Hardware Guide 2013: How To Choose A Gaming Headset

Written by Katie Allen on Tue, Dec 24, 2013 4:00 PM

Sound is crucial to games. Sure, you can play your favourite FPS with the sound effects turned off, or play an epic RPG without the atmospheric soundtrack, but it’s undeniable that games lose a certain something when you can’t get all the pulses and roars out of it.

Headsets, then, are often a key purchase for gamers, both for that extra intensity of engagement and for saving your family or housemates from having to suffer the bloodcurdling yelps of harpies in their ears while you have a good old session on The Witcher 2. But it’s often tricky to choose a good headset. How do you know which one to go for when so much comes down to personal choice? We’ve run through a few factors to consider when picking out a new gaming headset…

Sound Quality

Probably the most important consideration in buying a headset (other than price), but what you want from a headset’s sound can vary based on personal preference. If you want to get a good quality sound that suits you and for a manageable price, it’s probably worth heading down to your local hardware shop and asking to actually test out a couple of sets. Internet reviews can be helpful, but just as some headsets are comfortable for some people and not others, so will people have different preferences with sound. You might like really heavy bass, or a more balanced, subtle sound quality.

Price

Headsets range wildly in price but, fortunately for would-be buyers, are still considerably less costly than external speaker systems. As well as looking at recommendations online, it’s worth checking out latest deals from manufacturers. Force feedback and some of the other high-end optional additions will also cost you more, so consider going basic in terms of features if you want great quality for less money.

Surround Sound vs. Stereo

Surround sound is achieved through having multiple speakers and complex earcups in the headset that allow the user to pinpoint where a noise is coming from (also known as "positional audio"). For many games, particularly online FPS and multiplayer, this is pretty essential for gamers. If, for instance, you hear bullets coming from behind and to your left, you know which way to turn to eliminate the threat.

Though the quality difference between surround sound and stereo is minimal, some find the slight distortion that can be caused by surround sound’s multiple speakers. You’d probably have to be something of a headphones buff to notice the difference, but stereo might be a better option if you really, really want immaculate sound quality.

Comfort And Appearance

If you want to engage in a day-long gaming marathon, you’d better make sure that set feels comfortable. Try testing out a few in stores if you can, but if not, make sure your headset has adjustable head band sizing and cushioned ear cups. It’s also worth looking at how much it weighs before you try it; you can’t always tell from trying a set briefly, but heavier sets will increase the risks of headache and fatigue. Many people won't think the aesthetics of a headset are as crucial as other factors, but it's always nice to have a bit of kit that looks pretty as well as being functional.

Force Feedback

Yes, the thing that DualShocks and other console controllers have had for years is now available pressed against your ears. While some gamers might not appreciate their head pulsing and buzzing while playing Battlefield 4, force feedback does add a certain dynamism to headsets. Many use the technology to render sounds lower than the range of human hearing as vibrations, whilst others throb as in-game bullets whizz past your head.

Microphone

Microphones are one of the key factors that distinguish your average gaming headset from a standard set of headphones, and for many these are crucial. But there are a couple of things you need to look out for when buying so you don’t get stuck with some of the more irritating aspects of having a microphone. The key aspect you want to look for is noise cancelling options, which prevents other players getting static feedback. If you find microphones irritating when not in use, it’s also worth looking out for some of the sets out there that offer detachable microphones so they aren’t in the way when you’re gaming solo.

What are your key factors when buying a headset? What are your top recommendations for the best gaming headsets out there at the moment? Is there any factor you value that we’ve missed from this list?

Let us know in the discussion area!

What Do You Most Consider In Choosing A Headset?

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04:31 Dec-25-2013

The best advice for purchasing a gaming headset is DONT. For the same price of a lot of headsets, you can buy a microphone and a headphone where you could use anywhere, you aren't chained to your desktop because of using a headset.

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03:11 Dec-25-2013

i have an uprock skullcandy ....its nt that comfortable bt has a gud sound quality .....and as i listen to music ..its vry gud ;)

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02:45 Dec-25-2013

I bought an entry level audiophile headphones yesterday; sennheiser HD 518 which they say are very good for gaming as well as listening to music which I do both. I'm also getting a recording mic soon since I like making music as a hobby as well so I think it's a win-win for me :))

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01:03 Dec-25-2013

i own a razer electra, very very comfy, i didn't need a mic since i don't play multiplayer that much, and thanks to razer's surround sound software it is now a passable surround sound headset

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03:16 Dec-26-2013

yay, electra user! :D
+1

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22:57 Dec-24-2013

sound quality for me, usually headphones that cost more than 250euros they are comfortable enough.

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23:03 Dec-24-2013

v-moda are realy good and comfortable headphones! m-100's are the best at 300 US dolars

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04:34 Dec-25-2013

V-modas are incredibly stiff.For comfortability try bose headphones, though sub optimal sound quality, it still beats V-modas price to performance wise

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05:15 Dec-25-2013

I've got a pair of Bose QC15's and they are amazingly comfortable and the active noise cancelling is great but no way are they worth the price. There are much better headphones for much cheaper, I wouldn't recommend Bose to anyone unless they really want the active noise cancelling feature.

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12:43 Dec-25-2013

realy my v-modas are the most comfortable headphones ive ever owned!

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21:44 Dec-25-2013

I own 3 pairs one is the same BOSE QC 15 (they are really amazing) but I have them for music mostly, the other one is a Turtle beach 5.1 CODW3, they are quite good for gaming, and the other one is a Monster inspiration with active nc.

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20:53 Dec-24-2013

I'm the only person looking at surround sound.
#ForeverAlone :(

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22:43 Dec-24-2013

No. I have a Harman-Kardon Surround System that I use and it is amazing!

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12:44 Dec-25-2013

for some reason my school got Harman-Kardon 2.1 soundsticks and Bose 5.1 systems in lots of the rooms

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19:07 Dec-24-2013

Comfort is main thing sound is generally great on most headphones so i always find something that makes me feel comfortable..:D

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17:43 Dec-24-2013

I'm using the razer tiamat 7.1 headset ... its great just ****ty mic....

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17:49 Dec-24-2013

That's why headsets are a no-go, you've basically just got headphones with lots of small drivers.

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17:53 Dec-24-2013

Yeah i just got 1 50mm driver in each ear

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17:55 Dec-24-2013

That's all you need, you don't need 10 ears to hear in surround sound so why would you need 10 drivers like the Tiamat?

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17:56 Dec-24-2013

wouldent there be 8 or 9 drivers cause its 7.1?

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17:57 Dec-24-2013

That's what I thought, center, two forward, two side, two back and a sub but the Razer website says it has 10 drivers.

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18:00 Dec-24-2013

hmm thats odd. But yeah 2 drivers is better because they are much bigger so better base and everything

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18:03 Dec-24-2013

The other two drivers might include the mic and volume control for some reason, that's all I can think the extra ones are from looking at their website. If people think they need more than two drivers for surround sound, then while using stereo headphones, listen to this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IUDTlvagjJA

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18:04 Dec-24-2013

oh yeah that thing is soo cool
\

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18:07 Dec-24-2013

I just started it and i actualy turned my head when i herd somthing but it was just in the vid!

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18:09 Dec-24-2013

Haha yea it's a really good vid to demonstrate surround sound :)

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21:54 Dec-24-2013

this isn't surround sound as such, this uses a special recording device. its like dummies head with a microphone mounted in each ear. when the recording is played back your ears detect the tiny delay between the left and right ears.

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21:58 Dec-24-2013

imagine you are sitting there listening to the barber on your right side, when he speaks the sound of his voice travels from his mouth in waves towards your ears. this wave will hit your right ear first the travel around your head becoming

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22:01 Dec-24-2013

so, its still surround sound

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22:04 Dec-24-2013

more muffled as it get so your left ear. it is this muffling of one side and the tiny delay that give you the effect of surround sound. not the fact that you have 7 speakers in all directions but the way it was recorded in the first place.

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01:34 Dec-25-2013

It's stereophonic, it is surround sound. The fact is that you don't need more than two speakers to create 'surround sound', as this video demonstrates. They just use two microphones to record the sound which act as your ears, that's why you only need two drivers in a pair of headphones to create surround sound, any more than that is just diminishing sound quality because the drivers are smaller and the surround sound isn't any more effective.

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01:17 Dec-26-2013

its not just using 2 microphones tho dude, its also the distance apart they are, the type of microphone used and the fact they are mounted inside a plastic head to mimic your ears.
http://www.clickformedia.co.uk/?tag=binaural-sound

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17:36 Dec-24-2013

never really needed headphones.just some good 2:1 speakers :).But if i didn't live alone and i had to get some i'd go for comfort :)

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16:46 Dec-24-2013

V-moda headphones with boompro mic!

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17:01 Dec-24-2013

Thumbs up for headphone + mic combo and steering clear from headsets ;)

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17:04 Dec-24-2013

I had a turtlebeach headset but it broke so i got an afterglow headset but that was uncomfortable then turtlebeach sent me a replacement headset for free then i sold it then i got headphones then they released the mic then i get it for xmas

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17:06 Dec-24-2013

Wow, you've been through quite an audio adventure!

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17:07 Dec-24-2013

oh yeah and before i had my v-modas i had skullcand headphones but they were realy bad and not comfortable. The v-modas are realy nice and metal and comfortable

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17:11 Dec-24-2013

I'm glad you're happy with you setup now :) I went from Sennheiser HD515's to Corsair Vengeance 1500's and now to Sennheiser HD598's with a Fiio E10 and Snowball mic, headsets don't even compare to separate headphones and mic.

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17:12 Dec-24-2013

my mic isnt really seperate. It didnt come with the headset but it plugs into the audio input jack on my headset

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17:15 Dec-24-2013

I know but it isn't fully integrated with the headphones. The Mod Mic is also a good option for people who don't want stand-alone microphones.

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16:28 Dec-24-2013

I have AKG K240 MKII and I'm not planning to replace them :D
it's amazing to actually hear the sound range, even when listening to YouTube music, most common headsets or speakers don't offer that ;)

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16:18 Dec-24-2013

Gaming headsets are not the right choice if you're looking for the best experience. Go for a pair of headphones and a dedicated mic unless you prefer the look of gaming headsets over audio quality or are on a tight budget. If you're looking for a 'surround sound' headset or headphones then remember you don't need more than one speaker per ear, just like you don't need more than two ears to hear in 'surround sound'.

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16:04 Dec-24-2013

Steelseries Siberia V2 the most comfortable headset i have ever used

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| 60FPS, High, 1080p
Core i7-10870H 8-Core 2.20GHz GeForce RTX 2060 Asus ROG STRIX Gaming 6GB 16GB
| 60FPS, Medium, 1080p
Ryzen 5 3400G 4-Core 3.7GHz GeForce RTX 2060 6GB 16GB
| 60FPS, Ultra, 1080p
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| 60FPS, High, 1080p
Core i7-10700 8-Core 2.90GHz GeForce GTX 1050 Gigabyte D5 2GB 8GB
0% No [1 votes]
Ryzen 5 3600 6-Core 3.6GHz GeForce RTX 2070 Gigabyte Windforce 8GB 16GB
100% Yes [4 votes]
Ryzen 7 5800H 8-Core 3.2GHz GeForce RTX 3060 Mobile 16GB
100% Yes [2 votes]
| 60FPS, Ultra, 1440p
Ryzen 9 3900X 12-Core 3.8GHz GeForce RTX 3070 EVGA FTW3 Ultra Gaming 8GB 32GB
80% Yes [5 votes]
| 60FPS, Low, 720p
APU A8-7410 Quad-Core Radeon R5 7410 8GB
100% Yes [4 votes]
| 60FPS, Ultra, 1080p
Core i5-11400 6-Core 2.7GHz GeForce RTX 3050 Ti Mobile 8GB
0% No [1 votes]
| 60FPS, Ultra, 1080p
Ryzen 5 3600 6-Core 3.6GHz GeForce GTX 1080 MSI Gaming X 8GB Edition 16GB
100% Yes [3 votes]
| 30FPS, Low, 720p
Ryzen 5 3400G 4-Core 3.7GHz Radeon RX Vega 11 6GB
0% No [1 votes]
| 30FPS, High, 1080p
Core i5-11400 6-Core 2.7GHz GeForce RTX 3050 Ti Mobile 8GB
66.6667% Yes [3 votes]