Sennhesier GSX 1200 Pro

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We have reviewed Sennheiser’s astonishingly good wireless gaming headset the GSP 670 previously on PC Guide and loved how it sounded, especially with its virtual 7.1 surround sound setting.

What we have here today is a headphone amp from the same company that is, in this model at least, targetted at pro gamers and esports players, but can be stepped down a model to one without the extra features that is a bit less money.

To all intents and purposes, they are the same, except this model the 1200 Pro can be linked to other 1200 Pros with Chat link creating a full team environment. Like we said, not for the majority of people who will be able to just get the GSX 1000.

So first and foremost what is a headphone amp – well, in this case, it is actually a USB soundcard that you can plug both your wired headphones (any wired headphones too including the rubbish that came with your cell phone if you must) and your speakers and switch between both on the fly without any messing around in Control panels or plugging and unplugging cables. However, this is just the start of what the GSX has to offer.

Killer looks

Arriving in a very nice box with the amp itself very nicely secured in high-density foam with the cables (including the Chat Link cable that you don’t get on the lower-spec model) tucked away underneath.

The USB cable is red with good strain relief at both ends, and when you plug it into an available port, it matches nicely with the red glow that then emits from the unit itself.

Straight away you will notice no drivers are required, Windows 10 picks it up immediately and sets everything up and immediately you can plug your stuff into the back of it and going.

It’s worth taking a few minutes to watch the setup video on YouTube to give you an idea of what does what and which settings you should activate depending on your preference, but it’s not essential.

In fact, I had a slight issue following the video as my system threw up an error I couldn’t get around when setting my choice in the software to 7.1, but thankfully, it didn’t seem to matter as switching between Stereo and 7.1 on the unit works fine. 

I think it is probably a combination of the fact that Windows will have had many an update since the video was filmed and the fact I have about 30 different sound devices on my PC setup because I use it for lots of different things, mics, rifts, headsets and the like. Either way, it didn’t like it.

Once you are set up, you can start to appreciate the unit itself. It looks really nice with its jog wheel that looks like brushed aluminum (it’s actually plastic I think, but you would never know) and it glides through 360 degrees raising and lowering your overall system volume, all the time providing visual feedback on its glowing screen which is reminiscent of a digital thermostat.

The jog wheel sits in a recess that takes up the vast majority of the square plastic unit, leaving room for four (very) touch-sensitive illuminated buttons in the corners.

These buttons can be used to flick between settings quickly, but in truth, I found myself using the screen (which is touch-sensitive) to change my options as it was obvious what I needed to press.

In the bottom of the unit is a flip-up stand, which raises one edge up to a nice 15 or so degrees. The front displays the Sennheiser logo, and it all looks very smart on the desk next to all your expensive gaming peripherals.

Motion sensitive

The rear of the unit is where all the ports are positioned – 3.5mm headphone and speaker jacks and a USB C for connecting to the PC. The 1200 Pro also has ports to interconnect the Chat Link system to other units and a small dial on each side to alter the mix of inputs from other players.

Controlling the GSX 1200 Pro is easy. I’ve already told you the screen is touch-sensitive, but it’s actually a little more than that as a quick wave of your hand over the top of it will wake it from sleeping, where it dims its output to just show your current volume to full brightness with access to all the onboard controls.

Situated around the volume display, we have the speaker setting where you can easily change between headphones and your desktop speakers with a quick tap.

Going around the circumference then we have the EQ which can be tapped between settings for gaming, music and video – there is no option to change the EQ settings, they are pre-baked in, but all seem to do a good job with speech coming through clearly on the video setting and the bass being toned right down for gaming.

The next feature affects the positioning of where the 7.1 virtual surround sound is coming from, and this option is deactivated if you are in Stereo mode.

Underneath that is the Stereo/7.1 selection – pretty much Stereo for music and 7.1 for gaming and movies.

The penultimate option allows you to balance out what comes in through a specific ear on your headset. Some people find it really useful when using closed-back headphones; personally, my ears are so ruined from years of stupidly loud music it makes very little difference to me, but it’s nice it is onboard.

The final option again is dependent on having 7.1 active and gives you three levels of reverb that you can change to suit your taste.

So in the real world then what does it actually sound like? Let’s start with amazing. It’s really, really good. The 7.1 virtual surround sound is excellent. I generally play Apex Legends through my speaker system but playing it with the GSX 1200 Pro I found myself freaking out that people were sneaking up on me, only to realize it was my own footsteps reverbing back off the tunnel I was running through.

Gunfire comes to life as doe explosions, and the immersion is increased ten-fold.

Of course, you can achieve this in the main with an expensive headset such as the GSP 670s, which also has 7.1 built-in, but with the amp you can plug in any headphones you have lying around. The effect will be better with a set set of cans obviously, but it isn’t necessary.

For me, I also love the ability to just tap the screen, and my audio output switches instantly to my speakers. I guess I didn’t realize how often I used to head into the sound settings to mess about with stuff like this, and now I don’t need too.

Watching YouTube and Netflix are great too. The sound pops out and just sounds so much more immersive.

So downsides? There must be some, right? Not really, a couple of niggles, nothing dramatic. The USB cable, while well-built, is pretty short. Sennheiser advises you to plug it directly into your PC rather than via a hub, which may introduce latency, but by the time mine had snaked down the back of the desk to the rear of the PC it was touch and go as to whether it would reach comfortably.

Secondly, I found myself accidentally catching the very sensitive corner buttons and changing my settings accidentally. Not a big deal but a small irritant and hopefully one that could be fixed in software with the ability to disable them.

Oh, and you can’t use your expensive wireless headphones with it, so it’s better if you have a semi-decent set of wired ones to get some true benefit.

Besides that, I love it. I really do, it’s a great, if possibly slightly extravagant, addition to any setup, especially if you like to play with speakers sometimes. The virtual surround sound is really good, and the fact that the whole thing requires such minimum setup is a boost too.

A headphone amp isn’t necessarily something you have thought of adding before, but I’m sold, and the fact it looks so cool on the desk only helps seal the deal.

Paul is a contributor to PC Guide, having covered news coverage, Raspberry Pi, Windows releases and peripherals - among other things - across the site.