Best Headphones for Both Music & Gaming in 2021

SoundGearLab-Team | Last Updated On September 16th, 2021 | This post may contain affiliate links.

Finding the best headphones for enjoying your favorite music or online games is important. Sorting through so many potential options can be time consuming, however. There are so many things to consider when it comes to what headphones will work best for your needs.

In this article, you will see a quick break down of six headphones that can meet the needs of hardcore gamers, serious audiophiles, as well as meeting some middle-ground requirements that will make them suitable for almost any use you have in mind.

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The Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro headphones are an excellent choice for serious audiophiles. They can deliver such a supreme level of audio quality for high quality listening. However, due to the sound quality you will also be paying a premium price for a set.

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If you consider yourself a critical listener or serious audiophile, the Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro should be your first choice to consider. Not only will you notice they look like a high quality and premium headset, but they also offer an incredible level of well balanced sound.

When it comes to instrument and vocal reproduction, the DT 1990 Pro will offer listeners a truly extended deep bass range. The treble can be slightly sharp on some bright tracks, but the slight peak will not be enough to ruin your listening experience. These headphones are great for neutral listening and offer a spacious soundstage for those wanting a higher class audio result.

For comfort levels, most Beyerdynamic brand headphones offer a premium design which includes accents to give them a high end feel. The ear cups are well padded and coated in microfiber that feels soft and soothing on your skin. The biggest downside, however, is the weight of the headphones themselves, which can make them feel a bit bulky when being worn.

You might also notice the tightness of the headphones are a bit more than most. This might not be noticeable unless your head is slightly larger than average, but the headband of this headset doesn’t extend as far as other models or brands, it may not fit well on some head shapes or sizes. For average use, they will likely be extremely comfortable and you won’t notice any issues with tightness or fatigue.

As the DT 1990 Pro headphones are an open back design, they will lack sound isolating and noise cancellation features. This can be a huge issue for some, but not a concern for others. If you plan on using these headphones in a quiet location such as indoors, in an office, or in a library you will not notice any lack of sound quality. For those wanting to wear their headphones outdoors or in loud environments, the open back design is not the best choice.

Overall the DT 1990 Pro headphones can be extremely comfortable for long term use. The ear cups are breathable and cool, preventing sweat buildup even after a few hours of wearing them. You’ll enjoy the high quality design and premium materials used in construction, as well as unique features such as replaceable audio cables in case they get damaged.

What We Like
Extremely Comfortable - Extremely comfortable and cool for very long term wearing comfort
Audiophile Sound - Offer a highly dynamic and well balanced sound profile for even critical listeners
Great Build & Look - Built well with a premium quality look and feel to the overall headset
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Open Back Design - Open back design lacks sound isolation and noise cancellation features
Somewhat Heavy - Weight of the headset can cause fatigue for some users after some time
Premium Price - Premium price range makes these unreasonable for those on a budget
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The Meze 99 Neo headset is a great choice for someone wanting to enjoy music, podcasts or audiobooks with an above average sound quality. They’re not suitable for serious audiophiles due to their lower audio contrast range but for most people they're top tier.

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Meze has created their 99 Neo headset with a timeless and fashionable style. Their focus is on creating a headset for contemporary stylized users that will also fit into the related decor of a modern home or coffee shop.

The 99 Neo have a very well balanced sound, similar to the warm and natural sound you will find in their other models such as the 99 Classic. For the 99 Neo, you will notice a very high musical signature that does not lose much fidelity in the process.

When it comes to an overall sound profile, the 99 Neo can offer a decent mid-bass that does not rumble at too low of a frequency before leveling off. The treble response provides a suitable contrast between the heightened bass as well as the mid to upper treble range.

The biggest issue with the audio contrast is that the sustained elevation peaks of sound will noticeably drop around the 200-300Hz range. On this front, the 99 Neo falls a bit lower on the overall sound quality scale than the 99 Classic would, for example. For casual audio lovers and gamers, this is a very minor issue. But for serious audiophiles, this can be a turn off.

What We Like
Looks Great - Contemporary style for lovers of sleek and modern decor
Great Audio Quality - Great audio quality range for intermediate audiophiles and gamers
Great Value - Reasonable price range, perfect for those looking for their next best headset
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Microphone - The microphone isn't great - those who play multiplayer games will likely want a separate mic.
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The Sennheiser Game One headset is a perfect choice for gamers of all levels. Their sound quality is not suitable for serious audiophiles, but you’ll hear everything around you in games that may help give you an edge in immersive FPS shooters.

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If you’re a lover of online gaming, the Sennheiser Game One headset is an outstanding option to give you an immersive audio experience. You won’t find any RGB lights on these headphones, but the accent coloring can help them stand out more than a plain colored set.

You’ll notice this headset is somewhat utilitarian in its design. It’s not nearly as sleek and elegant as some other headsets on this list, but the black matte padding is great for those who wear eyeglasses. The biggest downside, however, is the fact that the plastic exterior is very prone to picking up fingerprints.

A potentially controversial feature of the Sennheiser Game One headset is that it is an open-back variety. This will limit the depth of sound from the headsets as it will not offer any isolation or noise cancellation. For quiet gaming spaces, this is perfectly fine – but if you plan on gaming with others nearby or in loud environments, this can be very distracting. The biggest upside to an open back design is that it helps create a much better 3D sound space.

As for the actual sound quality, you’ll notice a unique depth to the bass level. If these are compared to other gaming headsets such as the Razer or Turtle Beach brand, you may feel like they fall short with the audio clarity but luckily this is not the case. However the emphasis of bass sound may take some getting used to if you are not familiar with open back headphones.

One of the biggest downsides if you often use a microphone during your gaming sessions is that you will need to speak up for the microphone to pick up each of your words. The easiest way to fix this issue is by using boost gain software to eliminate the need to speak too loudly and disrupt your entire house.

What We Like
Price - Budget-friendly and affordable price range
Comfortable - Extremely comfortable to wear, even for those with glasses
Immersive Sound - Sound quality is very immersive for an open back design
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Sound Leakage - Open back design, which can be either a pro or con depending on the user
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The Bose QC 35 S2 headphones are suitable for pretty much any purpose you have in mind. However, being a Bose brand peripheral, you will be facing a premium price range simply due to the brand name and history.

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For many years, Bose has been known as the best brand for noise canceling headphones. Their QuietComfort or QC line of headphones are an outstanding all-around peripheral for both gaming and enjoying your favorite music.

If you’ve had other Bose QC headphones in the past, you will notice many similarities in the QC 35 Series 2 line. One of the best features is their slimline design, giving them a light and sleek feel when being worn. You can wear these headphones all day and not experience ear fatigue from the weight.

When it comes to technology integration, the Bose QC 35’s have a dedicated Google Assistant button. If you have no use for this feature, the same button can instead be used as your noise cancelling toggle. Multiple presses of the button will allow you to switch between three different ANC strengths.

What We Like
Comfort - Excellent level of comfort even after hours of use
Great Design - Sleek and light-weight design
Well Made - Very high durability and flexible construction
Know Before Buying
Crowded Toggles - Dedicated Google Assistance button is also the ANC toggle
Price - Premium price range may make these unrealistic for those on a budget
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The Sennheiser HD599 can add an immersive audio feel for gamers. Unfortunately, the bass range sound quality is not suitable for the majority of average audiophiles. It’s great for podcasts and casual listening, however!

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The Sennheiser HD 599 headphones are an excellent choice for gamers of all levels. You’ll find they offer a very well balanced sound profile overall, regardless of what you may be listening to. Being an open back headset, they are not great for loud spaces. However, if you are able to use these headphones in a quiet and secluded space you will be very pleased by the audio they offer.

You can find the Sennheiser HD 599 headset in both ivory and black colorations depending on your personal preference. Both headsets feature silver branding and metal accents to help them stand out from other headsets of the brand. If you’re looking for a set of headphones that have a premium look and elegant feel, the HD 599’s are a great choice.

If you plan on wearing the headset for an extended period of time, such as for gaming sessions or enjoying a long podcast, you’ll be pleased to know they are extremely comfortable. The ear cups are well padded and are in an oval shape which is arguably more comfortable than round cups. The headband as well as padded with thick foam to prevent both ear and scalp fatigue over a few hours of use.

The sound quality itself is very well balanced, though not as good in the sound profile as other headphones can be. If you’re a serious audiophile, you will notice the sound is lacking a bit in these headphones. Since they are an open back design, you’ll notice some muddiness when it comes to treble and bass. However for gaming and podcasts or audiobooks, the sound mixing is rather desirable.

The biggest downside to the Sennheiser HD 599 is their lack of portability. For keeping the headset at home with your desktop PC, this is probably a non issue. However, if you are looking for a set of headphones you can toss in a backpack or bag and carry around, these are not it. They do not fold and can be very bulky. In addition, you’ll notice they may break or scratch easily when attempting to port them around without a specific carrying case made for their size.

What We Like
Comfort - Extremely comfortable for even multi-hour usage
Sound Quality - Sound quality is perfect for casual gamers and average audio listeners
Color Options - Can be found in both ivory and black colorations to fit into your decor
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Not Portable - Very poor portability makes these better for stay-at-home usage
No Microphone - Needs a separate microphone.
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The Philips Fidelio X2HR are a great option for casual gamers as well as audio lovers. While they won’t give you a supremely high quality sound, they’re still a great midrange headset that can be your stepping stone to higher quality headsets over time.

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For a great sound profile that has a well-balanced result for all types of audio uses, the Philips Fidelio X2HR are an amazing choice. They’re an excellent choice for neutral sound listening, but can lack a bit when it comes to the low bass range. Luckily, you won’t notice much harmonic distortion even if you are specifically listening for it.

When it comes to comfort, few headphones are as comfortable to wear as these. Not only are the ear cups extremely well padded with a soft and conforming foam, but the headband is automatically adjusted to keep your entire head free of fatigue even after several hours of use. If you wear glasses, the padding will help reduce the amount of pressure on the back of your ears.

If you have had other Philips headphones, you will notice these feel a bit tighter against your head but this is more for security when movement and should not cause discomfort. They’re very secure against your head when listening and doing casual dancing at home, but are not secure enough to wear while jogging or exercising.

As these are an open back headset, you will notice they lack any sound isolation capabilities or noise cancellation. The treble range is also a bit uneven, which is also common for open back headphones. The biggest downside to this is that some frequencies may come across too dull while others can be too sharp. For casual listeners this is not going to be a major issue, but for serious audiophiles looking for the highest quality sound profile these headphones should be avoided.

What We Like
Comfort - Extremely well padded ear cups and headband for long-term wearing comfort
Good Brand With Warranties - Manufactured by a well known worldwide brand, and backed by warranties
Good Price Range - Perfect budget-friendly headset for a variety of casual uses
Know Before Buying
Frequency Balance - Not suitable for serious audiophiles due to the lack of frequency balance
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How To Pick The Best Headphones for Music & Gaming

Sound Quality

One of the most important features of a good set of headphones is the sound quality. Whether you are a complete audiophile or a casual gamer just wanting to get an edge in your favorite FPS, ensuring you have high quality audio is important.

Choosing the best sound quality comes down to bass and treble quality, as well as how each hits their low frequencies and peaks. When looking at headphones to fit your needs, balancing the sound quality is vital.

Comfort

For gamers this might be more of a concern than for one who may only be wearing their headphones for an hour or two a day. Comfort consideration includes the overall weight of the headphones as well as the headband thickness and support it provides.

In addition to the headband comfort, it’s also important to ensure the ear cups are sized correctly as well as being properly padded. Regardless of how long you might be wearing your headphones, ear cups that are too stiff or not well padded can quickly cause ear fatigue and discomfort.

Wired vs Wireless

Wireless headphones are an extremely common choice for gaming where sound quality is not as important as being able to move. Especially if you game at a standing desk, or happen to get up frequently for snacks and drinks.

For audiophiles expecting the best sound quality, a wired headset is vital. Wired headphones of all brands will give you a much more reliable and crisp audio result. However, the freedom of movement is obviously limited and you will be removing and replacing the headset on your head much more often.

Microphone

Microphones are not normally a consideration for headphones that will only be used for enjoying audio. However, there are some headphones that can accept external microphones without too much hassle.

For gaming headsets, having a microphone is almost guaranteed. However the quality of microphones can vary greatly. If your focus is on a gaming headset with a microphone, be sure to test the microphone quality before making your decision.

Compatibility

The standard connection for audio headphones is normally a 3.5mm jack. Some will have 6.35mm adapters as well, which is common for studio quality headsets. You will very rarely find USB connections for studio headphones.

For gaming headphones, however, a USB connection is extremely common. You will also find a large number of gaming headsets that have a 3.5mm jack. Between these two connectors, gaming headsets are compatible with PCs, consoles, tablets and more.

Do I Need An Amplifier? Sensitivity & Impedance Explained

Most headphones are rated from 8 to 600 ohms of impedance, with a range of 32 or 35 becoming more and more popular. Audio impedance, however, normally stays around 4 or less ohms unless you’re looking at specialized amplifiers in which case the ohms can reach 120 or higher. Lower impedance rated headphones before 50 are great for portable device usage, but higher ohms of 50 or more will require amplification to give their best performance.

Most headphone models are only found in a single impedance rating. However, the Beyerdynamic brand is currently the only major commercial producer of multiple versions of the same model. The reason for this redundancy is that each version can carry a different impedance to suit the unique needs of specific users.

Do I Need To Get An External Mic? What Are The Options?

Having an external mic will depend on your intended usage for the headset you have chosen. For online gamers, having some way to communicate through voice chat can be a vital part of your gaming experience, while for others this is not something they are concerned about. Most gaming headsets will have a built in microphone, so no external mic considerations will be needed.

Headsets that are more focused on audiophiles or studio use will likely be lacking a built-in microphone. In this case you will need to consider an external microphone such as an in-line mic, a desktop mic, or an entirely separate studio microphone option.

Open Back vs Closed Back Headphones for Gaming & Music

When it comes to open back or closed back, the benefits of each will depend on the user’s focus and goals. The biggest benefit of closed back headphones is the addition of sound isolation and noise cancellation. This gives you a very immersive audio experience, but can limit you being unable to hear things around you in the real world.

Open back headphones allow you to remain focused on hearing your audio in the headset, while also being able to switch your focus to sounds and voices in the space around you. The biggest downside, however, is that you will lack some of the depth of sound in both treble and bass.

Summary

From casual to professional gaming, to serious audiophiles, finding the right headphones for your uses will take some research and potentially a bit of trial and error. The biggest concern you may have is about the general sound quality when it comes to treble and bass balancing. Some headphones lack a bit in this regard, while others will shine. It’s up to you to decide how important the overall sound quality is to you.