A good pair of headphones is the key to an immersive gaming experience. With good audio, you can enjoy the clarity of game sounds, the phenomenal music scores of your favorite games, and you can also hear your friends on voice chat easily. Without a pair of headphones that are comfortable and have great sound quality and performance, you’d be setting yourself up for a subpar gaming experience.
In order to pick the right pair of headphones, you need to understand each type of headphones. Different types of cans are useful for different scenarios. Headphones are categorized in two ways, one is by shape, and the other is shell seal.
There are two shapes of headphones: over-ear and on-ear. Over-ear headphones wrap around your ears, typically having large ear cups that encompass your ears. Over-ear headphones are perfect for those who want an extremely comfortable fit but don’t mind the added bulk and size of over-ear headphones.
On-ear headphones instead rest on your ears, and the main benefit of these is the reduced size and portability of the headphones. This comes at the cost of comfort, as on-ear headphones can irritate your ears by pushing on them, making it unideal for long gaming sessions. For gaming, TechEngage recommends over-ear headphones.
The shell seal simply means whether they are open-back or closed-back. Closed-back headphones are the most common variety of headphones, and this just means the backs of the earcups are solid and closed. This means the sound isn’t going to leak out, making sure you don’t disturb anyone in the office or in your room. Closed-back headphones tend to have a smaller soundstage (basically how 3D the headphones sound), but they also tend to have a better bass response and better sound isolation than open-back headphones.
Open-back headphones have holes in the shell, allowing sound to leak out. This allows the sound to surround your ears rather than fire directly into your ears. The biggest upside to this is the increased soundstage. The sound is fuller, and you can hear stereo separation. In games, this allows you to accurately pinpoint where sounds are coming from, creating a super immersive experience. Which shell seal you go for is up to personal preference, but for gaming, I do prefer open-back headphones.
- Best Closed-Back Headphones: Audio-Technica ATH-M50x Professional Studio Monitor Headphones
- Best Open-Back Headphones: Philips SHP9500 HiFi Precision Headphones
- Best Budget Headphones: Superlux HD 681 Dynamic Semi-Open Headphones
- Best Gaming Headset: HyperX Cloud II
- Great bass and clarity
- Super Comfortable
- Really expensive
- Propriety detachable cable is annoying
Introducing one of the best closed-back headphones on the market, the Audio-Technica ATH-M50X is a critically acclaimed beast in the mid-fi world, loved by both music lovers and gamers alike for its comfort, versatility, and, most importantly, stellar sound quality.
The exceptional clarity of these headphones shines in gaming, with listeners benefiting from an extended frequency range, with deep, accurate bass response. From the large aperture drivers, sound isolating earcups, and robust construction, the M50x provides an unmatched experience for the most critical audio professionals.
For closed-back headphones, these also give a great soundstage. This is achieved by recessing the drivers a little bit, thus making the earcup deeper, allowing the soundwaves to bounce around in the earcup, creating greater depth in the sound signature improving the soundstage.
Professional-grade earpads and headband material delivers more durability and comfort, making this the top choice for so many gamers for their listening pleasure. The M50X’s feature 90° swiveling earcups for easy, one-ear monitoring and collapsible for space-saving portability.
The cable for the headphone is detachable, and the product comes with two different cable types. Included is a 1.2m straight cable and also a very handy 3m coiled cable. But, if you break one of these cables, you’ll have to buy one straight from Audio Technica as they come with a proprietary interlocking mechanism.
With an average rating on Amazon of 4.8 out of 5, Amazon reviewers love the M50X. One delighted customer writes in their review:
“If you have been in the market looking for a pair of new headphones, Audio-Technica’s headphones will not let you down. If you even think about purchasing these do it, you will not be let down by the quality of this product in every way. You’ll be very satisfied and impressed with what you get out of these. You can find these headphones on sale if you patiently wait, that is another main reason I could not push myself to buy these. But after using them definitely do it! I would definitely recommend these to a friend or anyone interested in a new pair of headphones that won’t disappoint them at all! I hope if this review helped you make a decision, I hope you’ll be as impressed as I was!”
With a list price of $169.00, the M50X’s aren’t cheap. But, for a premium product and providing the best sound closed-back headphones can provide (perhaps barring the Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pros), the Audio-Technica M50X is a great choice for any gamer out there.
- Stellar soundstage
- Great bass and treble response
- Average comfort
For our open-back choice, we have the Philips SHP9500, a great, modestly priced hi-fi audiophile offering from household staple Philips that’s great for listening to music and gaming.
With its open-back design, the large 50mm drivers utilize high-power neodymium magnets to reproduce all your music’s dynamics and deliver well-balanced crisp bass, transparent midrange, and pristine high frequencies.
An acoustic open-back architecture eliminates air pressure build-up behind the driver, giving the diaphragm greater freedom of movement. This greatly enhances sound transparency and smooths extended high frequencies. The soundstage on these bad boys is incredible. In games, you can actually tell how far a person is, and its great sound imaging means you can tell at which degree your enemies are shooting at you.
They’re incredibly comfortable and have a sturdy yet lightweight build that feels durable. They’re not casual headphones that can be used outdoors, but they deliver a good, well-balanced sound, on par with much pricier open-back models.
If you’re a bass-head, the balanced neutral sound might not tickle your fancy as much as the ATH-M50X, but if you love the clarity of reference headphones, these Philips cans are great.
Priced at $74.00, for an entry into the hi-fi world, the Philips SHP9500 headphones are an affordable open-back headphone that’s well worth checking out.
- Great value
- Great soundstage
- Harsh treble if you’re sensitive
- Terrible earcups
For our budget pick, we have the Superlux HD 681. These are essentially a knockoff pair of AKG headphones from back in the day, but for clones, these are absolutely stellar.
First off, build quality: mediocre. The housing is made of cheap plastic, which is perfect for keeping the headphones lightweight, though they don’t feel too great in hand. The headband is flimsy but comfortable enough on your head. The earcups, however, are horrid. If you do get an HD 681, I would highly recommend getting some velvet ear cup replacements to improve comfort. TechEngage recommends these:
These headphones have lots of bass and treble, with the semi-open (basically open, there’s no difference between these and fully open designs) nature bringing an excellent soundstage. For headphones at this price range, the clarity is superb. Some people who are particularly sensitive to treble may find these a little uncomfortable, with some Reddit users of /r/headphones brandishing these as “treble cannons.” I suffered from this problem using these, but with the replacement velvet earpads came another bit of foam. Placing that between the cup and the driver reduces the sibilance that can be painful.
With an average rating of 4.3 stars out of 5, Amazon reviewers adore how well these headphones sound, not just for the price but for a full stop. One hi-fi listener writes in their five-star review:
“This must be the best headphone deal on Amazon! I am quite impressed. Firstly, they are quite comfortable. I can wear them for hours and feel no discomfort. While I can certainly tell that am wearing them, I find that they are as comfortable as my old baseball hat. Also, I wear glasses and experience no discomfort wearing these phones. Sound quality is unbelievable for $35. I am comparing them to my Sennheiser HD58x, Beyerdynamics DT 990 Pro and Phillips SHP9500 phones. In my humble opinion, the bass from the Superlux HD681 headset is superior to all three of the above-mentioned headphones.”
Priced at $67.77, these headphones are insane value. For the price, you can’t get any better for the sheer sound quality of these headphones. With a few tweaks, like replacement earpads and removing the bands, I’m so pleased with these headphones.
- With microphone
- Great sound quality
- Average microphone quality
Most gaming headsets are terrible. They just use the “gaming” brand to sell headphones that lack any sort of clarity or bass response. This is not the case with the HyperX Cloud II, the absolute king of gaming headsets under $100.
With their virtual 7.1 surround sound software drivers, you can mimic open-back cans and generate a virtual surround sound experience to create distance and depth that enhances any gaming, movie, or music experience. It’s plug-and-play, which means no drivers are needed.
HyperX Cloud II features a newly designed USB sound card audio control box that amplifies audio and voice for an optimal Hi-Fi gaming experience, so you can hear what you’ve been missing.
With an average rating of 4.6 stars out of 5, Amazon reviewers agree: these are the best budget gaming headphones with a microphone. One customer writes:
“They are extremely comfortable: they fit snugly but are not tight. If you wear glasses, you will barely notice the temple pieces, if at all. The leather pads are soft and conform around your ears well, including isolating you from any ambient sounds in your home. They sound great, and with the isolation, you can hear everything the soundtrack has to offer. All things considered, this is a 5-star piece of equipment in all respects.”
If you’re looking for a gaming headset, there’s no point looking at anything other than the HyperX Cloud II’s. At $96.90, it’s also one of the cheaper ones on the market. Well worth checking out.
If you’re looking for an affordable pair of headphones to play video games with, the Superlux HD 681 headphones are a really compelling option. They blew me away, and with a few tweaks, they quickly became my go-to headphones. If you’re looking for something more premium, the Philips SHP600s are stellar.
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