Open-back headphones offer spacious soundstage and good imaging for an optimal gaming experience. With good open-back headphones, you should be able to pinpoint footsteps and gunshot location easily. Other factors such as comfort and overall sound quality should also be good for an immersive gaming session. In this post, we have tested and feature our best open-back headphones for gaming. We also have streaming headset suggestions in this site.
The debate on whether to go for closed-back or open-back headphones for gaming is a long one and depends on several factors. Which should you choose? Let’s start with the basics.
The main physical difference between open-back and closed-back headphones is in their earcup enclosure. Open-backs allow sound and air to pass through the back whereas closed-back headphones are sealed. Apart from the physical differences, both open and closed headphones have differences in their overall sound reproduction. For gaming, both these two designs have their advantages and disadvantages.
Philips Fidelio X2HR
First, let’s start with open-back headphones. The main advantage of open headphones is sound quality. Compared to closed headphones, they have linear, clear, and transparent reproduction with high details. The soundstage and imaging on open-back headphones are particularly good compared to closed-back headphones. Because they are open, comfort is also improved because they provide better ventilation for the ears. This helps in avoiding the accumulation of heat for a longer comfortable experience. The open design also comes with its fair share of challenges. The major disadvantage is the lack of isolation. This makes gaming in noisy places problematic. Sound leakage is also a problem, especially when used in quiet places.
HiFiMAN HE 400i
For gaming, I see most people using closed-back headphones or headsets. The main advantage of a closed headphone is the passive noise cancelation. Several factors which include the clamping pressure, earpad thickness and material work to prove very high isolation. Most gamers appreciate better isolation because it enables them to delve deeper into the game without distractions from the outside. The sound quality of a closed-back headphone most of the time emphasizes the bass. They have a punchy bass with deep reproduction. The soundstage is however not great with most offering a tight stereo image. This is common in closed headphones but it can be minimized by headphone manufacturers for improved performance. One disadvantage of closed headphones is the build-up of trapped heat. Though this is also influenced by the material quality, closed-back headphones are more prone to trap heat than open backs.
Deciding whether to get a gaming headset or a mic and headphone is a tough decision some of us have to make. There are several things you can weigh to help you decide which is better for you. We have an article on Gaming Headset vs. Headphones and Mic, which has an in-depth view on this topic.
However, let’s have a summary of some of the factors you need to consider. First up is the purpose. A gaming headset is great if you are into gaming only. However, if you want versatility, a headphone and mic is the best option. The cost is also one of the things you should factors when making a decision. Gaming headsets come with other features such as a mic, RGB, lighting synergy, software for EQ settings, and fancy looks that make them expensive. However, compared to headphones, those features do not justify their high price tag.
Beyerdynamic DT990 Pro
For sound quality, headphones made by big brands, think Sennheiser, Beyerdynamic, AKG, etc have better sound compared to same price gaming headsets. However, if you need a mic it will add up to the cost of a headphone and mic combo. Overall, the sound is always better on headphones compared to headsets.
A ModMic also called a boom mic is a microphone that attaches onto or plugs into headphones and plugs into a computer, laptop, or gaming console. The advantage of a ModMic is that it can easily be removed when not in use to permit the use of headphones for other activities such as listening to music.
While a decent gaming headset might range from $100, for that price you can get a good cheap headphone like the Philips SH9500 and a ModMic attachment microphone. Plug the ModMic while gaming and unplug it while listening to music. A ModMic is also a great addition if you already have a good headphone. In that case, you do not need to spend more money on a gaming headset. Modmics offer a simple and great solution of ditching poor audio and poor mics of a majority of gaming headset in favor of your favorite headphone.
The two ModMics/boom mics We would recommend include the Antlion Audio ModMic which comes in USB and 3.5mm inputs or the V-Moda BoomPro Microphone, which works very well with headphones that have a removable cable.
The question of wireless or wired gaming headphones will depend on several factors.
Wired headphones are good because they require no battery. This means you can use the headphones for long sessions without worrying about taking a break to plug the headphone to power when the battery dies. The longevity of wireless headphones is also an issue. Battery degradation over time might cause the headphone to die early. Wired headphones are also compatible with multiple systems. You can use the headphone via phone, desktop, laptop or PS4 wither through USB, AUX, or other connections.
Wireless gaming headphones also come with their advantages. The main one is freedom of movement. Tangled wires and a limited range of movement make wireless headphones a preferred option if you need to move around.
The sound quality of either wired or wireless is the first thing that pops up when comparing the two. Though the sound will depend on several factors, generally, wired headphones sound better than wireless headphones. However, with the leaps made in technology, wireless technology is getting better with time. A good pair of wireless headphones will likely sound better than a wired pair of headphones, but you will have to spend more.
A headphone’s impedance and sensitivity values are some of the specs you need to look out when shopping for a new headphone. These values help you know if your headphone will sound good when using them with your smartphone, PC, and in some cases, you might require a dedicated headphone amplifier.
Headphone impedance is the resistance to the audio signal passing through the headphone. To overcome impedance, headphones need amplification. Amplifiers are present even in smartphones, computers, or even MP3 players. Most headphones can easily be powered with in-built amplifiers. However, as the impedance rating goes higher, you will require dedicated amplifiers to get the headphone to sound good. A high impedance headphone powered from a smartphone will not sound loud enough.
Sensitivity may not as helpful as headphone impedance when choosing a headphone but it helps. Sensitivity is measured in dB and indicates how loud a headphone will be at a given power level. If headphone A has the same impedance as headphone B, but the sensitivity values are different, the headphone with higher sensitivity will be easier to drive. Read more about headphone sensitivity.
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