The Best Headphones for Different Types of Gaming
We devote the bulk of our attention here to audio production and some of the tools and equipment that go with it. When it comes to high-end headphones though, there might not be anyone in society who appreciates quality more than avid gamers. Whatever your own audio needs may be, looking at gamers’ latest preferences will often clue you in to what some of the best options on the market are for one purpose or another.
With that in mind I wanted to take a look at some of the best current headphones across different parts of the gaming world (specifically mobile gaming, online poker, and console/PC gaming).
The mobile category has more or less taken over the world of gaming in recent years — to the point that a recent survey on the mobile gaming market indicated that some 2.7 billion people around the world play games via app. Those may not all be regular or hardcore gamers, but it’s still an astonishingly high number that speaks to just how much enthusiasm there is around mobile games. Many of us are still somewhat conditioned to think of consoles and handheld controllers when we hear the word “gaming.” But at this point, there’s an argument to be made that we ought to think of smartphones first instead.
So what do those 2.7 billion players want in their headphones? Well, to some extend it depends on personal preference and specific games. But mobile gaming is all about convenience, so the primary goal is to blend ease of use with sound quality. Mobile gamers want headphones they can pack up and carry with minimal hassle, but which which still boast rich audio capability that captures the carefully constructed soundtracks and effects that often make gaming apps stand out.
The good news is that plenty of headphones fit this description. But the following stand out as particularly strong options:
- EPOS Sennheiser GSP 370 – This is a versatile gaming headset that’s good for mobile players for a few reasons. One is that it has a sturdy and relatively compact design that makes it handy on the go. Another is that the Sennheiser quality speaks for itself and tends to bring out the best in mobile titles. Most importantly however, this set has 100 hours of battery life, making it reliable for travel, commutes, and so on — all perks for mobile gamers.
- Razer Hammerhead True Wireless – The simple truth is that a large portion of mobile gamers today will wind up playing with Apple’s AirPods. They’re good options, but the Razer Hammerehad True Wireless headphones offer more or less the same experience at a better price. These are comfortable, simple Bluetooth buds with crisp, clear sound quality. They’re also extremely portable, and come with a charging case that adds 12 hours to the battery life.
It sounds strange to say it now, but once upon a time internet poker more or less defined online gaming. Some 20 years ago we could play plenty of video games at browser sites and via a few early MMO platforms, but poker had the buzz, and millions around the world engaged regularly in table and tournament play across the internet.
The game doesn’t quite have the same clout today — at least not in the U.S. — and yet there are still plenty of ways to play online poker with friends, or against strangers for that matter. In areas where real-money wagering is permitted, cash tournaments are still extremely popular. But even where that isn’t the case, a number of excellent websites and apps facilitate competitive online poker. These have helped poker to remain a significant part of the gaming world.
In the case of poker players, headphones are more about isolation than anything else. Poker doesn’t necessarily require absolute, top-tier audio quality, but players still want crisp sound (often the games will simulate the shuffling of cards, the clicking of chips, and so on to create atmosphere). Additionally, they want headphones to block out distractions. And in some cases, depending on the site or app, a good microphone can also be useful.
Here are some options that stand out for poker players:
- Bose QuietComfort Earbuds – So often when we do see images of poker players wearing headphones, they are gigantic over-ear options. These can be wonderful for noise cancellation but they’re not essential, and sometimes a lighter option can be more comfortable for long gaming sessions. The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds are comfortable, isolating, high quality, and — for what you get — quite affordable. They may not suit the traditional image, but they might just be the best options for poker play (and they handle calls and mic needs just fine also).
- Sony MDR-7506 – This is a set previously highlighted here in a look at the best headphones for music production. It’s the only wired headset I’ll include here, because this kind of option is fine for poker gaming on a PC or mobile device but less convenient for, say, console use. And among wired options, its combination of pure quality, elevated bass (which can pick up some of the subtler sounds on some poker sites), and closed-back design for noise isolation make it an excellent option.
Console & PC Gaming
As mentioned, most of us still tend to picture console and PC options when we hear the word “gaming,” even if by the numbers the mobile category is now dominant. There’s just something about playing on a bigger screen through an Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo, or PC that may always define the video game industry.
Beyond familiarity, the reason this category defines gaming is that it’s still where the biggest and boldest experiences are offered, and where one finds the best new games in any given year. There may be some awfully impressive games in the mobile category, but conventional video games, so to speak, still have more scope, and the systems they’re played on have greater capability. Accordingly, gamers in this space tend to value pure quality when it comes to their headphones. The more capable a headset is of capturing the dynamic music and sounds of console games, the better the experience will be.
There are a lot of great options for the category, but again I’ll highlight two in particular.
- Logitech G635 7.1 Lightsync Gaming Headset – This is one of the preeminent options on the gaming headset market, and basically covers all the bases. It’s comfortable, it boasts 7.1 surround sound, it’s compatible across major systems, it has an attached mic, and it does a reasonably good job canceling out noise. It also looks pretty cool, with blue LED lighting built into a black frame. The only draw back is that it’s not a wireless headset — which as mentioned can be a little inconvenient for some console play, depending on you setup.
- SteelSeries Arctics 7X & 7P – These identical headsets (but for visual design) are arguably the cream of the crop for gamers these days. They’re wireless sets with 24 hours of battery lie, built for the Xbox and PlayStation consoles but compatible with Nintendo Switch, PC, and even Android mobile devices. And from both a comfort and audio quality standpoint they’re consistently reviewed as ideal for gamers.
These may not all be the same headphones you’d go to for music production or related practices. But gamers across categories are discerning about their headphones, and their preferred options these days tend to represent some of the best, most comfortable, and most convenient headphones on the market at any given time.