Excellent design; folds up when not in use; strong sound quality.
Irksome ear cups; microphone can be insensitive; bass is a little weak.
Harman’s audio products, which comprise brands like JBL, AKG, and Harman/Kardon are known as much for their high-tech aesthetic as for their audio quality and have never included a gaming headset—until now. We were excited to get the GHS 1 into the Lab to find out whether the design-conscious company’s first foray into the gaming peripheral landscape was a success.
Like we said, Harman’s products are always visually creative, and the GHS 1 is no exception. It’s not as out there as, say, the Harman/Kardon crystalline desk speakers, but it’s slick and distinctive all the same. There are three color schemes available, but the model we received sports a matte black finish with silver accents and a grey fabric band with orange stitching. The built-in mic is on a sharp-looking, stubby boom, and it folds up for easy transport. The long, bright-orange cable has inline volume/microphone controls and ends in two rubberized connectors that plug in to your analog ports. Good design is always going to be subjective, but as far as we’re concerned, this is among the nicest-looking gaming headsets we’ve ever seen.
The AKG GHS 1’s short microphone looks great, but isn’t quite as sensitive as a full-length boom.
In terms of comfort, the GHS 1 is a mixed bag. The two-layer fabric and plastic headphone is very comfortable, which, combined with the overall light weight of the set, means your head isn’t going to get sore even after long sessions with these. We’re less enamored with the earcups, which are of the supra-aural variety, sitting directly on top of the ear. The cups are quite padded, but the padding itself isn’t squishy enough to keep the phones from becoming slightly uncomfortable during extended usage. Some people like supra-aural headsets better than others, but if you’re not a fan, the GHS 1 isn’t going to change your mind.
So is the GHS 1 all style and no substance? Not at all. The sound produced by the set isn’t going to blow your mind, but it easily matches the best offered by its competition in the sub-$100 market, with rich, clear mids and highs. The bass isn’t quite as strong as we’d like it to be, but on the whole the set delivers a balanced, detailed sound that’s equally good for gaming, music, and movies.
The first time we saw the microphone on the GHS 1, two thoughts occurred to us in quick succession. First was, “Hey, that’s a hell of a lot cooler-looking than a normal boom mic!” The second was, “But does that even work?” Well, it works, but it’s not magic. It’s further away from your mouth, and accordingly, picks up a little less sound. It wasn’t a major deal, but there were a few instances where we found ourselves having to speak up to be heard.
So on the whole, Harman’s first attempt at gaming audio is a success. The set’s design is absolutely top-notch, and if you want better sound quality, you’d better be prepared to spend more than the GHS 1’s $80 price tag. The only thing working against this set is the small, supra-aural earcups, which don’t provide much noise cancellation and can get uncomfortable. If you’ve used a supra-aural headset before and liked it, this one’s a great deal for the money.