Another year, another list—this time focused on quality cans. Gaming is more popular than ever, with more people finding time to sit down and play more than just music at their desks. And just like your Steam library, there’s an ever-growing list of headphones being released that you’ll never get around to playing with your computer or laptop. I have put together this list of the best audiophile headphones for gaming.
In a Hurry? Here’s Our Top Three
Hopefully, this guide of the best audiophile headphones for gaming helps you pick out a pair of ‘phones that fit your needs and budget.
Should I Buy Gaming Headsets?
It’s a well-known trap. Gadgets marketed towards gamers tend to be overpriced while under-delivering in terms of quality, and for headsets, it’s no exception. Still, there are cases to be made for buying “gaming headsets” instead of regular prosumer headphones, with the biggest one perhaps being convenience. It’s just a lot less hassle not having to worry about separate headphones and microphones when setting up to play multiplayer games and voice chat with friends.
While there are certainly a lot of decent products, here’s a list of the top picks we’ve found for you, especially those who fancy themselves audiophiles who just happen to play games.
Sennheiser GSP 370 – Best Headset for Gaming and Music
The velvet headband and ear cups on the GSP 370 offer supreme comfort, even while wearing eyeglasses. While it’s made entirely of plastic to help keep the weight down, it doesn’t feel cheap. Sound clarity is pleasant with smooth treble and subtle bass, despite lacking some detail due to wireless compression. None of this is surprising for a product coming from a company with a reputation like Sennheiser’s.
However, what is surprising is that this will be the least recommended item on the list. It is due in part to its terrible mic quality (which is regrettably non-removable) and several user-reported issues. This matter is about the included Gaming Suite software, as well as several problems related to the wireless transmitter USB dongle.
For a pair of headphones released at the end of 2019, why use micro-USB for charging? For a $200 headset, these problems shouldn’t exist.
Audio-Technica ATH-G1WL – Best Gaming Headset for PC
Everything about the ATH-G1WL (the “WL” is for “Wireless”) screams premium. It’s quite heavy at just less than 1lb, thanks to its metal frame and significant 45mm drivers. The ear cups are made of teal leather and padded with memory foam. They are covered with a ventilated microfiber cloth, which is very comfortable to wear. The removable hyper-cardioid boom mic sounds a little thin, but still good enough to Live stream with online.
Sound quality is excellent, with a bit of a flat sound profile and tighter bass, which is amplified by the closed-back ear cup. This design does make the sound atmosphere feel a little more enclosed, so keep that in mind. It does feature simulated surround sound, which is a feature that is very subjective to review, but it sounds like normal stereo mode to be more precise. Once again, though, where’s the USB-C? It’s 2021, let’s let micro-USB die already.
Beyerdynamic MMX 300 – Best Gaming Headset for Xbox One and PS4
The single most expensive item on the list should also be the best, right? In some, the answer would be yes, and in others, maybe. The earcups are huge, comfy, and provide excellent sound isolation without active noise cancellation. Unlike the other two before it, this headset is not wireless, but its cable is removable for portability. The audio quality is exceptional, with booming bass and sharp mids/highs. The non-removable microphone is the most precise, least noisy mic in the headset mics lineup, which justifies its cost somewhat.
The only problem with the MMX 300 is that other products like the Audeze Mobius, Vokyl Erupts, and even Beyerdynamic’s own TYGR 300R Streaming Bundle exist for just about $50 more. All of these are even better audiophile equipment than the MMX 300: the Mobius offers additional features useful to gamers such as head tracking and sound localization; the Erupts is simply a masterfully-crafted pair of high-end cans that sound like they’re worth twice as much; and the TYGR 300R bundle, while limited, is a pair of dedicated headphones and a separate USB cardioid condenser mic. If you can find an MMX 300 on sale, then, by all means, go for it, but at full price, there are better options.
Can I Use Headphones for Gaming?
Not only can you use them, we argue you should use them instead of headsets. Headphones, especially audiophile-grade ones, tend to have better sound, better build quality, and long histories behind them. For instance, some of the best headphones ever made and still in production today are 20, 30, even 70 years old. Using a decent pair of headphones and a standalone microphone can end up being cheaper and better than a good headset.
5 Best Audiophile Headphones for Gaming
There’s the rub, though. If you want to voice chat while wearing headphones instead of a headset, you’ll need a mic somewhere in your setup—and preferably one that won’t make your teammates’ ears bleed. Stick around for our suggestions on that, after this list of headphones we recommend for gaming.
AKG K7XX – Best Audiophile Headphones for Gaming
Does anyone remember the AKG K702? A 70-year-old studio reference-quality open-back headphones sold for $350? No? You don’t have to, because Drop.com (formerly Massdrop) partnered with AKG to re-release these as an anniversary edition for cheaper cost while retaining the same legendary sound quality. These even sport improved velour earcups that feel even more comfortable than the originals.
The build quality, though, was slightly compromised to meet that price point. User reports of left, right, or both channels popping or cutting out are not uncommon. The headband suspensions are plastic, which is no different from the K702, but it is a shame it wasn’t improved. It’s also weird that its removable cable terminates in mini-XLR, which makes the K7XX incompatible with most replacement cables. These are a bit harder to find now as they were a Drop.com exclusive, which has not been re-listed.
Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro 80 ohm – Best Audiophile Headphones Under $200
There’s still a time and a place for a quality closed-back set of headphones, which is why the DT 770 Pro plays exceedingly well. So well, that they’ve primarily gone unchanged since 1981. And while change is good, sometimes keeping things the same is better. Build quality is incredibly reliable, with the headband and joints being made of steel.
At the same time, high-quality hard plastic is used for the earcups. They’re meant to be owned and used for life. We recommend the 80-ohm version for a right balance between audio detail and ease of power.
While the sound stage isn’t going to be better than a premium pair of open-backed headphones, the DT 770 Pro’s sound stage is more comprehensive than expected. The imaging and detail are plentiful. The closed-back earcups are what help the bass sound just so emphasized without artificially boosting the lower frequencies.
The DT 770 Pro’s weak point is probably in the mids, which are nothing to write home about, and the lack of a removable cable kind of shows off its age at this point.
HiFiMAN HE4XX Planar Magnetic – Best Audiophile Headphones for Bass
Okay, we promise these are the last of the Drop.com collab products, but they’re too good not to list. Planar magnetic headphones for less than $200? Yes, please! There are better planars, but you’d be hard-pressed finding one at the price point of HE4XX that isn’t just bad.
The HE-400 that these HE4XX headphones are based on were known to have a design flaw with their adjustment caps becoming brittle and cracking over time. But Drop.com, in partnership with HiFiMAN, seems to have gone ahead and improved the quality of this revised version.
As for the sound, The HE4XX can be adequately described as smooth and laid back, without the sound being pushed back and dulled. The highs are detailed and precise, and the lows are responsive and warm.
The sound stage is vast, so much so that in gaming, it’s possible to pick up directional audio vertically aside from just horizontally, which isn’t an easy feat for headphones. Treble focus isn’t a strong point of the HE4XX, though, so don’t expect to pick out footsteps sneaking up on you.
Audio-Technica ATH-M40X – Best Audiophile Headphones Under $100
Interestingly, the tuning on these are–to many ears–better than the more expensive ATH-M50X headphones, and not even by a little bit. At $100, one would expect there to be sacrifices made in build quality. Still, Audio-Technica is not a company known for cutting corners in this regard. The value of these is incredible. In no way should it be considered a “budget” pair of audiophile headphones to be a detriment to considering buying them.
How do they sound? Neutral on the low end, crisp on the highs. The sound stage is constrained due to the closed-back design. Still, if you prefer a full sound, it’s easy to replace the included pads—which are probably the only negative about the ATH-M40X.
Almost: its removable cable uses a proprietary lock on the extreme 2.5mm end. In that case, this would have been negative if not because it has a removable cable at all—a rarity even among headphones in this price range.
Philips SHP9500s – Best Budget Audiophile Headphones
The last of our best audiophile headphones for gaming is the Philips SHP9500s. Like the ATH-M40X, don’t let the SHP9500s price deceive you. These are a great pair of open-back headphones, despite being the cheapest in the list and the only one from a non-audiophile brand. Every once in awhile, gems like these pop up in the forums and social media that, for whatever reason, punch way above their price point.
Let’s put it this way: if you only bought one pair of headphones in your life, you wouldn’t go wrong with these. While built like a tank with a steel headband with plastic casing, wearing it is as comfortable as a coupe. Its massive 50mm drivers ooze sound out of the open-back, so you’ll be sharing whatever you’re listening to with everyone around you.
But you’ll be too immersed by the wide soundstage to care. This thing comes out warm and airy, focusing on the midrange but without compromising clarity on the highs or lows. Meanwhile, pinpointing footsteps in arcade shooting games with the SHP9500s should be no problem. As if it couldn’t get any better, it sports a removable cable with standard 3.5mm connectors, which is just the perfect cherry to top off this fantastic product.
What Mic Should I Pair with my Headphones?
First of all, congratulations on deciding to use headphones instead of a headset for gaming. It’s the clunkier path for sure, what with all the wires and lack of software support. Still, in the end, it’s the way to go if seeking better value and quality.
V-Moda Boom Pro – Best Detachable Boom Mic for Headphones
If your pair of headphones has a standard removable cable, strongly consider buying this. It’s a great bang-for-the-buck solution to quickly, easily and cleanly adding a microphone to any supported pair of headphones. Essentially what the Boom Pro does is replace the cable that comes with your headphones entirely.
On the end that connects to the headphones is a mic attached to a flexible boom arm. It sounds perfectly passable as far as Omni-directional capsule mics go. The other end of the cable terminates in a 4-pole 3.5mm plug, which is compatible with laptops that use a combo mic/headphones jack, or even smartphones.
Plus, It also comes with an adapter that splits the plug into two separate mic and headphones plugs for laptops or desktops that don’t have a combo jack.
Antlion ModMic USB – Best Clip-On Mic For Headphones
Like the Boom Pro, it’s a boom mic that attaches to headphones. The difference is that the ModMic uses a magnet adhered to the headphone earcup instead of entirely replacing its cable. This thing does mean you’ll have to run the ModMic’s cable alongside the headphone’s, but Antlion does provide binding clips to help tidy that up.
Antlion ModMic Wireless – Best Microphone for Gaming PC
If you prefer a completely wireless solution for your microphone, Antlion also offers the ModMic Wireless. It uses the same adhesive magnet method of attaching to any pair of headphones. But thing matter relies on using two AptX chips to deliver full 16bit, 48khz signal with a 20hz to 20khz frequency response range to the receiver.
Sound Blaster G3 – Best Gaming Microphone without Headphones
While this isn’t a microphone per se, it might be a handy tool for you. Especially if you plan to wear very hard-to-drive, high impedance audiophile headphones. The Sound Blaster G3 is an external USB-C DAC AMP portable (210 x 39 x 15 mm), cross-platform. This thing is compatible with PC/Mac, PS4, Nintendo Switch, and mobile, which is driverless (no special software is needed).
A DAC or digital-analog converter takes digital data and translates it to real-world, analog audio signals. Any gadget that can play digital music has a DAC built-in. Still, a high-quality external DAC can improve that sound by boosting the signal-to-noise ratio or amplifying the signal coming from the source is required by headphones with a higher impedance rating or lower sensitivity rating.
Every headphone in this list will benefit to some degree with an external DAC. More clarity, more definition, less noise or interference like hums, hisses, static, crackles, or pops, places where audio cuts in and out. Things that people usually associate with sound mastering, file quality or headphone quality may just be the quality of the DAC their device uses.
This thing feels Like a Lot!
We’ve barely scratched the surface when it comes to audio. If you’re new to this, it can be overwhelming, and you may be tempted to simply get a cheap gaming headset and call it done, honestly, for most people that will be good enough.
However, if you’re the type who values the listening experience and wants to feed their earworms only the best aural entertainment, you’ll notice the compromises these headsets make. Even if the perfect headphones or headset for you aren’t on this list, we hope it sets you off in the right direction.
Looking for the best headphones for gaming and music? Here are best.
Written by Maria a resident gamer at Games.lol. She is best in writing anything about the games she plays like State of Survival, and Hello Neighbor. She is an avid PC and mobile gamer who is always on the lookout for the best games to play. She also writes unbiased reviews of various tech and gadgets used in gaming.
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John follows everything happening in the tech industry, from the latest gadget launches to some of the big-name moves in the industry. He covers opinionated pieces and writes on some of the biggest names in the industry. John is also a freelance writer, so he shares articles on freelancing every now and then. email: [email protected]
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