Gaming keyboards, gaming chairs, gaming mousepads... In the age of e-sports and Twitch, labeling something as a ''gaming'' product is a good enough reason for hardware companies to sell anything at a higher price than normal. If we combine the ''gaming'' label with the promises of a ''competitive advantage'' and the advertisements by known streamers, we get the key to success. What about gaming headsets, though? Are there any decent headsets at a low price out there?
Table of Contents
- The basics
- That's all great, but how can I choose my headphones?
- What is your opinion on gaming headsets?
When we talk about gaming headsets, a product specifically designed for gaming is the first thing that comes to mind. Most of them involve fancy design and promise surround sound.
Their price may range from seven to eight dollars up to the cost of a cutting-edge console. To what extent, however, will the purchase of a gaming headset meet our expectations in terms of sound quality, but also in terms of improving the overall gaming experience?
Are there indeed headphones which are suitable for gaming? The answer is yes, there are, but whether they can yield any advantages and make the game more enjoyable depends on various factors.
The only kind of games for which a pair of ''gaming'' headphones would give us an advantage are First Person Shooters.
The headphones ideal for FPS are those which mainly focus on high and middle frequencies (treble/mid). This way, we can hear fainter sounds more easily while playing.
The negative aspect of this kind of headphones is that they are inferior in terms of bass performance. This means that they are almost unsuitable in the case we want to listen to music or watch a movie.
However, for other game genres (competitive or not), gaming headphones do not make any difference at all. In fact, if you are not preoccupied with the positional sound in various games, you will find that headphones designed for music are more suitable when playing them.
What to expect when buying a headset
When buying a headset, good sound quality should be both an expectation and a priority. Of course, demands grow depending on the price of a product. Obviously one has different expectations and requirements from a 20-dollar headset as compared to a 100-dollar one.
Furthermore, we definitely want a microphone of high quality. Once again, our expectations are contingent on the price, so, obviously, the least we expect is our co-players to understand what we say while playing.
Finally, to a certain extent, we also look for comfort as well as manufacturing quality. Especially if we use a headset for several hours per day.
Stripping down gaming headsets
When a company creates a headset, it has to combine two different products: a microphone and a pair of headphones. At the same time, it has to retain a competitive price for its product.
The outcome often tends to compromise one of the functions of the final product or the manufacturing quality itself.
Contrary to the rest of the audio products, the promotion of gaming headsets occurs almost exclusively through marketing and advertisements.
Twitch streams, YouTube videos, and e-sport events contain dozens of advertisements of products by well-known companies.
A big portion of the cost of gaming headsets comes from the money the companies spend on marketing, even though it would have been wiser to spend that money on manufacturing products of better quality.
By far the worst part of a gaming headset is the microphone. In 99% of all cases, gaming headsets have lousy microphones. It wouldn't be an understatement to say that even very expensive headsets have disappointing microphone quality.
If you simply want to talk with your friends on Discord while playing an online game, you can buy any cheap microphone. The odds are that it should be better than a microphone of a gaming headset.
And, of course, using it for other uses such as YouTube is out of the question. If you value quality, a good professional microphone is a no-brainer.
The lie of surround sound
Many headphones are promoted on the market as ''surround.'' If you are wondering how it is possible to get 5.1 or a 7.1 sound on our headphones, the answer is simple. It isn't.
What surround headphones actually provide is some sort of software or driver which simulates three-dimensional sound.
A good game design can guarantee that the user will be able to distinguish whether the sound is coming from the front or from the back.
Consequently, the money buyers pay for a headset that is marketed as ''surround'' does not necessarily guarantee extraordinary technology. This is actually more of a marketing trick to make the product stand out from its competition and increase the sales.
So, by buying a gaming headset from any well-known company, we end up paying for the brand and the marketing. At the same time, we usually get stuck with a product that is nothing exceptional in terms of quality.
That's all great, but how can I choose my headphones?
First of all, before we proceed to a purchase, let's consider what use we need them for. Do we want to play FPS games exclusively? Do we want the product for other uses, like listening to music?
If we want a microphone, too, the ideal solution is to buy one separately and not a gaming headset. Naturally, the quality will depend on our budget.
But even for a limited budget, we have options which are going to offer you a better sound quality. Certainly better than other more expensive and more well-advertised gaming headsets.
Earbuds are not recommended for gaming. Therefore, we will deal with ''on-ear'' ones. We can distinguish on-ear headphones into two categories: open and closed.
Closed headphones, as you can tell by their name, seal the back side of each headphone. The result is that they block any sound from the surroundings, and at the same time, the sound cannot get out of the headphones.
Closed headphones have the advantage of isolating a person completely from the environment. They are ideal if we are in a loud place or if we don't want others to hear what we listen to.
The negative aspect is that, somehow, they are not as good in terms of sound quality. It feels like the sound is more ''inside our head,'' and less like it is coming from the environment.
If your surroundings are usually quiet or if you are not bothered in case people around you can hear you, we would not recommend closed headphones for gaming.
On the other hand, open headphones are ideal for gaming, but also for music, films etc. The sound seems to be coming from around us and not from ''inside our head.'' Especially for FPS games, open headphones constitute the ideal solution.
Our options are truly unlimited, depending on the budget, our preference between wired or wireless headphones, etc. We are going to suggest the best options so that you can choose according to your needs.
Superlux HD668B and HD662 Evo
Superlux HD668B is perhaps the best option for a budget of up to 60 dollars. Good manufacturing quality, clear and powerful sound, and particularly comfortable. On the plus side, they include a detachable cable.
These particular headphones offer a better sound quality even than gaming headsets costing 5 times their price. With less than 30 dollars, we have a pair of ideal headphones either for gaming or films and music.
Now, if for some reason we want noise canceling, we can opt for HD662 Evo by the same company. Similar design and performance, and the detachable cable is included as well.
Audio Technica AD500X
Moving on to something more expensive, AD500X by Audio Technica is a very good choice for FPS fans. Very good treble and positional sound, and satisfactory middle frequencies.
The only con is the bad quality of the bass. For this reason, we would recommend them for FPS games exclusively.
Creative Aurvana Live
If you are looking for headphones for all uses, with a little emphasis on gaming, Aurvana Live is one of the best purchases you can make. Very satisfactory positional sound for closed headphones, powerful bass and particularly comfortable.
Unfortunately, the cable needs extra care owing to the mediocre manufacturing quality. Also, despite their closed design, they are not completely soundproof.
However, they are still the best ''all-around'' headphones at this price. With almost 85 dollars, you will have a pair of headphones ideal for gaming, without compromising their performance when you listen to music or watch films.
AKG K712 PRO
K712 Pro is one of the few actually ''all-around'' pairs of headphones on the market. Ideal for gaming and not compromising the performance when we listen to music or watch films.
What makes them stand out is the unexpectedly good and powerful bass for an open-back pair of headphones. At the same time, they offer great positional sound and they are exceptionally good for middle and high frequencies.
If you want high-end headphones for gaming but for other uses as well, K712 Pro could be one of the best options for you at approximately 260 dollars.
Sennheiser HD 598
It is fair enough to consider Sennheiser HD 598 the best headphones for FPS games.
Their exceptional positional sound is their strongest feature, and you will be able to figure out your opponents' position fast and with precision.
Naturally, as with most headphones, high-end performance in gaming comes at a price. In the case of HD 598, the ''price to pay '' is the much lower performance when listening to music or any non-gaming sound.
We would absolutely recommend them if you want headphones exclusively for gaming and you have another pair of headphones for any other use. Their price is approximately 240 dollars.
When buying a microphone, you have to be careful with tabletops and non-tabletops. Table microphones tend to ''catch'' sounds from the keyboard, and generally, your desk.
A combination of a mechanic keyboard and a table microphone may turn out to be quite annoying for your co-speakers. In this case, perhaps a clip-on microphone attached to your headphones might be the best solution.
Generally, choosing a microphone should not bother you too much if you are not involved in streaming. The options which would really make a difference in the sound are much more expensive and certainly are not worth the money for gaming.
With only 1 dollar (!), P2 mini is the best thing if we are looking for a value-for-money microphone. No matter how weird it seems, this microphone is certainly equal to every gaming headset microphone, if not better.
Obviously, P2mini is not suitable for professional use. But if you simply want to talk to your friends while playing a game, it is a very reliable choice.
Zalman ZM-MIC1 is another cheap and safe choice. With a very long cable, a very good quality for its price, and satisfactory manufacturing quality, this microphone is as good as several ''high-end'' gaming headsets' microphones.
Its price ranges from six to ten dollars.
Antlion Audio ModMic
If you are worried about the quality of sound with which you come through to your co-speakers, ModMic will give you the solution. It is by far the best of all the microphones you can find in a gaming headset.
Ideally, you could combine it with an external sound card for even better quality. But even without a sound card, it is the ideal choice if you are willing to spend around 60 dollars.
At 169 dollars, AT2020 can be considered a small ''overkill'' if you want a microphone just for gaming. But those of you who are prepared to put your hands deep inside your pockets, you will be more than satisfied.
Its quality can be compared to much more professional microphones. It is a great choice if you are an amateur streamer or if you make YouTube videos.
What is your opinion on gaming headsets?
Did our guide help you choose your gaming headphones? Which headphones and microphone do you use when you play your favorite game? Share your opinion on gaming headsets with us in the comments below.
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