Gaming headsets can end up costing you a small fortune. Both streamers and pro players alike will swear that brands brandishing a $400 price tag help improve your game, but is that the truth or just a marketing tactic? The truth is somewhere in the middle, and we plan on uncovering it.
So, is gaming better with headphones? Let’s find out.
Is Gaming Better with Headphones?
Yes. Gaming is better with headphones. Gaming headphones will improve both your single-player and multiplayer experience. Compared to speakers, you get louder, more immersive, and directional sound while blocking external noise.
That’s the sort of thing. Gaming is almost always going to be better with headphones. Of course, there’s far more to discuss than that. For example, why does having directional sound matter, and can you play competitively using a surround sound system instead?
The issue with external setups like surround sound speakers is that you’re dealing with a broader sound stage than with a gaming headset. Sounds will appear further away, giving you a less accurate idea of where everything you’re hearing is.
You might be able to overlook things like this in single-player games, but not for competitive multiplayer.
That’s the most significant talking point we have regarding whether or not gaming headphones are worth it. If you’re only playing single-player games, then you can get away with having a decent external speaker setup. It might even give you a better immersive experience.
For any remotely competitive game, though, you can’t afford that compromise. With competitive games, the sound is a massive mechanic that plays a large part during gameplay. Having a good set of gaming headphones will help you capitalize on that mechanic.
Think about the likes of Warzone or CSGO. You need to be able to hear your enemy’s footsteps before they engage you. Otherwise, you’re going to be disadvantaged going into every single gunfight.
We’re going to deep dive into the difference between single-player games versus multiplayer ones with headphones below. We will also go over the pros and cons of using a gaming headset.
Lastly, we’ve included a short FAQ section at the bottom if you have any specific questions you want to be answered or if you’re looking for a TLDR.
Headphones with Games
While gaming with headphones is better all-around on a surface level, there’s a stark difference in importance depending on what kind of games you play.
Single-player games, like Red Dead Redemption 2 and Ghost of Tsushima, serve to highlight the very best of gaming as a hobby.
These games and games of the same ilk consist of masterfully crafted worlds full of breathtaking visuals and immersive stories. They’re the kinds of games where you can sit back and appreciate their beauty and artistry.
In contrast to competitive games’ “always-on” mentality, single-player games offer a more casual experience. As such, you don’t need a set of gaming headphones when you only play these types of games.
While a good pair of gaming headphones will help heighten the world you’re experiencing, a good surround sound speaker setup will do the same. You’re not worried about tiny little details like footsteps and reload sounds so much as you are the significant orchestral scores.
So, if you’re exclusively a single-player fan, you don’t need a set of gaming headphones.
On the other hand, multiplayer games demand constant focus and attention. Rather than taking in the game itself, you’re constantly on edge, thinking and acting on millisecond changes in your environment.
This genre is where gaming headphones shine. When the smallest of indicators can influence your decisions, and as such, whether you win or lose a game, being able to hear your surroundings in accurate detail is vital.
While a decent speaker setup might give you great-sounding explosions and gunfire, it’s not going to provide you with the level of nuance a gaming headset will.
A good pair of gaming headphones will allow you to hear even the quietest footsteps, as well as where they’re coming from.
So, if you’re a fan of Battle Royales or multiplayer games in general, a pair of gaming headphones is a must-have.
Pros and Cons of a Gaming Headset
By now, you should have an idea of whether or not you need a set of gaming headphones. In general, they’re worth having so that you can, at the very least, communicate with your friends while you’re playing.
If you’re still on the fence, hopefully, this breakdown of the pros and cons of a gaming headset versus a speaker setup will persuade you to pull the trigger.
Pros of Using Gaming Headphones
- You can communicate with your friends.
This is the most fundamental reason you have for getting a set of gaming headphones. Whether you’re playing on PlayStation, Xbox, or PC using software like Discord, gaming headphones will allow you to speak with other people.
Speakers, on the other hand, rarely have a microphone installed in them. Meaning you might be able to hear your buddies, but they can’t listen to you.
- You get more accurate imaging.
Imaging, in this context, refers to the accuracy of sound location. In other words, if you hear footsteps coming from above you on the left, that’s where the enemy making the noise is. This is what makes gaming headphones worth it for multiplayer games.
While specific speakers might also allow you to hear those little details, the nature of speakers means that the location of that sound will not be as precise.
- Noise cancellation makes the experience more immersive.
When you use a speaker setup, you still have to contend with outside noise. The sound of sirens going off, children screaming, the TV from the other rooms, the list of distractions goes on and on.
With gaming headphones, you don’t have to deal with any of that. The over-ear design means that all you will hear in the game, making for a much more immersive experience.
- Gaming headphones have better sound quality.
In general, gaming headphones will also have better sound quality. This is particularly true if you’re using the default speakers on your monitor or TV.
This isn’t a make-or-break aspect of gaming headphones, but it can be pretty significant for those out there who can appreciate an excellent orchestral boss battle track.
Cons of Using Gaming Headphones
- They can be expensive.
Compared to a mid-tier speaker setup, gaming headphones can be pretty pricey. A top-of-the-line model will run you anywhere between $400 and $800, while a decent “budget” headset will cost you upwards of $100.
- Lower-priced models can become uncomfortable after a while.
If you start shopping at the sub-$60 levels, you’re going to be sacrificing both sound quality and comfort.
Cheaper headsets, while usable, can get uncomfortable to wear after a few hours. This depends on the brand and model, though, and how well cushioned the headphones are.
Is it Better to Game with Earphones or Headphones?
Headphones. If you had to choose between earphones and speakers, we’d still pick the speakers.
Earphones are no good for gaming. Even a top-dollar set designed for intense music listening isn’t going to hold up.
These earphones don’t have the drivers or space needed to provide clear and accurate studio imaging. Not only that, but they can also make your ears ache after a few hours of use.
What is a Good Price for Gaming Headphones?
Gaming headphones can range from $20 all the way, pushing towards four digits.
In general, we’d advise avoiding that $20 Wallmart range of headphones as much as possible. Regardless of where you buy them, headphones at this price level will be uncomfortable, have lousy sound quality, and break easily.
These headphones are only perfect for talking to your friends while you’re gaming.
If you’re looking to get a budget headset that will still perform, you should look at the $50-$100 range. $80 is a sweet spot, given that many major brands have quality headsets out at that price.
What are the Best Gaming Headphone Brands?
There are a few good gaming headphone brands, all of which offer headsets for different systems.
The best brands for gaming headphones tend to be those from Astro, Razer, TurtleBeach, and SteelSeries. There are plenty of other great brands, like Logitech, but those four tend to dominate the gaming headphone market.
Is Gaming Better with Headphones?
Yes. The difference between gaming with standard TV speakers and gaming headphones is incomparable.
While it’s more important to use headphones when playing multiplayer games, they will still enhance the experience of everything you play, regardless of genre.
Are Wireless Headphones Better than Wired Ones?
Not particularly. Both offer the same level of sound quality and imaging. Wireless headphones are simply more convenient to use, although they tend to cost a bit more for that convenience.
This post is part of a collaboration with AudiophileHaven.com