Headphones vs Headset – Which one Should I Choose For Gaming?

Your graphics card, CPU, Monitor, and RAM can determine how a PC game will be played at your end.

But amid this so called PC Master Race, people make one common mistake.

They don’t care about how their games will sound.

No matter how good a game looks on your PC, your whole gaming experience will be ruined if it sounds bad.

One common reason for their lack of interest is the large number of audio options for their gaming rig.

Below are some of the common audio equipment for a gaming PC.

1. Gaming Speakers

First one are gaming speakers. These are probably the most popular option for anyone looking to level up their gaming experience, and we have covered them in past as well.

Some people think that only the speakers which come with a “gaming” tag should be used for gaming.

Frankly, I disagree with this argument. Sure, gaming speakers do come with some distinct features like loud volume and good looks. But at basic level, a gaming speaker is just another computer speaker with a deep bass.

2. Gaming Earbuds

Here come the earbuds. These are favorite choice for those who don’t like big headphones on their head, but don’t want to disturb people in their surroundings either.

Like speakers, you don’t necessarily have to buy a “gaming earbuds” pair. Just any good looking pair with quality sound and (a bit) deep bass will do the job.

Fortunately, we have already written about them as well.

3. Gaming Headphones & Headsets

And now comes the main topic of this post.

Gaming Headsets and Headphones.

I have combined both of them in one heading because most of the people think of them as two different terms for the same thing, which is totally wrong.

Although both of them look almost identical, there’s a big distinction in gaming headsets is that they come with a built-in microphone.

Headphones vs Headsets

Apart from the built-in mic, there are some other little factors that makes headphones and headsets different to each other. These little factors are the ones that determine whether you should go for a headphones pair, or a headset for gaming.

Do You Want Portability

If potability is one of your top priorities, then you should buy a gaming headphones pair instead of a headset. Most of these headphones are easily fold-able (’cause they don’t have a non-detachable mic).

On top of that, their natural design makes them good to be used in public.

Do You Need Surround Sound

Surround sound is arguably the biggest selling point in gaming headsets.

In simple terms, surround sound helps you in finding the “direction” of the sound. That sound might be of a bullet fired by an opponent in an online game.

With surround sound, you can quickly find the direction from which they bullet is coming and make your next move (very quickly).

There are two types of surround sound: Virtual Surround Sound and True Surround Sound.

Virtual Surround Sound

As you may have realized by now, surround sound is an expensive technique to implement.

That’s why companies have been trying to implement it in different ways.

They have developed a technique through which your brain can be tricked (read fooled) into hearing a sound from multiple directions.

Virtual surround sound is very popular in gaming headset nowadays. Even headsets marked with 7.1 and 5.1 use this technique to be called surround sound headsets. In reality though, they just have a 2-channel stereo setup.

True Surround Sound

Unlike in virtual surround sound, actual sound drivers are used in true surround sound.

In 5.1 true surround sound headsets, for example, 5 different sound drivers are implemented across both ears, plus a subwoofer to produce low frequency tunes (aka bass).

5.1 headsets have drivers for different channels like 1 center channel, 1 front-left channel, 1 front-right channel, 1 rear-left channel, and 1 rear-right channel.

In order to give them accurate measure of the direction, these channels will produce sound at different volumes.

Although many companies have now produced 7.1 true surround sound headsets, they are mostly an overkill for PC games.

Do You Want An Integrated Mic

Headsets have a clear advantage over headphones in the form of a built-in mic. This mic can be really useful if you play a lot of multiplayer games.

But this feature isn’t something impossible to replicate.

All you need is a good standalone mic that you can attach to your headphones, and you’re done. Yes, it’ll be a bit more complicated than a simple built-in mic setup but often times, separate mics are noted to have better sound pick-up and noise filtration.

Also, many people don’t look a non-detachable mic too close to their faces. For them, an ideal solution would be a headphones + clip-on mic (such as Zalman Zm-mic1) combo.

Remote Control and Noise isolation

These two features are found in both headphones and headphones. Remote control essentially allows you to control over the music you’re currently playing. You can pause any soundtrack as well as skip back and forth through it.

In noise isolation, the headphones/headsets basically act as a barrier between your ears and ambient sounds coming from outside. Some premium headphones even feature Active Noise Cancellation (ANC), which creates inverse waves of the sound coming from outside.

This cancels the outside sound waves (e.g: 1 + (-1)=0), and gives even better results than simple isolation.

In my opinion, when it comes to noise isolation/cancellation, headphones are a notch above the headsets.

Do You Want Gaming Aesthetics

Here I am talking about RGB.

Personally I believe they have very little to no purpose out there, but there are gamers who care about how their gaming rig looks, and RGB-enabled gaming headset is a core part in this regard.

So, it’s up to you to decide whether RGB lighting is a make or break deal for you, or not.

Do You Want High Audio Quality

Audio quality is the area where standard headphones beat gaming headsets easily. Most of the gaming headsets don’t even come near to the sound quality of good headphones.

It’s not that gaming companies don’t know how to make headsets with better sound quality. They just trade off sound quality with many extra features like mic, surround sound, RGB lightning etc.

So in order to keep the prices reasonable they don’t put too much effort in audio quality.