I don’t know why Sennheiser can’t seem to make a great gaming headset. The company has been my go-to headphone brand for years. It’s the first thing I pull out of my bag on a long flight, and “Sennheiser” is the first word out of my mouth when a friend asks for a headset recommendation.
But, somehow, adding a microphone and a few game-centric features inspires the company to throw elegance, simplicity and frugality out the window in favor of something very generic and surprisingly expensive.
That was the case with the Sennheiser Game One, Game Zero and GSP 300. Unfortunately, it’s also the case with the Sennheiser GSP 600 ($250), making this the fourth gaming headset from Sennheiser that I wanted to love but wound up just tolerating. Not only is the headset garish and bulky, but it’s also surprisingly light on extra features and delivers just-good-enough sound.
For such a high price, gamers should expect a premium product. But in spite of a few clever ideas, the GSP 600 is just OK — and “just OK” may not be worth the money in a sea of tough competitors.
The first two words that come to mind when describing the GSP 600 are “big” and “industrial.” The headset is a black plastic behemoth, measuring 7.5 inches across and weighing 13 ounces. There are metallic red highlights around the volume wheel on the right ear cup, as well as around the nonremovable microphone on the left ear cup. Aside from a few silver touches and Sennheiser logos, that’s about all the decoration you get. It’s not a pretty device, but at least it’s distinctive.
While the device’s size and shape make it difficult to transport, it’s compatible with just about every game system you can throw at it. The headset comes with two swappable, 3.5mm audio cables: one with a joint mic/audio input for consoles and mobile devices and one with separate audio and mic cables for PCs. They both work well, although the L-shaped jack doesn’t play that nicely with the Xbox One controller’s tight underside.
The GPS 600 is not a pretty device, but at least it’s distinctive.
The mic and volume-control knob were the first things that made me double-check the GSP 600’s $250 price tag. Extra buttons to mute the mic and audio are standard fare, but the GSP 600 doesn’t have either. Turning the volume knob all the way down is the only way to mute the sound; flipping the microphone up into a vertical position is the only way to stop it from picking up your voice. While discrete mic mute buttons are by no means universal, they are common in similarly priced headsets from SteelSeries, Astro and Razer. The mic is neither removable nor retractable, which is a standard feature in many headsets that cost $100 less.
The GSP 600’s soft leatherette ear cups and padded headband help take some of the pressure off the wearer’s head, but they’re only half of the comfort equation. You can adjust the headset’s fit not only with a notched steel bar, but also with two sliders that affect the “contact pressure” between your ears and the ear cups.
In theory, the contact-pressure sliders give you a more nuanced fit than a traditional gaming headset can. But in practice, I didn’t find that they made a tremendous amount of difference. No matter what I did, the headset felt too tight, the ear cups felt too loose and I didn’t feel like wearing the headset for more than about an hour at a time. It wasn’t painful, but it felt like it was designed for someone with a much smaller head.
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On the other hand, I gave the GSP 600 to a co-worker, who was very skeptical of the contact-pressure sliders at first. After about 15 minutes, though, he was impressed with the GSP 600’s snug and customizable fit. Perhaps the sliders are worthwhile for the very patient among us.
When it comes to in-game audio, the GSP 600 is beyond reproach. I tested the headset with a variety of games across four different platforms (PC, PS4, Xbox One and Switch), and it handled every genre and every system with fidelity and nuance.
I could track my enemies by their location in Overwatch, and sound effects, voice-overs and music balanced perfectly in StarCraft: Remastered. Games like Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition and God of War (2018) felt immersive and immediate. The headset even did a good job plugging directly into the Switch to deliver amusing background tunes in Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle. (The cord is not very long, though, so don’t expect to use the GSP 600 outside of the Switch’s handheld mode.)
When it comes to in-game audio, the GSP 600 is beyond reproach.
Because you can choose either a single or dual 3.5 mm cable, the headset is extremely easy to connect to any system, and you can use the microphone with any piece of hardware.
On the other hand, the GSP 600 doesn’t really have anything that comparably priced headsets use to justify their high costs. There’s no USB connection, so you can’t use surround sound or tweak equalization profiles. The GSP 600 doesn’t have wireless features. As described above, there aren’t even extra mute buttons. There’s no separate amp, so you won’t be able to control anything other than volume without diving into your system settings. For a $250 peripheral, this headset is surprisingly bare-bones — although the mic sounds clear and accurate, which is good.
Given Sennheiser’s headphone pedigree, I was surprised that music on the GSP 600 sounded just OK. I listened to tracks from Flogging Molly, The Rolling Stones, Old Crow Medicine Show and GF Handel in order to gauge how well it performs across a variety of genres, but no particular song stood out. Every piece sounded a little distant, as if it were playing halfway across a room rather than right in my ears. And even by gaming-headset standards, the GSP 600 is extremely treble-heavy, almost eclipsing the bass line in some pieces.
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Out of curiosity, I listened to the same pieces with both the GSP 600 and my personal go-to headphones: the Sennheiser HD 25. Depending on your model, these headphones range from $150 to $200, and while there’s no microphone, the sound quality is through the roof. Music and voices sound immediate and nuanced, and while the bass isn’t a heavy focus, it’s at least clearly audible. The GSP 600 doesn’t sound as good as dedicated music headphones from the same brand, which makes the new headset a tough sell for anyone looking for a gaming headset that doubles as a decent pair of audio cans.
The GSP 600 sounds pretty good and works as advertised. But because this headset costs $250, I couldn’t help but say, “That’s it?” Sennheiser’s latest headset is bulky, unattractive, under-featured and expensive, and for the same price, you can get so much more from other headsets. The $250 SteelSeries Arctis Pro, with its Hi-Res audio support, comfortable fit and subtle amp is basically what the GSP 600 should have been, while the Astro A50 offers better sound and wireless support for $50 more.
Overall, the GSP 600 does what it’s supposed to do, but it doesn’t have a single standout feature. I’m still waiting for my favorite audio company to put out a gaming headset that lives up to the manufacturer’s legacy.