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Sennheiser GSP 550 Surround Sound Gaming Headset Review

By Christopher Coke on November 01, 2018 | Hardware Reviews | Comments

Sennheiser GSP 550 Surround Sound Gaming Headset Review

Sennheiser. If you know the name then you know the respect they command in the audio industry. This year, they’ve refreshed their line of gaming headsets with the brand new GSP series. We’ve looked at the GSP 500 and 600 but today, we’re reviewing the most exciting option yet: the GSP 550. It follows the 500’s open-ear design and includes Dolby 7.1 surround sound, but for $249 is it worth the price of entry?

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Specifications

  • MSRP: $249.99
  • Color: black
  • Wearing Style: Headband
  • Surround Sound: Yes, Dolby 7.1
  • Impedance Headphones: 28 Ohms
  • Connector: USB
  • Frequency response (Headphones) Headphones: 10–30,000 Hz
  • Frequency response (Microphone) Microphone: 10–18,000 Hz
  • Sound pressure level (SPL) Headphones: 107 dB
  • Ear coupling Headphone: Over-ear
  • Cable Length: 1.7 m Dongle cable / 1.2 m USB cable
  • Weight: 358 grams
  • Pick-up pattern Microphone: Bi-directional ECM
  • Microphone sensitivity Microphone: -47 dBV/PA
  • Transducer principle (headphones) Headphone: Dynamic, open

When I reviewed the GSP 600s for our sister site, GameSpace, I unabashedly admitted that they had supplanted my SteelSeries Arctis Pros to become my new favorite gaming headset. Well, it’s been a bit under six months and here I am doing it again with the GSP 550s. After trying both, I can definitively say: they’re both fantastic but the 550s are a solid improvement in the ways that matter most.

If you read our review of the GSP 500s, then you know what to expect here. The 550s, as their name implies, carry the 500’s design language with them. It’s a larger headset, blending the sleek blacks of its plastic and padding with the eye-catching aluminum of its hinge system. The colorway is changed this time, swapping out the black and red for a forest, military green. I’ll admit, I missed the red when I first got them, worried that it wouldn’t fit with my setup, but they’ve grown on me and I’ve really come to like them. 

They’re also an open-ear headset, which means the earcups are open in the back, allowing sound to freely travel in and out. This may be an issue if you don’t want people to hear what you’re listening to but also means that you can hear everything in your environment. As a parent, I need this. The GSP 600s were excellent at sound isolation, but when you need to hear your kids when they call it’s not ideal. As a gamer, however, I adore the open ear design. Environments feel wider and more airy. This is a truth on any headset but it’s even better on the 550s.

That’s because this is the first in the GSP line to include Dolby 7.1 surround sound. The implementation here is already good, and you can fine-tune the sound profiles to your liking in the PC software, but by opting for an open-ear design, the GSP-550s already feel wider than your average gaming headset. I can see why Sennheiser released surround sound on the open-back design instead of the closed-back (GSP-600) first: open-ears support with hardware what the Dolby is trying to do with software and the results are great.

The shift to a USB connection brings with it the other benefits of a built-in sound card. Using Sennheiser’s small software package, you can adjust you can choose from several different EQs and customize, adjust your level of sidetone, and enable or disable surround sound. The latter can also be done using the in-line remote (though this won’t do anything without the software, so plan on downloading it anywhere you want surround sound). To be frank, though, I didn’t find myself adjusting much.

Right out of the box, the Sennheiser GSP-550s are very well tuned. Open-ear headsets often lack low end as sound escapes out the back but that’s anything but the case here. These headphones have a very wide sound with deep lows and sparkling highs that was honestly surprising on my first listen. For gaming, they’re just fantastic. Even without surround sound, your sense of virtual space is wide open. Great channel separation makes the location of those distant shots or spawn-in sound effects easy to pinpoint. Turning on surround sound widens it further without the need to add extra reverb to “fake” that sense of space.

Being open-back also allows these headphones to be both lighter and more comfortable than the GSP-600s. While I adored that headset, at nearly 400g it had a tendency to make the top of my head sore after a few hours. The GSP-550s are nearly 40g lighter, which seems to make all the difference. Since they have vents in the back, they also don’t trap heat around your ears. Out of the box, I did find them a little bit “grippy” but two sliders on the headband allow you to adjust grip to a comfortable level. The cushioning they use is also very plush and breathable.

When it comes to construction and build quality, the GSP-550s fall in with the rest of the line offering great durability and an attention to detail other companies could learn from. The hinges are metal and attach at two points, allowing the ear cups to tilt to fit your head. The headband, though plastic, is easy to flex without any sign of creaking. The ear cups themselves feel solid and the built in volume knob on the right earcup is solid with just the right amount of resistance.

The microphone has also gotten a slight upgrade. Vocal captures sounds slightly more natural and full than on the earlier GSP models. Have a listen:

Final Thoughts

Coming from the GSP-600, I was surprised to find how much more I liked this lighter, open-backed version in the GSP-550. They’re breathable and comfortable over long periods and, as someone who spends a lot of time wearing these headphones, I need that. For gaming and music, that widened soundstage is just great and really works to reinforce the Dolby 7.1 that comes with the dongle. Combine that with a great mic and you have a recipe for a headset that’s ready for anything you might throw at it: gaming, music, movies, streaming, podcasting… you name it.

At $249, it’s not cheap. What you’re really getting here is an audiophile-grade headset custom tuned for gaming. If that appeals to you, you’ll find one of the best gaming headsets on the market today, a truth we’ve found in the entire GSP line so far. If you want the best of the best, the GSP-550 is definitely a headset to keep on your radar.

Pros

  • Expansive 10-30,000Hz frequency response (audiophile grade)
  • Fantastic out of the box tuning for games and movies
  • Wide natural soundstage
  • Superb build quality
  • Improved microphone
  • Dolby 7.1 Surround Sound with official software for EQs and sidetone control

Cons

  • Costly - this is a premium headset at a premium price
  • Open-back headphones allow much more sound leakage

The product discussed in this review was provided by the manufacturer.

Christopher Coke / Chris has been a fan of MMOs since the mid-1990s when he cut his teeth on MUDs. These days he scours the internet for the latest and greatest multiplayer gaming experiences.