EPOS | Sennheiser GSP 301 Gaming Headset Review
NOTE: I bought the headset featured here with my own money. I don’t receive a kickback if you decide to buy one, and none of the links in this article are affiliate links. I wasn’t sponsored to write this, and I had full editorial control over this article.
I first reviewed the Sennheiser GSP 300 way back in 2017, which you can read right here. After four years, dozens more headset reviews, and a corporate change of hands, does this new version hold up?
That’s right, Sennheiser no longer owns their gaming products. In 2018 they handed the whole lineup over to Demant, who was secretly designing them the entire time. Demant launched a new brand name called EPOS, and they also have the rights to use the Sennheiser name. I suspect that some day they’ll convert over to fully using their own branding, but for now awkward multi-company names dominate their product line.
The EPOS | Sennheiser GSP 301 is a closed-back, wired gaming headset with a permanently-attached microphone and cable that sells for a standard price of $99 (official site here). As if the name weren’t already confusing enough, the 300 series uses a different model number for each available color. So, the standard black and blue model is the 300, this white version is the 301, and there’s also an all-black model named the 302. All three are the same core headset, and all three receive regular discounts from various online retail partners. I got mine for about $74 from Amazon.
Surprisingly little was changed in this new edition of the headset, and that’s a disappointment. The original model launched in 2016 and it is long-overdue for a true refresh. The aesthetics have received a slight update to include the new EPOS branding, and the available color options have been tweaked. But numerous design aspects that were already on their way out the door back when I first reviewed this model now mark it as an ancient tech relic.
The permanently-attached cable ends in not one 3.5mm plug, but two separate plugs for microphone and audio connections. The only other model I can think of that has used this connection style is the original-and-also-ancient HyperX Cloud, future revisions of which quickly abandoned two plugs in favor of the much more common 4-pole single jack design.
The two plug design of the GSP 301 makes it easy to use with EPOS’s GSX 300 amp (read my review of that over here) or your desktop PC motherboard, and harder to use with most laptops, game consoles, and phones. If you need a single jack solution for some exciting Xbox/PlayStation/Switch listening, you have to plug in the included adapter and add more bulk to the overlong cable. The 2 meter cable length here is another relic of a bygone era, with most competitors now using a 1.2m length and offering a long splitter cord for those that need additional reach.
EPOS also didn’t make the microphone or cable removable, instead sticking with the original permanent attachment. While that can lead to better audio performance, it also makes the GSP 301 sub-optimal for portable use. Further, the cable material is strangely coarse and tacky, and started to collect every random bit of dust and hair in the air of my home office the second I took it out of the box. I’ve been using it for a week now and the cable also still hasn’t totally straightened out. It happily rolls itself up into knots when I put it away on the shelf.
Fortunately, the sonic performance is remarkable, even more so considering the low price point. It comes very near to the price/performance ratio of the legendary AKG K361 studio headphones. Bass is precise and punchy without being over-emphasized. The highs are clean and easy to pick out spatial details in, with a wider-than-average soundstage for a closed-back headset. And the midrange is essentially perfect, with the same sort of beautiful and natural sound that Sennheiser has long been famous for.
The microphone keeps up this level of effort, with a clean and crisp sound that’s better than most other gaming headsets at this price point. Here’s a four minute test I recorded. The mic could be even better if it had more adjustability, but unfortunately the boom arm is very rigid which means it may not sit the perfect distance from your personal mouth. You can rotate it up and down but side to side adjustments are essentially impossible. Rotating it up activates a mute function with an audible click. The volume wheel on the right ear cup is still remarkably smooth and wonderful to adjust, and unlike my 2017 model I didn’t detect any channel imbalances across its range whatsoever.
Build and comfort are also exemplary for this price point, if you can get past the huge, cumbersome, and outdated design of the frame. The ear-shaped pads are filled with the right amount of slow-rebound memory foam, and have more than enough room inside in front of the angled drivers for all but the largest of ears. The split headband is dramatic and large, but offers plenty of cushion. The low attachment point between the ear cup support arms and the headband means that the clamping pressure of the cups sits perfectly even against my head, avoiding all the comfort and fit issues I had recently with the Fnatic React.
Adjustment range is best for small-to-medium heads, as on my larger head I have to extend these within two clicks of their maximum size, but even then I have zero complaints about the comfort. They do get a little warm after about thirty minutes, but their nice pressure and seal helps increase both the isolation and bass response. They don’t block the environment as well as active noise cancellation would, but their passive isolation is among the best you can get in a gaming model.
The excellent performance, comfort, and build are enough that I still enjoy the headset in spite of the many antiquated design decisions. The GSX 300 amplifier from EPOS that I reviewed recently sat in a similarly awkward spot between beautiful audio and clumsy design…except the headset bothers me less. Yes, the design is huge and the cable and mic are permanently attached, and the cable is weirdly sticky. But the sound is phenomenal. If you’re a picky listener and you’re looking for an alternative to the slightly more hyped-up sound of classic picks like the Cloud Alpha, this is still an excellent choice.
Back in 2017, I wrote a head-to-head between that then-new HyperX pair and this headset, and ended up favoring the Alpha for its smoother design, easier usage experience, and slightly warmer sound profile. All of those things are still arguably true now, but if you pressed me I’d probably prefer the sound of the GSP 301. It’s a little wider and more crisp-sounding than the Alphas, and its bass is surprising and engaging rather than a constant warm presence.
Unfortunately, EPOS fixed none of the many design issues with the GSP 301 when re-releasing this new version. An update that kept the same core driver and ear cup design, but which improved the cable quality and made both the cable and mic detachable would be an unstoppable force. At the very least I’d settle for a more flexible boom that didn’t stick straight out from my head when muted.
I was surprised to see a two plug headset in 2017 and now it’s even more bizarre. The more-expensive GSP 500 and 600 reduced these issues with a detachable cable and a more flexible mic and headband, so it’s disappointing that this headset rolled out again without anything other than minor aesthetic tweaks.
If you think you can put up with many decisions straight out of 2016 that were already showing their age back then, you’ll be rewarded with legitimately awesome sound and mic performance for the price. But the many small design issues are too much to make this headset truly stand out in a pack that’s only grown more crowded with amazing options in the last five years. The Roccat ELO 7.1 AIR, HyperX Cloud Alpha, SteelSeries Arctis Family, Astro A10, Logitech G Pro X, and many others all offer more refined designs and modern features, even if they don’t have quite the same magical Sennheiser mids.
The inevitable EPOS GSP 400 will probably be amazing and re-establish the company as a true player in the cheaper headset market. This aesthetic refresh would have been a better hold over with a different cable, but I’m still going to hang on to mine for its wonderful audio performance.