Gramps may not like it, but eSports are here to stay as a permanent fixture in global entertainment. Whether you’re of the casual or professional variety, you may be thinking, gaming headsets are a waste since I already have a decent pair of headphones. But before you put on those $15 Best Buy cans, there are a few reasons to consider gaming headsets:

  1. they reproduce a more realistic soundscape that more accurately mirrors how we perceive sound;
  2. communication is key, and manufacturers are keenly aware of that;
  3. they’re more convenient than buying a pair of headphones and decking it out with a good microphone, amplifier, etcetera. 

Gaming headsets reproduce sound how we experience it

Most gaming headsets consist of circumaural, or over-ear, headphones. While on-ear headphones are well-suited for commuting, they don’t use the entire outer ear the same way that over-ear cans do.

By letting the pinna funnel sound to your ear, over-ear gaming headsets improve virtual environment perception. Since you’re granted a more realistic sense of surroundings, you benefit from more accurate in-game reactions and reduced reaction time.

Going from earbuds or on-ear headphones to a gaming headset is like listening in stereo and graduating to surround sound, a feature that some headsets include.

If, for instance, I’m using a gaming headset while playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, because my Xbox 360 is still kicking, I’ll quickly notice an enemy flanking my left side based on his footsteps. Whereas if I used the Bose SoundLink On-Ear Wireless, it’ll take an extra second to spatially understand what’s happening. And before I know it, the charmingly named “Death Cam” will roll, leaving me to sip on cold coffee while awaiting respawn.

Proper isolation improves gameplay, too

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Best gaming headsets 2018

If you’re an honorary SoundGuy, you’re well acquainted with how heavily we stress the importance of isolation, and it remains applicable to eSports.

High-quality gaming headsets use dense ear cushion materials to attenuate environmental din, and others like the Beyerdynamic Custom Game take this a step further by allowing gamers to control the EQ and ingress of surrounding noise. The summation of companies’ R&D departments is a better gaming experience that lets you focus on the situation at hand and ignore pestering roommates.

Now, if you have a fine pair of over-ear headphones, they may very well serve as an operable piece of a gaming headset but, then you have to purchase a third-party mic, which brings us to our next point.

Team gameplay—much like relationship maintenance—is all about communication

Pictured is the microphone of the Razer Nari Ultimate.

Razer has made a name for itself in the gaming community and its headsets are exclusive to over-ear designs. The Nari Ultimate features a retractable, malleable microphone.

Unless you’re kicking it in single-player game, you’re going to need a microphone—and a good one at that. After all, no one wants to be on the receiving end of a shoddy omnidirectional mic; the cheap ones register superfluous noise, and the awful ones seem to amplify it.

Investing in a proper setup typically affords a fine cardioid or unidirectional microphone; this polar pattern forgives imprecise mic placement and reduces background noise, say if you’re competing or your roommate is making dinner. What’s more, you’ll be able to clearly communicate with your team and avoid feeling like you’re in a Verizon commercial: “Can you hear me now?”

Gaming headsets provide an all-in-one solution

While you’re paying a premium for the convenience, the benefits of buying a complete package mean you avoid wasting time looking for accessories like a good mic or possibly an amplifier. Additionally, if a component breaks or something erodes: it’s easier to reach out to a single company for troubleshooting rather than a handful of companies.

Gaming headsets: Beyerdynamic Fox USB microphone: The microphone in front of an HP Omen desktop computer. Both are sitting on the ground.

The Beyerdynamic Fox USB Mic is a versatile piece of hardware can be used for gaming, podcasting, and musical recordings, but it’ll set you back $100-plus.

Ultimately, deciding whether it’s worth it to construct your headset piecemeal is a personal decision; maybe you enjoy the challenge and are confident that you can find equal or greater quality parts for less. If that’s the case, fabulous. For many, though, a complete setup will suffice and facilitate more gameplay and less time researching headset components.

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