The Best of the Best Gaming Headsets

Best Gaming Headsets 2013The thrill in playing a great PC video game does not end with superb visuals.  The aural dimension completes the visceral edge in a vicarious gaming experience.  A truly immersive enveloping sonic realism is not just the  domain of multichannel sound from DVDs and Blu-ray home movies, but serious gamers (who are most likely audiophiles too) have expected the same atmospheric sonic treatment from the video games they play at home or the road,  For many gamers, an engaging stereophonic sound is enough, especially when it comes from a capable headphone set .

Why go for headphone?

There are basically just two ways to enjoy great sound.  Ask any sound or HiFi enthusiast and he will tell you to either go for those 100-200 watt amplified speakers, or get excellent headphones. If you live in a detached suburban or country home with neighbors a few kilometers away, powerful amps, speakers and a powered subwoofer create those full-bodied  hair-raising sounds that approximate  gun fire, an F1 or 12-cylinder Ferrari engine start, a helicopter landing, or exploding grenades, whether from your  home movies or FSP games while enjoying every sumptuous detail of the background music.   But if, as most city gamers do, dwell in urban apartments and townhouses, headphones are the way to go, unless you want the police to come knocking at your door for annoying the neighbor.

Or if you have a roommate sharing the rent or a dorm room in the campus, but who doesn’t share the same enthusiasm you have for PC games, headphones not only provide the aural experience, but also show some decent  respect and courtesy for the other person.  Headphones can preserve a good relationship on the side.

Serious gamers have been known to hook up their desktop gaming stations to multichannel receivers or powered speakers to get the visceral aural punch, if they can get away with it.  But when they have to play the same games while on the road, they generally do not settle for the puny sound they get from their gaming laptops.  For sure, they won’t be lugging their Creative, Altec Lansing or JBL powered speakers with the laptop on their backpacks.  Instead, they use an excellent headset that delivers the rich full-bodied sounds with the awesome realism that can never be delivered by even the finest gaming laptops.

Finding the right gaming headsets

Compared with speaker systems, gaming headsets are not pricey investments when you’ve spent upwards of $1,000 for a competent gaming laptop.  Most of the better ones can be had just around the $100 price point and for budget conscious gamers, even the cheapest ones below $30 sound more realistic than whatever your laptop speakers can dish out, especially if they are the cheaper sub-$500 kind.  The most impressive we’ve tested are near the $200 price points.  There are more expensive ones classified as High Fidelity headphones but we’ve discounted those in our search for the best and most practical gaming headsets. In the first place, they do not have the integrated microphones commonly found in the gaming variety that would allow you to engage you’re online nemesis or fellow gamers in networked gaming workstations.  But if this feature is not something you need, and prefer to simply enjoy the rapturous gaming sounds in private, any HiFi-grade headphone will do.

Whether you want to engage in F1 2012 all night and not cause insomnia for your roommates, or you just want to experience the vicarious thrill playing Skyrim: The Elder Scrolls, a gaming headphone is an accessory no serious gamer would want to be caught dead without.  Headphones can be wired or wireless. The former can be as low as $20 and a good wireless headset starts at around $120.  High-quality headsets of either type can be had at $150 and above.  Here are some thoughts helping you find your way through all the headphone choices in the market.

The Sound is everything

You can start by looking at the technical specs which should be indicated in the packaging.  Unfortunately, unlike speakers, headphone specs are not industry regulated and different companies can indicate specs differently so that a comparative between any two brands based on specs alone is often apple-to-orange assessment. If you can, stay clear from any headphone that doesn’t have one in its package labeling.  Typical technical specs would be something like this:

Frequency Response:  20Hz to 20kHz  

  • This tells you the range of audible frequencies your headphone can accurately reproduce.  Some are known to extend higher than 20 kHz which is already the limit of human hearing.  The bass frequencies that start from 80Hs down to 30Hz are important as they provide the impression of full-bodied sound you will never have even in a subwoofer of a well-designed laptop. A more performance –indicative spec is Response Bandwidth which is rarely used, but it tells you the range of frequencies that have about the same amplitudes or energy level.  That means the range for flat frequency response.  Some brands specify its frequency range with a +/- 3db which is commonly used in speakers.

Sensitivity:  100db

  • This tells you the efficiency of the headphone or how loud it is given the same input signal.  Expressed in db or decibels, the higher the value, the more sensitive or efficient it is.  Most would fall between the 95db to 105db range while the better ones can go up to 120db.   Some brands prefer to use SPL or Sound Pressure Level which represents how loud the headphone can be at 1 kHz input signal.  The two are often interchangeable.

Nominal Impedance: 32 ohms – 48 ohms

  • This simplistically indicates the electrical resistance the headphone offers when it is connected to the audio output circuit of your laptop’s audio output jacks.  In general, it should match the impedance of your audio out, but at low power levels, this is not all that critical.  Suffice it to say that the higher the value, the more resistance and hence, you get lower sound, and the reverse does the opposite.  A nominal impedance of 16 ohms to 48 ohms is typical among headphones.

Total Harmonic Distortion (THD: <3%

  • Every acoustic drive generates its own distortion from harmonic overlays to the fundamental frequencies and this is expressed as THD.  Home theater entertainment speakers generally have 2% to 3% THD which is often measured at their maximum volume levels. For headphones, the same THD levels can be measured when some brands and models have lower or higher THD amounts than others.

Type of speaker driver element

  • This tells you what material is used for the voicing element.  Treated paper is the most common in speakers, but more exotic materials like aluminum, titanium, Kevlar or carbon using magnets like neodymium with stronger magnetic flux are increasingly making better sonic impressions.  Most use 3-mm to 40mm drivers housed in open backs for improved bass response.

Cable length

  • Not really a technical specification, but this information is useful for those you use a large monitor and must sit a few meters away from the desk where the CPU unit may be resting.  Typical cable lengths of 1.2m to 2m are just fine.  Anything shorter could limit your movement around the PC or laptop.

Stereo or Multichannel

Several headphones can digitally simulate multi-channel 5.1 or 7.1 psychoacoustic sound, while others have multiple drivers in each headphone cup with the corresponding 3.5mm audio plug for the front, center, surround and rear channels which should be supported by your sound card.  However, while some models perform better than others, they still fall short of recreating the immersive sound from more competent surround speakers from a multichannel receiver.  In general, rather than spend more money on one, it is best to stick with basic stereo headphones.  To be safe and sure, if you are after sound quality, stereo headphones provide the best bang for the money. Having said that, a well-engineered multichannel headphone (read: expensive) can add ambient information and better positional audio for a more spacious airy sound than what you can get from regular stereo headphones.  Always bear in mind that unless you are dealing with some of the best surround sound headphones, chances are high you’d be dealing with a one that has an awful sound that can be fatiguing after a while.

Wired or Wireless

People generally hate wires and cables. They tend to clutter things up and wireless has become the Holy Grail among audiophiles, gamers and techies in general.  Wireless headphones have been with us for a few decades starting with RF-based connectivity that allows you to hook up a box to the laptop to transmit the audio frequencies as radio frequencies, just like your FM radio (good only from 40Hz to 15 kHz).  But the more recent ones use Bluetooth which can be more accurate in sound reproduction and more convenient as you only need to activate your laptop’s Bluetooth feature to transmit audio signals to a suitably matched Bluetooth headset. You just need to be charging the headset’s in-built batteries often as they are usually not user-replaceable to enjoy the advantage of having spare battery lying around.  Having said that, bear in mind that audiophiles prefer the wired solution.  With all things equal, wireless technology still has some distance to take to rival the sonic fidelity and accuracy of a wired headphone.

Comfort

If you play games for hours on end, you will appreciate the ergonomic aesthetics that makers design the headphone with to make them as “invisible” as possible.  Lightweight is basic, but it must have the right cushion pads around the ear to balance out the pressure headphones need to propagate high quality sound within the space enclosing your ear and the headphone driver. The more isolated that space is, the more ideal it approximates an anechoic chamber when good speakers can do its job. You won’t get that isolation unless the headphone cups are properly coupled to your ears and that requires the headphone frame to exert pressure on your cranial sides.  Without exception, headphones can be tiring after a while.

Noise Isolation

Related to comfort, the left and right headphone cups are joined by a tensile metal band cloaked in comfortable padding to provide just the right amount of pressure on your ears to isolate external ambient noise.  The more pressure, the more successful the isolation is, but at the expense of comfort as you can easily get tired using it.  Some models, however, employ digital circuitry to invert the external sounds captured by a small microphone to effectively cancel the noise.  This is particularly useful if you have to play your games in noisy surroundings like a mall or a bus station.

Microphone

Any gaming headphone marketed as one has a small retractable or movable microphone boom sticking out from one of the ear cups. This is more accurately called a headset and distinguishes it from a pure headphone that doesn’t have a microphone boom.  Some models will even allow you to transfer the boom from either cup to the other.  With a second 3.5mm cable to connect to your sound card’s microphone out port, this feature is great for concurrent chat interaction with other gamers online during gameplay.  But if you just want to enjoy the sounds in privacy, any good headphone.  If you eventually need a mic, even small lapel mic that clips to the headphone cord, your shirt or necklace will do the job.  No need to replace the entire headphone unless its sound sucks.

Convenience Features

Volume control

  • While you can control the volume from your PC or laptop, nothing beats having a simple knob to mute or adjust the volume  while in the midst of playing a game. Some headphone models have such a feature on one of the ear cups or in a separate control box along the cable.

Bass Boost

  • In the real world, a gun blast delivers more decibels or sound energy than music or dialogue.  Movies and games capture this disparity and unless your headphone can do the job, it may not deliver the authenticity when called for. A bass boost can help. This is more like a tone control but focused on a narrow band of bass frequencies at around 80Hz in a step or two.  Most headphones sport 3-5 position equalization (EQ) settings which are modern terms to use than “tone” settings or controls.

Conclusion

Superb technical sound reproduction, utmost ergonomic comfort,  and state-of-the-art convenience features command a premium, and while you can make compromises in some or all of these aspects of a great gaming headphone to arrive at a budget solution, the sound you get is sure to be significantly more rewarding than settling for the speakers on your laptop.  If you’re just starting out to consider a gaming headphone,  a budget headphone  below $50 can get you on the road in realizing what you could be missing in terms of aural thrills from your games.  As you go up the price ladder, the law of diminishing returns starts to kick in but the bells and whistles take over so that using a headset adds to the visceral edge when extracting the most rewarding gaming performance from your laptop.

SO Here are Our TOP BEST OF THE BEST Gaming Headsets Review

 

Astro A50 Dolby 7.1 Surround Wireless

Astro A50 Dolby 7.1 Surround Wireless reviewThis Astro A50 wireless gaming headset can provide the sonic experience of a Dolby 7.1 surround sound for your PC, PS3 and Xbox gaming platforms. Using a proprietary 5.8GHz KleerNet transmission band, this is one gaming headset that offers audiophile-grade quality sound that comes with 3 EQ presets for movies, gaming and competitive FSP games. The KleerNet stand is wired to your PC via USB and you simply charge the headset on the stand. More suitable as a desktop headphone solution than for laptops, it comes with microphone boon that can be swiveled out of the way.

Frequency Response

20Hz – 20kHz

Freque4ncy Bandwidth

35Khz – 20kHz

Nominal Impedance

48 ohms

SPL

118 db @ 1kHz

THD

<1%

S/N

50db

Driver types (Magnet)

Neodymium,

Connections

2.5mm XBOX 360 chat port, Mini-USB; optical in; Optical pass- through; AUX in (3.5mm); USB charging port

Cable length

1 m optical cable, 1.bm XBOX cable, 1m USB power cable

Battery life

10-12 hours

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Razer Tiamat Elite 7.1 Surround Sound

Razer Tiamat Elite 7.1 Surround Sound reviewIf there is such a thing as a true 7.1 surround sound headphone, the Razer Tiamat 7.1 fits the bill. It uses 5 positional audio drivers in each headphone cup and you see the evidence right from the multiple 3.5mm audio plugs that require your sound card to support front stereo, center, rear stereo and subwoofer 3.5mm ports. If your sound card does not support multiple ports, you can just use the front stereo jacks.   A useful tip: Configure your sound card to “multichannel” so that the sound card ports are activated accordingly, NOT “headphones” which will only activate just a stereo port.

Frequency Response

20Hz – 20kHz

Response Bandwidth

50hz – 68kHz

Sensitivity

86 db

Signal-to-Nose (S/N) Ratio

50db

Driver types (Magnet)

Neodymium,

Connections

Wired; 5 x 3.5mm stereo jacks; 1 x USB

Cable length

3 m

 

Astro A40

Astro A40 review
Sporting various neon colors of your choice apart from the standard black, this Astro A40 gaming headset falls under the high-end category among wired multichannel 7.1 Dolby surround headsets.  This model enjoys wide popularity for being the official licensed headset of the largest cross-platform gaming organization on the planet -.MLG (Major League Gaming). You certainly can’t go wrong choosing the headset that professional gamers use for both the PC and Xbox gaming platforms.  Its bestselling feature is comfort which becomes evident after an hour or two of continuous gameplay and this can be crucial in tournament games staged for hours.  Sound quality and directional audio does not take backseat.  Afterall this is the main reason what makes a headset worth using.  In fact, from a technical point, it has one of the best audio quality specifications.

Frequency Response

15Hz – 28kHz

Nominal Impedance

50 ohms

SPL

104 db

THD

< 0.1%

Driver types

Dynamic Open back,

Connections

Media Controller box with volume wheel, mute switch, call tracking and 3.5mm 4-pole jack cable

Microphone

In-line 6mm uni-directional with noise cancelling

 

Sennheiser PC 363D

Sennheiser PC 363D reviewThe Sennheiser name is a favorite among serious audiophiles and even several airlines have been using it for their inflight entertainment headphones. The Sennheiser PC 363D is a multichannel 7.1 surround headset powered by Dolby Technologies combined with Sennheiser’s own “Eargonomic Acoustic Refinement.” It is purposely designed for the competitive or professional gamer with comfortable ergonomics that allow you to use it for hours on end with the ultimate in sound accuracy and detailing. It has adjustable cushions to fit a variety of head sizes and shapes, accommodating even those who wear spectacles when gaming. The sound quality is no less as superb its audiophile grade models with bass that is strong but not overwhelming. Audio controls are located in strategic positions for quick use without exposing them to accidental bumps that may require you to adjust the volume in mid game.  Its microphone boom can flick up to mute the sound and transmission so it can stay out of your face if you just want to enjoy the game sound.

Frequency Response (Headphone)

15Hz – 28kHz

Frequency Response (Mic)

50Hz – 16kHz

Nominal Impedance

50 ohms

SPL

112 db

Driver types

Dynamic Open back,

Cable  length

1.2m x 2 (Headphone and microphone)

Microphone

with noise cancelling

 

Razer Kraken Pro

Razer Kraken Pro review This Razer Kraken Pro headset is a mid-priced gaming headset from the same leader in gaming laptops. It sports a choice of black or neon green colors and is popular among serious gamers for its reasonably decent audio quality in a simple and no-frills headset design that is collapsible besides to make it more portable.  It is engineered for extended play and offers more ergonomic comfort with its thick ear pads than most headphones in this price range. The microphone is retractable and comes with a digital noise cancellation circuitry so you can play your games even in crowded noisy settings.  Sound quality is average with a pronounced bass performance that may be overwhelming during loud explosions in FSP games.  Nevertheless, the bass is deep and can be quite visceral.  Unfortunately, as a basic gaming headphone, it has no volume control or preset EQ levels and you will need to do your sound adjustments from the laptop or PC.

Frequency Response (Headphone)

20Hz – 20kHz

Frequency Response (Mic)

100Hz – 10kHz

Nominal Impedance

32 ohms @ 1kHz

Sensitivity

110 db @1kiHz/1V

Driver types

40mm w/ Neodymium magnets, Dynamic Open back,

Cable  length

1.3m combined 3.5mm (Headphone and microphone) plus 2m splitter/adapter

Microphone

with noise cancelling

 

 

Turtle Beach Ear Force XP300 Wireless

Turtle Beach Ear Force XP300 Wireless review This Turtle Beach Ear Force XP300 represents state-of-the-art wireless headphone connectivity using dual band WiFi at 2.4GHz and 5GHz, as well as dual pairing Bluetooth that lets you chat on your online game while answering your cell phone.  Unlike other headphones with a mic, this model automatically increases the volume reception in the mic as the game volume becomes louder, so chatting with your online gamers is not drowned out.  What puts this wireless headphone above the pack is its generous 15-hour battery life which can be charged while gaming. It also comes with multiple EQ presents with sound field expander and include bass and treble boosts separately or in tandem.

Frequency Response (Headphone)

20Hz – 20kHz

THD

< 1%

Sound Amplification

27mW per channel

Wireless Range

30 ft

Driver types

50mm w/ Neodymium magnets, Dynamic Open back,

Input

AUX stereo, 3.5mm input jack:Game stereo: 3,5mm input jack

Battery power

Up to 15 hours

 

 

Creative Sound Blaster Tactic 3D Omega Wireless Gaming Headset

Creative Sound Blaster Tactic 3D Omega Wireless Gaming Headset review This mid-priced wireless headset from the leader in consumer PC sound cards with more than 400 million users worldwide can let you enjoy full-bodied stereo sounds from your PC, Mac, and home gaming stations PS3 and Xbox 360.  What is striking about are the ear cups that get illuminated when in us while the mic boom is not only adjustable, it is also removable for those gameplays that don’t require online chatting. It features a THX TruStudio Pro Crystallizer drivers that ensures you hear accurate and detailed sound.

Frequency Response (Headphone)

20Hz – 20kHz

Frequency response (mic)

100Hz – 6.5kHz with Noise cancelling

Sensitivity

102 db/mW

Nominal Impedance

32 ohms

Wireless technology

Uncompressed 2.4 GHz band

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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6 thoughts on “The Best of the Best Gaming Headsets”

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