Not everyone hears the same as each other. People’s ears are different and preferences dictate our style. The subjective listening tests in our reviews not only compare the product with other gaming headsets, but also audiophile-grade headphones. Those who don’t regularly listen with higher-end equipment may not notice the sound quality deficiencies we are able to notice.
There are slight differences between how the HS30 and the HS40 sound, but they both have a large peak in the low-medium frequencies from 300 to 1000 Hz and another peak in the treble from 7000 to 12000 Hz. The result is poor sound quality. The bloated low-medium frequencies not only muddy the overall sound, but also make it incredibly bland. A sine sweep program such as SineGen will aid in locating the peaks and correcting them as much as is possible within a graphic equalizer.
Uncorrected, the Raptor HS30 and HS40 are bad sounding headphones. The low-midrange peak is disproportionate to all the other frequencies and gives a tinny characteristic to music. Both the bass and upper midtones will sound weak. Spending the time to correct the peaks with sine sweeps and equalizers is needed for a much more realistic sound character and to make any adjustments for personal taste. Not every attempt will be fruitful as our own efforts took hours across several days to tune our Raptor HS30 sample with a fully amped dedicated sound card. Your mileage will vary.
A Raptor HS30 EQ Profile for the ASUS DGX Sound Card in Foobar2000 Audio Player
The bigger surprise is how much better these headsets sound after equalization to preference. The 2013 Raptor headsets have an unusual compatibility many custom tuned equalizer settings. After some work, just about any song or movie could be adapted and as a result sound quite good. Midtones are quite detailed, but the bass and treble have surprising clarity and energy for a mainstream-priced headset.
Without equalization, movie vocals and spoken dialogue have reduced detail caused by crossover from the overemphasized low-medium frequencies. As was observed with music, the Raptor HS30 and HS40 were improved by equalization.
The distracting nature of video games renders audio irregularities far less noticeable, but can still be heard with deliberate careful listening with the Raptor HS30 and HS40. The aforementioned bloated low-medium frequencies give an unnatural hollow quality to game audio. Low frequencies can be strongly heard, but with weak bass to complement. Vocals sound tinny and trebles sound muddied with the low-medium frequencies taking up so much of the soundspace.
Regardless of equalization, the stereo soundstage is poor. Positional audio for both stereo and virtual surround lack a wide range of direction and distance. The HS40’s C-media Xear Surround feature is an admirable move to bring virtual surround sound to a mainstream gaming headset, but it’s not the killer feature it’s made to look. Like Dolby Headphone, which is featured with the USB Corsair Vengeance headsets, C-media Xear is ineffective and downmixes the audio channels to what sounds like mono channel.
While the Raptor headset microphones are not nearly as good as the Corsair Vengeance headset microphones, the HS30 and HS40 have respectable recording quality. Voice playback to other players was recreated quite accurately with a hint of robot-like qualities.