There are a lot of different headphones to choose from, but most of them are geared towards listening to music. While most headphones have the same features, we understand that your priorities would shift somewhat when you’re looking for one to use specifically for gaming. 

Don’t worry; we’re here to help. In this article, we are going to share with you a detailed buying guide that will help you decide what should you look for when buying a headset for gaming. We are going to talk about the different types of headphones, audio accessories, features, and more. We have a lot to cover, so let’s get started!

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Different Types of Headphones

The first thing that you need to consider before you even start searching for a pair of gaming headphones is the type that you want. Doing this will certainly narrow down your choices. There are different ways to categorize headphones, and we are going to try to cover most of them. The first category is determined by its construction.

In-Ear Monitors

These are also commonly known as in-ear headphones, or sometimes simply, earphones. They don’t have a headband, but rather only have two earpieces that are designed to go into your ear canals, hence the name.

Some people prefer them because they offer less listening fatigue. More than that, because of their smaller size and lack of headband, they are more portable. However, you should be more careful about their cables as theirs are also more delicate.

Those who are allergic to silicone or similar materials must be wary, though, because most of their tips are made out of this material. More importantly, these tips are going to be in contact with your inner ears for a long period, exposing it to inflammation and other risks.

On-Ear Headphones

If you don’t feel comfortable with something being inserted to your ears, then you’ll probably prefer something that’s going to be on (or over) them. That’s what on-ear headphones are, a listening gear that goes on top of your ears.

It now comes with a headband and two ear cups, so expect your pair to be bulky and less portable. There are units that can be folded, though, making them easier and more convenient to carry.

Because they go on your ears, this type of headphones won’t be able to keep all the noise out, which is both a good thing and a bad thing depending on your preferences. If you’re planning to

use this while on transit (for those quick mobile events while on the go), then you will appreciate being more aware of your surroundings. However, for those who really want to keep the outside noise out, this is not the pair for you.

Also, keep in mind that some manufacturers tend to make on-ear headbands tighter to help deal with ambient noise. This makes them less comfortable to use, especially during extended gaming sessions.

Over-Ear Headphones

For those who are looking for a more comfortable option and one that efficiently keeps all the noise out, check out over-ear headphones. This can be recognized by its bigger ear cups that go over your ears and cover it completely.

Again, this can be quite bulky, so we recommend looking for a unit that can be folded down for more convenience. Also, some people find the complete coverage a bit uncomfortable since it hinders ventilation.

In the end, we advise that you try out each of these styles personally to find out how you feel about each of them. Don’t just order them online unless you already have an idea of how your ear reacts to each type of headphones.

Wired vs. Wireless Gaming Headphones

Another way to categorize headphones is according to how they are wired. There are two: wired and wireless. Wired headphones are those that you can connect with your computer or gaming console through a jack. Wireless headphones, on the other hand, use wireless technology, such as Bluetooth.

There are different factors to consider when deciding whether to get a wired or wireless pair. First, you need to consider how much you move during gaming. If you don’t tend to move much, or you only use your headphones at home, then we definitely suggest getting wired headphones.

On the other hand, if you move a lot, you game during travel, or you just hate getting hindered by wires, then wireless is the way to go. Just be mindful of the battery capacity if you do decide to get the wireless version to ensure that you won’t run out of juice during long trips.

Open vs. Closed Gaming Headphones

During your headphones search, you might encounter terms such as open and closed. Most people think that they are similar to on-ear and over-ear headphones. That’s because on-ear headphones are like open ones; they allow more ambient sound to come in.

Closed gaming headphones, on the other hand, are like closed headphones when it comes to noise cancellation.

To be more specific, the terms closed and open refer to ear cups. Open headphones have perforated ear cups that allow air and ambient sound to pass through. It results in a more natural and less-muffled sound.

Meanwhile, closed headphones have non-perforated ear cups. This keeps outside noise out. The advantage this brings into gaming becomes clear when you hear even the faintest in-game sounds. The sound quality is also improved, albeit having a more muffled or resonant effect.

Other Audio Accessories You Need

Anyway, now that we have gone through all the different types of headphones, we can now move on to the different audio accessories that you can also get to improve your audio setup. There are two: the digital sound processor and the digital-analog converter.

Digital Sound Processor

Your headphones are only going to deliver sounds that the game developers have made. Have you ever wondered if there was a way to improve or, better yet, change it to your liking?

That’s what a digital sound processor (or DSP) is for. It allows you to tweak the sounds of your games. It may sound weird at first, but once you get used to it, it can be quite difficult to play without it.

To those who are planning to get a DSP, the brands Astro and Creative are the most popular options.

Digital Analog Converter

Are you having difficulties hearing the sounds that your game produces? That’s mainly due to the digital frequencies of your game’s audio. Human ears, after all, are made for analog frequencies.

This is where the digital-analog converter (or DAC) comes into play. It converts digital sounds into analog ones to make it sound better to human ears. Most speakers and headphones already have built-in DACs, but you can certainly use a DAC as an additional attachment to improve your setup.

Do You Need a Microphone?

Anyway, since we are already talking about accessories, we think that this is the perfect time to answer this question: do you need a microphone? Some headphones already have a built-in mic as an added feature, while there are standalone microphones being marketed to gamers as part of their gaming setup.

Honestly, the only gamers who need a mic are those who stream or chat while playing. This is also a nice addition to your gaming setup if you’re the type of gamer who shares and post their games online.

Otherwise, you don’t really need one, especially if you’re the silent type. For us, any gear that doesn’t add value to your actual gameplay has no space on your gaming desk. We’d rather reserve that precious surface for more games, consoles, and gear.

If you do decide that you need one, though, here are the two different types of mics:

Unidirectional Mic: This is the type of mic that only picks up sound from a single direction. This is great for streamers who want to limit background noise from their recording.

Omnidirectional Mic: As the name suggests, this is the type of mic that picks up sound from all directions. This is great if you are recording sounds like sound effects or song covers. However, it’s probably not for game steaming.

Let’s Talk About Compatibility

You probably have an idea of what type of headphones and other audio gear to get at this point in the article already, but before you go shopping, let us first talk about compatibility.

PC

Getting a pair of headphones for PC gaming is definitely the most complicated. That’s because they sometimes require extra drivers or software to be installed before they work on your computer.

There are plug-and-play headphones, of course. All you need to do is make sure that your chosen unit fits into the standard 3.5-mm audio jack.

Consoles

If you’re not a PC gamer, or if you want to get a pair of headphones for your consoles as well, then read on. Those who play with a Playstation 4/5 will find it easy to look for headphones to use since they have the standard 3.5-mm audio jack.

If you’re planning on getting a pair with a USB connection, then make sure that the Playstation logo is written on its packaging for compatibility.

Finally, those who use Xbox should also check the packaging for compatibility. This is especially true for wireless units. Check if they accommodate Xbox One support. Fortunately, for those who prefer wired headphones, there are a lot of Xbox controllers that now come with the standard 3.5-mm jack; otherwise, you would need to get an adapter.

Different Features to Consider

Once you have determined the type of headphones to get and have made sure that your choice is compatible with your gaming system, we can now look into its features closely. The features that we are going to share with you below are those that you should definitely consider before buying:

Sound Quality

The most important factor to consider when buying a pair of headphones is, of course, sound quality. There are different features that contribute to this. Sound separation, for instance, is one such feature. It means that the different sound elements are separated so that you can hear them clearly.

The best feature, however, is the Dolby Headphone Technology, providing 7.1 vital surround sound. It is the most realistic surround sound to date. It literally means life and death when you’re playing first-person shooting games.

Speaking of FPS games, you might want to get one with impressive bass. After all, it is the element that makes all those gunshots and explosions realistic.

Noise Cancellation

One of our favorite features is noise cancellation. We’re one of those gamers who enjoy immersing completely into the world that we’re currently exploring. Since we’re talking about gaming here, you won’t have to worry about listening to ambient noise for safety purposes.

It’s not like you’re going to ride your bike or cross a busy street while playing, right?

Headphones with an advanced noise-cancellation feature can be quite pricey, though. Hence, if you do settle with one that’s not equipped with it, then we recommend playing in a completely quiet room instead. Trust us; it makes all the difference.

Durability

Most audiophiles put a lot of value on durability. This is even more crucial when you use your headphones when exercising outdoors, and getting one that’s waterproof is a requirement. That’s not the same with gaming, though, especially if you don’t really play while traveling.

However, we do love using headphones that can hold their ground; something that you can slam on a hard surface after a frustrating round, or one that won’t break apart if it falls while you accidentally jump for joy.

Design

Here’s a feature related to the previous one: design. The aesthetic of your pair will heavily rely on the quality of the materials that were used to construct it.

Aside from that, we also prefer getting one that suits our chosen color theme for our gaming setup. Other, more pragmatic players don’t really care much about the look of their headphones as long as they serve their purpose well, but for us, it’s part of the gaming experience.

Portability

Here’s a familiar scenario for us that you can probably relate to: your friend has a new game, and you’re coming over. The problem is, he doesn’t have a spare pair of headphones. Or worse, his spare sucks, while he enjoys the privilege of using his pro-gamer unit.

What a bummer, right? That is, unless you have brought your own headphones to use. As we mentioned above, on-ear and over-ear headphones are quite bulky due to their headband and pair of ear cups. Fortunately, there are a lot of headphones out there that can be conveniently folded, sometimes to the point that they can fit your pocket!

You don’t need to bother with portability if you only play at home, though. You should invest in a headphone stand or hook instead.

Comfort

Aside from noise cancellation, another feature that we hold in high priority is comfort. That’s because when we play, we play all day. Our shortest gaming session lasts for a couple of hours, while our intense ones can last for up to eight, sometimes even more (we go all-night if necessary).

This means that we will really get a nasty headache if we get a pair that’s not comfortable enough. We suggest getting headphones with a lot of padding not just in the headband but surrounding its ear cups, as well.

It is important to note that ill-fitting headphones can also cause discomfort. Here’s a quick guide on how to fit one:

  • Check the direction of your ear cups. Most headphones will have the L and R symbols on them. Check them before you put them on and wear your headphones accordingly.
  • Put your headphones over your head. Adjust the headband until it fits snugly. It shouldn’t be too tight nor too loose. Be mindful of the weight of your headphones as well and where all that extra weight is going. It should be well supported by the top of your head and not out of balance
  • Fix the position of your ear cups. They should sit directly on top of your ears. Remove any piece of jewelry that may hinder its placement.
  • Finally, adjust the volume to a comfortable level. The sweet spot is 85 decibels. Our ears can handle eight hours of continuous listening at this level.

What If You Wear Glasses?

Here’s a related question that we commonly get from our readers. There are a lot of gamers who wear glasses due to too much screen time; how do you choose a pair of headphones, or how do you fit one if you wear glasses? Here are some tips:

  • Wear glasses with slimmer frames. This will allow you to slip them in easily.
  • Adjust the size of your headphones. Again, it should fit snugly on your head, even with your glasses on. Choose a unit with thicker yet soft paddings. In this way, your glasses will dig into your headphones and not your skin or your head.
  • Put tissues in between points of contact. This might not look aesthetically pleasing, but believe us, it works. Get a piece of tissue, fold it to a very small square and slip this in between uncomfortable points of contact, such as in between the frame of your glasses and your temples.
  • Consider contact lenses instead. Finally, if you are really having problems wearing your glasses and your headphones on at the same time, then you should definitely consider wearing contacts instead.

It can be really difficult to wear glasses with headphones, so we hope that you have picked up a tip or two above that you would find helpful.

Other Features

Finally, there are also other features that you might find interest in. For instance, there are headphones equipped with smart artificial intelligence technology, like Cortana or Siri. Having them on your headphones will give it more utility, such as answering calls, reading your emails to you, and more.

We also like headphones that come with accompanying apps. Apps offer more control when it comes to the various audio elements. For instance, most apps have equalizers that can help you increase the volume or intensity of your bass or treble. Having the option to do so is a major game changer!

Finally, we appreciate wireless headphones with extended battery life. This ensures that you will never run out of juice during those crucial moments and long gaming sessions. That’s it! Those are the features that we always look out for when searching for a new pair of headphones.

In Summary

We have finally reached the end of our article. We hope that you have found it useful and interesting. By the way, we have more informative articles on our website as well, so be sure to check it out.

Buying a pair of gaming headphones shouldn’t be as challenging as deciding which game to play next. Anyway, here are the key points to sum up the article:

  • The first thing you need to determine is what type of headphones to get.
  • There are also other accessories that you can add to your setup to improve your audio.
  • Microphones are not necessary unless you stream or do recordings.
  • Don’t forget to read the product information page or packaging of your pair to make sure that it is compatible with your chosen gaming setup.PC requires additional drivers and software installed. Playstation consoles are the easiest to match in terms of compatibility. Finally, there are Xbox controllers that also accept standard-sized audio jacks.
  • Sound quality is the most important feature when it comes to choosing your headphones—having one that has surround sound can even improve your gameplay!
  • Noise cancellation is a feature that keeps ambient noise out and keeps in-game sounds in. It can also significantly improve your headphones’ sound quality.
  • One must not forget practical features, too, such as design, durability, portability, and comfort.
  • Finally, there are other features out there that you can research. Having these added features will help improve your listening experience.
By keeping the tips we have shared with you in mind, we’re sure that you will be able to get a pair that best suits your needs and preferences. Good luck.

About the Author

I am the head author of ForTheSound. I want to bring you the best in-depth reviews of Headphones and earbuds.

Frank Bechstein

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