In all the excitement around next-gen graphics and unobtainable GPUs for PCs it’s easy to think that visuals are the be all and end all of gaming progress. Ina rush towards increased fidelity and the ability to throw frankly absurd numbers of polygons at the screen so much hype and attention focuses on how a game looks. While this is undoubtedly exciting, the actual experience of playing many games is about so much more than graphics. Often equally as important but frequently overlooked is the effect of audio design in creating an immersive and enjoyable game, and there have been some huge steps forward in this field too.
Usually, gaming audio discussion revolves around the best headset to purchase, with options available to suit all budgets (and then there’s the new Apple cans too…). The difference between a cheap and cheerful headset and an expensive deluxe model can be huge, though, with massive disparities in comfort, sound quality, and customisation options. At £69, the EPOS GSX 300 is a cheaper option than many headphones and has the added bonus of improving playback through a speaker setup as well.
For a long time, Sennheiser have been a major player in this field and now, despite a name change as the gaming arm of the company transitions to becoming EPOS (an annoying name to Google as you’ll find lots of results about retail software instead) they look set to continue this tradition. Rather than a headset, though, the GSX 300 is an external audio converter that promises to make massive improvements to your PC gaming experience no matter what headset you use.
First impressions of the physical unit are great. It’s surprisingly small and unobtrusive, a huge bonus given the cluttered desks of so many of us working from home. It sits nicely on my monitor base and the sleek black design fits in with the rest of my setup – although it is also available in white if that is more your colour scheme. It feels sturdy and the build quality is good, not that it has to stand up to much as it just sits there and does its thing.
The unit connects simply through USB (through which it is powered) and has two 3.5mm connections on the rear for separate microphone and audio out. This means you can connect any headset or standard speakers to the GSX 300 and they will benefit from the extra audio processing. I alternate between a pair of basic 10W desktop speakers and a headset (and often daisy-chain these for convenience) and found both options work really well. Obviously, these connections mean that the unit is not compatible with USB headsets and you may need to dig out the necessary adaptor for single 3.5mm units too.
Aside from the connections on the rear of the unit, there are two physical switches on the front, one of which can be pressed to switch between 2.0 and digital 7.1. The other is the volume dial which illuminates blue for 2.0 and red for 7.1. This is a stripped-back physical interface that adds to the sleek and stylish feel but does mean that any other customisation must be done through the EPOS software. In the interests of full disclosure our initial review unit was faulty and we originally thought that this was a software issue but once correctly diagnosed EPOS swiftly sent a replacement that we had no problems with.
The accompanying EPOS Gaming Suite is an easy to use and accessible piece of software. Through it you can update the unit’s firmware and find useful troubleshooting links should you need them. For more day to day use though you can also easily adapt and customise your listening and recording experience here. Simple to understand visual EQ waveforms can be adjusted to change the audio mix – with a nice assortment of presets for general use (music, film etc). There is an Esports preset but no dedicated gaming one which seems an odd oversight. You can save your own setup though so you can always fiddle if you feel the need.
The microphone options are more substantial with the software’s voice enhancer having sliders for Gain, Side Tone, Noise Gate, and Noise Cancellation, as well as two presets – warm and clear. The former of these produces a fantastic rounded result and has been my go-to setting for the seemingly endless video meetings and teaching sessions this semester. It is easy to switch to a different microphone too and still have the audio coming from the GSX 300 so you can adapt to whatever setup you need – I often found using my webcam microphone more comfortable for long teaching sessions and it just requires a click in the video call application to switch.