It's no secret that as far as sound cards go most PC users never venture beyond whatever they got on their motherboard. Integrated sound cards became quite decent in recent years - we started seeing some respectable DACs (such as the ESS Sabre), good headphone amplifiers, and shielded electronics. However, going with a good dedicated sound card still makes a lot of sense, especially for those who want more features, quieter microphone inputs, cleaner outputs, and better amplification. While just about everyone knows about dedicated sound cards made by Creative and ASUS, not many know that the legendary Sennheiser also manufactures two. They're called the GSX 1000 and GSX 1200 PRO and are essentially the same, with the $250 GSX 1200 offering an ability to daisy-chain up to eight of those sound cards for hard-wired, lag-free communication. In this review, we'll check out the slightly less expensive GSX 1000 ($230) that lacks the aforementioned daisy-chaining feature (quite useless to anyone but professional gaming teams), but is otherwise exactly the same.
The Sennheiser GSX 1000 Audio Amplifier is basically an external USB sound card designed primarily for gaming. It's equipped with a 24-bit/96 kHz DAC, Sennheiser's own 7.1 Binaural Rendering Engine (virtual surround sound system), a headphone amplifier (1 V RMS @ 32 Ω), and a line-out port that can be used for active speakers. Recommended headphone impedance is 16-150 Ω, although I wouldn't venture too close to the top end of that specification - from my extensive testing, the GSX 1000 works best with headphones with up to 50 Ω of impedance. The GSX 1000 is chock-full of features and also comes with the best virtual surround system I've ever had a chance to try, so let's take a closer look. It should be noted that it comes with no drivers at all, and as such, offers no controls outside of what can be done on the sound card itself.
- 7.1 Sennheiser Binaural Rendering Engine
- Recommended headphone impedance: 16-150 Ω
- DAC: 24-bit / 96 kHz
- Headphone amplifier: 1 V RMS @ 32 Ω
- 3.5-mm headphone output, 3.5-mm microphone input, 3.5-mm line-out
- Touch-sensitive controls
- 1.2 m rubberized Micro-USB cable
- 378 x 284 x 156 mm, 390 g