Listening tests are difficult to do in a completely scientific manner, though I do try my best. Listening tests are essentially subjective, and as such, this is my opinion on how these headphones perform with various sources. I compared the HS1 and Xtatic SP to a pair of well broken-in AKG K701 reference headphones using a gauntlet of MP3, FLAC, and PCM audio formats, in a variety of qualities. Foobar2000 was used for playback as it allows easy switching of output.
The quality of the Sharkoon headphones became instantly clear: The Xtatic SP are bass cannons. No getting around it, either, the sound seems to come from a kick-drum and it stays there. Bass-heads rejoice!
The HS1 are a lot more refined by comparison, an up-front presentation, good bass, good midrange, and a good bit of treble range too, especially when compared against the Xtatic SP. They normally sound a bit bright, so I applied some EQ to bring them close to the AKG K701.
Cake War Pigs, 955kbps FLAC
The HS1 are slightly bass shy with very clean midrange, great detail, quite neutral through the ranges, slight mid treble boost compared to the AKG701. Less slam than AKG, less impact, they seem a little compressed in the dynamics department. Quite good treble region, with excellent detail, however, it is bright enough to make the AKG seem dark sounding (!).
The Corsairs just might scare Sennheiser users. If its slam you want, then the Xtatic SP will have you covered. The bass is just overwhelming, some slight distortion in all the ranges, very in the band perspective, good midrange, but very shy on treble region. Some coloring of sibilance, ssss sound will have szsz instead.
Rush The Trees, 236kbps MP3/VBR V0
Soundstage is the first to pop out as unusual compared to the AKG, the Corsair HS1 sound slightly small, up close, and no, thats not a DSP effect. Dicking around with the graphic EQ, I can come close to the somewhat heavier sound of the AKG, but not developing the deep, engrossing sound stage Im used to. The Xtatic SP take another third place here, even though the bass is enormous, the upper ranges sound like theres a lot of cotton stuck in my ears.
Igor Stravinsky LHistore du Soldat 16-bit/44.1 KHz PCM, excerpt.
Stravinsky is probably my favorite composer, and The Soldiers Tale is such an interesting piece. Using just a handful of instruments and a couple of performers (I was lucky enough to see Patrick Stewart perform it many years ago) this piece is about the devil and a fiddle. Well, theres a book and a princess too, but we wont go into that. Anyway, the HS1 are bright sounding, and even with the EQ, its just slightly shy with the percussion. The Xtatic SP are bass-heavy destructo-cannons, so comparing them back-to-back to everything feels bass-shy. But the SP did an adequate job.
Bob Marley Jammin 24-bit/96 KHz PCM.
Just for giggles, I played back a few high-bit rate recordings to see how the headsets handle them. The bright HS1 on Jammin, recorded off a vinyl original, makes this live recording fairly tinny, but everything else is there. Good bass, good detail, but otherwise up-close. The HS1 have a Grado soundstageyou feel like youre in the band. It was even more pronounced on another test track, though not even close to high-fidelity, White Stripes Black Math. Distortion never sounded so, uh, distorted. Playing through the Xtatic SP, Bob gets a very traditional sponge sound, but then, I wish there was a way to balance the bass out a bit. Bass heads should love these, but for me, its just too damn much.
The Xtatic SP has good punchy sound with a huge bass and good midrange detail. It suffers quite a bit in the upper ranges (about 3 KHz) where sibilance becomes just a mush of szszsz sound. This is often a side-effect of closed back headphones where the resonances of the earcups can color the sound. Beyond the upper vocal ranges and into cymbal range (around 7 KHz) the level basically drops off a cliff. Its a struggle to hear any kind of cymbal, unless its a heavy crash cymbal or something.
So there you have it, the Corsair HS1 is definitely one of the better sounding headphones, and definitely the best pair of headsets Ive heard so far. Their sonic character is bright but not harsh, good midrange detail and good bass with a little EQ. They do lack the expansive stereo image of the AKG K701, but then again, very few headphones do.
The Sharkoon Xtatic SPs on the other hand are bass grenades that will make a bass freak toss their cookies. Its big and it hits hard! Its too overwhelming for my tastes, but for anybody with a craving for a heavy bottom end, these will surely satisfy. You can play music through the USB, where they switch to mono, but you get a much better balanced sound (much closer to the HS1 in fact).