Gaming Headset vs. Headphones: Which Is Right For You?

Whether you play games or listen to music, choosing the right pair of headphones is crucial for an enjoyable and immersive listening experience.

Headphones provide better sound quality than their similarly-priced gaming headset counterparts. This is mainly because headsets have to make compromises due to the inclusion of a microphone, among other gaming-exclusive features. 

But there are fundamental differences between a gaming headset and a regular pair of headphones. Deciding which is suitable for you depends on the many factors presented below!

Benefits Of A Gaming Headset

Built-in Mic

A gaming headset is a pair of headphones with a built-in microphone. It’s meant to be an all-in-one solution for those looking to jump into their game quickly and conveniently without getting bogged down by technicalities.

Of course, you can always purchase a separate mic, like the ones you can attach to your shirt, or a standing mic that you can mount onto your desk or gaming console.

But if you buy a separate mic for your headphones, you’ll have to deal with an extra cord, additional connections, and the possible risk of a product malfunction or incompatibility.

Some gamers prefer to purchase a separate external mic to go with their headphones because the mic quality of gaming headsets isn’t up to par.

This may have been true a couple of years ago, but more and more companies are producing gaming headsets with better mic quality. Now, you won’t feel embarrassed about getting one solely for convenience.

Surround Sound Experience

Gaming Headsets vs. Headphones

When choosing a gaming headset, you want one that gives you high-quality sound. Gaming headsets are designed so that you can enjoy true or virtual surround sound, taking your immersive gaming experience to a whole new level.

It provides directional awareness to know what’s happening around you, which is essential in some games. With directional awareness, you can pick out subtle in-game cues like a nearby enemy’s footsteps walking up on you, allowing you to react on time.

If you often play games on a PC, you can fully enjoy this sound feature, regardless of the gaming headset you’re using. On the other hand, if you play games using platforms like the PlayStation, Xbox, or Nintendo, you may only benefit from surround sound if you use their respective gaming headsets.

It’s true that not all gaming headsets are created equal. Some deliver truly astounding surround sound, while others are somewhere in the middle range. Generally, sound quality depends on the price tag, and in the case of most gaming headsets, you get what you pay for.

Highly Versatile

Gaming headsets are the Jack-of-all-trades among headsets. Because they have either a retractable or detachable mic, they are incredibly versatile to use.

You can use them not just to communicate with your teammates or gaming buddies but also to chat on Skype, for phone calls, and even for streaming. Many models are also designed with a foldable headband or swiveling earcups.

Some even have both wired and wireless options. This makes them easy to carry around and set up with your preferred device or gaming platform.

Benefits Of Headphones

Benefits Of Headphones

Mix-and-Match

Choosing a regular pair of headphones offers vast customization options, especially when covering various prices and design types.

And since headphones don’t usually come built with a mic, you can mix and match with a separate external mic, depending on your needs and budget.

If you’re concerned about mic placement, know that adjusting a standalone mic is simple. Unlike with a gaming headset, a separate mic isn’t plastered to the side of the headphones, so you won’t have to keep finding a good angle where everyone can hear you.

Neutral Sound

Headphone manufacturers don’t have to worry about added features like a built-in mic, allowing them to focus solely on sound quality. Typically, quality headphones have flat but accurate and natural sound reproduction and perfectly balanced highs, mids, and lows.

For example, headphones like Beats by Dr. Dre are known for being incredibly bass-heavy, which is precisely what’s needed to give that extra oomph to your gaming and listening experience.

You will most likely get better sound performance and a potentially higher overall quality with a pair of headphones for a lower price.

Sure, you may pay extra for that standalone mic, but you’ll be paying for long-lasting products that you can use separately, without all the gimmicks.

So, if you have the time and funds to look for two products that can act as a great alternative to a gaming headset, then opting for a quality pair of headphones and a standalone mic is the best option you have to get the best sound quality for your games.

Gaming Headset vs. Headphones

Flexibility

Many people think that gaming headsets are exclusively for gaming, while headphones are only for listening to music. Contrary to this belief, gaming headsets can be used for work communication, while headphones are ideal for streaming.

Most gaming headsets have an ergonomic design so users can experience maximum comfort and wearability even after hours of intense gaming sessions.

Whether you opt for a gaming headset or a pair of headphones, both are wise and practical purchases. Ultimately, the final decision depends on your needs and preferences. Do you often watch movies or listen to music for long hours?

Do you need a built-in mic to communicate with friends or co-workers? Or do you already have a separate mic that you can use alongside other devices? Answering these questions will narrow down your options.

Comfort

Headphones vs. Gaming Headsets

Generally, gaming headsets are more comfortable than consumer headphones. They’re designed ergonomically for greater comfort with prolonged use. Then again, not all headsets are created equal, so it pays to try out both headsets and headphones to see if they fit just right.

A vast majority of gaming headsets come with ample cushioning and breathable fabric, which offer maximum comfort while preventing sweat buildup and pressure around the head. But no matter your choice, a well-built headset or headphones shouldn’t creak when you’re moving around.

This usually happens when the device is made of plastic. If possible, choose one that has a flexible aluminum frame. Not only does this improve durability, a metal frame easily conforms to the user’s head size and shape.

All things considered, choosing between gaming headsets and headphones boils down to user preference and style. Gaming enthusiasts who like to engage in multiplayer quests and competitive games will need a headset for team communication.

Meanwhile, solo players and users who do more than just gaming will likely benefit more from the better sound quality of most headphones.

Design and Build Quality

One of the most important factors most people look for in a headset or headphone is its design. This may not be the case for everyone, but it’s something you can’t completely ignore.

Design-wise, gaming headsets often come with a modern design and tend to be more flashy, complete with RGB lighting. Many gamers love this visual aesthetic, and it’s easy to find great-looking headsets in the market. What’s more, gaming headsets have pretty decent build quality.

Meanwhile, headphones are used mainly for music listening and professional work. Compared to gaming headsets, headphones have a more industrial and minimalist design. Some may find them “dull-looking,” but others prefer this subdued design language over the flashiness of gaming headsets.

Studio headphones, in particular, are made with high-quality materials, so they tend to be much more durable than your regular headphones and gaming headset. Many of them even have replaceable parts. When something breaks or gets worn out over time, you don’t have to buy a new pair of headphones. Simply replace the broken part, and you’re good to go.

As always, it all depends on the user’s personality and preferences. Some like the flashy appeal of gaming headsets, while others don’t. There’s no clear winner between these two types in design.

But in terms of build quality, studio headphones almost always have the edge over gaming headsets. But this isn’t always the case, as there are some excellent and sturdy gaming headsets nowadays.

Microphone

Benefits Of Gaming Headsets

Of course, the most notable difference between a headset and a headphone is whether or not they have a built-in mic. At the most superficial level, a gaming headset is a headphone with a mic, while regular headphones don’t come with any mic attached.

A gaming headset becomes an all-in-one solution for getting right into your game as quickly and conveniently as possible with a built-in mic. In this regard, headphones can be less convenient since they don’t offer a singular audio solution.

However, you can still use a regular pair of headphones for gaming. Coupled with a standalone mic, a good pair of headphones can provide the same level of immersive gaming experience as a headset. Of course, this means you’ll have to shop for an extra mic to go with your headphones.

Noise Cancellation

Gaming headsets generally have better noise-canceling capabilities than their standard counterparts. While both can have similar sound features, the overall sound quality is sometimes compromised due to the sound input from the built-in mic.

If you’re in a loud environment, you can attest to the quality difference caused by external noise. In a gaming headset, other players’ voices or your voice can overwhelm the sound, although this depends on the earcup design and the mic’s noise-canceling features.

Sound Quality

Sound quality always matters, whether it’s a gaming headset or a regular pair of headphones. It’s one of the most important factors to consider and can make or break a deal.

Obviously, gaming headsets are fine-tuned for gaming, with enhanced bass and well-defined audio separation. Most even support true or virtual surround sound, which delivers better spatial sound effects for a more immersive gaming experience.

But other than that, gaming headsets don’t offer much. And if you’re one of the more discerning audio connoisseurs, you’ll surely want to avoid the sound quality of most gaming headsets.

As for studio headphones, they can come at a price, but they sound far superior to most gaming headsets in terms of sound performance. They offer a warmer, more detailed sound experience than most gaming headsets.

Price

Your choice between a headset and a headphone will depend on how much you’re willing to shell out. Gaming headsets have more features and parts to integrate than your regular headphones, increasing their price.

In many cases, build and sound qualities suffer to keep the price competitive. Despite this, finding a decent gaming headset at a budget-friendly price is still possible.

On the other hand, consumer and studio headphones can be relatively cheap, although the better, professional-level ones come at a sky-high price. However, “expensive” doesn’t always translate to high quality, just as “budget” doesn’t mean it has poor sound performance.

Summary

Since both types have pros and cons, choosing between a gaming headset and a pair of headphones depends entirely on your practical needs and personal preferences.

When choosing a headset or headphones, you need to consider several factors like build and design, comfort, sound quality, convenience, and your budget. The rule of thumb is simple:

Choose one that meets all your requirements and gives value for money. Now that you know how these two types differ, you’re one step closer to finding the perfect pair for your use-case scenario.

About cryogene

Cryogene is a review writer, graphic designer and a gamer. He loves writing reviews on gaming hardware and help readers choose which item they need for gaming. He is also a graphic designer that designs banners and print ads for a Celebrity Marketing in Orange County. An aspiring WordPress developer, he has developed multiple WordPress websites for local and international clients. During his free time he plays games and do live streams on several social media platforms. He loves playing first-person shooter and RPG. You can check his social media links below.