Headphones vs Headsets - Which One Should You Buy For Gaming

Headphones vs Headsets - Which One Should You Buy For Gaming


It’s not uncommon to hear someone referring to their headphones as headsets and vice versa. It’s quite difficult to distinguish between headphones and headsets because they’re so similar.

The only noticeable difference between them is the built-in microphone that headsets come with, otherwise, both look almost identical. That’s why most people take it for granted that choosing between headphones and headsets will be an effortless endeavor.

However, as you’ll see throughout the course of this article, that’s not always the case.  

What’s a Headset?

Basically, a headset is like headphones with a microphone attached. Now, there are two types of microphones that a headset comes with; an in-line microphone and a boom microphone

  • The cable has an in-line microphone which is used to connect the headphones to the laptop.
  • A boom microphone, on the other hand, is connected to a boom which means that you can position it in any that you like and remove it whenever. 

You can use headsets when playing games, to connect to a phone system or to chat on Skype. The great thing about headsets is that they really immerse you into whatever device you connect to. 

What are Headphones?

First of all, it’s important to note that headphones predate headsets, and the basic concept behind headphones is inherent in their design. They have two small speakers connected by a band which enables you to “wear” the speakers comfortably over your ears. 

Thanks to the invention of headphones, you can now listen to your favorite music/ podcast/ audiobook or whatever else you like privately, and without disturbing others with the noise. The best part is that headphones deliver a crisp sound that makes you feel as though you’re actually listening to traditional large speakers. 

However, headphones also come with noise-canceling technology which as the name implies, helps to keep external noise out while allowing you to fully enjoy the sound produced by the headphones. 

They’re also much smaller than normal speakers and thus only allow for little air to come out through the ears so that the sound doesn’t escape and is rather restricted for your listening pleasure. 

The Difference Between Headphones and Headsets?

Basically, headphones are designed to offer a stereo quality sound for when you’re listening to content like movies, music, and games. Now, while headphones have come a long way from the confined and poorly designed models of the 80s era, they still maintain that superb sound isolation and the muffs are designed to cup the ears comfortably so that no sound escapes. 

On the other hand, headsets are basically speakers that you wear on your ears for the purpose of interacting with devices like the telephone, an intercom system or laptop. This is why they usually feature a microphone.

That said, one should remember that there are actually three different types of headsets available to choose from, depending on your application. 

Gaming Headset vs Headphones for Directional Hearing

Gaming headsets are easy to notice, as they’re usually shaped like headphones, but with a microphone attached.

While some old-school gamers still prefer to purchase headphones and microphones separately, there is really no need to do so these days, thanks to the variety of solid headset options available.

Some of the most trusted headset brands to choose from include the Steelseries, Turtle Beach, Rayzer, and HyperX etc.


Top 3 Reasons to Buy a Gaming Headset

• Convenience/Microphone

If your gaming pastime requires you to utilize a microphone, then it might be a good idea to invest in a good quality headset. Sure, you can purchase a separate mic which you can attach onto the headphones or the side of your shirt, but why go through all that trouble when you can get an all-in-one deal?

Rest assured, the audio quality for both microphones and headsets has developed a great deal in the past, making them a really great investment.

• Virtual Surround Sound

Most gaming headsets these days come with virtual surround sound hardware, software, and features. However, it’s important to note that these are not always the best quality. But then again, you can always download virtual surround sound software like Razer Surround for free on your laptop. 

On the other hand, brands like Sony incorporate virtual surround modes into their headsets as well. 

Not too long ago, Microsoft also followed suit with virtual surround enabled headphones for their Windows Sonic powered Xbox apps. 

• Versatility

A lot of modern-day headsets also come with a removable or foldable microphone, which means that you can also use them as headphones if you like. However, before you go for a seemingly versatile headset option, make sure to read through the reviews properly to make sure that you’re getting value for money. 

After all, one versatile gaming headset is worth more than a million specialized headphones. 

Some of the best options that we can recommend include the HyperX Cloud or the Steelseries Arctis. Whatever you do, choose a good quality gaming headset that is versatile enough to incorporate into your gaming, while also being suitable for use at home and on the go. 

Studio Headphones

Studio headphones are specifically designed for use in a professional setting, which is why their sound signatures are well-matched for mixing and recording purposes.

However, they’re not limited to those applications as you can still use them to enjoy the immersive sound when listening to entertainment as well. 

Some of the most notable studio headphone brands that we’d recommend include Sony, Pioneer, Audio-Technica, Shure, Beyerdynamic, and Fostez.  

Top 3 Reasons to Choose a Studio Headphone

• Build Quality

If you’re looking for long-lasting and durable headphones, look no further than studio-style headphones. They’re built tough so that they can withstand the demands of recording on the road, which is something that many artists can attest to doing. 

Most manufacturers of studio headphones are also thoughtful enough to make user-replaceable parts as well, which you can purchase to fix the headphones yourself should they break for whatever reason. 

More often than not, you’ll find that studio headphones have a metal headband. There will sometimes be metal parts included in various frame segments and on the ear cups too. Other times they’ll use high-grade plastic materials for the frame as well, which is fine because it’s always high quality. 

With all that said, some brands often focus so much on the quality that they don’t pay much attention to the design. But when you really think about it, it’s a small price to pay when you’re getting a high-quality product and good value for money. 

It’s especially important for you to invest in solid quality headphones if you’re someone who uses them daily, as they’ll have to take a lot of abuse from being hauled around all day or being used all the time. 

• Neutral Sound Signature

With studio-quality headphones, you can expect to enjoy clear, crisp and detailed sound than what you’d find on more commercial models. That’s because studio headphones are specifically tuned to provide the accurate sound as much as possible. 

The only problem with this is that you’re going to hear every small mistake that was made during the production process. This includes things like background noise, sound distortion and awkward edits that can become so pronounced that they may disturb your listening enjoyment once you start to notice them. 

The problem is, most of the modern music that we hear on the radio is mixed in a way that makes it easier to listen to it through consumer-style gear than on studio headphones. Not only that, but most record labels don’t really put that much effort into audio mixing, even though it is one of the most difficult parts of making music. As a result, you’ll find that a lot of modern music contains flaws that become quickly noticeable when using studio headphones. 

That said, this can be a fun aspect of the listening process for audiophiles, as it enhances their overall appreciation of the sound, especially if they’re using a neutral pair of studio headphones. 

• Price/Performance

Surprisingly enough, studio headphones tend to be cheaper and of better quality than other types of headphones. One of the reasons for this is because they’re mostly advertised through specific online platforms. 

More often than not, studio headphones are modeled after previous designs, which enable the manufacturer to decrease the price as they’ve already recovered their production costs. 

As a result, studio headphone prices do tend to fluctuate erratically from one week to the next. In comparison, consumer headphones tend to maintain pretty stable prices throughout. 

Therefore, studio models should be your first option if you’re looking for good quality on a bargain. 

Consumer Headphones

Consumer headphones are the most popular types of headphones around and you’ll mostly find them with a Sony, Bose or Beats logo on them. However, JVC and Skullcandy also made decent quality versions too.  

Top 3 Reasons to Choose Consumer Headphones

• Style and Design

Are you looking for stylish headphones that will make you look cool or headphones that suit your personal style? 

Are you looking for headphones that are foldable, compact and highly portable? 

Consumer headphones are probably your best bet if you want style and good looks. With consumer headphones, you won’t see any exposed parts like screws or cables, they fit nice and snug and are available in a wide range of colors. 

However, manufacturers of consumer headphones spend so much time and money focusing on the design aspect that they forget about the important things like proper quality construction, sound, and comfort. 

So keep that in mind when you’re shopping for headphones and realize that much of what you’ll be paying for with the consumer variety in their design and marketing. 

• Features

If you’re looking for headphones that come with all the bells and whistles then the consumer variety is where you need to be. They usually come with nice extras like noise-canceling technology, wireless functionality, built-in call support, and phone control, as well as the ability to connect to multiple devices. 

Manufacturers of consumer headphones put a lot of money into innovation, and they’re always pushing the envelope to include the latest technological advancements. 

One of the most notable innovations in consumer headphones is sound calibration, whereby the headphones are able to adjust the sound to your particular head shape.

That way, your headphones sound good even if you have glasses or a hat on. So far, JVC and Sony have both done a really good job to incorporate this feature into their headphones. 

• Fatigue-Free Listening

Thanks to having warmer signatures, consumer headphones boast a much more relaxed treble and an even cooler bass. This means that even if the material you’re listening to is badly mastered, it can still sound halfway decent. You’ll also find that they’re much more comfortable to wear for long periods of time. 

However, this doesn’t mean that you should expect high-quality sound from consumer headphones. To be honest, they don’t hold a candle to studio headphones in that department. However, they’re still entertaining and much more enjoyable to wear for gaming marathons or any other activity that requires you to keep your headphones on for long periods of time. 

But, you’ll have to make sure that you find a pair that is not just stylish but comfortable as well. 


To wrap it up, headphones type you choose should depend on what you intend on using them for. As they say, ‘different strokes for different folks’.

So, if you want a versatile, cost-effective pair with decent quality sound at a decent price, then a gaming headset is your best bet. 

But, if you’re a serious audiophile that wants to enjoy a really high-quality sound then regular headphones will do. That means you’ll have pay a little bit more and get the microphone separately, but that’s a small price to pay when you’re getting such rich and dynamic sound. 


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