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Buying a gaming headset can be just as important as buying a TV/Monitor for your gaming. Often sound is something that people tend to overlook in their gaming experience. How many of you have a nice shiny TV for your console but just stick with the onboard audio? Probably most of you (unless you are forced to using headphones due to children or partners trying to sleep).
A good headset will make the gaming experience far more immersive and enjoyable. Once you start using a good quality headset you’ll never look (or listen) back.
Once you start researching headsets you’ll be immediately be at a crossroads when it comes to the choice of Stereo Vs Surround.
Stereo uses just two distinct channels of audio, one of the left ear and one for the right. Surround sound seeks to use up to 8 channels (7.1) to provide a much fuller soundscape for your gaming.
Surround sounds like it would be the best, I mean how cool is it when you’re in the cinema and can hear stuff from behind you. The issue is that you will not get that experience using a headset. True surround sound requires the space in the room and directional speakers to give the effect, a headset just doesn’t have that much space.
Due to this lack of space, most manufactures have to come to a compromise. They can opt to have the surround sound created virtually (so still with only two speakers but with audio wizardry to give you the effect of surround). While this sounds good it is not as accurate for positional audio as true surround sound and the audio is of poorer quality due to the excessive sound manipulation required.
This leads us to the other type, if a little rarer, surround sound. This is achieved by having separate speakers for each audio channel. This gives more accurate positional audio than the virtual surround, however the audio quality is heavily compromised due to the need to fit more speakers in the same space. These smaller speakers don’t have the fidelity of two full-size speakers.
To chose between virtual or actual is down to preference. If you are predominantly a FPS gamer then you’d be best option for the multi-speaker variant due to better positional audio.
Stereo has been around for a very long time, the idea of having separate channels for the left and right ears is nothing new, however the advances in quality have are exceptional. The major advantage of going with a stereo headset is that the sound quality is unaltered. It is at it’s best unprocessed quality due to their being no need to virtualise the surround sound aspect. The speakers are also larger due to this lack of requirement for surround.
Don’t let this fool you though, a good quality stereo headset can still be great for positional audio. While you won’t hear something from behind, smart audio programming can give you a decent approximation of this. It can be best achieved as the audio is much clearer than in a surround headset.
As with any type of headset you will have the option of in-ear vs over the head. For gaming this is a no brainer, over the head style will always be better do to the speaker size and comfort. In-ear has much smaller speakers and is poorer when it comes to positional audio. This is why you will be hard pressed to find a set of in-ear gaming headphones anywhere (rare but not un-heard of)
Most gaming headset will come with a boom-style microphone attachment, unfortunately many companies choose this as an area to save money. So even if the audio quality is top-notch, your friends may have trouble hearing your orders (or insults). So sometimes it is still a good idea to go with separate headset and microphone combinations.
Ultimately this could save you money as you just need to buy a good pair of headphones and a separate microphone. Clip-mic’s work the best as they are not obtrusive and give you the best quality. Obviously you can’t wear an over the head microphone and headset at the same time (well, you could try but I’d not recommend it).
This is another bone of contention for many users, and can be vastly dependent on your setup. If you have a home PC and a nice desk then you’re fine with either. If you are a console gamer than it’s likely you’d prefer wireless (although current-gen consoles have inputs in the controller, making a wired option feasible)
The downside of wireless headphones is that they need to be charged, which can be problematic if you are mid-game and forgot to put them on charge the night before. There is also the chance that they can be subject to interference, at least the lower end headsets.
Wired headset have the advantage of power. No need to charge and you can just plug them in and you’re good to go, they also will be unaffected by external interference. The only downside of wired is range. If you are far away from your computer then it’s not going to be very useful. The same would be evident if you are a rather animated gamer (jumping up and down etc.)
As with many of the options it does boil down to situation and preference. Cost is also a factor, wireless headsets tend to cost significantly more than their wired counterparts.
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Gaming headsets are vital, if you don’t believe me then just give one a try. The style and form factor you chose is all dependent on your setup and what you find comfortable. We hope that this guide will serve you well in finding the most suitable headset for your gaming needs.