Gaming Headset or Headphones/Mic?

High-end Gaming headset vs High-end Headphones/Standalone mic?

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TechCam

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I've always used 7.1 Surround gaming headsets but they broke just a couple days ago. Looking for a new headset Iv'e been recommended to go with headphones/standalone mic combo. I don't want to downgrade in audio quality/mic quality since I play a lot of FPS games. I need to hear footsteps and pin point where they are coming from, etc.

How do high end headphones compare to 7.1 Surround?

Iv'e been looking at:
Astro A40's headset
Beyerdynamic/Audio-technica headphones

Any suggestions please, thanks!
 

ssddx

Glorious
Moderator
as far as sound "quality" is concerned... a good set of headphones and a desk microphone blow headsets completely out of the water.

as far as surround sound is concerned... most usb headsets are "virtual surround" only. this means that they are stereo headsets but just fake surround with software. now, there are a few with multiple drivers as well but they really arent any better.

to get nice headphones to act the same you need a soundcard which supports dolby headphone (which emulates 5.1/7.1) and at the same time it needs to be a decent model which is capable of powering your nice new headphones.

there have been quite a rash of similar posts lately. i hope you dont mind if i quote from one of the other threads i responded to.

click the spoiler below to see the whole thing
as per your pm it seemed that you might have a slightly higher budget than $120 since you mentioned $50 for just the mic.

with that said a few of the options here might be out of your budget but it might be worth stretching for.

i've posted quite a few answers to headphone/mic questions lately so i hope you dont mind if i use some quotes in this first response to get some information out of the way.

this information posted below was for someone with a higher budget than yours however you might be able to look at a few of the items and see if you were interested in any of the products

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

some common and good mics:

blue snowball
blue yeti
at2020usbplus
at2020usb (version without headphone jack)
atr2500

what i said about them in another thread. you can ignore the behringer one (i just copied the text from the other thread and he had listed that as a possible)

a few notes about each:

behringer c1u
-usb
-decent quality however in general there is lots of talk about the volume levels just being way too low.
-lacks a headphone jack so you cant listen to your voice in headphones without lag
-only has cardioid pickup pattern

audiotechnica atr2500
-usb
-great quality (comparable to the more expensive 2020)
-has a headphone jack for lag free listening to your voice on headphones as you talk
-only has cardioid pickup pattern

samson c01u
-usb
-good quality which is comparable to the blue yeti (though i have to say i prefer the sound of the yeti over this one)
-lacks a headphone jack so you cant listen to your own voice without lag
-only has cardioid pickup pattern

blue snowball
-usb
-good quality. not as nice as the at2020, blue yeti and others but not bad
-lacks a headphone jack so you cant listen to your own voice in headphones without lag
-has 3 pickup patterns for multiple recording scenarios.

---

not included on your list:

audiotechnica at2020+ usb
-usb
-great quality similar to atr2500 and blue yeti
-has a headphone jack for lag free listening to your voice on headphones as you talk
-only has cardioid pickup pattern.

blue yeti
-usb
-great quality similar to atr2500 and at2020
-has a headphone jack for lag free listening to your voice on headphones as you talk
-has 3 pickup patterns for multiple recording scenarios

notes:
-cardioid pickup pattern is typically best for picking up voices for commentary as it is limited and helps block out background noise.
-in order to listen to a your voice as you talk in the headset with a usb mic you need it to have a 3.5mm headphone connector
-generally the most respected microphones for youtubers are the at2020 and blue yeti. the blue snowball is often used for upstarts however since it lacks a headphone jack may be outgrown quickly.

if you can manage to stretch your budget a bit the blue yeti is a great microphone and will last you a long time (you shouldnt outgrow it).

if that is out of reach then i would say the atr2500 is a good choice (though it has less options than the yeti). if you dont care about being able to listen to your voice in your headphones then you could likely make do with a blue snowball.

keep in mind you will want to get a pop filter (or make one by stretching pantyhose over a wire frame and putting it in front of the mic).
if you will only use it for voice.... then you only need cardioid mode.
if you want to listen to your voice on your headphones while you talk then you need the 3.5mm headphone plug on the mic
i would highly suggest a shock mount (its mounted in a frame with bungees)
a stand with a moveable arm is the best type to get since its isolated from the desk and can be placed/moved just about anywhere. not as cheap as desk stands though.

my personal favorite is the 2020 but the yeti is very nice too.
on a tight budget the snowball has lots of options but the 2500 is a strong competitor.

---

what i said in another post

again, if you dont mind stereo sound i'd go with some nice studio headphones and a desktop mic. a budget of $500max certainly allows that. i'll list a few products to look into. these arent 7.1 units but with the right pc software you could get them to act just like those gaming headsets. the razer gaming software is supposed to do this but i never had it working right (then again my setup is a bit more complex than average).

a few microphones to look into:

blue snowball (somewhat cheap but with alot of features and decent audio quality)
blue yeti (great quality audio and lots of features.
audiotechnica atr2500 (great quality audio but not as many features as the yeti)
audiotechnica at2020 (the 2500 is based on this model. its a great mic but the 2500 is better for value)

a few headphones to look at. keep in mind that closed headphones will isolate you from the outside world as well as preventing people from hearing what is on your headphones and that open headphones will not isolate you from the outside world and people can hear sound leak from them. closed headphones generally have a smaller soundstage while open headphones have a wider one. basically they sound more airy or 3d. open designs will also be cooler to wear than closed ones which may make your ears sweat (the same holds true for headsets too).

open
sennheiser 598 (good soundstage, somewhat low bass, generally good reviews for non bassheads)
beyerdynamic dt880 (good soundstage, decent bass, gets high reviews for gaming)
audiotechnica ad700 (legendary soundstage, not well known for bass, generally good reviews)

closed
beyerdynamic dt770 pro (decent soundstage for closed cans, good bass, great reviews for closed cans)
audiotechnica ath-m50 (small soundstage, great sound for the price, good bass output, very well built)

you could use an external DAC+AMP or soundcard if you're a real audiophile.

even with a mic these options arent likely to top $300-350 total but are good quality equipment.

i didnt mention the dt990 ($350 headphones) but they are a completely open design so have excellent soundstage and great sound. you will be needing an amp though (since i'd go for the 250ohm version). a great set of cans... but not sure if you wanted to spend that much.

i personally own a pair of m50s which are great and i love them though probably not the most ideal choice across the board for gaming unless you wanted something budget friendly. they have great sound and i personally have no qualms with them howver some people say the soundstage is small and they arent good for 3d locating of sound. not a problem i've ever had... but thats what reviews say anways.

also of note is the modmic found here http://www.modmic.com/ which is inexpensive and attaches to studio headphones. generally audio is considered to be good however its not at the same level as some of the better desk mics ($30 compared with $80-150 so you cant really compare)

---


in general to pick a mic: do you need to listen to yourself in your headphones? if yes you need one with a mic jack. if no then any will work.

i would say the blue snowball, atr2500 or modmic are all good choices.

in general to pick headphones: how much does "soundstage" matter to you? if you want more 3d-ish sound then open types are best. how much does sound isolation and sound leakage matter? if you want zero leakage and lots of sound isolation then closed are best. what kind of sound profile do you like? some tend towards being bright while others tend to be warm and a bit more bassy.

i personally own ath-m50s and they sound very good for the price (available as low as $99 on ebay) but some say they have a bad soundstage. from the very little gaming i've done on them (they were bought for mostly music) i havent heard any real issues.

the hd598 is highly recommended for gaming because of its wide soundstage but some find the bass a bit weak however perfectly fine for gaming. its an open design though.

if you need closed headphones but want a somewhat wider soundstage then the dt770pro fills that need. its more cost than m50s but has a bit more depth to soundstage. it comes in 3 models (32,80,250ohm) the 250ohm needs an amp or good soundcard but hits the hardest with bass notes.

you can hear a bunch of different headphones here http://www.sonicsense.com/blog/category/open-back-headphones/ to compare how they sound in relation to eachother. scroll down to see the other list (they are divided into open and closed sections)
copy of the text sent via pm in case others find this post and are curious on what sets to buy...

i've heard from another user on here that they greatly enjoyed their g930. then i've read reviews about how people dislike it. honestly i'm not sure what to believe in terms of quality. it seems like one of those products which either fits your needs or it doesnt. still nowhere near what you can expect from good headphones though.

i'm not sure how they will work with all of the interference you mention (i'm guessing you are moving to a college dorm?). they could be fine or they could act up. i cant promise you anything in that regard.

--

first i would like to say... since you mentioned amazon.ca i take it you are from canada. be aware that you also have ebay.ca you can deal with. also you can probably have items shipped from the usa to canada correct?

--

for clarification the audiotechnica model numbers ATH-
M50X: new version which has removeable cables and comes with 3 styles.
M50S: old version with long straight cable (this is what i have and the cable is really long... but thats good too)
M50: old version with short coiled cable

as i said i personally own this pair of headphones and i definitely do like them however as i said before some people might not like that the soundstage is supposedly a bit narrow. i suppose this is the reason why it sounds like all the sound is coming from close around you however to me i always felt that it was more immersive that way. i'm not sure what your feeling are on that.

i do like the sound they produce. they are slightly warm sounding and dont have sharp ear piercing highs like some sets do. while not the bassiest headphones around they are more than capable in that regard. some say that they focus more on mids and highs and that mids are a bit weak however i've personally never thought they sounded bad in anything i've pushed through them.

they are easy to power with any device so you shouldnt need an amp of any sort.

they are built very sturdy and are foldable. this makes them nice for traveling back and forth to places. mines been through a knapsack for several years without breaking so far. i also love the cable. its thick! and it has a solid metal end with a metal spring strain relief (not a rubber molded one).

the only cons i can say about them are the soundstage (covered earlier) the fact that they get a bit hot if you wear them a long time (all closed headsets are like this) and that the pleather pads will eventually need replacing if you wear them alot (sweat hardens them... but this is quite common for most headphones)

a great set of headphones if they fit your need.

--

an alternative would be the dt770. its really not out of budget... please see this link http://www.ebay.ca/sch/i.html?_sacat=0&_from=R40&LH_BIN...

they look to be shippable from the usa to canada for $185 free shipping (take your pick of the 250 or 80)

they are available in 32, 80 (both which compete with the m50) and 250 ohm models (the 250 may need an amp but it sound great).

they have a wider soundstage than the m50s do and are probably one of the wider soundstages you will find for closed headphones in your budget range.

they get as much praise and hype as the m50s do for quality of sound. the 250ohm version also can hit pretty hard. i've heard it highly recommended from someone who tried all 3 versions out.

they are not foldable like the m50s but i've heard they are very comfortable.

this would be a great set as well and might be better suited for gaming (although this all comes down to personal preferences... audio is a very personal thing).

--

as far as microphones are concerned... the 4 choices i would suggest are:

blue snowball, audiotechnica atr2500, samson co1u or modmic.

(what i didnt mention is the blue yeti or at-2020usb+ because of cost... but i'll come back to that in a moment).

--

a few factors to help narrow it down?

-did you need to be able to hear the input from the microphone in your headhones? if the answer is yes then you want one with a microphone jack.

-did you need to record things other than a single voice? for instance a duet commentary or perhaps music? if the answer is yes then you might want to get one with multiple recording modes. however, for most things standard cardioid mics work fine.

--

the blue snowball is a highly respected mic for amateur youtubers. it has good quality and is fairly inexpensive. it also has multiple pickup patterns. it doesnt have a headphone jack though. this is a very good mic to start out with for youtube however some may outgrow it quickly.

the atr2500 is comparable to a cheaper built at-2020. its not built as nice but i've heard audio quality is pretty good. it also has a microphone jack but only one pickup pattern. if possible i would splurge for the full at-2020 (see my note about that later) but this might work.

the samson co1u is comparable to the atr2500 in quality and that it only has a cardioid pickup pattern but it doesnt have a headphone jack. also not a bad mic for on a budget.

then there is the modmic. this is a boom mic which attaches directly to your headphones. they are shipped from the modmic website and are rather hard to find anywhere else. the cost is rather low at $40 but they get good reviews. if you really would like to spring for a high quality mic (below) but are worried about budget right now you could always get a modmic now to use for gaming and recording then trade up to a better mic when you can afford it. then you can always keep the modmic when you're playing causal or when you are traveling (like if you went home for the weekend) and keep your full setup at your dorm.

if you went for the idea above about trading up in the future then the two i would suggest are the at-2020 and the blue yeti. both are EXCELLENT microphones with great quality. they sound better than the others i listed. as far as which you want... that depends on your needs.

the blue yeti has multiple pickup patterns and a headphone jack. the at-2020usb has only cardioid and no headphone jack while the at-2020usb+ (note the plus symbol or plus text added after the usb part) has a headphone jack. they are what some of the professional youtubers are using.

i've seen the yeti on ebay.ca for $120 and the 2020 for $140.

--

TLDR? or just wanted a recap?

the m50s is a nice pair of headphones but i'd be tempted to suggest the dt770 instead (if you get an amp the 250ohm version might be great!)

if you were game to get a high quality mic in the future or if you managed to fit it in budget now i'd go with an at2020usbplus or blue yeti in a heartbeat. if it was to be in the future i'd get a modmic for temporary audio. its no slouch and i've heard is quite excellent for the low cost.

if you didnt want to upgrade in the future or wanted something cheaper i'd spring for the blue snowball or possibly the atr2500 (though some question its durability).

--

as for what works best for you? thats hard to say but i've given you a few choices in your thread and recapped here.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

on a more limited budget i would suggest:

for microphones either the modmic for $40 which attaches like a boom mic to any headphones or the blue snowball $50 which is a desktop microphone with respectable value for the money spent.

as for headphones do you like open or closed? open sounds more 3d and airy but leaks sound in and out. closed sounds more confined but isolates you from sounds getting in/out so is good for high noise areas.

the audiotechnica ad700x are only $140 and have a wide soundstage for gaming. however, they dont have a whole lot of bass response if that is your kind of thing. these are open style.

the sennheiser hd558 is only $130 and has a pretty decent soundstage and fair bass response. the hd598 is considered better however its a good $180 at minimum. another open style.

the audiotechnica ath-m50s offers very solid bass response and warm sounding acoustics which are excellent for the price. you can find open box models for $99 brand new on ebay or unopened boxes for $120. the only con is that the soundstage isnt very wide. i personally own a pair of these. they are closed headphones.

the beyerdynamic dt770 pro runs about $160-180 depending on model and has audio quality like the m50s however a slightly wider soundstage. another good choice if you want closed headphones for not too much cash.

---

i know this might be stretching your budget a bit... but the sound quality is likely worth it.

keep in mind though that studio headphones are 2.0 stereo only not virtual surround (although with software you can emulate it). honestly with how most games process sound... virtual surround isnt needed at all.

respond with your thoughts/budget/preferences.
 

TechCam

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May 17, 2014
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Thanks for the reply and yeah I don't mind.
I'm pretty new to the audio environment and to be honest don't understand much about soundcards and the software. I currently use my Asus G750 laptop and it has it's generic Realtek High Definition Audio.
Would this be able to support Dolby headphone? Any other suggestions on headphones I should get could help also. Iv'e been looking at the Beyerdynamic DT990's, Sennheiser HD 558's, and some Audio-technica's.
Sorry for all the questions! I'm just use to plugging in and going but want to try something new.
 

ssddx

Glorious
Moderator
the g750 is a nice laptop. my brother has a g75 and loves it.

since you are using a laptop... the soundcard/dac/amp/whatever you will be using to connect to the headphones is a big part. i will completely hold off on discussing headphones until we work through this part.


READ FIRST:

keep in mind if you get an easy to drive pair of headphones such as 32 or 50ohm units thn you likely do not need ANY of the below equipment to get them to work. i use a 38ohm ath-m50s with a non-gaming laptop headphone jack, cellphone jack and mp3 player jack and it plays perfectly fine. any time i list an amplifier below is just in case you decided to use a 250ohm pair of headphones (you listed the dt990 which makes me think you might be considering them. if you plan on using an easier to drive pair of headphones then you likely do not need an amp at all



now.... if you really absolutely had to have dolby headphone then read the below. i put in in quote to seperate it.

i'm not sure if it supports dolby headphone (you would need to link me to the manual for your specific laptop model) however i would be pretty certain that its not going to support 250ohm headphones. it would probably support 32-80ohm models though. if it did support dolby headphone though it would be very helpful.

my suggestion would be to use a decent soundcard with support for dolby headphone which has a decent amp for such headphones. unfortunately most of the good soundcards with said features are for desktops not laptops (internal soundcards). if you were using a desktop this would be a relatively easy solution but alas you dont. i know the asus xonar u7 supports DH but not sure about its amplification properties. you might need an amplifier paired up with it if you go for anything more than an 80ohm headphone but it should handle 30-82 fine. i believe the creative x-fi hd external supports the other version of virtual surround CMSS (according to some things i've read but i cant find it in the specs) and it does have an amp for such headphones.

another way to go about this is to use a small soundcard such as this http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16829114004 or http://www.microcenter.com/product/332887/Audio_Advantage_Micro_II_Virtual_51_Surround_Channel_USB_Analog_-_Digital_Audio_Adapter or similar product, however i cannot comment on the audio quality. this would then feed an amplifier which would provide the power to drive larger headphones than the ones typically used for pc.

another (software) option is to try out razer virtual surround. its free. you could then push your laptop headphone jack right to an amplifier (saves you getting a soundcard) which would power any of the headphones you wanted. i never got it to work right on my system however i have a fairly complex setup which could explain that. i would suggest you download it and try it out with just a cheap pair of earbuds or any normal 3.5mm headphones you have laying around to see if it works for you or not. if it works for you then perhaps this is the route to take.

if you are using easy to drive headphones, you can likely get by with either razer virtual surround (free software) or either of the above mentioned cards (the asus xonar u7 is probably the better of the two as DH is better than CMSS per many people). it should power 30-50 (perhaps even 80) ohm headphones without an amp

let me know your thoughts on the above.
however... if you can get by without dolby headphone (or any other virtual surround) then you might want to read below. again, seperated in quote for easy reading.

to be honest... all virtual surround is flawed. even on usb headsets it makes sound more muddy than it needs to be.

with how games process sound its easy to tell where sound is coming from even without dolby headphone or CMSS. left and right is easy to tell (either you hear it on the left or right side) while for rears typically the sound is played at a different pitch or software (hence you can tell front and back). of course whether you like this or DH/CMSS is up to you.

another benefit of not using virtual is better sound quality. since you arent muddying up the audio things will be crisper.

if this is acceptable then you have 4 ways of connecting. you could use your laptops 3.5mm headphone jack straight to an amplifier (if you like the quality of your onboard sound). you could use a usb soundcard like the x-fi hd or xonar essence (which would do all the processing). you could use a hifi dac+amp or headphone dac+amp which would output via optical (though not sure if you have optical or not so it might not be an option... though some [the hifi ones] might take hdmi output for audio). or, if you buy a relatively easy to power headphone like a 32 or 50ohm unit you might be able to run it right off the 3.5mm jack.

again, if you wanted to use easy to drive headphones you could just connect right up to the headphone jack and they would work fine. if you wanted better quality sound then you could use an external usb dac+amp combo unit or external soundcard.
it sounds complicated... but it really isnt complicated as much as you have less options when using a laptop if you really want virtual surround. desktops have lots of great cards with virtual surround support. if you threw away virtual surround (or used the razer free software to get it) then you have more options.

let me know what your thoughts are above... hopefully you can understand what i was talking about.

as i said at the start... i will discuss headphones after this part... although i will say this: if you go with something like the sennheiser hd598 or 558, beyerdynamic dt770 (not the 250 version) or audio technica ad700 or m50s then you dont need an amp. the only ones you might need it for are things like the dt990-250ohm, dt880-250ohm and dt770-250ohm. also realize that there are products for every budget from about $100 on up. let me know what you wanted to spend.

 

TechCam

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Wow you're a big help, I read it through a couple times(sorry for the late reply) and my thoughts:
I don't think I will be able to spend much more than $150 total. That being said I probably won't go the DH route for the surround since like you said the crisper sound and game itself could cover that or even the Razer software.


Questions:
Is there a noticeable difference between 32, 80, and 250ohms?
Would an amp improve a lower ohm set of headphones, how so?
Open back vs closed back headphones for gaming?
Mic suggestions?

Thank you so much and sorry if my stupidity is making this hard on you!



 

ssddx

Glorious
Moderator
a budget of $150 limits your options. if you could expand the budget a bit it would give you more choices.

Is there a noticeable difference between 32, 80, and 250ohms?
...generally higher ohm headsets have better control over the drivers so sound is more refined. but not always.. you cant judge it just by that. if you compare the dt770 32/80/250ohm versions though the higher the ohms the better people said they sounded. any of them however are what i would call good. you dont "need" a 250ohm set and if you did you might need an amp so its not right for your budget. a good set of 32 to 80ohm cans would work well for you i think

Would an amp improve a lower ohm set of headphones, how so?
...it could if perhaps your source wasnt capable of powering them fully. if it could power them fully then not really.

Open back vs closed back headphones for gaming?
...open back are considered better because they have a wider soundstage (sound more airy) however they leak sound in and out. closed headphones have a more limited soundstage but are sound isolating. i own a pair of m50s which are closed (and pretty much noted for really small soundstage) but i've never really had any issues in the very few games i played (i mostly listen to music). i always thought they sounded like everything was really close but this also felt like i was in the middle of everything though which i liked.

Mic suggestions?
...modmic. for a bit more perhaps the blue snowball ice.

the best low cost solutions?

hd558+modmic. about $160 for both. fair sized soundstage but more limited bass. pretty decent mic. its suggested to push for the 598 though.
ath-m50+modmic or snowball. about $150 for both. small soundstage but good sound and decent bass. decent mic. snowball is a better mic.
dt770pro+modmic. about $200 for both. slightly bigger soundstage and good sound quality. decent mic.
hd598+modmic. about $260 for both. huge soundstage, considered great for gaming. fair bass for games, nothing too crazy though. modmic is half decent mic.

of course you could use a cheaper mic than the modmic (which is about $30-40 i think)
 

TechCam

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Okay thanks a lot, I'll take all this into account!
I'm probably going to go with the HD 558's due to my price range. But how would you compare the ATH-AD700x's to the 558's? Iv'e heard quite a bit about those as well.

 

ssddx

Glorious
Moderator
the ad-700x gets great reviews for soundstage as well, however is also known for very pathetic bass (as in almost nothing).

the hd558 would probably work however i've seen hd598 on ebay for about $120 on ebay if you bid on them. you might get lucky (maybe worth a try before you settle?) if not then you will probably be happy with them.

however i still say that the dt770 (perhaps you can beat the price a bit) or maybe the m50s (if you dont mind a smaller soundstage) would work.

completely your choice. i hav given you enough info to make an informed decision.
 

TechCam

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Yeah, I'll go check out eBay see if I can get more bang for my buck. Thanks a lot! Before this post I literally knew nothing at all. So I really appreciate the effort put into your responses.

 
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