What is a Gaming Headset?
There are many headset options on the market, but not all over-the-ear headphones can be considered gaming headsets.
Wired vs. Wireless
When choosing either type of headset, it is important to first determine how your headset needs to connect to your other devices.
What to Look for in a Gaming Headset
Depending on the types of games you like to play or the different chat services you wish to utilize, specific headsets are available that may be a better choice for you.
Unique Features to Look for
There are many brand-specific features or functions offered to help take your headset and gaming experience to the next level.
October 15, 2021
Gaming Headset Buying Guide
Gaming headsets' affordability and functionality are great for more than just playing games, and they have quickly evolved to become sophisticated communication devices.
More people than ever are working and gaming from home. Finding the right headset can make all the difference in your user experience. Gaming headsets' affordability and functionality are great for more than just playing games, and they have quickly evolved to become sophisticated communication devices.
Finding the right headset for you can seem overwhelming with all the many features and specifications available today. This buying guide will help you find the perfect gaming headset by going over the many facets of modern headsets and how they can affect your gaming experience. Continue reading below to help you make the most informed decision possible on your next headset.
What is a Gaming Headset?
There are many headset options on the market, but not all over-the-ear headphones can be considered gaming headsets. First and foremost, a distinction between headphones and headsets needs to be made. Headphones do not have a microphone or any built-in two-way communication features. Headsets, on the other hand, have built-in microphones and other features that aim to benefit communication. Beyond the microphone, many other features can be present on gaming headsets, such as added tactile buttons on the device or noise-canceling sound isolation. Gaming headsets also share a similar aesthetic, with some offering addressable RGB lights or shared logos and patterns.
Wired vs. Wireless
Before diving into the specifics of headset features, it is worth considering if you will like a wired or wireless headset.
Typically, wireless options are more expensive than their wired counterparts, but they can also come with added features. Some wireless headsets even support connecting to multiple devices at once, which can be great for both gaming and remote work. Wired headsets are an excellent choice for many users because you can often get a high-quality device at an affordable price, and there is never a need to recharge or wait to use your headset.
When choosing either type of headset, it is important to first determine how your headset needs to connect to your other devices. Most wired headsets will either use a 3.5mm jack or a USB cable to connect to devices. Wireless headsets can be a bit more complicated, because they can use many different connections such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or other proprietary technologies to interact with your devices.
What to Look for in a Gaming Headset
Deciding on a gaming headset is just like purchasing any other piece of technology. The first step should always be to determine what you are going to use the headset for. Depending on the types of games you like to play or the different chat services you wish to utilize, specific headsets are available that may be a better choice for you. Knowing how you will use your headset will make understanding the many features much more manageable and the buying process overall more enjoyable. Read below for a list of typical headset specifications and what they can mean for your device.
The overall feel and sturdiness of your headset can be referred to as its build quality. While this feature may not be listed on a box or web page, it is arguably one of the most important to consider before buying a headset. Be aware of cheap deals or severely marked down headsets, because this is often a major sign that the device was produced as cheaply as possible. A headset with a poor build quality may work in the short term, but it is likely to fail or cause problems down the line. An easy way to ensure a high build quality is to look for reputable brands of headsets that come with high-quality cables or other accessories.
One of the key defining features of a gaming headset is the microphone. Attached microphones will never match the quality of dedicated recording devices. However, they are an excellent affordable alternative for most gamers out there.
There are a few different kinds of microphones available, and each has its pros and cons. Most commonly, gaming headsets will feature either an omnidirectional or unidirectional microphone. The main difference between the two is how the microphones pick up sounds.
- An omnidirectional microphone will pick up sound from all directions, which is great for using the microphone for multiple people or users who plan on using the headset in quiet environments with limited outside sounds.
- Unidirectional microphones are by far the most popular choice because they only pick up sound from one direction. This helps reduce outside noise in crowded environments or households with more than one person gaming at a time.
Other features to look for in a headset mic are noise-canceling technology or detachable or upgradable microphones.
Depending on the games you like to play, surround sound can either make or break a headset. Laidback gamers who primarily use headsets for communication or single-player games may be able to save money by purchasing headsets without virtual surround sound or added audio features. Competitive gamers or people interested in more realistic games may wish to spend the extra money on more accurate surround sound headsets in order to get an edge in player versus player battle. If you plan on using your headset for other activities such as listening to music or watching content, it may be worth spending the extra money on a headset with better audio quality as well.
Often tied in with build quality, comfort is another essential aspect of any gaming headset. Heads come in all shapes and sizes, and so do headsets. Finding the right fit for you will ensure the headset is comfortable and help you get the most out of the headset's other features.
Some devices come with adjustable pieces such as head straps or different-sized ear cups that can help to further cater the headsets fit specifically to your head. Gamers who wear glasses should carefully consider the comfort of their headset, because specific ear cups or designs can make using them with glasses very uncomfortable. If you are unable to try on a headset before purchasing it, some good specifications to check for are the headset's weight or the size of the ear cups. Typically going a size larger than you think you will need will leave ample room for glasses or other accessories.
As mentioned earlier, there are many ways that headsets can connect to other devices. Typically, a wired headset that uses a 3.5mm audio jack can connect to most devices. However, it is important to make sure your chosen gaming platform supports your headset before finalizing a purchase. By checking your device specifications and the available connections on a headset, you can ensure that the two are compatible.
Another critical factor to consider is if you are planning on using the headset for more than one device. If that is the case, a USB connection or wireless headset may be a better choice as they add more flexibility in their range of supported devices. Some high-end headsets may even support multiple simultaneous connections, which can be beneficial on mobile or other specific gaming platforms. Be careful with purchasing headsets designed for specific consoles or platforms, because they may appear to have connections that could support other devices but those may be blocked by the manufacturer.
Unique Features to Look For
Headsets, like any piece of technology, have basic specifications you can use to compare various devices. Beyond that, there are many brand-specific features or functions offered to help take your headset and gaming experience to the next level. Most of these features come at a premium cost but are considered worth it for users with particular needs or special requirements. Below, you will find examples of some extra gaming headset features and the benefits associated with them.
For specific games, especially Esports titles, sound is everything. Hearing the proper directional sound cues can significantly affect your gameplay and can make the difference between a win or a loss. Noise isolation is a feature in headsets that reduces outside noise and helps to focus on the audio coming through the headphones. Typically, there are two kinds of noise isolation found in gaming headsets:
- Passive noise cancelation helps to reduce the bleed of outside sounds utilizing physical design such as a closed-back or thick padding.
- Active noise cancellation is a bit more sophisticated and expensive because the headset uses technology to actively filter out background noise as it comes in. This allows the headset to produce the clearest audio possible.
Both options are a tremendous upgrade when compared to a standard communication headset.
The way that your headset can connect to different devices cannot be mentioned enough. The more devices supported by your headset, the more use you will get out of it. Furthermore, the way your headset connects to other devices can directly affect how you use your headset.
Wired headsets can be limited by cable length or durability. In contrast, wireless headsets can run out of battery or fail to hold a charge. All of these things and more are important to consider when looking at the possible connection types for your headset.
A good practice is to think of the space and manner you will most commonly use your headset in and determine what connections are best for those scenarios. Remember, some headsets can support multiple connection types, which can help to add redundancy to the device or make it viable for use in areas other than gaming.
While not as important to some as other specifications, the look of your gaming headset still is a significant part of your purchasing decision. Outlandish designs or headsets with excessive features can make them uncomfortable to wear or distracting when using them for streaming or video calls. On the other hand, features such as addressable RGB or swappable head straps can help to personalize your headset and make it feel more like your own.
In the end, the way your headset looks matters most to you because you will be the person looking at it most often. If you find a headset you like that doesn't look appealing, try exploring other options in that brand until you find something more to your liking. Other peripherals such as keyboards, mice, or case fans can sometimes be synced with headsets to further add a cohesive aesthetic to your PC build.
Gaming headsets have tons of unique features that can vary widely from brand to brand. Sometimes these features can be enough to sway your choice towards a specific headset. However, more often than not, they will be minor changes aimed at improving daily use with the device. Common features like this include tactile buttons on the headset or cables for muting the microphone, adjusting volumes, or even switching audio sources. More luxurious features could consist of combined wired and wireless functionality or magnetic swappable parts for easy repair or upgrades. Suppose longevity of use is important to you. In that case, features like repairability or swappable parts can add years to the life of your device.
These days, finding a gaming headset is easy, but finding a quality, affordable headset that's perfect for you can be a bit more complicated. By taking the time to determine just how you wish to use the headset, you can better understand the many specifications available and make an informed purchase that's right for you. Wired or wireless modern headsets can come with a ton of added features that can quickly raise the cost of devices and may not be crucial for your needs. Remember to take your time and really think about how each specification and feature will affect your user experience. Certain gamers may benefit from these extra functions more than others. Knowing the platform and connection type you plan to use can help ensure you don't spend too much or too little on your next gaming headset.