How to Choose the Best Gaming Headset?
Selecting the best gaming headset for your particular requirements can be a relatively complex task. Many factors come into play, and you have to consider your individual needs and wants in addition to how the headset performs in terms of its sound and build quality. This detailed guide will give you all information you need to know about gaming headsets and arm you with useful knowledge and practical experience. You can read the article from start to finish or jump directly to whatever section interests you the most.
Platform compatibility is, fortunately, something that you don’t have to worry about with the vast majority of regular wired headphones. Wired headphones usually end with a 3.5-mm audio jack that can easily connect to a compatible plug built into your controller, PC, or external audio card.
There are two standards for audio jacks. The first one is called CTIA (Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association), and it has the microphone terminal positioned closest to the cable leading from the connector. The other one is called OMTP (Open Mobile Terminal Platform), and the main difference between it and the CTIA is the fact that it has a ground terminal in the same place where the CTIA jack would have the microphone terminal.
PC sound cards usually feature a separate audio and microphone connectors. When you want to use a pair of headphones with a built-in microphone, you need to purchase a female to double male adapter compatible with your headphones. These adapters are very cheap and usually don’t cost more than a few dollars. Connecting the 3.5-mm audio jack directly to the audio input on your PC would make the microphone not work.
Both the PS4 and Apple use the OMTP standard for their headphones and all other products. This means that any headphones compatible with either Apple products or PS4 are going to work without any issues. However, things are not so simple in the Xbox land. The Xbox One uses the CTIA standard, which requires a special adaptor to work with OMTP devices. Again, these adapters don’t cost more than a few dollars and you need to buy just one for all headphones that you own. Plugging the OMTP jack into the CTIA port would result in audio or chat issues.
Wireless headphones introduce a lot more potential compatibility issues, and you should always make sure that the manufacturer of your headphones offers compatibility certification for your particular gaming console.
Xbox One owners who use the Xbox One Stereo Headset Adapter must know that the Mad Catz Tritton Warhead headset, the Mad Catz Tritton Primer headset, and the Xbox 360 Wireless Headset and the Wireless Bluetooth Headset are listed as incompatible on Microsoft’s website.
Gaming headsets have to be very comfortable to accommodate for longer playing sessions and extended use time throughout the day. While comfort is mostly a subjective category, there are still some things that are good indicators of how comfortable any given headset will be.
Headphones are in contact with your body in two different places. Earpads sit either on your ears or around your ears and are the most important part of comfortable headphones. Additionally, the headband helps to elevate the pressure placed on your ears and adds to the overall stability and rigidity. Both should be made out of soft materials that don’t prevent air from circulating to reduce sweating.
Some common materials include artificial leather, velour, and high-end headphones even use real sheepskin leather. Velour is very pleasant on this skin and stays cool even during hot summer months, but it doesn’t surprise outside noises as much as leather. You can often find aftermarket earpads on eBay and audio supply stores. These give you the option to try a few different pads and decide which one you like the best.
The weight of headphones is often more important than people realize. When too heavy, it’s quite common for neck pain to occur just after an hour or two of continuous use. Your best bet is to stick with headsets that don’t weight too much. While heavier headsets may feel more premium in comparison; the last thing you want is to experience any discomfort during gaming.
There is hardly anything worse than an otherwise excellent pair of headphones that keeps breaking due to poor build quality. High-end gaming headsets can cost a substantial amount of money, which makes durability an important thing to consider before committing to your purchase.
Weight is a good indicator of the quality of plastic materials. Some manufacturers even go as far as to purposely increase the overall weight with small metal weight to create an impression of higher build quality. That’s why it always pays off to read reviews in order to avoid any void marketing claims and shady tactics of some less reputable headphone manufacturers.
Don’t forget to check the build quality of any hinges and other mechanical parts. Most issues with headphones breaking are related to weakness of these important parts. Hinges should operate smoothly without any nasty noises and big tolerances. If something seems to be flimsy, chances are that it won’t last.
Another problematic aspect of many headphones is their cable and issues with connection loss due to its damage. The cable has to do most work while the headphones themselves rest comfortably and safely on your head. A high-quality flat cable will greatly improve durability and at the same time eliminate many potential problems with microphonics.
Earpads and headbands made from artificial leather tend to develop cracks over time to the point where they have to be replaced. Velour pads don’t have this problem and it’s possible to use them basically forever with just an occasional washing.
Lastly, it’s worth considering the quality of finish. Shiny finishes are prone to visible scratching. If your headphones came with a carrying pouch, then make sure you use it as much as possible. According to our experience, headphones above $100 are usually not prone to issues with durability.
Many gaming headphones come with a handy microphone. Such microphone can be attached directly to one earcup or it can be an integral part of the audio cable. It’s almost always the case that any microphone that is attached to an earcup and positioned directly in front of users mount provides the best performance. This arrangement allows from subtle adjustments and maximum sound quality. Microphones that are attached to audio cables have the tendency to rub against clothes and pick a lot more unwanted ambient sound.
You should also consider how important it is for you to have independent volume controls only for your microphone. These give you the ability to easily adjust volume without jumping out of your game and potentially missing something important. It also goes without saying that having a dedicated button just for muting the microphone can save you from some embarrassing moments in front of your teammates. Some headphones even include volume buttons exclusively for microphone.
Modern gaming headphones often include an electronic noise reduction technology to give players the best sound quality and clarity. Headphones using this technology can analyze ambient sound in your room and filter out everything that isn’t your voice. The obvious advantage is the fact that your noisy computer or turmoil coming into your room through the open window won’t accidentally activate voice chat and disturb other players.
Earcups come in several different sizes and construction variations. There are no clear winners or losers; as each variation has its own distinct advantages and disadvantages that come into play. Usually, you will see headphones divided into four different categories based on their fit and style of wear. These categories are circumaural (or full-sized), supra-aural (on-ear), earbuds, and, finally, in-ear.
Circumaural headphones are what most people would consider to be a proper full-sized cans. These headphones wrap all the way around ears and provide the best seal from outside noise. As you can imagine, their large size can add substantial weight to them, which is a common issue with older headphones. Modern plastic materials and advanced in headphone design and construction helped to essentially eliminate this problem.
While circumaural headphones are still going to be much heavier than almost any supra-aural headphones; the difference between them isn’t a huge one. The quality of seal depends on the shape and size of earpads and how tightly they can fit against your skin. Any space between your head and pads will lead to sound leakage both from your headphones out and also the other way around.
One step below circumaural headphones is supra-aural headphones, or on-ear headphones, as they are also called. The best-known example of on-ear headphones is definitely the legendary Koss Porta Pro. They represent everything that’s great about headphones in this category. Their small size makes them easily portable and very lightweight while still leaving a plenty of space for capable drivers that have no problem with the booming base. However, don’t expect nearly as much noise isolation as you would get with circumaural headphones.
Manufacturers always have to walk the thin line between higher noise reduction and greater comfort. The only way how to effectively increase isolation with on-ear headphones is by applying more pressure on ears. The higher pressure can quickly cause discomfort and even prevent the extended use of such headphones. Generally, supra-aural headphones can offer the same sound quality as their full-sized counterparts for much better price.
Earbuds and in-ear earphone are easily recognizable, and we mention them only for completion. A much more important and opaque aspect of headphone and headset design is the type of earcup enclosure. Full-sized and on-ear headphones can be additionally divided into open-back, closed-back, and semi-open headphones.
Open-back headphones let air pass freely into the driver compartment. This means that ambient sound from outside can get in, and, consequently, that the sound from your headphones can get out and potentially disturb people around you. The main advantage is the higher sound quality that goes hand in hand with the better airflow. The lack of isolation also tends to result in a wider, more open soundstage with better instrument separation. If you are after the highest audio quality imaginable, open headphones should be on the very top of your list.
Closed-back (or just closed) headphones are the exact opposite of the open-back design. They block almost all air coming into or from the headphones. This is the type of headphones that you want to choose if you want to achieve maximum noise isolation. The restricted airflow often results in a worse audio performance with narrower soundstage and muddier sound. Most gaming headsets on the market are closed-back. Gaming places more importance on bass, which is exactly the one area where closed headphones have a distinct advantage over their open counterparts.
Semi-open headphones are, as the name would suggest, somewhere between closed and open headphones. They don’t leak as much sound as open headphones, and they also tend to have a wider soundstage with better virtual space positioning than closed headphones.
The bottom line is that all construction details are just small parts in a much larger equation. At the end of the day, it’s the fusion of many different elements that determines how any given headset is going to sound like. Your time is usually better to spend reading a throughout review than manufacturer’s specifications.
As with any headphones, sound quality should be the most important thing you should consider before selecting your future headset. A great sounding gaming headset requires a slightly different set of qualities than headphones used for listening to music. Chances are that you will appreciate knowing exactly where a certain sound is coming from or the ability of the headset to blow you away with powerful bass that resonates deep inside your head.
Larger drivers, which can be found in full-sized headphones, can more much more air and thus easily give explosions and shots that lovely meaty sound. Unless you are want to buy a single headset for gaming and music listening, we would strongly advise you to go for something that is fun to listen to rather than for something that sound accurate and, potentially, boring.
Many gaming headsets feature 5.1 or even 7.1 virtual surround sound. Better headsets with this feature clearly surpass regular stereo headphones when it comes to sound positioning in the virtual space. This is something that will appeal primarily to competitive players and fans of first-person shooters. Being able to tell exactly what’s going on around you just by listening is exactly what you need in tough matches against skilled opponents.
Chances are that if you are buying a gaming headset you will want to take advantage of the included microphone. Make sure that the quality is on par with the rest of the headset. A good microphone should accurately reproduce your voice without picking up too much background noise. Some cheap mics have only a very limited frequency range, which can make your voice sound like it’s coming from inside a tin can. That’s definitely not something your teammates would appreciate.
Wired or Wireless Gaming Headset?
Wireless headphones are becoming increasingly popular as their prices and quality improve. In past, many wireless headphones had latency issues, which made them unusable for games. These days, wireless headphones offer the same sound quality as their wired cousins.
That being said, there are still some things that could turn you away from wireless headsets. The first one that comes to mind is the fact that they tend to have more compatibility issues than wired headsets. We have already talked about this in the previous sections, but this point is worth stressing.
Make sure to check whether your headset is compatible with your gaming console. You also need to consider that wireless headsets require batteries. If you are an avid gamer who has no problems playing for several hours every single day, you could easily find yourself replacing batteries more than you like. And lastly, wireless headsets cost a lot more than wired headsets with the same quality.
The upside is, of course, that there are no wires you can trip over. You also don’t have to worry about the length of the audio cable.
Spare Parts and Accessories
The availability of spare parts is more important than you might think. Some parts of headphones are subjected to more stress and others and as such are in the need of replacement a long time before the particular gaming headset reaches the end of its life.
Replacement and aftermarket accessories also give you the ability to customize your headset to your liking. Are the included earpads too hard or too soft? No problem! Just buy a cheap replacement from eBay and solve what the manufacturer failed to do. The same also goes for replacement audio cables.
How Much Should You Spend
Deciding how much you should spend on your new gaming headset can easily be the hardest part of your purchase. Of course, you want to spend the least amount of money possible to get the best sound you can. Sadly, headphones are really one of the most affordable electronic devices out there. Brand name headsets with advanced features and excellent sound reproduction can easily cost a few hundred dollars. Don’t get us wrong, high-end headsets are definitely worth their cost – if you can afford it.
But things are not bad even when you step down and look at the current offering of mid-range headsets. You can get a truly impressive headset for just around $100. Such headset will be made out of high-quality materials with great attention to detail, and you can expect a high-fidelity sound with wide frequency range, punchy bass, and excellent sound separation.
This is also the price range with the highest potential for great discount prices and deals. Many headphones that usually go for almost $200 get discounted by as much as 50% during special occasions such as Black Friday or Christmas. And if you don’t insist on owning a brand new headset, there are plenty used headsets to choose from on sites like sites like eBay and Amazon.
This leaves us only with budget headphones. Budget headphones usually range from $20-$50, and they can be a hit or miss. Sound quality aside, headset in this price range tend to be made out of low-quality plastic materials, and their appearance and functionality after just a few months of use tend to reflect that. You also need to lower your expectations when it comes to comfort as earpads are only rarely made out of quality memory foam. But don’t let all of this discourage you. You can find budget headphones that sound just as good as many headphones 10x their price. You just have to be willing to make some compromises in other areas.
We have reviewed many headphones across all categories to give you the information you might need when selecting a new gaming headset. Just search for whichever model interests you and discover its pros and cons before you spend any money.
What Are The Best Gaming Headsets?
1. Sentey Symph GS-4531
Not everyone has the space for a full 7.1 surround sound setup. Sentey, the company behind these gaming headphones, knows this quite well. These modern-looking gaming headphones promise to deliver a true surround sound experience in a portable package and at the same time not cost you a small fortune. Read More
2. Turtle Beach Ear Force Z60
Not everyone is keen on owning several different pairs of earbuds and headphones. Such people will definitely appreciate a pair of headphones that can do everything from gaming and movies to music listening. Z60 from Turtle Beach wants to be one of the few models capable of all those things. Read More
3. HyperX Cloud II
The HyperX Cloud II Headset promises to be the all-in-one solution for all enthusiastic games out there. The package doesn’t include just the headphones themselves, but also a USB audio control box with built-in DSP sound card for the highest sound quality no matter which device you play on. Read More
4. Turtle Beach Ear Force DP11
Turtle Beach is the official partner of Twitch and manufacturer of high-quality audio equipment for demanding buyers. The Ear Force DP11 offers a compelling mixture of raw power with advanced audio processing technologies and Read More
5. Sades SA-708
Budget gamers from all over the world have it in many respects more difficult than their wealthy counterparts. Why is that? Well, it’s mainly because of the sheer number of choices available in the lower-end of the market. Read More
6. Audio-Technica ATHADG1
The ASTRO Gaming A40 PC Gaming Headset comes as a part of the A40 Audio System. The system includes the ASTRO MixAmp and the headset itself. They offer a very compelling package designed to work with all consoles and even PC. Add in a stellar, modern design and you get something worth looking at in a greater detail. Read More
8. Sennheiser PC 363D
Sennheiser, the well-known manufacturer of premium headphones has come up with a gaming headset that is sure to impress demanding gamers who refuse to compromise when it comes to audio quality. As any premium headphones, Read More
9. Logitech G633 Artemis Spectrum
The Logitech G33 Artemis Spectrum is a new flagship headset from a company with years of experience when it comes to manufacturing gaming accessories and peripherals. The inclusion of RGB lighting is just one of several important features that this headset offers. Read More
10. Corsair Vengeance 1500 v2
Corsair Vengeance 1500 v2 is set to deliver an accurate reproduction of 5.1 and 7.1 channel gaming audio for an affordable price. Its close-back design makes it ideal for budget-minded college students living in dorms and shared apartments. Read More