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5 Reasons to Avoid a New Gaming Headset Today

LucidSound LS31

5 Reasons to Avoid a New Gaming Headset Today

Key Points

  • Purchasing a gaming headset may not be the best choice for those seeking high-quality audio output.
  • There are many little-known brands of gaming headsets, making it difficult to find a reliable and supported option.
  • Gaming headsets are often overpriced, with lower quality sound equipment compared to dedicated audio equipment.
  • Gaming headsets use a V-curve equalizer that boosts bass and high frequencies, which can distort music when listening.
  • An alternative audio setup with separate headphones, an XLR interface, and a microphone can provide better quality and customization options.

Gaming headsets often look tantalizing to the consumer with their flashy lights and unique looks. However, buying a new gaming headset might not be the best choice for you right now. This is especially true if you’re looking for a high-quality headset. Let’s take a look at the most critical disadvantages you should consider when you’re thinking about purchasing a new gaming headset.

What Types of Gaming Headsets Are Out There?

There are many gaming headsets on the market today. So ensuring you buy the right one will be crucial to your journey through sound design. Some companies design headsets specifically to interface with PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. There are even specific earbuds designed for gamers nowadays.

Before purchasing any gaming headset, ensure it can interface with the device you intend to use. While many headsets can cross-interface, this is not a universal feature, and some headsets will not interface with specific devices.

Audio Output Quality Is Often Sacrificed for Other Features

While the point of a headset is, in many ways, to provide high-quality audio output, gaming headsets have many other features that also receive focus in production and engineering. Many units have customizable lighting on the earcups or the headband. This means that the unit will have to not only be designed to include LED lighting, but it also requires that a companion app be designed for the product so that the users can customize the lighting.

Another factor that often negatively influences the audio output quality is that headsets are two-way devices, especially gaming headsets. Gaming headset users are not only using the headset to listen to game audio, but also using the headsets to communicate with their friends, which requires an included input device.

Due to the requirement to include an input and output device, the audio output device will receive less attention and manufacturing funding. Since care, attention, and budget get taken away from the audio output device, this device will be a lower-quality device than one might find in a device dedicated to output.

Thus, all my audiophiles and anyone else who values the quality of the audio output device in their headset should avoid buying a gaming headset. These headsets are not made with audio quality in mind and won’t satisfy the audiophile’s needs.

There Are Too Many Little-Known Brands

Gaming headsets are also trendy. Unfortunately, when something becomes trendy, many people jump on the bandwagon to try and get a piece of the pie. As a result, many brands produce gaming headsets, and new brands pop up and die out startlingly quickly.

Unfortunately, with so many brands, both with and without the history one might want to see in a brand, you’ll have far too many brands to pick from and not enough information about many of these brands to make a good decision. While many of the newer brands will promise you the moon and the stars, they rarely deliver on these promises. Since the brands often die out quickly, they won’t be able to provide support and assistance the way a reputable brand would.

If you’re insistent on buying a gaming headset, you’ll have to sift through all the garbage brands to find a headset that won’t die on you three weeks in. Even if you find a headset that lasts from a disreputable brand, you’re likely to end up with a headset from a brand that folds quickly. Once the brand folds, you’ll lose your support network. If something happens to your headset, your only recourse will be to buy a whole new headset. Unfortunately, that brings us to our next point…

Gaming Headsets Are Overpriced

Gaming headsets also come at a premium. They’re a specific product marketed and targeted at a select audience. Unfortunately, this means several costs that would otherwise be non-issues usually come from the manufacturing funds. 

The other factor in the price is that when you pay for most gaming headsets, you pay for the label from the company that makes it. Within the gaming community, a significant amount of prestige becomes associated with the brand making your peripherals. Companies are well aware of this. Thus, the more reputable brands know that they can get away with charging more for their products.

There is also the quality of the equipment. It’s important to remember that companies are trying to make the most money off of you. That means you can rest assured that the product’s production values were as cheap as the company could make it. Regarding gaming headsets, that means that parts used to make the headset are generally of a lower quality than one might see from a company that makes sound equipment.

When you factor in the fact that gaming peripherals, headsets in particular, have lower quality sound equipment than equivalent products purchased from sound equipment manufacturers, you get a particularly overpriced piece of equipment. You’re paying for the manufacturer’s name and some flashy LEDs rather than sound equipment.

Audio Drivers Impact Sound Quality

Another factor that people tend not to think about is audio drivers. Drivers are the software components that allow the operating system to interface with connected devices. What drivers your headset is using has an impact on your sound quality. Not all sound drivers are made equal.

USB headsets typically use what’s known as “onboard” drivers. These drivers are hardcoded into the headset and will run from the headset’s internal storage when the headset gets plugged into the computer. These drivers are usually pretty poor quality. They won’t provide you with the same high-quality sound that reputable drivers like Realtek HD drivers do.

Additionally, most big box companies that produce headsets produce their drivers. These drivers range from being “just okay” to “pretty good.” However, they rarely provide the same high-quality audio you’d get from an actual audio driver.

Gaming Headsets Use a V-Curve in the Equalizer

A little-known fact about most gaming headsets is that they have boosted bass and high frequencies. Some call this equalizer curve a “V-curve” because it resembles a V, with the low and high frequencies boosted and reduced mid-range frequencies. Regarding video games, this V-curve can improve immersion since the increased bass power and high frequencies make explosion and gunshot sound effects more powerful.

However, when you try to use a headset with a steep V-curve to listen to music, it distorts the piece because, unlike explosions and gunshots, music uses frequencies in the entire spectrum, so when you use a gaming headset to listen to music, you end up with distorted sounds that don’t represent what the music should sound like.

Now, when your gaming headset comes with a companion app that has an equalizer program that you can use, you can reverse the equalizer by using the equalizer application to reduce the bass and high frequencies and boost the mid-range frequencies. However, if you bought a cheaper headset without a companion app, you’re just up the creek regarding listening to music without distortion.

Alternatives to Gaming Headsets You Can Buy Today

The best setup you can put together for your gaming needs is a pair of headphones with an external microphone. By separating the headphones and microphone, you can ensure that both the headphones and the microphone are of the highest possible quality that you can get. Unfortunately, these setups can get rather pricey, as standalone microphones usually use an XLR interface, and computers don’t come equipped with XLR interfaces; you need to buy the XLR interface separately. So it’s not just two components you need to buy to create a headphone-slash-microphone interface setup, you need three.

Another major “disadvantage” to creating a headphone-slash-microphone setup is that your gaming sound will be drier. As mentioned above, gaming headsets use a built-in V-curve equalizer to create more immersive and powerful sound effects. By boosting the bass and high frequencies, the sound effects most associated with video games–explosions and gunshots–have more power behind them, and reducing the mid-range frequencies creates an illusion of those sounds being even more powerful.

This increase in game-related immersion is crucial for some people’s gaming experiences. For those people, a gaming headset will be ideal because it will provide the best immersive experience at the best price. So, we’ll also give some tips on how to augment your gaming headset to be used for listening to music without distortion.

Best Alternative Audio Setup for a Gaming Headset

When we say “best” setup, we don’t mean the ultimate audiophile setup. As most audiophiles will tell you, the top setups of their dreams are usually prohibitively expensive for the average person. For instance, the Focal Utopia 2022 version headphones are often considered some of the best headphones in the world for audiophiles, but at a price point of $5,000, they’re more than a little bit expensive. So, we’ve selected products representing a good marriage of price and quality. 

Headphones: Sennheiser HD 660 S

The Best Headphones
SENNHEISER HD 660 S - HiRes Audiophile Open Back Headphone
$592.00
  • Over-ear wired headphones
  • Frequency response 10 to 41,000 Hz (10dB)
  • Impedance 150 ohm
  • 42mm transducers
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
03/01/2024 02:04 pm GMT

Sennheiser is a name in the audio industry associated with high-fidelity audio, and many prosumer studios rely on Sennheiser products as the backbone of their studios. The Sennheiser HD 660 S headphones are the best for hi-fi audio under a grand. 

One of the best reasons to purchase Sennheiser products is that Sennheiser doesn’t upgrade its hardware unnecessarily. Thus, their products have a longer lifespan because the company builds them to last and supports the builds for a longer period. Unlike companies that come out with a new version of their headphones every year, Sennheiser products only receive upgrades when they can make a real change in the quality of their products. The HD 650 headphones saw their release in 2003 and did not see an upgrade to the HD 660 S until 2017. On top of that, they continue to support the HD 650, and you can still purchase the HD 650 headphones directly from Sennheiser despite the successor having seen their release.

XLR Interface: Behringer U-PHORIA UM2

The Best XLR Interface
Behringer U-Phoria UM2 USB Audio Interface
$59.00
  • XLR connectivity
  • XENYX preamp
  • 48kHz
  • Phantom Power
  • Instrument input
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
03/01/2024 02:54 pm GMT

The U-PHORIA UM2 XLR interface from Behringer is easily the best starter XLR interface you can get. It’s a simple USB-fed single-input XLR interface, making it perfect for starter setups and solo users. 

The Behringer U-PHORIA also comes at a very competitive price point. At just $60, the U-PHORIA is one of the most affordable XLR interfaces on the market. Plus it won’t die in three weeks.

Additionally, the Behringer U-PHORIA is a Behringer product. Behringer is one of the top names in audio engineering. Like Sennheiser, many prosumer studios consider Behringer one of the companies that comprise the backbone of their studio’s production.

Microphone: Audio-Technica AT2035

The Best Microphone
Audio-Technica AT2035 Cardioid Condenser Microphone
  • Wired microphone with custom shock mount
  • XLR output
  • 80Hz high-pass filter plus 10dB pad
  • Wide dynamic range for excellent versatility
  • Large diaphragm for natural sound and reduced noise
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

If you’re looking for an excellent starter microphone that provides fantastic quality audio at a fraction of the price of a studio-level condenser microphone, look no further than Audio-Technica’s AT2035 condenser microphone.

The AT2035 is the successor to the AT2020 condenser microphone. I pack an AT2020 in my home setup because it packs quite an audio punch. This microphone features a cardioid pickup pattern which reduces sound input from the sides and back of the microphone. It also comes with a large diaphragm, meaning the sounds it captures will have more depth and life to them.

Boom Arm: InnoGear Microphone Stand

The Best Boom Arm
InnoGear Microphone Stand
$24.99
  • Zinc alloy mounting clamp
  • Shock mount
  • 3/8-inch to 5/8-inch metal screw adapter
  • Includes pop filter
  • Max load 3.3 pounds
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
03/01/2024 02:59 pm GMT

When using a free-standing condenser microphone, you’ll also need a boom arm to attach the microphone to. This boom arm kit from InnoGear is the perfect desk-mounted setup for your microphone. It even comes with an attachable shock mount compatible with the AT2035.

Reasons to Avoid a New Gaming Headset: Final Thoughts

Gaming headsets may look flashy and cool, but that doesn’t mean they’re the best option for everyone. Some people will want a more in-depth audio setup that provides better quality to both input and output than a gaming headset can provide, and that’s okay! For all the audiophiles out there, a gaming headset just won’t cut it. So, if you’re one of those people, check out some of the gear we’ve recommended to get a good starter setup for the audiophiles of the world!

  1. SENNHEISER HD 660 S - HiRes Audiophile Open Back Headphone
    $592.00
    • Over-ear wired headphones
    • Frequency response 10 to 41,000 Hz (10dB)
    • Impedance 150 ohm
    • 42mm transducers
    Buy Now

    We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    03/01/2024 02:04 pm GMT
  2. Behringer U-Phoria UM2 USB Audio Interface
    $59.00
    • XLR connectivity
    • XENYX preamp
    • 48kHz
    • Phantom Power
    • Instrument input
    Buy Now

    We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    03/01/2024 02:54 pm GMT
  3. Audio-Technica AT2035 Cardioid Condenser Microphone
    • Wired microphone with custom shock mount
    • XLR output
    • 80Hz high-pass filter plus 10dB pad
    • Wide dynamic range for excellent versatility
    • Large diaphragm for natural sound and reduced noise
    Buy Now

    We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

  4. InnoGear Microphone Stand
    $24.99
    • Zinc alloy mounting clamp
    • Shock mount
    • 3/8-inch to 5/8-inch metal screw adapter
    • Includes pop filter
    • Max load 3.3 pounds
    Buy Now

    We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    03/01/2024 02:59 pm GMT

Summary Table

Reasons to Avoid a New Gaming Headset
Audio Output Quality Is Often Sacrificed for Other Features
There Are Too Many Little-Known Brands
Gaming Headsets Are Overpriced
Audio Drivers Impact Sound Quality
Gaming Headsets Use a V-Curve in the Equalizer

Frequently Asked Questions

What is high-fidelity audio?

Succinctly, high-fidelity audio refers to high-quality reproductions of sound. We often shorten the term to “Hi-Fi” or “HiFi.

Do gaming headsets provide Hi-Fi audio?

No. As a general rule, gaming headsets do not produce Hi-Fi audio.

What are the main disadvantages of gaming headsets?

The primary disadvantages of buying a gaming headset are the poor audio quality, cheap components, a high price tag, and the fact that most people purchase gaming headsets for the brand’s prestige rather than audio quality.

Is there a difference between wired and wireless gaming headsets?

Wired gaming headsets have lower latency and no signal interference when compared with wireless headsets.

What is the alternative to a gaming headset?

If you don’t purchase an all-in-one gaming headset, you’ll need to buy your headphones and microphone separately with an interface and boom arm for the microphone.

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