While many of Corsair’s gaming products stretch across a wide price range, the company’s gaming headsets have always offered decent audio and features for relatively modest prices. Now Corsair is looking to get into a little pricier territory with a new range of products. The Corsair Virtuoso Wireless SE costs more than double the most expensive Corsair Void headset, boasting a premium build, high-end microphone, and suite of software features.
A lot of expensive gaming headsets load up on features and stumble when it comes to the fundamentals. Does this one avoid those mistakes?
Editor’s note: This article was updated on August 20, 2020 to reflect the SoundGuys staff awarding the headset an Editors Choice award.
Who is the Corsair Virtuoso Wireless SE for?
- Gamers looking to spend big on something that can work everywhere.
- At-home workers who need something that can last all day and sounds good on a Zoom call.
What is the Corsair Virtuoso Wireless SE like?
It’s pretty clear from the get-go that the Corsair Virtuoso Wireless SE is a considerably more expensive product than most gaming headsets. A lot of the best gaming headsets on the market are very affordable, but many of them are still built from cheap plastic and feel a little rickety. This is a gaming headset built like a like a piece of high-end audio hardware. At 372 grams, there’s a decent heft to this headset, but it’s distributed well enough that it never gets uncomfortable. The frame is built almost entirely from aluminium, with a leatherette-covered headband, and hinges that rotate to lay flat in either direction.
The headphones are similarly well constructed. There’s no creaking or otherwise reverberating noise when you make adjustments while wearing it. The ear pads are made of thick, soft memory foam wrapped in leatherette—they’re very comfortable, and establishing a decent seal is easy, though heat buildup is definitely an issue. Gamers with glasses may prefer something with velour earpads instead, as leatherette can cause issues around the arms of a pair of glasses.
However, all that milled aluminum and plush cushioning can’t mask the fact that the Corsair Virtuoso Wireless SE is still a gaming headset; all the typical trappings are still here. A great big boom mic stretches out from the left earcup, and the Corsair logo on each side is filled with colored (and customizable) LED lights. Additionally, there’s a whole host of onboard controls and ports not so subtly lining the bottom edges. If it wasn’t otherwise so well put-together, this would look just as gaudy as anything else on the market.
Actually using the headset is pretty great. This wireless gaming headset can connect to your PC, mobile device, or console of choice using a 3.5mm cord, USB cord, or wirelessly with a 2.4GHz USB RF dongle (included with the headset). It’s pretty standard stuff, but appreciated all the same. Despite all the options, the headset is ultimately a straightforward plug-and-play affair.
Learn more: How to connect your gaming headset
The onboard controls are all laid out pretty well, too. Many headsets fall into the trap of having a bunch of dials and buttons that look and feel basically the same, but the Corsair Virtuoso Wireless SE doesn’t have that problem. There’s one switch, one dial, and one button, so no matter which you touch, you won’t be confused about what’s going to happen. The dial controls headphone volume, the switch toggles between wired and wireless modes, and the button mutes the detachable microphone—it’s actually part of the mic itself, so unplugging it gets rid of the button too.
The microphone is rather unique among gaming headsets. Corsair calls it a “broadcast-grade” microphone (more on that in a bit), and it connects to the headset using mini-USB, rather than the typical 3.5mm jack. This means the mic, and its button, are actually capable of more complex things, when paired with Corsair’s iCue companion app.
In the pantheon of gaming headset software, iCue sits somewhere in the middle of the pack. It’s definitely not the best in terms of layout or options, nor is it so bad that the experience of using the headset is worse for its involvement. Installing the app brings access to a suite of additional features, including virtual 7.1 surround sound, additional EQ presets, and the ability to customize the colored LEDs on the sides of the headset. Additionally, installing the app changes the microphone’s behavior a little bit—the various beeps that indicate when it’s muted or not are replaced with a recorded voice saying the same information, and holding the mute button toggles mic monitoring.
If you’re looking for a gaming headset as a more practical solution for business done primarily over Zoom, it’s very possible none of that stuff matters to you. Don’t worry, you can easily skip downloading the app and have a perfectly good experience. It’ll act as a primer for what it’s like if you ever decide to plug it into a console.
How is the battery?
Corsair claims the Virtuoso Wireless SE can last up to 20 hours on a single charge, and in our testing we found it lasted 23 hours of consistent playback at ~75dB. You achieve even better results if you listen at a lower volume than that, though keeping the LED lights on will affect things too (you can shut them off in iCue). The headset has a built in sleep mode, which you can adjust in iCue, so light users shouldn’t have to recharge it too often.
Gaming with the Corsair Virtuoso Wireless SE
On PC and PlayStation 4, the Corsair Virtuoso Wireless SE proved very capable, over both wired USB and wireless connections. The headset was comfortable for me even over long gameplay sessions. I played through a large portion of Persona 5 Royal on PlayStation 4, and ably balanced the game’s funky heist-themed soundtrack, dozens of hours of voice-over work, and rather eclectic variety of sound effects. On PC, the headset handled the random mix of gunfire and enemy noises in Risk of Rain 2 very well.
As I mentioned above, the Corsair Virtuoso Wireless SE brings support for 7.1 virtual surround sound using its iCue app. The headset also supports Windows Sonic Spatial Audio—something available on both PC and Xbox One, and both options work well. Playing a game like Overwatch, I never had any issue picking up the general direction sounds were coming from. Remember, surround sound isn’t the be-all-end-all of gaming audio features. Stereo sound isn’t actually that much less precise than this—surround sound won’t make you better at Fortnite, it just offers a little more information, nice though it may be.
How does the Corsair Virtuoso Wireless SE sound?
The Corsair Virtuoso Wireless SE offers pretty accurate sound for a gaming headset. There’s nothing here that’s so far out of whack that it would seriously impact the average listening experience, though this is hardly a headset for someone chasing a perfectly accurate audio experience.
There’s notable emphasis in the bass and mid ranges around 200Hz and 1000Hz respectively, at points reaching up to 5dB—generally considered about a 50% increase in volume. There’s also a pretty pronounced de-emphasis in the high end. These aren’t as big a deal, though—plenty of headphones do this to avoid natural resonances in the ear.
Audio output like this is great for electronic music, or music that just favors the low end more generally. In Pac-Man by the Gorillaz and ScHoolboy Q, the drum and distorted bass track that drive the song really come through clearly. However, the various high-pitched whirring sounds that build out the background of the song, as well as the more ethereal echoed string parts, are a little less prominent.
In game, frequency response like this should be perfectly fine for whatever you want to play. Many gaming headsets seriously boost bass output in the name of great immersion, and explosions that make your brain vibrate. There’s a little bit of that here, but not so much that it would mask other quieter sounds. In short, you shouldn’t have any trouble hearing footsteps in Valorant, even if guns are going off.
All things considered, the Corsair Virtuoso Wireless SE offers some of the best isolation you will find in a gaming headset. There’s nothing approaching active noise cancelling here, but the thick leatherette earpads really do a great job blocking out midrange and treble frequencies. If you’re just gaming at home, typical sounds like the whirring of a PC or a fridge shouldn’t cause much distraction. These would even probably do fine in something like a cafe setting—so long as you’re fine with sporting a Lite Brite aesthetic in public, that is.
How is the microphone?
Corsair claims on the back of the box that the Virtuoso Wireless SE sports a “broadcast quality” microphone. I don’t know if I’d go that far, but if any gaming headset could make that claim: it’d be this one. From a frequency response perspective, this microphone is super accurate, with a neutral output across the board. On top of that, it doesn’t suffer from the volume (or rather, power) issues that most gaming headset microphones struggle with. It’s loud, clear, and accurate—frankly, it sounds great.
I still wouldn’t pick it over a detached microphone to record something like a podcast—partly because of all the additional features they pack in, which gaming headsets skip—but if I had to settle for this in a pinch, I wouldn’t be disappointed. Listen for yourself:
Should you buy the Corsair Virtuoso Wireless SE
If you’re looking for something to spend a chunk of change on, the Corsair Virtuoso Wireless SE might be worth buying.
The Corsair Virtuoso Wireless SE is a great gaming headset. It’s really well built, very comfortable, and easy to use on different platforms. The headset offers solid isolation, good sound, and arguably the best microphone on a gaming headset you can buy. However, it’s also very expensive—considerably more expensive than great wired gaming headsets like the Razer BlackShark V2 and Logitech G Pro X, and wireless ones like the SteelSeries Arctis 1 Wireless and Turtle Beach Stealth 600 Gen 2.
Generally, we here at SoundGuys think it’s worth it to spend the money on decent pair of headphones. The Corsair Virtuoso Wireless SE is very much that, but it doesn’t nail everything, which means the things you really want might be better executed elsewhere. Whether it’s worth saving the $70-$100 if you don’t particularly need wireless audio or customizable lights or a microphone that’s quite as accurate depends largely on why you’re looking for a gaming headset in the first place.
However, if you’re one of the many, many people who now find themselves sitting in voice chat or Zoom calls for interminable amounts of time, you probably won’t find something that sounds better than this.