Best gaming headset 2018: Our top PC picks

Best gaming headsets 2018

With the heady days of desktop speakers firmly behind us (and monitor speakers still being hopelessly underpowered for anything but the briefest of email pings), the only way to truly appreciate today’s game music is through a gaming headset – which is why I’m here to help you find the best gaming headset for your needs and budget.

As I’ve found over many years of headset testing, finding a good one is fraught with problems, as you’ve not only got to find one that sounds decent, but there’s also the quality of its microphone for those all-important multiplayer sessions with your mates to consider, and whether its headband suddenly becomes a vice-like torture device after 30 minutes of use. To that end, I’ve created this handy guide, listing my current favourites as well as things you should look out for when buying a headset of your very own. Let’s count ourselves in…

You can, of course, always use a normal pair of headphones for playing games – especially if you hate the idea of talking to other online entities via the medium of microphone. But for the purposes of this article, I’ll be concentrating solely on gaming headsets, as opening the floodgates to regular headphones would mean we’d all be here until the cows come home, but feel free to recommend your own favourite pair of headphones down in the comments.

Gaming headset reviews

Before we begin, here’s a list of every gaming headset I’ve reviewed so far, just so we’ve got everything in one place. Expect this list to expand over time as more headsets come in for testing:

Asus ROG Strix Fusion 500
Corsair Void Pro RGB
Cougar Phontum
HyperX Cloud Flight
Roccat Khan Aimo
Roccat Khan Pro
Sennheiser GSP 350
Sennheiser GSP 600
Steelseries Arctis 7
Steelseries Arctis Pro
Steelseries Siberia 800
Turtle Beach Elite Pro
Turtle Beach Recon 150

Steelseries Arctis 7

Best gaming headset: Steelseries Arctis 7

Runner up: Corsair Void Pro RGB  (wired) / HyperX Cloud Flight (wireless)

If you’ve ever had as much trouble finding a comfortable headset as I have, then the Steelseries Arctis 7 is a revelation. Its ski-goggle headband might not look as comfy as other headsets with fistfuls of padding to their name, but its clever suspension design means its steel frame never actually touches your head, allowing me to wear it for hours and hours without issue. Whereas other headsets often always leave me with a vice-like headache after 30 minutes, the Arctis 7 just lets me get on with playing games.

It sounds great, too, and isn’t hugely expensive either, with prices starting at around £130 / $145. If your budget doesn’t stretch that far, fear not, as the rest of Steelseries’ Arctis range uses the same exactly the same audio drivers as the top-end Arctis 7 as well as the same comfy headband design, starting at £65 / $64 with the wired Arctis 3, as well as the RGB-ified Arctis 5.

The Corsair Void Pro RGB and HyperX Cloud Flight also deserve special mention, as these are also great sounding headsets with excellent microphones, but for me they weren’t quite as comfortable as the stellar Arctis 7.

Read our full Steelseries Arctis 7 review
Buy now from Amazon UK and Amazon US

Steelseries Arctis Pro

Best premium gaming headset: Steelseries Arctis Pro + GameDAC

If you’ve got money to burn and want the absolute best of the best, look no further than the Steelseries Arctis Pro + GameDAC. Not to be confused with its more expensive wireless and cheaper GameDAC-less siblings, this middle offering in Steelseries’ Arctis Pro line-up is arguably the best of the lot – if only because it’s the only one to have proper Hi-Res audio support.

Combined with that handy titular GameDAC control that gives you every settings option you could possibly want right at your fingertips (all on a lovely big tactile dial, to boot), this is the best and comfiest way to get 96kHz, 24-bit audio from your game library and beyond.

Read our full Steelseries Arctis Pro review
Buy now from Amazon UK or Steelseries US

Cougar Phontum header

Best budget gaming headset: Cougar Phontum

The Cougar Phontum is by no means perfect (its microphone may as well go in the bin), but at £43 / $50, it’s still a great buy for those on a budget. With its metal frame and large, plush ear cups, the Phontum’s build quality is outstanding at this kind of price, especially compared to the overly plastic construction of its nearest rival, the Turtle Beach Recon 150.

As mentioned above, the microphone is pretty useless (let’s blame that on Cougar’s Metal Gear-esque naming conventions), and its high/treble reproduction isn’t as good as more expensive headsets, but its overall audio quality is perfectly good enough for the money. If you’re looking for something inexpensive to give to your kids or younger siblings, the Cougar Phontum is well worth considering.

Read our full Cougar Phontum review
Buy now from Overclockers UK / Amazon US 

Gaming headset buying guide

Gaming headsets broadly fall into two categories: wired and wireless. Wired headsets are arguably the most common, with most plugging into a USB port or a 3.5mm audio connection, while wireless ones are, well, wireless.

Wireless headsets are generally more suited to those there console boxes that sit beneath your TV so you can lounge around on your sofa without falling over a string of cables every time you get up to make a cuppa, but they’re also a good choice if you want to cut down on the warren of PC cables you’ve got building up behind the back of your case. Just bear in mind that you’ll still need a free USB port for their wireless transmitter or dongle, as well as somewhere to charge them when they run out of juice.

What’s all this 7.1 surround sound stuff?

You’ll also see a lot of gaming headsets claiming they can do 7.1 surround sound. In a traditional audio setup, a 7.1 system would require seven individual speakers and a subwoofer (the .1 bit). The kind of headsets we’re dealing with, however, will only ever have two speakers (one for each ear), so any headset that says it can do 7.1 surround is usually going to be doing it virtually via onboard software and its own internal algorithms.

Virtual surround sound is by no means a bad thing. Yes, it’s not as good as proper 7.1 surround sound, but in some cases it can help make music feel more immersive and all-encompassing than regular stereo. However, poor implementations of it can often destroy any sense of intimacy or breathing-down-the-back-of-your-neck-style dialogue, and it can sometimes make your game audio feel like it’s been turned into one great big echo chamber, so don’t be fooled by what it says on the box.

Do I need a Hi-Res audio gaming headset?

We’re also starting to see more Hi-Res audio certified headsets starting to appear, but don’t get too bogged down in making sure you get one. Hi-Res (or High Resolution) audio is meant to provide the absolute pinnacle of music quality, with audiophiles saying it’s akin to ‘being right there in the recording studio’ when you listen to it.

Put simply, Hi-Res audio has a much higher sampling rate (also known as bit-depth, or the number of samples taken per signal per second in the analogue-to-digital conversion process) than CD quality audio, which is meant to make it more accurate and more detailed than anything else currently available.

To throw some numbers into the mix, CD is specified at 16-bit or 44.1kHz, while Hi-Res audio is usually defined as either 96kHz or 192kHz at 24-bit.

This is great if you already own lots of Hi-Res audio tracks or subscribe to something like Tidal, but as for gaming… it’s currently unknown how many, if any, actually support Hi-Res audio or whether you get any extra benefit over non-Hi-Res audio headsets. Personally, I’ve never been able to tell the difference between Hi-Res and CD, and that’s after multiple demos and tech PRs doing their darnedest to convince me otherwise. As a result, it’s probably worth it if you’re into Hi-Res audio stuff outside of gaming, but don’t go paying extra if you’re only going to be using it for games.

48 Comments

  1. Stromko says:

    I ordered a SteelSeries Arctis 7 last year on the strength of the very high reviews it receives from critics. It’s the most I’ve spent on a headset, and it was the worst headset I’ve ever had. The primary issue is that the standard earfoam it ships with has no structure, so the cans press directly against your earlobes.

    At first it’s just uncomfortable, but it becomes agonizing over time, with the pain setting in faster and more painfully with each new session.

    I also found the sound pretty poor. It needs to be set to ‘game’ mode for adequate game sound and ‘music’ mode for adequate music, etc. With good gaming headphones I want it to just sound good no matter what I throw at it.

    I was so stung by this purchase, and the fact that I obviously can’t trust hardware reviews anymore, that I ended up just buying another pair of the headphones that broke on me before. When a Logitech G930 sounds and wears better than your 125-200$ gaming headset, there is something very wrong.

    • lich0 says:

      It’s pretty easy with CPUs and GPUs since performance can be measured and compared. It’s a completely different when comes to audio equipment though. It’s such a subjective matter, that people can write whatever they want. I had my share of purchases over the years, based on reviews and enthusiastic user opinions from various forums and I’ve been almost exclusively disappointed.

      Best thing to do with these kind of things is to check it out yourself before purchase. Try it out, see how it plays and put it on your head.

      • otakucore says:

        I have an idea. Buy one of those “3D microphones” that are shaped like a human head. Put the headphones on the mic and play the same audio clip (a mix of gameplay footage, music, and dialogue) through each set. Then compare the audio spectrograms. I suspect the biggest differences would be outside the range of human hearing, but some people claim those frequencies are important.

    • Horg says:

      You have the option to buy a ‘non-gaming headset’ if you are prepared to give up the built in mic. I recommend the Audio Technica ATH-MX50, around £110, well balanced crystal clear sound quality, high frequency range, replaceable pads, detachable replaceable cables (cat owners will understand) and great noise canceling. Best set i’ve ever owned. Would not go back to a ‘gaming’ set.

      • b00p says:

        agree with horg. ive had my audio technica white m50x’s since 2012 and have traveled the hell out of them and they still have perfect sound and comfort, even as the white has worn completely off the inside of the headband. im a musician and have had sony and senheiser sets, and audio technica is my go to brand for the price.

      • Ossian says:

        Another vote for the ATH-MX50. I use it for music mostly and it’s a solid headset and I personally think worth the price. I’ll also use it with games for which sound direction is important, and I don’t need a mic. Comfortable, although after about a couple of hours they start to bother me a little.

        I have another headset that is pretty cheap that I use if I need a mic, but the sound quality is no where near as good as with the AT.

      • otakucore says:

        I’d like to see a comparison that includes pro audio gear. I’ve had the K240 MKII earphones on my wish list for a while now, but I can see how a built-in mic could be useful, plus other features of gaming headsets.

      • Benitoxine says:

        I agree the sound is better (clearer, with better definition) with a pair of ATH-MX50x -Amped by a Fiio E17- than with the Sennheiser’s 363D I use for gaming which are pretty good sounding themselves.
        This is true in stereo and I have also tested plugging the ATH to the output of the USB amp that comes with the Sennheisers to use the 5.1/7.1 virtual sound. (Impedance of the Sennheisers is 50ohms and the ATH’s are 38ohms so I assume this is similar enough for the comparison to hold).
        But this said, at the end of the day the ATH’s are heavier and fit more tightly to the head, making them more uncomfortable and hotter on the ears for an activity like gaming where you are spending energy, and the gaming headset sound more than good enough.

        I briefly put on the Artica 7 on my head at friend’s house and I was struck by the immediate sensation of comfort. The sound seemed nice at first impression. Only first impressions though.

        All this to say that it seems that for gaming headsets extreme comfort trumps extreme sound quality.

        • Horg says:

          There is a bit of give with the MX50 head clamp, if you extend the headphone slider just right, it will push away from the ear a little before the pads drop out of position. It’s not ideal but its one of the imperfections keeping the model out of the £250 range. I don’t mind wearing them for extended periods, and there are some alternative ear pads available other than the stock ones, which are mediocre.

    • Premium User Badge

      DeadlyAvenger says:

      I bought an Arctis 7 at a LAN event last year to replace my Steelseries Wireless H headset. I find the Arctis 7 infinitely more comfortable (I can wear all day/evening without any discomfort), the battery lasts longer and it is so much louder and better sounding than the Wireless H. I guess not all heads are created equal… :)

    • BlankedyBlank says:

      I managed to grab mine for £35 when Amazon mispriced a pair through their Warehouse Deals.

      I find them more comfortable than any other headset I’ve tried precisely because the cushions around the earcups are so soft. It’s possible that you just have a much larger head, or that Steelseries managed to balls up the QC on yours, of course.

      Audio-wise, obviously preference is somewhat subjective, but for a closed cup set of cans I think they’re perfectly adequate. For reference, my benchmark is comparing things to my Onkyo A-9010 and Monitor Audio Bronze 2s, and I do only use the headset for ‘competitive’ games like Overwatch.

  2. caff says:

    I did a lot of research into both high and mid-range options earlier this year, and I’m highly dubious about most of these.

    I made the decision to stick with a comfy pair of hifi headphones (Sennheiser) and stick on a bendy Antlion modmic microphone. Sure there are two cables now, but the Antlion comes with a sheath that can wrap the two together. I do use an amplifier, but I think you might be able to get away without one.

  3. Premium User Badge

    Lexx87 says:

    Do try to get a look at the Astro A50: https://www.astrogaming.co.uk

    Owned it for a while and comfortably the best headset i’ve ever used. Be interesting to get your take!

  4. Papageno says:

    While I still primarily listen to my game audio/music through my 5.1 speaker setup with subwoofer (Logitech Z-530, I think it is), I appreciate having a guide to figure out which is a good headset that is comfortable and sounds good.

  5. dirtypots says:

    Shout-out to my Logitech G930 which is somehow still being sold somehow. Still works great!

    • malkav11 says:

      I’ve had two of these (RMAed one) and both had exactly the same issue – randomly cutting out (sometimes briefly, sometimes turning all the way off). I believe the one I kept ended up having issues holding a charge, sometimes wouldn’t turn on at all, and so on.

      I’m glad yours is working for you but based on my experience (particularly having exactly the same problem with two consecutive headsets of that model) I can’t recommend taking the risk.

      • Stromko says:

        That issue seems to vary based on the individual headset. My first G930 almost never cut out while I was at my desk, but after a few years of usage and drops the flimsy piece of plastic that holds the swivel-joint of the left earpiece to the rest of the unit snapped off, and no amount of duct tape could make it proper again after that.

        My replacement G930, after my disappointing experience with an Arctis 7 though … It will lose connection for several seconds, several times a day, while I’m literally sitting 18 inches from the receiver.

        Maybe a couple times a month it will start buzzing incessantly and has to be shut off for a few minutes to stop, possibly a battery short because when it finally stops I have to plug it back in and recharge it from nothing, even if the battery was completely full before it happened.

        I’m fairly sure at this point Logitech isn’t much for quality these days, at the very least. But, at least it fits my head comfortably.

  6. aircool says:

    Beyerdynamic DT990 Pro Headphones and a RODE NT1 mic, plus a pair of Alesis Elevate 5 MKII’s for when the neighbours are out.

    • hfm says:

      I love my Beyerdynamic MMX300’s. Fantastic sound, superb cardioid pattern mic. It’s the third Beyer’s I’ve owned and bought them for gaming just because of the built in mic (had an antlion modmic on a pair of DT770’s previously) and this mic blows away the antlion. I’ve gotten tons of praise for it on hangouts when I’m working remotely.

  7. malkav11 says:

    Right now I am using a HyperX Cloud, which I believe is the baseline wired version of the Flight recommended above. Wirecutter recommended it as the best gaming headset (with the caveat that a lot of folks say there’s no such thing as a good gaming headset and you’re better off with a good pair of headphones and a good mic) for most people and I tend to agree. It does very creditable sound, doesn’t inherently support virtual surround but works nicely with Razer’s free virtual surround software, is comfortable for long periods of time, has a nice carrying bag with some accessories for tweaking the feel, has a robust and detachable swivel mic and on-cord controls if you so desire. And it’s $70, so about half the price of the headset recommended above and only a little more expensive than the budget pick. You could of course go wireless as suggested for more money, but I’ve had three wireless headsets now and not one of them was reliable. Wired does tend to fail as the cord wears out, but I can’t say my wireless headsets have lasted any better and wireless is always pricier. It -was- nice to be able to walk over to the fridge with the headset still on, but not enough to put up with the other problems.

    PS: On virtual surround: it’s never going to give you what real surround does for you, but importantly a lot of media – especially DVDs and Blurays if you use those with your computer – is audio balanced for surround and you can’t necessarily switch to a stereo mix. Virtual surround will at least make it so that the balance is correct.

    • Someoldguy says:

      I’ve never had an expensive pair of headphones but most of the cheaper ones I bought for being “best in class” were terrible for giving me headaches. Not so the most recent purchase. I’m very satisfied with the HyperX HX-HSCS-BK/EM Cloud Stinger Gaming Headset that I got for the bargain price of £35. Can’t rate the mic though, haven’t used it much.

      • jezcentral says:

        I’m still on my QPAD QH-90s. (The ones that were so good, they got re-badged as HyperX Clouds). Not sure when I will feel the need to upgrade, though.

    • Frog says:

      Agreed, my latest set is the HyperX cloud and I’m happy at the $70 price point.
      Pretty good sound quality including highs and bass. Maybe a tisch heavy but overall comfortable for long sessions over-ear design.
      The headphones are well made, I’ve had them for a good while and no frayed edges or broken wires.
      The surround sound feature is plus/minus. Maybe a little more sound stage.
      I still remember getting my mind blown by Unreal and the Aureal sound card back in the early days. I still hold a grudge toward creative for legally destroying Aureal.

  8. Cut says:

    Without doubting Katharine’s and Chris’ technical knowledge or writing skills, I am really beginning to feel RPS’ hardware review strategy is mortally flawed.

    The individual items chosen for review seem to be pretty random, with the choice depending mostly on whether a manufacturer is willing to send one over for testing or not.

    The reviews themselves also seem similarly unstructured, with no spec sheet and certainly no coherent list of important features evaluated for each model within a category. Whatever your personal must-have criteria happen to be, you never know whether they will even be mentioned from one review to the next…

    And most problematic – and the most serious disservice to RPS readers – are these “The Best X of…” articles: they may end up at the top of a google search list, but you can’t give a valid opinion regarding the “best” of anything when you only include a tiny fraction of the market in your pool of competing products. As I recall, one of the categories in the “Best Gaming Monitor…” article was won by… the only monitor to have been reviewed in that category.

    Must repeat – I love RPS and have no doubts about the professionalism or good intentions of all concerned, but these hardware reviews just need a rethink.

    • Raoul Duke says:

      Totally agree.

      There is also an obsession with stuff that is presumably of interest to competitive gamers (headsets with mics, for instance) or niche areas (stupidly wide widescreen monitors) that is of little relevance to most gamers.

      E.g. if you aren’t playing mic-driven, team based online games then a microphone is not needed, in which case there are approximately 10423908245 non-‘gaming’ headphones which are better than just about anything with a mic attached to it.

      I reckon a more interesting approach would be something like the old Tom’s Hardware thing of “what’s the best entry level/mid-range/very expensive X at the moment” type articles every month covering the main PC components (CPU/GPU/RAM/storage/mouse/keyboard/gamepad/etc). So sort of like this article, but covering more relevant hardware and as a living/rolling document that gets updated as the market changes.

    • Katharine Castle says:

      Thanks for your feedback! I’d argue it’s an equal disservice to recommend something I haven’t tested or tried, but I do try and review everything equally and talk about the same features within each review. For headsets, it may not be marked up in such a way, but you’ll always find a discussion about the microphone, comfort and overall sound quality with the same set of games I use for testing.

      These best articles are going to be living documents, too – so the headsets listed here are really just a starting point from what I’ve reviewed so far. As new stuff comes in – which I hope is mostly relevant to you guys most of the time – all of these Best articles will be updated and re-worked to reflect what’s currently out there. These lists are by no means set in stone, and I will do my best to test as many things as possible to get the most rounded view of each hardware category :)

      • Mungrul says:

        Maybe rename hardware articles in much the same way as reviews on RPS are named?
        “Wot I think” immediately lets the reader know the piece is subjective and contains personal opinion, and therefore doesn’t raise the heckles of those looking for something more in-depth and wide-ranging.

        Technical aside, but if we’re talking gaming headsets, I’m pretty sure that most developers won’t bother mastering their game’s audio at sample rates higher than 44.1kHz / 16bit.
        You could probably prove this by extracting a game’s audio files and loading them into something like Audacity, MediaInfo or GSpot.

  9. PancreaticDefect says:

    I bought a Logitech G533 wireless set a little over a year ago and its one of the best headsets I’ve every owned. Its lightweight, comfortable, sounds great, and I’ve never once managed to kill the battery even after a full day of playing games. Oh, and it channel hops when the signal gets dodgy so you can stay connected even while moving around the house. I bought them to replace the G930 wireless set I had after they developed the all to common connection issues.

  10. geldonyetich says:

    Personally, I’ve had the most luck with Sennheisers. There are some cheaper (~$99) models that provide authentic sound balances with good fidelity.

    Most “gaming” headsets completely screw the pooch by drowning out the sound with excessive bass and lousy treble, yet earn glowing praise from headset reviewers. I think maybe all those can reviews damage their brains.

  11. BooleanBob says:

    When my g930s finally died (I wore out the plastic), I was in need of a replacement. I went with the Arctis 7s on the strength of the RPS review, but had to return them within a week as the sound quality was dire – I’m not an audiophile, but the way I’d describe it is that everything sounded really flat. You couldn’t pick out the range of high and low tones.

    On top of that the 3D sound was useless for gaming, and the headset was giving me enormous ear-pain and headaches after less than an hour of play.

    I wasn’t sure where to go, and felt quite stung by the disparity between RPS’s endorsement and the appalling quality of the £130 product I’d been sent. So I went back to logitech, as although I’d had issues with the 930s (usb/connectivity related), at least the sound and build quality had been good.

    The g533s were about £40 cheaper than the arctis 7s. Remarkably the sound quality was a massive improvement, the surround sound is actually worth a damn and the headset is miles more comfortable.

    They’re bulkier than both the g930s and the arctis 7s, and I think the sound might not be quite as good as in the g930s, but for me the trade-off was well worth making. It was a question of a headset that was fit for purpose versus a more expensive one that dramatically wasn’t.

  12. Kefren says:

    Thanks for this. I must admit I got a bit confused over the years, because I thought stereo had died off – even on-board sound on budget motherboards can now output 5.1 or 7.1. When I bought my last headphones many years ago they were a 5.1 headset with multiple speakers, so it attaches to a stand and volume/settings control that has 8 cables. It is the Speedlink headphones at link to techgage.com
    As far as I could tell it is proper headphone surround sound and works nicely. Then it seems like headphone manufacturers have just gone back to stereo over the last 10 years. Is there a reason for that, or have I just misunderstood? Should I just go back to stereo when these break? (They’ve lasted over 10 years so far, and I have done one repair on them about a year ago).

    Also, thanks for covering wired headsets too – I don’t use any wireless gadgets if I can help it (Oculus Touch was the one exception), since I hate the hassles of charging, and also avoid things with batteries in because they seem to be pretty bad environmentally.

    Lastly – is there an easy way to find out what materials are used in each headphone? I avoid leather, and the terminology regarding the materials for phone cases and headphones can be really confusing. Soem say they are leather when they obviously aren’t (because of the low price); some say PU leather, which some sources say can contain particles of leather, others say don’t; some say synthetic and are probably a safe bet, but it’s not always clear. I always email manufacturers but not all of them reply, or even seem to know the answer. Just asking in passing. Thanks!

    • fish99 says:

      I’ve owned the Medusas, they are quite possibly the poorest sounding headphones I’ve used. I didn’t even find the 3D audio particularly convincing, not compared with a 5.1/7.1 speaker set. Personally I’d rather just use plain stereo or stereo with virtual surround sound processing (which can also be done via your soundcard), and have some actual high quality headphones made by someone who knows what they’re doing – i.e. Sennheiser, AKG, Beyerdynamic, Audio-Technica etc.

  13. Catchcart says:

    I bought the Arctis 7 (on a similar recommendation from Tom’s Hardware) some months back when coop PUBG made my headphones-plus-glued-on-mike too inconvenient.

    I can only echo what Katherine is saying. They are quite comfortable even for a big-head like me (I can just barely snap the last notch on one-size caps into place) though I would say I start feeling the pinch after say 3-4 hours.

    Soundwise it’s just sort of ok. I haven’t played around much with the options but in it’s default setting it’s not blow-me-away’ish but just perfectly decent. I’ve never been tempted to drag it up to my HTPC for late-night movies, opting instead to use the old wired cans-inna-cupboard collecting dust.

    Build quality-wise, they feel good and durable, look nice and reasonably classy. Regarding functionality, the only thing I’m missing is bluetooth for a few in-home lengthy phone conversations. The two-channel layout (one for chat, one for game sound) has taken some time wrapping my head around but I think it’s growing on me. E.g. you can set discord to always use the chat channel (that is represented as it’s own audio device) and set the game channel as the default sound output. Then you can continuously mix the two channels according to your needs and desires. Want to tune out your team mates for a while? Just tilt the mix to favour the game, using the extra volume wheel on the right can (it also has a standard volume wheel on the left one). Having everyhting relevant as hardware buttons makes it so that I never (well, hardly ever)) have to bother with the as-always slightly overblown software package which is much appreciated.

  14. mac4 says:

    With the heady days of desktop speakers firmly behind us

    Why is that? It’s an honest question, just curious.

    I still get by (don’t laugh) with a Trust 2.1 speaker set, link to trust.com . Not unhappy with the sound, although after years of use, the eternal recurring problem of the volume controls going iffy has kicked in, resulting in plenty of annoying fiddling around with the PC volume controls as such. (Is that not an issue with headphones? I have been thinking of a remote control for the PC audio, which appears to exist.)

    I can see how headphones would add to the experience with some games (e.g., Hellblade, which I’ve yet to play), but could never really stand them. Find them too often uncomfortable, and claustrophobic/alienating.

    • bramble says:

      I’m just extrapolating my own experience, but I would never consider spending money on regular speakers over a headset nowadays simply due to the rise of multiplayer gaming. I want to use voice comms, and it’s impractical to do that if some speakers are blaring over my speech in the middle of a game. Additionally, as I don’t have a room or exclusive space dedicated to gaming, speakers would be a nuisance to other people in the house. A good quality headset totally sidesteps all of those problems, and, in my opinion, make even single player games more immersive and exciting by mostly eliminating distracting noises during play. I doubt my experience is unique.

      • mac4 says:

        Right, thanks, valid points.

        I’m not or hardly into multiplaying and I live apart together, so that pretty much rules out those issues. But, yes, I can see that, and I too doubt you’ll be unique in it :)

    • MooseMuffin says:

      I use speakers whenever I don’t need a mic, which is 80% of my gaming time.

    • Raoul Duke says:

      I don’t think it’s right at all. I still use my desktop speakers.

      Not sure about others, but there’s something claustrophobic to me about wearing headphones unless I have to.

    • Fredrik Sellevold says:

      Yes, I was puzzled by this statement too. Obviously headphones are valuable – especially for multiplayer gaming – but the implication that they’re the only way to get good sound is … odd.

      I use desktop speakers most of the time, the same set is still available and I’m very happy with it.

      • mac4 says:

        Okidoki, thanks for the confirmations above, all. Guess we are not alone :)

        I was indeed wondering whether I’d missed something in the audio field, making speakers way passé, hence my question. And yes, headphones make me feel shut out, and it’s handy to be able to hear the phone and doorbell (and birds singing outside, neighbors kicking up a racket, etc.), and so on :) To each their own, shall we say.

        (Let me also confirm the wearing glasses issue mentioned further below. Quite forgotten about it, but it’s true I find.)

  15. Menthalion says:

    This article lost any credibility with “but in some cases it can help make music feel more immersive and all-encompassing than regular stereo”.

    Good virtual surround is based on sources having more than two channels. Outputting only two of these is like simulating two speakers within your headphone, a completely unnecessary and damaging process.

    Virtual surround processing will destroy meticulously mixed tracks. Listen to binaural tracks made for headphones like Yosi Horikawa’s “Bubbles” in stereo and virtual surround and you’ll notice.

    About gaming headsets vs. audiophile headphones: Few headsets warrant their price in audio quality. There have been some notable exceptions though.

    Audiophile / dedicated headphones generally provide better quality for the same price, even when compensating for an added VModa BoomPro, ModMic or MiniMic. However, they too are priced at a premium for most people, with only a few exceptions there as well.

    Finding these pearls is the hard part. The biggest problem is as soon as marketing departments finds out they are succeeded by a more expensive model (Fischer FA-011, Philips Fidelio X) or discontinued outright to prevent competition with other models of the same brand (Sennheiser HD 239).

    The ATH-MX50 is one of the exceptions, a staple bang-for-the-buck audiophile headset always mentioned in these threads. Some think them a bit too neutral for gaming though.

    The problem with a lot of headphones and practically all gaming headsets for gaming is the limited sound stage for virtual surround: Almost every one is closed back.

    If you have no problems with sound leaking (both in and out) where you’re gaming, consider an open backed headphone to get a better sense of space.

  16. PantsGuy says:

    protip: dt770

  17. PanFaceSpoonFeet says:

    Fuck the lot of yous! I’ve got a £20 sennheiser headset.

    • Horg says:

      I had one of those too until Max the cat chewed through the cable. Second best set i’ve ever owned and the best value for money in the market. Never buying integrated cable again.

      • Papageno says:

        Well, there’s your problem, having a cat. Get a nice goldfish instead: they never chew through cables. :-)
        And my current headset which I’ve had forever is an old Sennheiser PC150 or something that has the green mini-jack and the pink one. But I feel like I’m missing out by not getting something fancier. Maybe that Corsair Void USB one. I think I’ve heard good things about it.

  18. Fredrik Sellevold says:

    One thing I’d really like to see in headset reviews is a consideration for how comfortable they are to wear with glasses. Finding a pair that I can use for extended periods of time is literally a pain. Currently I’m using a pair of non-gaming headphones with a separate mic clipped on. It’s reasonably comfortable, but it’s not an ideal solution, thanks to the mess of an extra cable, the sub-optimal placement of the mic and the lack of a volume control dial on the headphone cable.

    • hemmer says:

      I recently looked into this for a friend and there is a surprising lack of information on that front.

      From what I could gather what you want is not the common faux-leather foam-filled pads, but the soft, velour-like ones. But even then it varies wildly from model to model, because they have to be thick enough to cushion all the pressure.

      Ideally I’d look for something with a steelseries-like construction, as they tend to put little pressure on the ears, but with different pads.

      My brother just swapped the pads on his Siberia v2 to velour and seems to be happy, but that obviously doesn’t work for every headset (I’d think) and is not really an ideal option either way.

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