What are the differences between a headphone gamer and a normal one?
Understand the main differences, pros, and cons, when comparing a headphone gamer and a normal one!
- What are the differences between a headphone gamer and a normal one?
- After all, what's different about a headphone gamer and a normal one?
- Beauty, shape, color, RGB lights and… Comfort?
- Robust, sober and… durable appearance?
- Spatiality, immersion and… sound quality?
- Practicality and quality: Is it possible to walk together?
Even after the publication of articles explaining how multichannel surround sound on headphones works and why not buy a USB/Bluetooth 5.1/7.1 channel “gamer” headset, there are still people who have not fully understood the differences between a regular headphone and a “gamer” headphone. In this text, I will explain once and for all what exactly are the features that “make” a headset “gamer”.
As the gaming industry has long proven itself to be a huge source of revenue, both for studios and for gamer-oriented product makers, headphones were consequently created that better met the needs of this audience. However, the “gaming-oriented” headphones unfortunately weren’t meant to offer a really better experience for users, but rather to make money.
Because of this, the gamer peripherals market ended up bringing a flood of poor quality products, which does not serve as it should casual gamers and even fewer professionals in the field.
After all, what’s different about a headphone gamer and a normal one?
Many people ask themselves this question, which is totally normal, as there really wasn’t to be a distinction. A good headphone will be a headphone that will be able to perfectly meet both the gamer audience as the audiophile or even those casual users who use it for different purposes/activities. With that in mind, I’ll point out here what I consider unnecessary for headphones and what can be improved considering the different types of usage we have.
Beauty, shape, color, RGB lights and… Comfort?
Generally, the first thing that catches the attention of non-experts is the beauty of a headset, which is why companies that develop gamer headphones invest in designs that impact gamers.
However, the appearance does not make a product functional and this ends up being the big mistake of most manufacturers because the developers focus too much on the format, on the color, and even implement lights in an attempt to make the product stand out from the others. Consequently, in general, one ends up forgetting a big factor that the gamer public needs, comfort!
In order to obtain good comfort, the first thing we have to look at is its ergonomics. This involves the shape and material of the bow, the ear cups (“shells”), the ear pads (cushions), and the weight. You won’t want to feel the bow pressing down on your head, so look for ones that are wider, not too much side pressure (this is fixable ) and well padded, preferably with a lining that’s made of fabric rather than materials that mimic the leather, so it won’t have thermal discomfort or reduced durability. Earcups can be either open-back or closed-back, but there are differences between them, see below:
- What is an open-back headphone: the cups of its structure have grilles. Generally open-back headphones have a bigger sound stage, greater airing and a more balanced sound. In addition, they tend to have a more pleasant (less hot) thermal sensation than closed-back ones.
- What is a closed-back phone: the cups (shells) of its structure are sealed by some material such as metal, plastic or wood. A closed-back headphone generally has better isolation from external noise, more developed bass, a more “colorful” sound, and a “tighter” sound stage compared to open-backs.
Both the material and shape of the earpads (“cushions”) will influence headphone comfort. We generally get greater comfort and durability with those ear pads that are made of fabric (smooth sports or velvet), as they don’t suffer as much wear and tear as those made with imitation leather, and are thermally more comfortable (less heat). It is important to mention that when switching to pads other than the original (stock) headphones, the sound may change for better or for worse.
Weight is another factor that can influence a player’s overall comfort, mainly due to the fact that most of the time, hours are spent sitting using the headphones. If the headset is heavy, it is sure to bring discomfort after a prolonged period of use.
Generally, lightweight headphones have something around 250g, but this feature alone doesn’t say exactly how comfortable a headphone is, as the factors mentioned above will also considerably influence the overall user experience.
Robust, sober and… durable appearance?
Durability is something that both the gamer and the audiophile or even casual users need to be concerned about. For that, it is important to observe if the material used in the headphones is of quality and if the parts are interchangeable. The reason for this is due to the natural wear and tear of the parts that make up a headset that will inevitably bring anyone to the time of replacement parts.
A good headset allows you to at least easily exchange its cable and ear pads (cushions), as these are the parts that wear out the most and usually need to be replaced sooner than other parts (if there is any other to be exchanged when you have quality materials). Also, it is important to assess whether the headphone structures are of good quality, as no one wants to constantly change parts in a short period of time due to a flawed design.
For headsets, a smart solution I’ve been noticing is the use of detachable microphones. The best one is when the microphone is attached to a detachable cable, where we have both those models that are simpler (similar to what we have in headphones that come with the cell phone ) and models that go up to the mouth and allow capture and fit better. This allows the user to more easily exchange both the cable and microphone of the gamer headset or even a headset designed for other purposes such as video conferencing or aviation.
Spatiality, immersion and… sound quality?
Competitive game players need headphones that have good spatiality and sound separation. But that feeling of greater immersion is always welcome. But what is needed to achieve this? No, it’s not 5.1/7.1 channel multi-channel surround sound, be it real or emulated, understand why here.
On a good stereo headphone (2.0), the greater your spatiality, the easier it will be to have a sense of distance between you and enemies in the game, as it will be possible to delimit how far the sound is propagating. Having this, you will probably get better separation of sounds (in music called instrument separation) by making it easier to sense which direction a particular sound is coming from. The better this item is, the greater will be the perception of positioning and, consequently, there will be a better precision.
A big mistake in gamer headphones is the use of USB cables, which use the digital connection. When you find gamer headsets like this, it means that there is a DAC and an amplifier internally, in the headphone cable, or in the ear cups (shells). There is usually no good result when using this type of solution, it is ideal to use cables with an analog connection such as, for example, a P2 connector (3.5 mm), as it will allow you to use higher quality equipment (DAC and amp) for use in conjunction with the headset.
In addition to gamer headphones with a USB cable, there are also those that come with a USB module with small controls for the player to plug a P2 cable (which comes in the product box) into it. In both cases, not only is there a simple use of a DAC and an amplifier to make the phone work but a DSP (Digital Signal Processor) is also implemented to change the way sounds are produced, basically an automatic equalization. This gives the false feeling that USB gamer headphones have better quality, as “normal” headphones don’t come with a built-in DAC/amp and much less built-in DSP.
Practicality and quality: Is it possible to walk together?
When it comes to gamer headphones, theoretically aimed at achieving better gaming performance, using a wireless Bluetooth headset will bring a deterioration in quality, although it provides more convenience to the player. The reason for this is that Bluetooth technology is still limited in terms of audio data transfer. Most of the time, we don’t have a good result in the simultaneous transmission of the headphone and microphone sound.
Because of the above, there are two choices you can make to keep audio quality to a minimum:
- Use a Bluetooth headset with a separately purchased condenser microphone;
- Use a “normal” (wired) headphone in conjunction with a portable Bluetooth DAC/amp with built-in microphone ;
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