Gaming headphones are an essential part of the gamer’s image. They not only provide full immersion into the world of first-class sound effects of modern games, but also give the comfort of prolonged use. Plus, they have the appropriate design and additional options that can make life easier for fans of computer entertainment. At the same time, the gamer headphones market is so wide that it is difficult for the average person to understand which model to choose for purchase. In our article we will analyze in detail all the technical nuances of gaming headphones, which will help determine the choice, as well as talk about the best brands.
Types and shape of headphones
Which form factor is right for gaming?
Headphones come in several form factors, but the gaming industry predominantly uses four basic designs:
In-ear or earbuds are the simplest option, in which the headphones fit in the ear. Such models are the most budget on the market, they are compact, light, like fluff, but they produce amateur level sound and make your ears very tired during long gaming sessions. That is suitable for short “play” in mobile games.
In-canal – a slightly more advanced version, placed directly in the ear canal. This improves the quality of sound transmission and reduces the influence of external noise, but also causes a fairly rapid fatigue. In addition, both versions are usually equipped with a microphone on the cable. This affects the quality of the recording, because the microphone is constantly dangling, capturing extraneous sounds.
Overhead – much more acceptable option if you plan to spend more than half an hour in the game. These models fit over your ear with soft ear cushions and provide the necessary level of comfort. The speakers here are big enough, but located far away, so you should pay attention to the volume reserve.
Full-size headphones are the best option for gaming, especially for streaming or eSports tournaments. Such models cover the whole ear, bringing the speakers closer and providing the best sound insulation, i.e. no extraneous sounds will distract you. The main disadvantage – a lot of weight, which for some may be a critical point. And of course the price – full-size speakers are always more expensive than overhead ones.
2. Features of design
The little things matter a lot.
Once you’ve decided on the right form factor, it’s time to think about comfort, because uncomfortable headphones can ruin the gaming experience, even if they produce top-notch sound. Tired ears, aching neck, chafed scalp, rattling design elements and other unpleasantness are the obligatory attributes that go to those who neglect the importance of design.
Before you buy gaming headphones it is highly recommended to try them on, assess the headband length adjustment margin and the comfort of the cup fit: the headphones should not dangle or put pressure on your head and ears. Check the quality of the cable and the strength of the braid – it is often the weakest point in the design. It is also important to check the quality of the assembly of the moving elements – they should not have too much movement, squeak and rattle.
The materials of the ear cushions are also important. Usually velour or leather are used. We recommend choosing velour ear cushions, they do not slip when wet with sweat. Accordingly, the headphones will not dangle in your ears. There is a disadvantage – the material wears out quickly, so the option to replace the pads will be a big plus, worthy of overpayment. If you like leather, then choose artificial leather, it is less slippery than natural.
As for the functions of backlighting, it is a matter of taste, because the presence of LED “garland” does not affect the performance. If you are a streamer, a bright headset on your head may please the audience, but in other cases the backlighting only leads to an increase in the cost of headphones, so it can be safely ignored.
3. Type of Cups
Is cup type that important to a gamer?
In addition to the different form factors, gaming headphones use a variety of cup designs. There are three of them and each one is good in its own way, though not without its flaws. Let’s find out what kind of cups are best for gaming.
The open type provides almost free air circulation, so the player can hear what is going on around him, i.e. you won’t miss the doorbell or the notification of your smartphone. It also reduces the acoustic pressure on the ear, which is extremely important in long gaming sessions. On the other hand, part of the sound goes to the outside space, which can disturb those around you.
The semi-open type is characterized by the presence of separate holes on the body of the cups, forming a kind of balance between comfort for the ears and sound isolation. But with prolonged use, increased acoustic pressure can cause discomfort, and outside sounds can be heard muffled. So you can miss the sudden arrival of the boss in your office in the middle of a heated online battle, especially if the volume is turned up above 50%.
The closed type provides complete immersion in the world of gaming sound with powerful bass and complete isolation from the outside world. But high sound pressure can provoke fast fatigue of the auditory nerve and even cause headaches. So this option is suitable only for short “runs” in atmospheric games, filled with high-quality acoustic effects.
To summarize. The best balance of comfort and sound quality will provide semi-open cups, for long streaming it is best to choose headphones with open cups, but for connoisseurs of full immersion the closed type will be ideal.
4. Key Features
The most important thing about the numbers
The most important point in the specifications of gaming headphones is the frequency range, i.e. the frequencies that their speakers are capable of reproducing. The average person can pick up frequencies between 20 Hz and 20 kHz. These are the optimal lower and upper limits for gaming headphones, which will reproduce the full range of audible bass, midrange and treble frequencies. If the model you choose supports a higher range, it will provide better sound quality at maximum volume. Headphones with a smaller range are not suitable for gameplay, because they will not allow the sound design of the game to be fully revealed.
It is also important to look at the impedance graph, which expresses the sound quality. The higher this value, the cleaner the sound is, but the lower the volume. The optimal impedance for gaming models is considered to be in the range of 32-40 ohms, but for headphones with impedance above 40 ohms you may need an additional amplifier.
The third important point is the sensitivity, which affects the volume level. For gaming headsets, the recommended sensitivity range is 90 to 120 dB. The higher the value, the louder the sound can be.
And the fourth point that is worth attention is the level of distortion, which is specified in the characteristics as a percentage. This parameter shows the extent of the sound deviation from the original. The acceptable level for gamers’ headsets is considered to be the range from 0.5 to 2%.
5. Surround Sound Support
Looks like someone snuck up behind you…
Modern games are capable of generating acoustic content with very precise positioning of sound sources. This is especially true for genres such as shooters, where it is important to catch even the smallest rustles and pinpoint their direction on a competitive level. If you are a fan of such gaming projects, the support of the surround sound function will be an excellent assistant, otherwise it will turn into a waste of money for an unnecessary “feature”, which in the best case is just to show off to your friends. Surround sound technology in headphones is implemented in two schemes: virtual and multichannel.
Virtual surround sound is simulated by software. It costs considerably less, plus it allows you to implement the feature even in budget and wireless models of any form factor. On the other hand, virtual multichannel has less fidelity, which means that immersion in the game world will be incomplete.
Multichannel or real surround sound is created by using multiple speakers in the design of the cups at once, so the most accurate determination of the location of sound sources in the gaming space is ensured. There are also serious drawbacks: the complexity of adjustment and calibration, the increased weight of the headphones, overpriced.
6. Noise Reduction
Nothing extra – just pure sound.
Unnecessary noise can distract from the gameplay, so gaming headphones use noise-canceling technology. There are two types – passive and active.
Passive noise cancelling is performed by the design of the cups and, first of all, the ear cushions, which are made of sound-absorbing materials and fit tightly to the ears, reducing the volume of extraneous sounds penetrating. This is often enough, especially with full-size form factor headphones.
Active noise cancellation involves eliminating noise by superimposing specially generated sounds of the same amplitude, but with inverted phase, which ultimately results in their mutual suppression. This technology increases the cost of the headphones, but provides better protection against extraneous noise.
However, it is worth remembering that the active noise cancellation function is strictly contraindicated for gamers with impaired vestibular function. Its use can cause severe headaches.
7. PC connection options
Which headphones are better, wired or wireless?
Most gaming headphones available on the market use a wired connection to the computer, although the share of wireless models is steadily increasing. The latter are more expensive, but increase the mobility of the player by allowing him to stay away from the monitor or TV. On the other hand, professional eSports players do not particularly like wireless models because of their higher weight, the need to constantly recharge the battery and poor resistance to external radio interference, which can severely distort the sound output. Thus, you should buy wireless headphones only if mobility is more important than sound quality.
Conventional wired models may have several options for connecting to a PC:
- The plug: standard 3.5 mm, or 6.3 mm in specialized versions;
- a combined version with a standard plug and USB.
For gaming, it is preferable to choose headphones with a USB connection. This opens the possibility of extending the functionality through special software, but most importantly, provides better signal transmission from the microphone. So your conversations will be broadcast with a minimum of interference.
Moreover, many USB models have a built-in sound card, allowing you to bypass the limitations of the audio card installed in your computer. If you plan to use external amplifiers, you should prefer headphones with a male connector.
Regarding the length of the wire, you shouldn’t buy models with a cable shorter than 2 meters, while experts consider the optimal length to be 3 meters. Do not forget about the quality of the cable, it should be strong enough and not tear when bending.
8. Features of the choice of microphone
Remember! You need to be heard
The microphone in a gaming headset must capture the speech without distortion and extraneous noise, so it is not recommended to cut corners on this element of the gaming headset. The first thing you should pay attention to is the frequency characteristics – the quality model has to work in the range from 100 to 15000 Hz or at least to aspire to these values.
The presence of active noise cancelling is also important, otherwise the ether will be just full of extraneous sounds, squeaks of game chair and your breath, and it will obviously irritate the teammates. This option works most effectively in models that are connected to your computer via a USB cord.
And do not forget about the type of microphone. We give preference to the directional versions, which cut off unnecessary sounds better than others. This simplifies the noise cancelling function, and thus provides the clearest sound in the chat.
9. Control Functions
Why is this button here?
Often manufacturers provide their gaming headphones, especially the top models, with additional functionality. This can be a simple software for fine-tuning, if you choose a version that connects via USB or wireless channel, as well as auxiliary buttons on the headphones themselves.
In the case of the usual remote control on the body or cable, it really pays extra money only for the simplest options: volume control, turn the microphone on and off. Everything else – it’s just marketing and complicating the design, which can lead to early failure of the headphones. Additional buttons you will use at most a couple of times for tests and safely forget about them.
10. The best brands
Who is the market leader in gaming headphones?
The gaming headset market is very saturated, but among its clear leaders are the company Logitech, which is famous for its wireless models, but also offers a wide range of quite budget headphones.
Do not lag behind and brand Razer, originally specializing in gadgets for gamers, so they know a lot about producing quality products.
The company Sennheiser, one of the leaders among the manufacturers of wired gaming headphones, has its own impressive share.
The world-famous firms Asus and Sony are constantly on the list of the best brands that produce hybrid versions with both wired and wireless connection to the PC.
The Best gaming headphones – The presented models have an excellent balance of technical characteristics and ergonomic solutions, which guarantees the comfort of use and high-quality sound, with which your favorite game becomes even more interesting.