The importance of finding the best gaming headset

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The importance of finding the best gaming headset

Audio Technica best gaming headset
Words by Alby Mundy

The 8-bit chirps of bygone consoles have long since been succeeded by platforms intended to support a richer, more expansive, and more cinematic experience for the modern player.

In the pursuit of the optimal gaming experience, quality audio should be at the forefront of your interests, usually at the mercy of having the best gaming headset.

There is now an infinite amount of freedom for game developers to utilise sound and audio as a mechanic in the game-space, to help illustrate a narrative and breathe life into the simulated world. Now, without the limitations of the early years of gaming software, we have the freedom to choose how to best optimise our listening experience during play. We can decide how best to reflect the decisions intended by developers, which will shape our time spent with the game.

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One of the many advantages of a single-player experience is that you are the only person who really needs to be able to hear the gameplay; meaning you’re the person best suited to explore the wonders of a quality gaming headset. Single-player releases can feature evolving soundscapes of environmental ambience, sweeping soundtracks; and more often than not, audio mechanics or sound cues integral to the gameplay; in which case a low quality audio setup will significantly impair the playability and overall experience of your game.

Gaming headset

Choosing the best gaming headset for your setup comes down to more than just visual appeal – despite all of us being tempted to grab the sleekest looking set off the shelf. 

A great gameplay experience prioritises comfort, including the ability to wear your headset for a long gaming session with no discomfort. As Liam Cooney from DJ City describes, “Gaming headsets need to have a good comfort level. Most gamers are gaming for extended sessions anywhere from 6-10 hours. The look of the headset also plays a big part. Look good, feel good, game good.” You will also ideally want to be looking for a wireless set, in the case that you’re playing away from your PC or console, and don’t want to be wired into your console from the couch – enabling you to move around in free space, and more importantly, avoiding a potential tripping hazard.

Audio-Technica ATH-GDL3

Your ideal audio playback device will also be able to pick up on the broad spectrum of frequencies utilised in modern releases, used to build a heightened sensory experience. High quality audio extends to the ability of environmental awareness, being able to hear the full 360 degrees of your surroundings distinctly during play. First person simulations are a perfect example of having your headset act as your ‘virtual ears’ – you wouldn’t want to be playing an indie horror without being able to properly hear who or what is coming up behind you, outside of your field of view.

When audio corresponds to its exact location in-game, it is known as the soundstage. This determines the location, volume, and direction of where in-game sounds end up in your headset. Where quality of audio is concerned, a great soundstage has pin-point precision and picks up on the faintest sounds of activity. Liam acknowledges that “A good soundstage can add a great level of immersion to a player’s experience. A headset that lacks low end can sound weak in the big gaming moments.”

In addition to sound effects, the in-game musical soundtrack is also fully mixed and mastered for gameplay. The ideal headset will do it justice, just like any other body of music – allowing space for the composition to be at the forefront of your listening experience, without overpowering the subtleties of the soundstage.

Twitch streaming

Single-player experiences offer a vast amount of freedom in personal preference, in which area of quality you choose to invest. Though, if you’re interested in moving towards the idea of gaming as a profession, your focus would be on ensuring quality in all areas of your setup. In the case of wanting to broadcast your gameplay experiences to a wider audience through professional streaming and content creation platforms such as Twitch or YouTube, a standard setup would take your viewers’ experience into account, in addition to the quality of gameplay from your side of the screen. 

Esports streamers engage in competitive gameplay that is intended to showcase a high skill level, at an often substantially fast pace. Experiencing lag, audio delay, choppy frames, or general technical difficulties will severely impact the quality of gameplay content, especially as a live broadcast. To combat potential disruptions, as well as curate a streaming space that has the ‘look’ and ‘feel’ of a true professional, Liam illustrates a standard professional setup as a “High End Windows Gaming PC , Shure SM7B XLR Mic, Audio interface, DSLR Camera, Green Screen, Elgato Stream Deck and LED RGB lighting.”

Many professional gamers and hobbyists are now venturing beyond the new standard of audio quality. This includes explorations in immersive sound, while furthering the limitations of gameplay audio is still an early concept, it’s coming in leaps and bounds. A little like 4D cinema, three-dimensional audio is a strong idea that has soon to be fully realised in the gaming industry. A high end headset that explores this concept is the PS5 Pulse 3D headset, which Liam describes as having “haptic feedback which creates a new style of immersion within the gaming environment.”

The more accessible options for the individual player are more than reliable in creating a memorable audio-visual experience, and even a simple upgrade from a pair of earbuds or on-ear headphones, to a gaming headset designed specifically for its intended purpose makes a world of difference to the overall clarity and freshness of your game. Being able to clearly hear all the sounds that have been meticulously arranged for the player to experience, forges a more intimate connection with the equally important and memorable visuals on screen.

The right setup can compliment, enhance and augment your gaming experience. Keep reading (and curing Gear Acquisition Syndrome!) at DJ City.