed to using a headset.
So when Sennheiser offered to send us their latest model to review, the Sennheiser GSP 600 Professional Gaming Headset, I was actually kind of hesitant. I use a headset to record podcasts, and when I used to run with a guild in Destiny on the console or Lord of the Rings Online on the PC, I would use a wireless model so that I could chat with my guildmates over the microphone. But the thought of using a headset for single player gaming seemed kind of odd when I already had speakers right there.
When the GSP 600 arrived, I could tell that it was a high quality unit. Compared to my wireless headsets, you could just tell that the GSP 600 was of sturdier construction. All of the bending points are reinforced. I would not recommend doing any rage quitting and tossing them across the room, but they should stand up to normal wear and tear quite well. Even the microphone arm is thick and solid, automatically muting when pushed up, and ready for action when pulled into position.
I was surprised however that the GSP 600 was not a USB headset. I was under the impression that good headsets needed to be USB to add intelligence to the unit, so they would sound better. Instead, this headset comes with two long wires (stylishly packaged in a velvet carrying case). There is a 2 x 3.5 mm 3-pole connector and a 1 x 3.5 mm 4-pole connector. You use the longer cord with two prongs on the end when using the computer, with one input for the microphone and one for the speakers. The shorter cord is for use with consoles, and plugs directly into the dual microphone/speaker port on a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One controller. Of course this means that the headset is not wireless (though if you connect it to a wireless controller it almost kind of is) so you are confined to the length of the cord. The good news is that you don’t have to charge the headset and it will keep working as long as you need.
The headset itself is pretty massive. It feels a little heavy on your head at first. It might feel tight too, but thankfully there are tension bars at the top which can be adjusted so it does not squeeze you quite so tightly, assuming you have a larger head. My head is not too big, and it was tight on me, so I can see that as an issue for a lot of folks. You can also adjust the earcups down, and doing that while moving the tension bars to lower settings can help ensure a snug fit that wont fall off if you twist your head really fast. But most people will need to make those adjustments for it to feel right I think.
Once you get the unit in place, its almost like going under a cone of silence (kudos to anyone who got that very old TV show reference – you are a good agent). There is a lot of noise cancelling inside the GSP 600, and that is before you even power it up. That is great if you want to shut out the world and totally concentrate on a game, or your music, or a movie. But it’s not too good if you need to hear someone else asking you a question in the same room or knowing when a phone is ringing. If you are putting a set of these on, you are committing to the experience, distraction free, until you take them back off.
The first test with the GSP 600 was on my new gaming PC, which was recently purchased and has all the expected bells and whistles. I attached the cable, and my system surprisingly knew I had plugged in a new device. I thought it only did that with USB. I have a Waves sound driver, so adjusting the headset for the best base and treble was no problem, though the default settings are pretty good.
First up was Metro: Exodus. The 3D world was a good choice, and the GSP 600 did not disappoint. I could hear everything all around me, even creatures and bandits that were coming up from behind. Before, the sound in the game was basically like an extra feature, something nice but not really anything that I paid attention to. Now, with the GSP 600, it was suddenly like a real extra sense for me. I could use it to get an edge over the monsters and bad guys by hearing them and reacting sometimes before I could actually see them.
Next I loaded up Pillars of Eternity: Deadfire, which being a top down role-playing game, was not going to offer surround sound. But the 2018 RPG of the Year does have some beautiful music and lot of funny party banter. The headset did not really add any gameplay advantages to Deadfire like it did with the Metro title, but I did enjoy listening to the various background music tracks a lot more. The GSP 600 has a surprisingly deep range of base, and this is balanced by accurate reproduction of high-pitched sounds as well. You can hear a tiny cymbal tap amid a bass-heavy soundtrack, and notes and voices are always very clear.
Even older games were vastly improved because of the GSP 600. I was eager to replay Skyrim now that I had a great new PC gaming rig. Before, things never quite ran good with the high resolution texture packs installed. A lot of the DLC that I really wanted to play with, like the enhanced cities mods, would bog down my old PC. Now I was free to run Skyrim in high-res with any texture and enhancement mods that I wanted. And I loaded up over 150 of them before setting off on my new adventure. It was a lot of fun, but despite the graphics, the world never really came alive until I started using the Sennheiser headset. While there was not really true surround sound, the world was a lot more immersive. And some of my mods, like one that adds Celtic ballads to the game’s main music, sounded fantastic because of the GSP 600.
Moving over to the console meant I had to swap out the headset cable. The one for consoles has a little L-shaped hook at the end, which makes it easier to plug into the little jack on the wireless controller. I didn’t know what to expect using a wireless controller as a sound driver, but wow, what a difference the GSP 600 made.
I loaded up Game of the Year Red Dead Redemption 2 on the PlayStation 4 with the headset in place, and even the menu screen was enhanced. I happened to be Saint Denis in my current single-player game, so the loading screen was the lobby of the police station in that town. Suddenly, I heard a clock ticking. There is actually a clock in that lobby that I had never noticed before. It wasn’t defined enough for me to perceive through my TV speakers. But it was clear as a bell when played through the headset.
That was the first of many newly discovered environmental effects. The swamps outside that southern city were alive with insects and frogs and other wildlife. And there were not just environmental sounds. Actual, huntable animals made noises, and I could follow those noises to find them, even if they were completely out of view at first or hidden behind trees and underbrush. Towns were similarly enhanced. Inside a dingy tavern I heard things that made it seem real, like a drunk snoring in the back corner, which is a character I probably wouldn’t even have known was there without the headset enhancing his snoozing sounds.
Like with some of the PC games, the headset also helped give me more situational awareness in addition to all the extra sounds that were just there for atmosphere. Riding across a railroad bridge, I could hear that a train was chugging up behind me, so I sprinted my horse to the other side instead of following my original plan of stopping to take some pictures of the sunset. So the GSP 600 saved my life, and the life of my rare white Arabian horse.
In terms of negatives, there is nothing bad to say about either the GSP 600’s construction or its performance with both console and PC gaming. It sounded a little better on the PC, but that might be because of the ability to configure the sound more through the Waves drivers.
It is however, a heavy headset. I kind of forgot it was there for a while, but after a few hours, I did notice some discomfort from wearing it for so long. The GSP 600 is also expensive, currently sitting at $189 on Amazon, down from its full price of $250. Personally, after seeing how much this headset could enhance some of my favorite games, and how many cool features I was missing by not having it, I would say it’s more than worth the price.
The Sennheiser GSP 600 Professional Gaming Headset is easily the highest quality headset I have ever tried, especially when it comes to games. You know that funny commercial where people warn you about eating bacon on things, because it will ruin you for anything without bacon? The GSP 600 is kind of like that. I really can’t imagine playing games like Red Dead Redemption 2 without this headset now, knowing about everything that I would be missing. Even games that are not optimized for surround effects sound better, but for the games that are, it’s like a totally different world. And one that gamers need to experience.