A good gaming headset delivers three important things – rich sounding audio with low distortion, a design that provides comfort for more than six hours and an integrated microphone so you can trash talk your opponents or strategize with teammates.
The best gaming headset takes the most important features - audio, comfort and microphone and levels up the expectations of a headphone or headset.
When someone posts on social media or reddit asking for recommendations on the best gaming headset for their particular platform there will inevitably be responses from the small but vocal group of “experts” who say, “Don’t waste your money! Just buy a pair of music headphones!” These feelings likely come from the frustration of buying gaming headsets of old that were bulky, ugly or featured sound quality only as good as the cardboard box they came in. [Whatever the source of their disdain it’s clear that they have never tried an Arctis.]
The fact is a headset that is designed from the ground up expressly for gamers, by a brand with an obsessive attention to detail, is going to provide the best possible audio experience. Let’s run through a few of the reasons, shall we?
Take a moment and think about your longest ever gaming session. Was it an all-nighter? Multi-dayer? Not enough coherence left at the end to even remember how long it was?
Now think about your longest ever music listening session. Gamers play games way longer than anyone listens to music. Because of that duration gamers are always going to need a headset that can stay comfortable for a really long time. Music headphones are simply not designed for this kind of use and either get too hot or squeeze the wrong part of your head just a little too much, and you end up needing a break every hour while your teammates keep on grinding.
When we design a gaming headset we spend a crazy amount of time coming up with ways to make a headset feel lightweight yet solid, cooling yet isolating, soft yet firm… Yeah, it’s a real challenge. But when you get the formula right you end up with a headset that becomes invisible to your noggin, so comfortable that you really forget you’re wearing it even as the hours tick by.
One of the most obvious differences between gaming headsets and music headphones is the microphone. A true gaming headset must have a high-quality boom microphone for communication with teammates. While music headphones often come with a ‘mobile cable’ that has a microphone on it, your voice sounds like you’re gaming in a subway tunnel and everyone on the channel can play ‘name that tune’ with your roommate’s Spotify stream.
Of course the next thing the headset deniers say is “Buy an external mic!” This adds even more cost to your purchase, involves slapping an ungainly mic on the side of your headphones, and dealing with two cables that will definitely trip you when it’s time for a restroom break.
This is why buying a gaming headset is the right move. The microphone is designed to be incorporated into the headset from the very beginning, often in a very sleek way.
A boom microphone puts the mic right in front of your mouth where it picks up your voice the clearest and with the least amount of other stuff. Of course the other thing the mic has to do is ignore all the other sounds in the room, and that’s why you need a noise canceling mic. The Arctis’ ClearCast happens to be the best in the business at that.
Positional audio is such a key part of gaming. Whether you’re listening for cues and figuring out where enemies are or simply want to immerse yourself in the game world, having surround sound can make all the difference. Many dedicated gaming headsets, like the Arctis 5, include surround sound (in this case DTS Headphone:X) so that you can experience the game as if you had a full multi-speaker setup, but with the immersion of using a headset.
Connectivity & Compatibility
Standard headphones have a 3.5mm analog plug. You can connect that to pretty much any gaming platform in some way, but it may not always give you the best experience. Gaming headsets come in a few different forms but often include more advanced ways of getting your gaming audio such as USB and optical. You can connect to PS4 or your console of choice as well as any source with so many connection options. These digital connections also open up other possibilities such as surround sound and game/chat mixes, not to mention the typically superior audio quality you’ll get from a direct digital connection.
There are a lot of great headphones out there, but if you want the best, do yourself a favor and get a gaming headset. Obviously, we at SteelSeries are biased, but once you put on a pair of Arctis you’ll be a believer that a gaming headset is the only choice.