Gaming Headset vs Headphones And Mic (Which to Choose)


Gaming Headset vs Headphones And Mic

The question of whether to choose a gaming headset or headphones and mic combo is one that always comes up, particularly among gamers. When playing multiplayer games such as Fortnite, CS: GO, or Valorant, gamers need to communicate with their teammates to ensure their team wins. 

Besides gamers, other people who need a microphone alongside their headphones also want to know which is a better option; gaming headsets or headphones and mic combos, before purchasing either. 

In this article, we compare the two options, so that you can make an informed choice of which of the setups to buy. Before going into the features and pros & cons of each option, let’s go through what both options are.

Gaming Headsets

Gaming headsets, like regular headsets, are headphones that come with microphones attached. They are often built with aesthetics tailored for the gaming audience. They are targeted at gamers who need to communicate with their teammates during game sessions or while streaming to their audience on Twitch or YouTube. Gaming headsets usually have an increased bass and surround sound to improve the gaming experience of their users.

Headphones And Mic Combo

A headphone and mic combo is simply a combination of a regular headphone and an external microphone. This is a setup you’d usually find among people who care about the quality of their microphone.

Should You Go For A Gaming Headset?

Now that you are acquainted with what a gaming headset is, let’s examine its features, merits, and demerits. To do this, we would examine the following things: sound quality, mic quality, comfort, convenience, and price range.

Sound Quality

Gaming headsets are designed to make a gamer’s experience as lively and immersive as possible. This is done in two major ways; including surround sound and increasing the bass. When playing FPS games, gamers need to know which direction a sound is coming from, so that they can react quickly in the right direction. This can be difficult to do with the normal sound output of headphones. With surround sound, the brain is tricked into thinking there’s a direction to the sound, which makes for a better gaming experience. 

Surround sound created by the speakers can be real, or virtual. In the case of real surround sound, the illusion of direction is created using multiple drivers in the headset. Each driver represents an audio channel, and they all work together to create the surround sound effect. As for virtual surround sound, the effect is faked using software in the headset. This is the most common method used by gaming headset manufacturers as it is cheaper.

The bass of a gaming headset is usually increased to make sounds like firefights and explosion sound much better. These two effects, together, produce an immersive gaming experience. That being said, gaming headsets generally perform poorly outside of gaming. The bass boost makes for a poor music listening experience as they make the music sound muffled and distorted. Gaming headsets, also have a lower sound quality than headphones generally. This is as a result of the number of features included in a gaming headset at the expense of sound quality. This isn’t to say that there aren’t superb gaming headsets that check all boxes.

Mic Quality

As mentioned earlier, gaming headsets come with an integrated microphone. The presence of these microphones on gaming headsets is one of their key selling points. In the past, the quality of the microphone on gaming headsets was significantly lesser than their standalone counterparts. Now, they are closer in quality to each other. Though, integrated microphones are still generally lower in quality than external microphones.

Comfort

Gamers tend to play games at a stretch, and they need to stay comfortable while gaming to ensure optimal performance during gaming sessions. While gaming headsets manufacturers tend to sacrifice sound and mic quality to cut costs, they make sure their gaming headsets are as comfortable as possible. They usually have large over-the-ear earcups and ergonomic headbands to reduce the effect of the weight of the headset while wearing them.

Convenience

Because of the integrated nature of a headset’s microphone, headsets are much more convenient to buy, use, and carry around. There are no extra cables, setups, or connections to deal with. Also, when researching a gaming headset to purchase, you only do it once as you’re not buying a mic separately. 

Price Range

Gaming headsets are generally affordable compared to the features they offer. They are designed to have as many cool features as possible while still being affordable to most people. Of course, there would always be considerably pricy products, but that’s to be expected in any product line. Usually, the expensive gaming headsets would have a better sound and mic quality than the cheaper headsets.

Pros

  • They are less expensive.
  • They are easy to purchase and use.
  • No extra setup is required before using them.
  • It comes with surround sound for a better gaming experience.
  • They are generally comfortable to wear.

Cons

  • A lot of them have gaming aesthetics that make it awkward to use in public.
  • It has an audio profile that’s designed specifically for gamers, and hence unsuitable for regular use such as listening to music or watching movies.
  • Relatively low sound and mic quality.

Should You Go For A Headphone And Mic Combo?

Just as we did for gaming headsets, we would also examine the following characteristics of headphones and mic combo; sound quality, mic quality, comfort, convenience, and price range.

Sound Quality

Headphones are designed to reproduce sounds as accurately as possible without any kind of coloration. They produce a controlled treble, tightly adjustable bass, and full-body mid-range sound. Headphones designers don’t have to include external mics and other features that make gaming headsets unique, therefore, they can concentrate on designing top-notch headphones with excellent sound quality. 

While headphones do not usually come with additional features like surround sound or a bass boost, you can always use software to recreate these features on a PC. This is similar to how virtual surround sound is created in some gaming headsets.

Mic Quality

Microphones in headphones and mic combos are generally better than those on gaming headsets. This is due to their being developed as standalone items. There are a few different types of external microphones to choose from. Some look similar to the ones found on gaming headsets, while others, like condenser mics, look considerably different. Condenser mics have a much better quality than regular external mics, but can be quite expensive. 

Comfort

Headphone companies all have different ways of designing their headphones. Some have over-the-ear earcups, while some have on-the-ear earcups. Some have a complete metal build, while some use plastic instead. Some have adjustable headbands, while some have foldable designs. All these mean that the comfortability of the headphones in the combo is dependent on the choice made by the buyer. 

Convenience

Headphones and mic combos aren’t as convenient as gaming headsets, as one has to shop for two items instead of one. Each item has its quirk and characteristic, and they have to be well understood before purchasing either item. Once the items have been purchased, you have to set them up as well. The combo is also not as easy to carry around unlike with gaming headsets.

Price Range

While you might be able to get a headphone and mic combo for a price similar to a gaming headset, they’d probably be severely lacking in quality. Because one is combining two dedicated devices (headphones and a microphone), the combined price of both devices is bound to be much higher than a gaming headset that has both parts incorporated. This is one of the reasons gaming headsets appeal to some people regardless of the low mic and sound quality. 

Pros

  • It presents a wide range of possible combinations.
  • It’s more customizable.
  • It has a much better sound and mic quality.

Cons

  • It’s more expensive.
  • It requires more time and experience to research and purchase a perfect combination.
  • It’s relatively less convenient to use and carry around.
  • There are additional cables and connections to deal with.

Recommended Gaming Headset

If after reading the above sections you’d prefer to get a gaming headset, below is our recommendation for the overall best gaming headset, and best budget gaming headset.

Best Overall Gaming Headset

Audeze Mobius
Audeze Mobius

If you have the money to splurge on a pair of gaming headset, you should check out the Audeze Mobius. Audeze Mobius is one of the best gaming headsets on the market currently. Unlike a lot of headsets with poor sound quality, Audeze Mobius does a good job of reproducing audio as it gets it without any bass boost. It also comes with 7.1 surround sound support for a quality gaming experience. The mic’s quality is also very good. You can listen to an audio recording of it being used by reviewers at SoundGuys here.

The Mobius is very comfortable to wear and can be worn for a lengthy period. It has a very flexible headband with memory foam around it and the earpads. The Mobius is a wireless gaming headset and supports BlueTooth 5.0. It also has a 3.5 mm audio jack, and a USB-C port for wired connections.

Budget Gaming Headset

Razer Kraken X
Razer Kraken X

If you are on a budget and can’t afford to spend so much on a gaming headset, check out the Razer Kraken X. The Kraken X is surprisingly cheap for the features it brings to the table. The headset is lightweight and sturdily built. It comes with memory foam pads making it comfortable to wear for lengthy periods. The Kraken X is a wired headset and connects to media devices with a 3.5mm connector. It offers 7.1 surround sound, which works on Windows only, and comes with a microphone that offers clear audio on par with its price tag. 

Recommended Headphones And Mic Combo

As we mentioned earlier, it is a little difficult to select the best headphones and mic combo due to the number of headphones and mics available to choose from. But we’ve been able to come up with a recommendation for the overall best combo, as well as a budget combo.

Overall Best Headphones And Mic Combo

Sony WH-1000 XM3
Sony WH-1000 XM3

If you have enough money to spend on a headphone and mic setup, check out the Sony WH-1000 XM3 and Modmic Wireless. The Sony WH-1000 XM3 is one of Sony’s best headphones, second to its successor the WH-1000 XM4. The Sony WH-1000 XM3 has numerous features from active noise canceling to touch-sensitive earcups. It also comes with an inbuilt mic that performs well enough, but it is incomparable to the Modmic Wireless. 

Modmic Wireless
Modmic Wireless

Modmic Wireless can transmit quality audio signals at five times the speed of Bluetooth. It has two mic modes, a uni-directional mode that blocks unwanted background noise, and an omnidirectional mode more suitable for streaming and recording. It has a 12hr battery capacity and can be charged while being used via a micro USB cable. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work with the Xbox One

Budget Headphones And Mic Combo

Monoprice 8323
Monoprice 8323

If you are unwilling to spend too much on a headphone and mic setup, you can always try out the Monoprice 8323 and the Modmic Uni. The Monoprice 8323 is a wired foldable headphone with 50mm drivers. While it has a lot of shortcomings, it does considerably well for its price point.

Modmic Uni
Modmic Uni

Paired with it is the Modmic Uni which is a wired version of Modmic’s attachable boom mics. It has a 3.5mm connector, and attaches very easily to the surface of any headphone, in this case, the Monoprice 8323. The Monoprice comes with a mic of its own, but the Modmic Uni is way better than it.

To Conclude…

The choice of which option to choose depends on the features you cherish and the amount you are willing to spend on a headset or headphones and mic combo. If you want the best possible microphone quality, then you are looking at a headphones and mic setup. But if care more about convenience than mic quality there are numerous gaming headsets available for you to choose from. You can also consider the ones recommended above.

Rune Bearson

As you can see, I love my headphones! I use them every day when commuting, watching YouTube videos, playing guitar/piano and doing chores. I'm a podcast addict and I like all kinds of music from metal to chillout ambient.

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