PC owners, I’m sorry, but there’s a big chance the DAC on your motherboard sucks. Sure, higher-end boards usually have a fancier sound card, but it’s probably the bare minimum unless you’re paying top dollar. Fortunately, it doesn’t take much to solve the issue. External sound cards like the EPOS|Sennheiser GSX 300 (official site) bypass your onboard audio entirely and can make a huge difference in your aural experience.
The GSX 300 is a very modest device. Open the box, and you’ll see the bare essentials are provided. There’s the DAC itself, a USB-A to Micro USB cable to connect it to a computer, and a small booklet. Fortunately, it’s straightforward to set up to the point where it’s virtually plug-and-play.
The DAC is relatively featureless. There’s a big knob that controls the volume, a button that can be configured in the software to either switch between presets (the default setting) or between 2.0 and 7.1 surround. There are two 3.5mm ports on the rear, one for sound and one for the mic, and a micro-USB connector for power.
Despite the austere adornment, I didn’t find myself wanting for much more out of the GSX 300’s physical controls. The only addition that I could think of that would have been welcome is a second knob for microphone volume. As it stands, if you want to change your mic volume, you have to alt+tab out of a game and set it via software, which can be annoying.
As I said above, the GSX 300 will outperform the majority of motherboards with onboard sound. That means any headset you plug into it will sound better and have more options compared to what you would get if you connected it straight to the motherboard.
However, the GSX 300 isn’t going to power anything beyond a headset. It’s powered via USB, which is incredibly convenient, but that limits its versatility. You can use it with independently powered speakers, but the unit would likely be unable to support anything much larger than headphones over the 3.5mm jack.
A lot of the GSX 300’s quality comes from its software. It allows you to switch between 2.0 stereo and 7.1 virtual surround sound and set up your own equalizers. However, the most significant jump in quality comes from how the DAC handles a mic. I reviewed the EPOS|Sennheiser GSP 602 headset alongside the GSX 300, and the mic quality plugged directly into my PC was pretty rough. However, when connected to the GSX 300, the software eliminated background noise and gave my voice a warmer, more natural sound.
I’d say the GSX 300 is worth the price just for the improvements in mic quality alone, but it also enhances audio quality quite a bit. Music seemed to have a better balance, and the 7.1 surround sound was welcome in gaming and movies.
EPOS|Sennhesier GSX 300 Review | The Final Verdict
The GSX 300 retails for $79.99 but can be found for less on Amazon right now. I think it’s an excellent product for the price, especially considering how expensive DACs can get. It improved the audio experience with the headphones I tested it with and is much better than built-in sound on most PCs.
If you’ve spent $500+ on your GPU and play with headphones predominately, do yourself a favor and pick up a DAC. The increased audio quality makes practically everything more enjoyable, and with a product like the GSX 300, you’re not putting yourself too much out of pocket.