Mad Lust Envy's Headphone Gaming Guide: (10/25/2018: Creative Aurvana Trio added)

Discussion in 'Video Games Discussion' started by mad lust envy, Jan 17, 2011.
  1. Mad Lust Envy Contributor
    Well guys, here's the GSX 1000 review. Let me know what you think. Any spelling/grammar mistakes are likely, so please give me a heads up. I'm blind to these things, and I write it all on the basic windows notepad.

    Sennheiser GSX 1000

    Under $230 (as of June 2018)
    Where to buy: Amazon

    Audiophile PC Gaming Made Easy

    Note: This review was done with various headphones/headsets, no speakers. Unfortunately, I don't have external speakers to test those capabilities out. I apologize.

    Sennheiser's GSX 1000 Audio Amplifier for PC and Mac. Entering a quite crowded market of PC-centric audio devices is never an easy feat for any company. Whether gaming oriented, audiophile oriented, or anything in between, these (essentially) external soundcard replacements need something incredible to stick out. The GSX 1000 sticks out to me in a few meaningful ways. Depending on who you ask, some may be good or bad.


    Th GSX 1000 looks like what can only be described as simplistic looking black square (though it's not as simple as it appears). It isn't much larger than a drink coaster, and is quite lightweight without it feeling flimsy. The GSX 1000 is relatively small for a dac/amp, but it feels substantial enough to not warrant alarm on its general ruggedness. It's a handsome little device dressed in matte black plastic, save for a glossy black concave ring that serves as the perimeter of the central volume dial. The tiny gap between the dial and the black housing serves as the space illuminated by red, letting you know the device is on. Before going in depth about the main face area of the GSX 1000, I'll talk about the simple stuff.

    On the front side of the GSX 1000 is just a plain white Sennheiser logo. The left side has nothing. The right side has a small microphone volume wheel which adjusts your outgoing mic level. The backside of the GSX 1000 has your inputs and outputs. You simply have the micro usb input for powering your GSX 1000 as well as it being your lone source input. Next to it are the speaker out, microphone input, and headphone input. That's it for your I/O. The bottom of the GSX 1000 has a long horizontal strip or rubber as your sole 'foot' towards the front. Towards the back is a 'bay' with a Sennheiser Logo that when opened reveals some of the product information, as well as the bay itself doubling as a kickstand, which elevates the GSX 1000 enough to make adjusting your volume/settings easier and making them more legible as opposed to just leaving the device flat.

    Going back to the main face, surrounding the volume knob, each corner of the GSX 1000's front face holds a small, horizontal, slim button that illuminates red when the device is being adjusted physically. These 4 buttons are where you save your GSX 1000 settings. By hovering/pressing your finger against one for a few seconds, it will lock in your settings for that button. For example having the upper left button/preset with 7.1 surround, loud mic monitoring, speaker input, and then having the bottom right button/preset with 2.0 basic stereo, no mic monitoring, and the music EQ preset. You essentially have 4 manually saved presets. I personally use two: one for gaming, one for everything else. I could see myself adding one more preset specific to multiplayer gaming with mic monitoring.

    When holding down to lock in your chosen preset, there will be a 'thump' noise on your headphone/speakers letting you know it's saved, as well as the volume level on the center screen will flicker white a few times. When selecting one of these 4 buttons/presets, the chosen one will be lit in white, while the others remain red.

    Moving on to the volume dial, the dial itself is matte silver, though the center is a shiny black that unfortunately can and will pick up any and all micro scratches and abrasions. This area is where the main digital interface of the GSX 1000 is. When off, it looks like nothing is there, but while the GSX 1000 is on, the volume level is displayed at the center. With barely a finger's touch, the other touch sensitive options are revealed and illuminate on the face of the volume knob around the volume level.

    Upper left: Horn icon. Switch between sound systems. When pressed, it switches between Headset icon, and speaker icon. Pretty self explanatory, you choose between piping your audio to the headphone out, or the speaker out.

    Upper right: EQ bars. Equalizer Settings: This changes between various equalizer presets. OFF, Music, Story, Esports. I will explain these in depth in the 'Sound' section.

    Bottom Left: Headset icon with curving arrow. Sidetone level. It adjusts the volume level of your headset's microphone volume monitoring. The more (+) symbols, the louder you can hear your own voice through the headset/speakers. This does not affect how others hear you.

    Bottom Right: ((O)) on screen. Sound Mode. This changes between 2.0 or 7.1 surround. 2.0 is Basic Stereo, no surround processing. 7.1 uses Sennheiser's GSX surround processing. Setting this to 7.1 will reveal two extra icons on the display as noted next.

    Center Left: Squiggly Lines icon. Reverb (Environment). This adjusts the 7.1. surround sound level. No symbols is 'Neutral'/small room size, least amount of reverb. One (+) is 'Confined Space'/medium room size and some reverb, Three (+) symbols means 'Open World'/large room size with the most reverb. I will go a bit more in depth in the 'Sound' section.

    Center Right: Person icon. Surround Amplification. With no arrows, surround sound is default with no emphasis on either front or rear audio cues. Arrow pointing up means rear audio cues are emphasized. Arrow pointing down means front audio cues are emphasized.

    That's about it for the GSX 1000. It at first appears very barren of I/O, options, and general versatility, but after messing about with its settings, I feel the GSX 1000 makes for a perfect little device for the heavy PC user.


    Simplicity is the name of the game here. The GSX 1000 simply comes with a small, red micro usb cable. That. Is. It. That is all you will need, really. Desktop speakers should already bring their own audio cable, and headset/microphones are also self-reliant on cabling.

    Ease of Use:

    The GSX 1000 is a great example of plug and play. You simply hook up a USB cable, go to your computer's sound device settings, find the GSX 1000 Main Audio, go to the sound control panel, configure speakers to 7.1, then go to Properties, then Advanced and set the Default Format to 16bit/48khz unless you're fine with 16/44. You can set to 24bit/96khz when configuring speakers to just 2 channel in Windows, but then you lose the proper GSX 7.1 surround emulation. I recommend only doing this if you absolutely know you will never use the GSX surround features on the GSX 1000, which at that point I'd question why you are using the GSX 1000 in the first place, when a regular dac/amp would've suited those needs better. Anyways, that's all you have to do on the PC side. Everything else will be adjusted on the device itself. So absolutely no software to download, no drivers to configure, it's all on the device.

    My only gripes are that the device is super touch sensitive and you may accidentally toggle a setting you didn't mean to simply when doing something as simple as adjusting the volume. The 4 preset buttons also tend to be super easy to press even when you don't want to, so you may end up accidentally switching presets or overwriting one by accident. I only wish Sennheiser made the touch sensitivity a little less sensitive to perhaps stop this from happening as much. Barely hovering a finger over something may trigger it.

    You can even choose between using a keyboard volume controls, windows volume control, or the GSX 1000's volume dial. They all behave the same way. Whatever is easiest. For me, since I use my PC on a TV, the GSX is out of my reach, so I prefer adjusting my volume with my wireless keyboard. When adjusting, the GSX display's volume setting will display my volume level changes.

    Asides from from the touch sensitive quirks, the GSX 1000 is very intuitive and simple to use, once you know what all the settings do.

    I do wish the device auto switched to 24 bit/96khz whenever you switch to 2.0 stereo.


    The GSX 1000 doesn't have much in the way of inputs, and can only function for PC/MAC use. Thankfully there is a lot to love here despite it's lack of connectivity and versatility. Sound is one of them. I won't go much into its sound characteristics as I feel any decent solid state amp/dac should be fairly linear and neutral in tone, which the GSX 1000 is. I can't ask much more than that other than for it to be free of background noise and hiss, which it also is. What's left to look into are what the GSX 1000 brings to the table outside of these simple necessities in sound.

    I'll begin with specific settings and how they affect the sound...

    EQ presets:

    The GSX 1000 comes with 4 EQ presets: OFF (No icon), Music (Note icon), Story (film clapperboard icon), Esports (Crosshair icon). Pinpointing the changes by ear isn't the easiest task because compared to the OFF setting, the rest seem to have a baseline volume boost, even in ranges of frequencies not being boosted by EQ. They're just 'louder', and thus it's harder to pinpoint the differences between OFF and the other presets aside from the obvious big bumps in changes.

    No icon = untouched/neutral/flat tonal balance.

    Music = Moderate boost from the lowest bass up to around 200hz where it starts leveling off. 4khz and above seem to be raised noticeably compared to off, so I'd label the Music setting as obviously being bass and wide range treble boosted. Likely ideal for n frequency shaped headphones that lack bass and upper range detail.

    Story = Like the Music preset, bass levels are boosted up to around 200hz where it levels off. Unlike the Music Preset, upper detail changes don't really start happening again until 8khz, where there is definite emphasis past this point. I'd say the Story preset is bass and treble oriented, with a more target treble emphasis up top, as opposed to the the broad range emphasis in the Music preset. I'd say that of the two, I'd consider the Story preset a more subtle bass and treble preset likely beneficial for linear headphones with treble roll off.

    Esports = This preset more or less is like an Audio-Technica AD-700 in preset form. It de-emphasizes the bass ranges by a considerable amount until it starts leveling off and meeting the OFF preset at about 800hz. Past that, it does the reverse, and starts emphasizing and boosting frequencies past 900hz more and more all the way to the end of audible treble. This preset is heavily detail oriented, and would obviously benefit detail deficient headphones like many overly bassy headphones, or budget headphones not worth giving a stink about. Use this one for your 'not so good' pair of headphones.

    Personally I'm of the mindset of don't fix what ain't broken, and thus I don't ever EQ my headphones unless they have a particularly noteworthy flaw. Even then, I consider most flaws part of the particular headphone's experience and so I tend to leave them as is. At the most, I may boost the bass on something that is inherently lacking, but that's as far as I go.

    Surround Amplification:

    As mentioned before, this can boost the volume levels of either front or rear audio cues in 7.1 surround mode. Personally, I prefer leaving this with no arrows so all manner of audio cues are at an balanced volume level regardless of direction. If you feel you need to focus on front or back sounds, this may be helpful to you otherwise. The volume difference when using these settings are pretty significant.

    Reverb (Environment)/GSX Surround:

    This is the'room' size for GSX surround.

    Neutral/No '+' symbols: This has the least amount of reverb, and personally feels like surround sound cues are pretty close to the head. The most anal of audiophile purists who hate any kind of sound processing may want to start here, as this is the closest thing to a "headphone experience with surround cues" as it gets without sounding more like speakers in a room type processing.

    Confined Space/One '+' symbol: I consider this the standard 'room' size. It has some reverb which aid in a broader sense of space, at the expense of making headphones sound less like headphones and more like listening to a room surrounded on all sides with speakers. The soundstage is noticeably expanded, and you can really get a sense of sounds coming from all around you, as opposed to just outside your headphone space. This is my preferred setting when gaming. Yes, the reverb may not be for everyone, but I consider it a worthy sacrifice for the amazing surround emulation that GSX Surround provides with this setting. The positional cues on this setting are nothing short of stellar. You get a real sense of things being around you, and even rear cues really sound like things are behind you. I'm a true believer.

    Open World/Three '+' symbols: This is the 'large' room size. This is the polar opposite of the Neutral setting. It drastically enhaces soundstage in comparison, but really adds a significant amount of reverb. Positional accuracy is just as good as the Confined Space setting, but the reverb is personally a bit too much for me to compromise. Fun to test out, but I don't personally see people using this setting on a regular basis.

    Of the three presets, I really believe most people used to virtual surround processors will choose the Confined Space/One '+' symbol setting. It's the closest thing to the widely known and used Dolby Headphone 2, but with less reverb and just as amazing surround properties. You can't lose here.

    Of the main headphone surround technologies like Dolby Headphone and Creative's SBX, I found Sennheiser's GSX surround swinging for the fences. All three techs have their pros and cons, but I feel GSX surround has the best compromises of the three. Dolby Headphone is essentially made obsolete by GSX, and SBX, while better at having surround processing without reverb even at 100% surround (largest room size), doesn't quite reach the same level of rear audio precision as GSX. If reverb is a concern, I'd say go for SBX, otherwise, GSX is the king here. Dolby Headphone still works wonders, but has the most compromises between its warmer tonality, and reverb. I don't mention Razer Surround, Dolby Atmos, and other known surround techs due to minimal experience with those.


    The GSX 1000 is somewhat average on power in terms of amplification. To put things in perspective, I have a Hifiman HE-400 planarmagnetic at home as my main headphone. It isn't exactly a hard planar to drive, yet I have to max the volume out on the GSX 1000 to get the volume to a moderately loud volume. Moderately loud is right where I like it, so it's fine, but that means there's absolutely no headroom to play with here. On my Sennheiser Game One ( a relatively easy to drive dynamic headset), there is much more volume to play with.

    In terms of adding an amp to the chain, I didn't have great luck with the Creative X7, as it hissed and had just way too much noise/distortion. Perhaps with an all analog amplifier, the double amping to retain GSX surround with a more powerful amp may work just fine. Unfortunately, the only amp I have at home is the Creative X7 which has too many digital components which may be the reason it clashed with the GSX 1000. I've been told by friends with the GSX 1000 that double amping sounds fine with normal amps, and I'm inclined to believe them.


    Having tested the GSX 1000 with the Sennheiser Game One to test for mic audio capabilities, I found absolutely nothing to complain about. Mic quality is fantastic, no weird hiss or distortions, and the optional mic monitoring on the GSX 1000 makes it easy to know if you're talking too loud, etc. Here is a stock/default example of the recording capabilities:

    Personal Recommendations:

    Not much I can say except if you are mainly all about PC gaming, and do most audio related things on PC, the GSX 1000 may be the device for you. It is absolutely amazing for gaming in virtual surround.

    For music and/or stereo based content, it provides a very clean sound with a bevy of settings to play with if you choose. If you are using relatively easy to drive headphones, the GSX 1000 is an attractive option.


    As far as devices that I have on hand that may be somewhat similar, I have an Asus Xonar U3 as a budget option, and the Creative X7LE as the higher end option.

    Asus Xonar U3: The Asus Xonar U3 is a neat little device that can actually do slightly more with other devices than the GSX 1000 for a fraction of the price. It has a fairly weak internal amp, which may be its main shortcoming. However, it has an optical out that can feed Dolby Headphone to a better DAC, or amp with its line out. Unlike the GSX 1000, everything is done in its PC software. If you're fine with Dolby Headphone which isn't far behind GSX Surround, this may be a really great, cheap alternative. However, I feel the GSX 1000's suite of tools and better surround processing is a better device for more serious gamers who just want one device for their PC.

    Creative X7: The X7 is the option for those that want absolutely everything in one package. Audiophile dac, with strong amp, all the options such as SBX headphone surround, eq presets, bluetooth, mic settings, line out, optical out, digital and analog inputs, controls via software, app, OR on the device itself, and much more. It simply has all you can ever possibly need for most headphones. It isn't without its quirks, but overall, this is a device other companies need to look at and attempt to compete with in the higher end gaming space. It however is a fairly complicated device as opposed to the single cable GSX 1000. If you need something for all your gaming sources like consoles, definitely look into the X7. For PC user mainly, the GSX 1000 may be a better fit.

    Likes and Dislikes

    • Simple setup
    • GSX Surround
    • The volume dial
    • Nice, easy to understand options
    • Mic monitoring
    • Transportability
    • Overly sensitive touch interface
    • Amping could be just a tad bit stronger for a broader selection option of headphone compatibility
    • PC only device/lack of versatility

    Final Impressions:

    I really, really like the GSX 1000. It may lack in versatility for my needs which are beyond the scope of the GSX 1000's capabilities, mainly in more inputs for things outside of the PC, and a need for a more powerful amp, but even with those shortcomings, I can't help but be enamored by the painless simplicity of the GSX 1000. It is very user friendly, and the surround processing works as good as any other I've ever used (if not outright better).

    The GSX1000 makes me feel like selling all the things I have, using this for PC with a Sennheiser Game One and calling it a day. As simple as it gets. Now, I hope we see a Creative X7 level device from Sennheiser. I think if anyone could make a big winner, it's 100% Sennheiser. Even as it stands, I prefer the simple solution of just attaching one cable to this device, as opposed to the rat's nest of cables behind the Creative X7.
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2018
  2. Pairzilla
    I want to add the o2 to my gsx 1000. Do I need to get the dac/amp version or just the amp version.? The dac/amp is 279 and the amp is 129 I believe.
  3. Mad Lust Envy Contributor
    Well, you'll be double amping, and I don't particularly like doing that for anything but gaming. I would use the dac portion of the O2 when not gaming, and using the GSX with the O2 when gaming.
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2018
  4. Pairzilla
    Ok well I'm glad I asked. I didn't know of the possible issue. Ive seen you mention before that it's possible to add to the GSX. Maybe the O2 isn't the best choice ? Do you have any recommendations that might compliment the GSX better?
  5. pietcux
    So you have the ORPHEUS 2 on order, just for gaming?
  6. pietcux
    Great review @Mad Lust Envy, it mirrors my experience. I am a PC only gamer, so it is all I need. The GSX can be double amped with fantastic results. I use it with my Sennheiser HDVA600 when I want to use the HD800 for solo gaming. For teamplay I use the GSP600 straight out of the GSX1000.
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2018
    Mariano3113 and Sennheiser like this.
  7. Yethal
    @Mad Lust Envy great review, as always.
    I'd wager that most side effects of double amping could be remedied by plugging an IEMatch inbetween the GSX and an external amp
  8. huzidada
    Oh definitly agree with you..but for someone that has listened to both I was wondering from the man himself which he would pick for gaming as Im in the predicament. And need some bass (not like my Game Ones) as it makes ganing sound fun as well
  9. Mad Lust Envy Contributor
    I'm pretty sure my double amping problems with the GSX and X7 are entirely due to the X7's amp still being somewhat digitally connected to its other components, as opposed to basic/discrete analog amps. The X7 in this case is the problem, not the GSX. I know this because the X7 volume knob is completely digital in nature as well. Too many unnecesssary internals in the way just to amp another source. That or I may need to change to another outlet.
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2018
    Mariano3113 likes this.
  10. Sennheiser
    The Sennheiser GSP 600 is indeed the newest thing! Along with the GSP 500, these new headsets were designed for gamers and marathon sessions. The GSP 600 is sonically upgraded in quality over the Game Zero, as well as having more sub bass extension so that those ambient environment, explosive, or big sounds will shine properly alongside your normal footsteps, dialogue, and SFX. The GSP 600 also features hybrid pads, with a soft suede like cloth touching your face while still having sealed sides in leatherette, and a unique headband design which allows you to customize the caliper pressure (clamp). If you have a VR headset, such as the PlayStation VR, the GSP headband should fit over the plastic “halo ring” of the head mounted display.

    The GSP 600 & 500 also are easy-to-amplify and include a cable for use in console controllers and another PC cable which is perfect for longer distances or connecting to the GSX 1000 gaming audio amplifier. The GSX 1000, with it’s Sennheiser Binaural Rendering Engine, produces superb 7.1 surround sound with the GSP 600, with adjustable reverb and room size but always distinct directional imaging.

    The HD 598 feature a more “classical” and “airy” sound signature, while the GSP 600 will have a more solid, grounded but fun signature. The GSP 600 is also a closed headphone, offering a more intimate sound with less noise leaking in or out of the earcups.

    If you have any more questions, feel free to ask!
    Sennheiser Stay updated on Sennheiser at their sponsor page on Head-Fi.

  11. Sennheiser

    Fantastic and detailed review, Mad Lust Envy, thank you! Your contributions are incredible... the first post to this thread is quite possibly the longest post on Head-Fi!
    Sennheiser Stay updated on Sennheiser at their sponsor page on Head-Fi.

    mbyrnes likes this.
  12. twocentsear
    Since it has Speaker-outs, can't you just run that with a 3.5 to dual rca and on to an amp and still get 7.1 surround?
  13. Mad Lust Envy Contributor
    No. The X7 is one of the only devices to have an option for Headphone surround through the speaker out. The GSX is not one of these rare devices that does that. Speaker out = basic stereo.
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2018
  14. Yethal
    @Sennheiser Is this something that could be added in a firmware update to allow for easier stacking with more powerful gear?
  15. Tohex
    Wouldn't that be phenomenal if they could? It's so close to being the perfect unit already; that would tip it over the line of many people I'm sure.

    Alternatively, I wondered if someone could open it and mod the PCB so that the line out of the 7.1 is taken straight the speaker out. I don't know enough about the intricacies of the line levels etc but I'd consider modding if it worked.

    All in all though people seem to think they can double amp just fine (for the most part).

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