Due to the need to make concessions in order to accommodate microphones and other features, headphones deliver superior audio quality compared to similarly priced headsets.
Headsets are frequently referred to as headphones and vice versa because of this confusion. This is due to the fact that similarities between the two are high. The only obviously distinguishing feature of the headset is the presence of a microphone.
However, deciding between headphones and a headset is more nuanced and involved than it first appears.
Justify your answer.
In this article, we’ll address that very question!
What Does Headphones Mean?
In order to listen to audio from a computer, laptop, smartphone, mp3 player, or other device without disturbing those around you, you can use headphones. It’s not necessary to set them up in any special way before you can use them, as they are simply plug-and-play devices.
Earphones and, depending on the design, earbuds are all names for headphones.
What is a Gaming Headset?
The gaming headset may be as important to a gamer as a comfy chair, a good set of controls, and lightning-fast Internet. While most gaming headphones are intended solely for use with video games, there are models that can also transmit music. As such, gaming headsets include features like microphones for chatting with other players in online games to better cater to the needs and preferences of gamers. Virtually every computer and gaming console on the market today requires the use of a headset. Many are also made to eliminate all outside noise, which allows the player to become one with the virtual world they’re exploring.
Choosing the best gaming headset isn’t as easy as finding a set with static-free audio, as any gamer or serious music lover will tell you; a set that can provide multiple layers of sound may be more desirable. Consider the distinction between a single speaker setup and surround sound. The difference in audio quality may be more than just a matter of taste for many players. Being able to hear faint noises from a stealthy enemy is crucial in first-person shooter games, for example. Fortunately, you can find many headsets on the market that are capable of producing high-quality, multi-layered sound for a reasonable price.
The gaming headset has developed into a multifunctional listening and communication device due to the proliferation of the Internet and the rise of local area network (LAN) parties, where multiple gamers play the same game over a network connection. Microphones, included in many headsets, are especially useful for chatting with other players in online games. It used to be that microphone-equipped gaming headsets were mostly used at LAN parties played on personal computers, but now they may be more commonly used on gaming consoles thanks to the prevalence of Ethernet connections in the gaming industry.
Connectivity options for gaming headsets range from the standard 1/4-inch (6.35 mm) plug-in jack to wireless headphones that use Bluetooth® technology. The USB headset is another connection option that has gained popularity and is of high quality. These headphones can be plugged into a computer’s USB port directly via cable, or they can connect to a computer via USB and wireless technology, allowing the gamer greater mobility. Many USB gaming headsets incorporate Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) technology, letting you chat with other players and even call your loved ones while you game.
A variety of factors affect how sound is transmitted through the earpieces of various gaming headsets. Earphones can have a single speaker or multiple speakers for a surround-sound experience, much like an external sound system. Both regular audio and high-definition sound are available in headphones. These differences aren’t any more important than choosing between a 42-inch and a 52-inch flat-screen TV set, but they do make the hunt for a gaming headset an exciting foray into the world of cutting-edge tech.
Types of Headphones
On the whole, there are three types of headphones:
- Common earphones
- Professional headphones for use in a recording studio
- Video game headphones
These vary in terms of their intended audience and purpose, as well as in other ways that we’ll get into below.
- Streamlined and fashionable
- Quickly transportable
- Top-notch, highly adaptable acoustics
- Can have issues with shoddy construction
- Overall quality that varies
These headphones, also known as “consumer headphones,” are multifunctional, aesthetically pleasing, and relatively inexpensive. The headphones’ sleek appearance and compact size are their primary selling points.
After all, they are made for everyday people who may want to employ them in various settings. Because of their sleek design, they not only look great but also provide a decent audio experience.
Unfortunately, since their primary focus is on their appearance, comfort and build quality may suffer.
Sound quality is just one aspect of overall product quality, which can vary widely depending on both brand and price.
- True-to-life audio reproduction
- Built to last
- Inconspicuous in terms of repair
- Slightly on the pricy side
- Designed exclusively with experts in mind.
These cans are made with the busy professional in mind, with a focus on durability and sound quality.
Consequently, they provide a neutral, accurate reproduction of the original sound. This means a “flatter” listening experience in terms of bass compared to headphones with higher fidelity. Besides that, they are typically the best built, with many metal parts, and the least complicated to repair.
Since other products provide a more satisfying experience at a lower cost, they are neither well-liked nor well-suited by gamers and casual users.
- High quality, surround sound
- Access to surround sound
- The Mic is Built In
- Pricey because of built-in microphone and other amenities.
- Neither adaptable nor transportable
Now, at long last, there are gaming headsets available. The headphones incorporate microphones, allowing for two-way communication. The headphones, which have become a standard for video games of all stripes, aim to provide an immersive audio experience, facilitate clear communication, and feature bold colors and aggressive designs.
Because of their focus on providing a pleasurable gaming and multimedia experience, they now have a sound reproduction quality more akin to that of mass market headphones than studio headphones.
This translates to crisp audio with punchy bass, convincing virtual surround, and maybe even the full works. Moreover, they are typically built to be light and comfortable, making them ideal for extended periods of gaming.
Unfortunately, unlike regular headphones, gaming headsets are often cumbersome and awkward to transport. Additionally, the integrated microphone and other features can significantly increase the price, which means that the sound quality that they offer tends to lag behind similarly priced headphones.
Which Should You Choose?
There are a few things to consider when deciding on a pair of headphones, such as:
Do You Need An Integrated Microphone?
A gaming headset is the best option if you enjoy playing multiplayer games and value the convenience of a built-in microphone. They’re more convenient than carrying around individual headphones and a microphone.
However, if you’re more of a single-player gamer who dabbles in multiplayer now and then, you might benefit from using headphones for your single-player games and a separate microphone for your multiplayer sessions.
Do You Need Portability?
The compact design and convenient foldability of today’s mainstream headphones are great benefits if you plan to use them in a variety of situations. Their low-key aesthetic also makes them perfect for use in the wild.
Will You Be Doing Audio Editing?
Only in this specific circumstance should you think about purchasing a set of studio headphones. For the reasons stated above, their superior sound quality is not always worth the sacrifice in overall entertainment value.
The 7 Best Headphones – Spring 2022
Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless
In our lab tests, the Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless headphones came out on top. Superior isolation is provided by the active noise cancellation (ANC) in these high-end over-ear headphones. They are great for commuting or flying due to their ability to cancel out ambient noise such as the low rumble of bus or plane engines or office chatter. The battery life with ANC turned on is over 37 hours, making it ideal for those who spend long days on the go or in the office. The ability to pair with multiple devices means you can use them with your computer and mobile device simultaneously.
Right out of the box, their bass-heavy sound signature makes them ideal for electronic dance music (EDM) and hip hop. But with the graphic EQ and presets in the app, you can personalize the sound to your liking. Some users may still experience muddy or cluttered sound even after using the EQ. The Bose QuietComfort 45/QC45 Wireless, which have a more neutral default sound profile with less overall bass, may be a better option if this is a dealbreaker for you.
Anker Soundcore Life Q30 Wireless
To date, our testing has shown the Anker Soundcore Life Q30 Wireless to be the most impressive pair of headphones in their price range. The Anker Soundcore Life Q30 Wireless are older than the more recent Anker Soundcore Life Q35 Wireless, but they have superior ANC performance, effectively blocking out more of the low rumble of bus engines and background chatter. The ANC also features multiple modes to better adapt to varying levels of ambient sound. However, the headphones’ ear cups have a tendency to hold on to heat, making your ears feel hot after prolonged use.
They have an upbeat sound that works well with energetic styles like pop and rock, which benefit from deeper bass and more prominent vocals. If you want to change the sound, you can use the graphic EQ and presets in their app to do so. Even in a professional setting, others can hear your music if you listen with the volume turned up high.
Apple AirPods Pro Truly Wireless
Apple’s AirPods Pro Truly Wireless are the best headphones we’ve tried. These stylish in-ears have a noise-cancelling (ANC) system that blocks out a lot of outside noise and a few extras that are only available on iOS devices. They are compatible with Apple products thanks to their H1 chip. In addition, they are compatible with Apple’s ‘Spatial Audio’ technology, which creates a virtual soundstage and, in some cases, a more enveloping listening experience.
The battery life is over five hours on a single charge, and you can find five more charges in the case. Their well-rounded sound profile means they’re compatible with a wide range of audio, but there’s no way to fine-tune the sound via the companion interface. Bose QuietComfort Earbuds Truly Wireless are ANC earbuds that offer customization via a 3-band graphic EQ and presets in their companion app.
Anker Soundcore Life Dot 2 Truly Wireless
We found the Anker Soundcore Life Dot 2 Truly Wireless to be the best low-cost headphones after extensive testing. In addition to being easy on the wallet, these earbuds stand out thanks to their generously sized charging case, which can hold up to 12.5 additional charges. The battery life is impressive, lasting over 100 hours after being charged twice (roughly 7 hours each time). They are great for working out because they have a long battery life, a comfortable and stable fit, and a water resistance rating of IPX5.
Their sound is mostly even, with a little more thump and rumble in the bass range than average. Unfortunately, they don’t work with any apps and are missing essential sound customization options like a graphic equalizer and presets. The JLab Audio GO Air POP True Wireless are a better option if you want to have some say over the sound or are on a tight budget. These headphones have three different equalizer settings, but their battery life is significantly shorter.
In our testing, the Philips SHP9500 emerged as the top choice for novice audiophiles. These headphones are a good option for the budget audiophile because of their neutral sound. Due to their open-back construction, these headphones lack low-end rumble but add a bump of extra high-bass to mixes, making them more engaging. They have a neutral midrange that faithfully reproduces vocals and lead instruments and an overemphasized treble that helps bring out their brightness.
Their open-back construction allows for a wide, natural passive soundstage that can help immerse you in your music, and they’re also very comfortable to wear for extended listening sessions. One of the downsides to their low price is a low quality of construction. As a whole, they have a plasticky quality, and the padding is easily torn. Thankfully, the audio cable is removable, so if you happen to damage it, you can buy a new one independently.
HiFiMan Edition XS
We found the HiFiMan Edition XS to be the best headphones for audiophiles on a budget. These open-back headphones use planar-magnet drivers instead of the more conventional dynamic drivers. Their driver design makes them bulkier and more cumbersome to carry around, but it also allows them to faithfully reproduce bass and produce an immersive listening experience. Because of this, their sound is relatively unremarkable, with the vocals and lead instruments standing out but not dominating. Their passive soundstage appears to be quite natural, expansive, and open.
They have a heavy headband compared to the other models from this maker, though. If you plan on wearing them for extended periods of time, this could be a problem; in that case, you might want to look into the HiFiMan Sundara 2020 instead. Their ski-band headband can help evenly disperse the load, making the fit more pleasant.
Sennheiser HD 800 S
If you want to be completely immersed in your music, the Sennheiser HD 800 S are the best audiophile headphones we’ve tried. These over-ear headphones have an open back design, so sound can travel out of the ear cups and off of nearby surfaces to create a wide and airy passive soundstage. They have a balanced, neutral sound that works with a wide variety of music and podcasts. While they struggle to faithfully reproduce deep bass, they do offer a little extra high-bass to round out the sound. Because of their flat mid-range, they reproduce vocals and lead instruments with remarkable clarity.
They’re well made, and their design makes them easy to wear for extended periods of time. Their inability to effectively block out ambient noise and significant sound leakage from their open back design. Audio bleed can ruin a recording, and ambient sound can make it difficult to monitor a live session properly, both of which are not an issue if listening to tracks in a quiet room like a studio. The Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO are closed-back headphones that passively block out more ambient sound, so they may be a better choice for noise isolation.
The Best Gaming Headsets for 2022
Astro Gaming A10 (Gen 2)
Why We Picked It
The vast majority of modern gaming headsets are digital in nature, connecting via USB cable or wirelessly via Bluetooth or a dedicated USB transmitter. However, this in no way precludes the use of an analog headset while playing a video game. A simple wired headset can be used with any device that has a headset jack (or two separate jacks for headphones and a microphone). As long as it suits your ears and makes you feel at ease, that’s all that matters.
If you’ve been looking for a replacement for Astro Gaming’s long-running wired headset, look no further than the second-generation Astro Gaming A10, which is a vast improvement in every way. You can wear them for hours without discomfort thanks to the soft padding on the earcups and the boom microphone’s crystal-clear sound.
The A10 headset is also the cheapest option here. This isn’t the only wired headset you can buy for under $60, but it’s easily the best value.
Who It’s For
If you’re willing to spend a little more than $50 on a gaming PC, the A10 is your best bet. The analog wired headset is compatible with every gaming system except for smartphones, which do not have jacks for headphones. Through the controller’s headset jack, it can be used with PCs, the Nintendo Switch in handheld mode, and both the current-generation and previous-generation PlayStation and Xbox consoles. You can’t go wrong with this headset as a first purchase.
Razer Barracuda X
Why We Picked It
While the Razer Barracuda X isn’t the most expensive gaming headset, it is one of the best in terms of sound quality and price. It employs a USB-C transmitter (with a USB-A cable included in case you don’t have an available USB-C port on your device) that is compatible with any computer, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4/5, and Android device with a USB-C port. Some wireless headsets omit the inclusion of a 3.5mm cable, but this one does, allowing it to be used with any device that has a 3.5mm headset port. While it may not have Bluetooth, there are still a lot of applications for a device that costs under a hundred dollars.
In spite of its adaptability, the Barracuda X excels in the areas of feel and sound. It has great sound quality and a crystal-clear, detachable mic, and it’s lightweight and comfortable to wear. Due to its low price, the Barracuda X only supports stereo sound; if you’d like surround or spatial audio, you’ll need to find a software solution for your preferred platform.
Who It’s For
As the Astro Gaming A10 is the best low-cost option for gamers in search of any headset, the Barracuda X is the best low-cost option for gamers in search of a wireless headset. At least for those who play on a personal computer, Switch, or PlayStation 4. When connected, the USB-C transmitter enables low-latency, high-quality wireless audio. The price tag of under $100 is a steal considering the high quality of the sound and the snug fit. If you want to experience high-quality wireless gaming audio without breaking the bank, the A10 is the way to go.
Razer Blackshark V2
Why We Picked It
With a budget of $100 or less, you’ll likely have to choose between stereo sound or rely on external surround processing if you want a high-quality gaming headset. The USB sound card and audio software are included in the Razer Blackshark V2, making it a convenient and inexpensive option for those seeking spatial audio in a wired headset.
Like the Astro Gaming A10, the V2 is an analog headset with a 3.5mm jack, but it is designed to be used with the included USB audio adapter, which handles surround sound processing. Through Razer’s Synapse software platform, the card also enables the THX Spatial Audio app, which, thanks to some deft driver mixing, provides surprisingly potent directional imaging.
To top it all off, the sound card enables audio adjustments via Razer Synapse that aren’t possible with headsets connected only via a 3.5mm cable. To ensure the highest quality in both directions, it allows for a wide variety of audio adjustments to be made with headphones and microphones. However, the V2 has a high-quality sound right out of the box.
Who It’s For
The USB sound card and Razer’s Synapse software power the majority of the V2’s features, so it’s primarily aimed at PC gamers who want a high-quality wired experience for under $100. The spatial audio is fantastic, and it’s great that there are a variety of settings to tweak the way the sound works. However, the USB card is sold separately, so the headset can be used with any other gaming device that has a standard 3.5mm headset jack.
Why We Picked It
Unlike the more common cone and dome drivers used in headphones and headsets, planar magnetic drivers are Audeze’s claim to fame. Although planar magnetic drivers produce excellent sound quality, they are rarely seen outside of the collections of audiophiles due to their high price. One of the few gaming headsets to use those drivers, the Audeze Penrose, produces excellent sound.
The Penrose will allow you to hear video game music the way the composer, performer, and sound designer originally envisioned it. If you’re an audiophile, you’ll love this headset because it delivers a level of depth, clarity, and harmony that most gaming headsets can’t match.
It’s a USB-transmitting wireless gaming headset compatible with PC, Nintendo Switch, and PS4/5 (there’s also a Penrose X model with an Xbox-compatible transmitter, if that’s your console of choice). It supports both wireless Bluetooth connections and traditional wired 3.5mm jacks.
Who It’s For
For a gaming headset, $300 is on the high end, but it’s on the low end for high-quality audio equipment. However, it is not Audeze’s most expensive gaming headset; the LCD-GX costs $900 and sounds incredible, but we have a hard time recommending a headset that costs twice as much as the console it will be used with. If you value a neutral sound signature over boosted lows and highs, the Penrose is one of the best-sounding gaming headsets in this price range.
Bose QuietComfort 35 Series 2 Gaming Headset
Why We Picked It
Among the best noise-cancelling headphones available, Bose is a leading brand. The QuietComfort 35 may be an older model than the latest cans from Bose, but they do an excellent job of isolating sound and allowing you to concentrate on what you’re listening to. Simply put, the QuietComfort 35 Gaming Headset is just a headset designed specifically for use while playing video games.
In essence, the QuietComfort 35 Gaming Headset is just a standard QuietComfort 35 with a boom microphone attached to a dedicated 3.5mm cable. It has a 3.5mm headset jack, so you can use it with any computer, phone, or gaming console, and it has Bluetooth, so you can listen to music wirelessly. It also serves as an effective noise canceling device and has a high-quality sound.
Who It’s For
The QuietComfort 35 Gaming Headset is a great option if you want to concentrate on the game without any outside noises getting in the way. Considering that Bose produces some of the best noise canceling headphones on the market. The headset can also be used as a pair of Bluetooth headphones outside of the gaming context, allowing the user to enjoy the headset’s powerful, noise-cancelling sound while strolling around town.
While Bose no longer sells the QuietComfort 35 Gaming Headset directly, you can still find it at reputable online retailers. In the future, Bose may release a QuietComfort 45 Gaming Headset.
JBL Quantum 800
Why We Picked It
When it comes to gaming headsets, the JBL Quantum 800 is a jack-of-all-trades and master of none. For only $200, it offers nearly every imaginable feature on a PC-compatible package. It’s not particularly good at anything, but it does its other tasks competently.
This wireless headset can be connected via USB to a computer, and it also features Bluetooth and a wired 3.5mm connection for more advanced users. As soon as the transmitter is paired with a computer, the Quantum 800 is able to take advantage of the many features and settings available in the JBL QuantumEngine software, such as the DTS-simulated surround sound and 10-band EQ. Furthermore, it has strong, active noise cancellation capabilities and programmable RGB lighting.
Although the Quantum 800 doesn’t have quite the same level of sonic excellence as the Audeze Penrose or the same level of noise isolation as the Bose QuietComfort 35 Gaming Headset, it does provide very strong performance in all other regards at a much more wallet-friendly price. The Quantum 800 is more capable than any low-end model and less expensive than any high-end model, but there are other gaming headsets that are categorically superior in a given category or work quite well for a lower price.
Who It’s For
This headset was designed with PC gamers who value functionality over cost in mind. The Quantum 800 has surround sound for tactical performance, noise cancellation to reduce distractions, RGB lighting for a fashionable look, and Bluetooth to listen to music on the go. As long as you have a PC and can run the QuantumEngine program, it’s one of the most feature-rich bundles you’ll find for the money.
Xbox Wireless Headset
Why We Picked It
The Xbox Wireless Headset is a wireless headset designed specifically for the Xbox. To pair with an Xbox One or Series S/X console without a transmitter, it employs the same wireless technology as the Xbox Wireless Controllers, maintaining lower-latency and higher-quality sound than Bluetooth. It has Bluetooth (just like the Xbox Wireless Controller), so if you don’t mind sacrificing sound quality, you can use it with any phone or computer.
Although its microphone isn’t the best, this headset has a pleasant sound. The Xbox One has built-in support for Windows Sonic, which enables spatial audio and virtual surround sound. You can buy Dolby Atmos and DTS:X for Headphones for around $10 and $20, respectively.
Who It’s For
This is an Xbox-compatible headset. You don’t need to plug anything into the console itself to make the connection; all you have to do is press a button on the headset and a button on the Xbox. You won’t find better performance anywhere else, unless you can track down a (possibly obsolete) Xbox Wireless Adapter and install it on your computer to get the same connectivity you get from an Xbox. When connected via Bluetooth, the headset isn’t the worst option available, but it’s also not the best. However, if Xbox is your preferred system, this is a great option that won’t break the bank.
Razer Kraken V3 Pro
Why We Picked It
This is an odd one because of the peculiar gimmick it employs, which could either detract from or add to your enjoyment of the game. Razer included their HyperSense haptic feedback system into the Kraken V3 Pro, which vibrates the headset for a more realistic feel. It’s not often you find a headset that lets you physically experience the action as well as hear it, but this one does. The powerful, head-rattling sub-bass blast is typically only found with speaker systems that have dedicated subwoofers, as headphones can cause permanent damage to your hearing if exposed to such low volumes for extended periods of time.
The headset has decent sound quality even without HyperSense. It has a full, well-balanced audio signature and a crystal-clear microphone, and it supports THX Spatial Surround via the Razer Synapse app on PC. Additionally, the RGB lighting on the sides of the headset is customizable.
It’s a matter of personal preference once HyperSense takes effect, though. You can adjust the intensity of the vibrations to a level that suits you; I found the feedback distracting, but you might enjoy the it’s-like-a-subwoofer-without-a-subwoofer rumbling.
Who It’s For
The Kraken V3 Pro could be right up your alley if you’re looking for a headset that can shake your skull. It’s not for everyone, but it is an immersive feature that helps overcome the challenges of true sub-bass audio response. Keep in mind that this is a PC-only headset.
In the end, this is all the information you need to make an informed decision about which headphones to purchase. For the duration of this article:
- If you play a lot of multiplayer games and want a headset that you can dedicate to the experience, you should get a gaming headset.
- If you need the most bang for your buck or plan on using the headphones for purposes other than gaming, go with a more popular brand of headphones.
- If you want to edit audio professionally, you’ll need studio headphones.