Headsets can vary widely in price these days claiming all sorts of different features and specifications that attempt to set them apart from competitors. I was surprised when Plugable claimed no surround sound gimmicks for this headset and only true 2.0 stereo, but for those who do like their gimmicks never fear there are workarounds in Windows 10 for virtual surround sound that you can find on Plugable's HS53 website. Does this headset hold up enough though to become my new headset of choice? This is our review of the Plugable Performance HS53 Onyx Gaming Headset.
- MSRP: $44.95 USD
- Connection Type: 3.5mm TRRS Combo Plug or dual 2.5mm TSR
- Dimensions: 185mm x 102mm x 207mm
- Weight: 408g
- Headset (Attached): 80cm
- In-line Remote: 30cm
- TRRS-to-TRS Y-Cable 250cm
- Total: 250cm
- 53mm large surface area dynamic @ 32-ohm (+/-15%)
- 20Hz-20KHz frequency response range
- 15mW (min) to 100 mW (max) power handling
- 101 +/- 3dB at 1KHz sensitivity
- Dynamic with Unidirectional Polarization
- -56 +/- 3dB
- 3V (standard) to 10V (max) at 0.3 +/- 0.1mA
Packaging and Setup
The box has a nice aesthetic to it and half of it is clear plastic, as a customer you can see exactly you’re getting. It was easy to unpack and only had a few items inside: The Plugable Performance HS53 Headset, a quick start guide, a 1x 30cm-long 3.5mm TRRS extension, and a 1x 240cm-long 3.5 TRRS to TRS Y-Cable (for PC input). I was initially concerned about the cord length being rather short but with the extension, it was more than enough to run in behind my desk, across to the right side and down to the back of my PC. Set up was easy and although the in-line controller for volume and mic mute was a bit larger than I am used to it is very lightweight. After booting up my PC and swapping to the new headset and mic everything worked without any issues.
Build Quality and Sound
For testing, I will be comparing the HS53 to a Turtle Beach XO Three and a Logitech G633 Artemis Spectrum. For overall build quality, the Onyx felt more study that the other two headsets. Cushioning along the band was enough to be comfortable for long periods of use. The metal extenders for each of the over-ear cans added to the feeling of sturdiness, they also add to the overall weight of the headset. In comparison, my G633 was a touch lighter but not so much so that it made a difference during use. I was surprised at the knocking the over-ear cans made when moving the HS53 headset around freely, again during use this was not an issue. The over-ear cans themselves feel solidly built and have quite a bit of cushioning with synthetic leather material. No ability to twist the cans out or fold them though so portability could be an issue for some users. You won’t find any RBG lighting, the headset is completely black with a few etched logos barely visible on each earpiece. The extendible mic is sturdy enough that I don’t worry that it will simply come apart on me like certain other headsets I have previously used. The only two downsides I noticed with the build quality was the lack of padding inside the over-ear cans, if you like having something a bit more than a very thin piece of material between your ears and the speaker wall you are out of luck, and the inline control box felt a bit flimsy, but this did make it very light so as not to weight down the line. The HS53 also has a braided cable, which some folks do like while other notice sound reverberating up the line if you rub the cable against other objects like your desk, I like having it and find that a braided cable adds to the feeling of a good quality build.
So how does it sound, first I found the sound a bit tinny, I quickly came to realize that it was because I have been using the G633 for so long. After a few hours of use, I started to enjoy the cleaner sound in games and for video playback in comparison to the other two headsets. Though I did notice that for those users with a more sensitive ear to sharp sounds this headset could cause a bit of discomfort over time. It did deliver a good quality stereo sound overall, but not great quality. I tested the headset for 3 days under different conditions and found myself missing the better-quality sound after having swapped back to the G633. The mic though is what surprised me the most during testing. My voice was clear and was vastly superior in quality when compared to the G633 and XO Three. The mic playback had a good quality to it with a deeper almost smooth sound, while not as good of quality, it reminded me of using the HyperX QuadCast, very nice. When testing the mic while typing it picked up a lot less than the other two headset and hardly any mouse clicks while gaming. Sound canceling is amazing by the way, the best headset I have used in this regard, mostly due to the padding and material used for the over-ear cans. Typically, while using my G633 headset I can hear when my wife or others are talking nearby but cannot make out all the words. With the HS53 if someone is talking nearby it is barely a muffle or I notice nothing at all.
A Few Hang-ups
Unfortunately, there are a few issues that may keep others from permanently swapping over to the HS53 and one specifically that will keep me from doing so. First the clamping pressure, the headset stays in place better than the other two headsets I compared it too. While I did not have much of an issue with the clamping pressure, I have a larger head, my wife could not use the HS53 for an extended period due to the pressure below her ears. Second, for this kind of extendible mic design, I had a bit of trouble pushing it back into the headset after use. Finally, and most importantly, the shape of the over-ear cans. For some reason, Plugable has decided to go with a circular shape. Both my wife and I tried them and even for her smaller ears, they rubbed against the tops. For my ears, part of padding clipped the top or bottom. While there is enough padding for this issue not to be super uncomfortable it still gets a bit annoying after an hour or two of use. The synthetic leather used also tends to build up a bit of moisture over time, but not enough to make it overly uncomfortable. If it wasn’t for the circular shape cans I would be using this headset daily over my G633. On an extra personal note, I also like having the volume and mute controls right on the headset itself rather than an inline controller.
For the price point of $44.95 USD, this is an amazingly good buy and if you’re in the market for a new headset but don’t want to drop a lot of cash I recommend checking out the Performance HS53 Onyx Gaming Headset. But keep in mind that the over-ear cans have a circular shape, if possible, make sure to test them for fit before buying and double-check if the clamping pressure bothers you for long periods of use. They have a clean/clear sound and a great mic for this price point.
- Great Mic
- Good Clean/Clear Sound
- Good Build Quality
- Circular Shaped Over-Ear Cans
- Clamping Pressure for Some
- Lack of Speaker Wall Padding
The product discussed in this article was provided by the manufacturer for the purposes of review.