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#1 Posted by Bozanimal (2483 posts) -

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Selecting headphones is a combination of your:

  1. Price point
  2. Usage preferences (running, gaming, etc.)
  3. Personal taste
  4. and filtering out marketing hype from truth

The biggest challenge is determining at what price threshold you will be happy with your purchase. If you take nothing else away from the following, not this: Because headphone satisfaction is largely subjective, pay careful attention to the return policy of the retailer from whom you buy in the event you are dissatisfied with your purchase.


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HEADPHONE TYPES AND TERMS


  • Over-ear - The cups are large enough to go around your ears
  • On-ear - The cups rest against your ears
  • Earbuds and IEMs - These sit in the ear canal. In the case of in-ear monitors (IEMs), they create an airtight seal.
  • Headsets - Headphones with a permanent attached microphone
  • Open vs. Closed-Back - On- and over-ear headphones can either be sealed or open. Open-back headphones generally have a wider soundstage and better environmental positioning, closed-back headphones seal-out ambient noise and provide better bass response. These are rules of thumb; there may be exceptions by model.
  • Noise Canceling vs. Noise Blocking - Noise-canceling headphones record incoming audio and produce a "counter-wave," effectively canceling out external noise. Noise-canceling headphones require a power source. Noise blocking headphones reduce external noise passively through a closed-back design, dampening, and/or airtight seal. Noise-canceling headphones typically sacrifice some sound quality to reduce overall noise.

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RECOMMENDATIONS - HEADPHONES


Approximate prices are new from a reputable retailer

$0 - $20
Over-the-ear - Koss UR 20 (~$17), Koss TD-61 (~$20)
Earbuds - JVC HA-FX34P (~$15), Panasonic RP-HJE160-A (~$12)
On-ear - Koss KSC 75 (~$14)

$21 - $40
Over-the-ear - Sennheiser HD 202 MK II (~$30), JVC HARX700 (~$35)
Earbuds - Denon AH-C360 (~$40), Sony MDR-EX57LP (~$27)
On-ear - Sony MDR-Q68LW (~$22)

$41 - $80
Over-the-ear - Creative Labs Aurvana Live! (~$70), Sony MDR-V6 (~$65), JVC HARX900 (~$60)
Earbuds - Maximo iMetal iM590 (~$45), Etymotic MC5 (~$66), Sennheiser adidas PMX 680 (~$60)
On-ear - Grado SR 60i (~$79), Beyerdynamic DTX 35 (~$43)

$81 - $120
Over-the-ear - Sennheiser PX 200-II (~$86), AKG Acoustics K-240 (~$90), Audio Technica ATH-AD700 (~$100)
Earbuds - Klipsch Image S4 (~$80), Yuin PK2 (~$80), Etymotic ER-6i (~$85), Shure SE115 (~$92)
On-ear - Grado SR 80i (~$100), Sony MDR-7506 (~$85)

$121 - $200
Over-the-ear - Audio-Technica ATH-M50 (~$150), Ultrasone HFI-780 (~$150)
Earbuds - Etymotic HF3 (~$140), HiFiMan RE-262 (~$150)
On-ear - Grado SR 125i (~$150), V-Moda M80 (~$200)

$201 - up
Over-the-ear - Sennheiser HD598 (~$250), Denon AH-D2000 (~$260), AKG Q701 (~$270), Sennheiser HD 800 (~$1,500)
Earbuds - Klipsch X-10i (~$250), Grado GR10 (~$400), EArsonics SM3 (~$300)
On-ear - Grado SR 225i (~$200), Audio-Technica ATH-ESW9A (~$270), Grado RS1i (~$600)


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CONSOLE MICROPHONE ADAPTORS


Consider the following adaptors to allow use of a headphone/mic combo with your:

  • XBox360 - You will need an inexpensive adaptor (Example 1, Example 2), but it should be fairly simple plug-and-play once you've acquired one.
  • PS3 - You will need an inexpensive adaptor (Example 1, Example 2), but it should be fairly simple plug-and-play once you've acquired one.
  • PC or Mac - All modern PC and Mac hardware will have both a headphone and mic option on their soundcard, be it an internal or external card, or motherboard audio.

Alternatively, you can use a headphone amplifier like the Bravo V2 (see Headphone Amplifiers, below) with your analog audio output (the red/white RCAs) to your headphones, though this will prevent you from using that analog output to your display or home theater system.

The best solution for console gamers in terms of both convenience and quality is the Astro Mixamp, which makes it very easy to connect your headphone and mic to your console of choice, includes all the required cables, provides a built-in headphone amplifier, and Dolby Headphone processing, if you prefer it. The Mixamp retails for about $130.


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RECOMMENDATIONS - MICROPHONES


There are two inexpensive microphone options:

  • The Zalman ZM-Mic1, which is an inexpensive, high-quality, omnidirectional microphone you can easily pair with any set of headphones
  • You can also use the Labtec LVA7330 Clearvoice Head Microphone, a slightly more expensive boom mic, which requires some minor modifications to attach to your headphones. The boom mic will give your receiver more isolated audio, and is more appropriate to noisy environments.

If having a separate cord bothers you, some inexpensive split-loom or even simple bread-ties can help keep your cords organized.


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RECOMMENDATIONS - HEADSETS


It is usually preferable to use a separate headphone and mic from both an audio quality and value standpoint, but headsets do offer convenience in setup and build. If you musthave a headset with a boom mic, consider the following:

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HEADPHONE "SURROUND SOUND" EXPLAINED


Headphones marketed as "Dolby Headphones" are - except in very rare cases - nothing more than Dolby-licensed two-channel headphones. The use of 5.1 or 7.1 to describe these headphones is more than a little misleading. Dolby Headphone processing is not native to the headphone, but to its processor, which is included in most modern sound cards. But don't take it from me, take it from Dolby, who licenses the technology (and its logo):

"All of this information is combined by the Dolby Headphone processor into two encoded channels that deliver the spatial properties of the original audio, with more natural sounds that actually seem to be 'out-of-head.'"

"...with Dolby Headphone no special headphones are required. The process works well with wired or wireless headphones ranging from inexpensive airline headsets to high-end electrostatic sets, although higher-quality headphones deliver a higher-quality listener experience."

(Source)

To truly reproduce 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound your headphones need to have discrete drivers for each channel and native digital surround content. In a 7.1 setup this means four speakers in each ear (since the center channel is matrixed), three left for rear, side, and front, and three right for the same. You'll have a fourth driver on both sides for your subwoofer channel. The headphones would require seperate analog signals from your sound card or have their own digital DAC (digital to analog converter), DSP (digital signal processor), and decoder.

Dolby Headphone does not necessarily reproduce 5.1 or 7.1 discrete channels. From their own site, "Delivers realistic 5.1-channel sound from any set of headphones...Dolby Headphone accurately creates the sensation of up to five loudspeakers in a room using powerful digital signal processing (DSP) technology." The Dolby Headphone Turtle Beach PX5, for example, only has two speakers (two 50mm drivers). The same with the Astro A40's: two 40mm drivers.

Dolby Headphone is just a manner of processing audio to simulate surround sound, not to accurately reproduce the effect. Discrete headphones are rare, expensive, and not necessarily any better than their 2-channel counterparts. The Tritton AX Pros are one of the only "real" surround sound headphones of which I am aware (and I've been looking).

Surround sound is really meant to be experienced in an open room, not attached to your head. I hope this helps. You can read more marketing doctrine from Dolby at their web site, if you'd like. (Source)


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SOUND CARDS


If you are using the analog output of your PC - the headphone jack or other analog outputs - you will experience better audio from a dedicated card versus the motherboard's built-in audio processor. A sound card does a better job at converting that digital source material to an analog format, isolating the audio components from the motherboard components, and amplifying it for your headphones. This does not guarantee distortion-free sound: Issues with the power supply or other motherboard interference can still occur, but is likely to improve quality.

The big question: Will the average PC gamer notice? The answer is: It depends. If you notice a lot of crackling, buzzing, or other distortion while you're gaming, it's probably time for a dedicated card. If you're looking for hardware support for particular audio effects not provided by your board - such as Dolby Headphone, CMSS-3D, or certain versions of EAX - you will need a dedicated card.

If you are buying a sound card for the sole purpose of using a headphone or headset, it would be tough to beat the Asus Xonar DG, which is only about $30. It supports Dolby Headphone, the same process used by more expensive "5.1" and "7.1" headphones and headsets, as well as a decent built-in headphone amplifier. So long as you are not also using an external surround sound system, this is an excellent value for headphone-only gamer.

If your PC serves double-duty with your home theater, consider a card that supports both Dolby Headphone and Dolby Digital Live, which encodes Digital Surround on-the-fly. The leap in format support and quality, however, comes with a price tag (~$200) for the Asus "Essence" card line. The benefit is a very robust DAC (Digital to Analog Converter) and amplifier, as well as superior noise isolation and support for additional formats.

For detailed information on audio chipsets, check out The Nameless Guide To PC Gaming Audio at Head-Fi.


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HEADPHONE AMPLIFIERS


If you have a great source such as an audio card and high-end headphones, a dedicated headphone amplifier may further improve quality. The additional, dedicated power of an amplifier adds headroom to the signal, giving the audio more range. An entry-level amp like the Bravo V2 can be had for between $20 and $60 on EBay. Anything more advanced like a NuForce amp and it's unlikely you should be reading this thread for advice: Go back to your audiophile forums!


A NOTE FOR CHILDREN


Kidz Gear headphones are inexpensive at about $20, fit young listeners and those with tiny skulls, and have reviewed well. If you are very young or are a "little person," they're worth considering.


A NOTE ON SOURCE MATERIAL


Speakers, be they home theater, car, or headphones, can only reproduce what you give them. If you're playing low-quality MP3s (e.g. 64kbps Bit Rate or less), it's going to sound awful regardless of what you play them on. If you're listening on a desktop PC, you may end up with some ambient electical noise from the motherboard unless you have a dedicated sound card, and even then there's no guarantees.


A NOTE ON NOISE CANCELING


Noise canceling (NC) technology, also known as "Active Noise Control," was developed by Dr. Amar Bose (yes, that Bose) back in the late '70s. Basically, the headphones sample the environmental audio and produce an alternating sound wave, effectively canceling out the noise. This technology was made commercially available in the mid-1980's, and now headphones sporting NC can be found from a variety of manufacturers.

Noise-canceling headphones are situational. They are typically expensive relative to non-NC headphones and require a power source, meaning they usually will not work at all without charged batteries. However, if you spend a lot of time flying, in crowded subways, and similarly high-volume environments, these might be a good choice for you. The Bose Quietcomfort 3's are widely regarded as one of the best noise-canceling headphones available, though many great options are out there.


A NOTE ON BRANDS


Like anything, headphones have their own specialty brands and, within those brands, they typically offer a full-line of products to suit different price brackets. Even traditional "high-end" headphone manufacturers like AKG, Beyerdynamic, and Sennheiser offer two-digit, inexpensive counterparts to their four-figure flagship models. Value brands such as Logitech have their own premium line under the moniker, "Ultimate Ears." For the aforementioned reasons it is important not to give excessive credibility or to preemptively discredit a headphone based solely on its brand. Consider carefully by visiting reputable headphone review sites and forums to evaluate specific models (see "Additional Resources," below).


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ADDITIONAL RESOURCES



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Contributing and Inspiring Members- Without whom this FAQ would not be possible

#2 Posted by Bozanimal (2483 posts) -

It's come to my attention that these forums are sorely in need of a sticky for headphone information and recommendations considering the number of questions received about gaming headsets. To that end I have cobbled together the above, but it still needs editing and, probably, corrections. I know more than the average person about driver design, speaker building, and consumer electronics, but I am by no means a headphone expert. Please feel free to respond with thoughts, suggestions, comments, recommendations, and particularly corrections. I will make changes as appropriate.

Keep in mind that Gamespot's typical user is not an audiophile, meaning they are looking for a good value to support their video game experience, in most cases. The Beyerdynamic Tesla T1 buyer is going to be a rarity here. As such, ensure your suggestions are targeted at typical consumers rather than audiophiles.

Happy gaming,

Boz

#3 Posted by -GeordiLaForge- (7148 posts) -
Nice post :) +1 vote for sticky But would it be possible for you to add recommendations for true 5.1 surround headphones? I've been needing some for when I game at night, but the reviews seem to be pretty conflicting. I was looking at these, but people are saying that they fail pretty quick. I'm more worried about the speakers honestly, since I can install new wires, but the amp problem worries me.. I would rather get something that will last without me having to do surgery, but all of the true 5.1 8x speaker headsets on Newegg seem to have alot of bad reviews... Thanks for your help by the way!
#4 Posted by markop2003 (29917 posts) -
You missed out the AD700s, they are the highest recomended gaming headphones out there. Also oyu should really differentiate between open and closed back, someone out there is going to end up buying Grados SR-60s for portable use based on your list.
#5 Posted by markop2003 (29917 posts) -
[QUOTE="-GeordiLaForge-"]Nice post :) +1 vote for sticky But would it be possible for you to add recommendations for true 5.1 surround headphones? I've been needing some for when I game at night, but the reviews seem to be pretty conflicting. I was looking at these, but people are saying that they fail pretty quick. I'm more worried about the speakers honestly, since I can install new wires, but the amp problem worries me.. I would rather get something that will last without me having to do surgery, but all of the true 5.1 8x speaker headsets on Newegg seem to have alot of bad reviews... Thanks for your help by the way!

Avoid them. They use tiny drivers, you're better off with some closed back headphones with a loud sound stage for your purpose. Each individual ear cannot tell what direction a sound is coming from so it is pointless putting multiple drivers in one ear cup. I'ld look towards the Audio Technica A700s in your position. @Sticky, you should really add something on headphone amps, don't want someone buying some AKG 702s and trying to run them off a line out
#6 Posted by -GeordiLaForge- (7148 posts) -
[QUOTE="markop2003"][QUOTE="-GeordiLaForge-"]Nice post :) +1 vote for sticky But would it be possible for you to add recommendations for true 5.1 surround headphones? I've been needing some for when I game at night, but the reviews seem to be pretty conflicting. I was looking at these, but people are saying that they fail pretty quick. I'm more worried about the speakers honestly, since I can install new wires, but the amp problem worries me.. I would rather get something that will last without me having to do surgery, but all of the true 5.1 8x speaker headsets on Newegg seem to have alot of bad reviews... Thanks for your help by the way!

Avoid them. They use tiny drivers, you're better off with some closed back headphones with a loud sound stage for your purpose. Each individual ear cannot tell what direction a sound is coming from so it is pointless putting multiple drivers in one ear cup. I'ld look towards the Audio Technica A700s in your position

I really need to hear if gunshots and footsteps are coming from behind me though. I can't tell you how many times my rear speakers saved my life online. I got really good at getting an accurate location using only the sound from my rear speakers.. But are the 5.1 headsets really that bad? I can always get a few headphone amplifiers, headphone speakers (I have some good bass drivers), and build my own set by replacing the speakers on a comfortable headphone set with contoured plexiglass speaker enclosures. I can make them look great and sound great, but it would be a pretty expensive little project. I will do it if the 5.1 sets on the market are really that bad though...
#7 Posted by ndawgdrake (534 posts) -
Any info on USB vs standard 3.5mm jack in terms of audio quality?
#8 Posted by ChubbyGuy40 (26100 posts) -

But are the 5.1 headsets really that bad? I can always get a few headphone amplifiers, headphone speakers (I have some good bass drivers), and build my own set by replacing the speakers on a comfortable headphone set with contoured plexiglass speaker enclosures. I can make them look great and sound great, but it would be a pretty expensive little project. I will do it if the 5.1 sets on the market are really that bad though...-GeordiLaForge-

Short answer is yes, ESPECIALLY Turtle Beach. I've had TB and Tritton AX360 (older sibling of the AX Pros.) The sound quality alone turns you off. Every Turtle Beach I've heard, including their top-end X41s, are very hollow. It sounds like the magnet is very far away and not very loud. Even then, the decoder squishes together too many sounds and can't reproduce them. I believe someone like you would have a home theater receiver already right? Use that. Get a pair of headphones and use that thing because it will have a better sound quality and do a vastly better job at mixing the sounds for headphone use. Dolby Headphone actually isn't too bad (Still prefer stereo) at downmixing 5.1 sources. My Onkyo has 2 different modes for DH. Not sure what they're called, but I leave the default function on instead of the second one because it makes everything sound too hollow/narrow/ect. Not to mention, TB's were extremely tight on my head and very uncomfortable. I had a pair break out of nowhere while wearing them.

My Trittons were a muddled mess. No bass, only vibration and it will distort at high volumes. My HD555s have better bass than them and these do not go very deep at all. Bad Company 2? No contest. Sennheiser will trash Trittons, TB, and Astros. As far as directional cues, same game. Sennheisers win with BC2 (I actually managed to find a sniper half way across the map. He shot first, I got the kill 8) ) 5.1 in headphones is NOT needed. You just need a good DAC and a good pair of headphones.

Even though sound is just traveling directly to your ear, you're brain will translate the sounds differently. I believe its called HRTF. Games that use that will sound just like a 7.1 setup but even better.

BTW Boz, +10 internets to you good sir. We planned to do this before months and months ago, but our procrastination club's meeting was the same day and yeah...

I recommend taking off the Logitech G35s though. Theres only been one person on these forums who've been happy with them. The rest have returned them or are very unhappy with their purchase. You should also put up some sound cards under that position. ASUS Xonar DG and Auzentech X-Fi Forte would fit perfectly. Must mention HT OMEGA Striker also.

#9 Posted by ChubbyGuy40 (26100 posts) -

Any info on USB vs standard 3.5mm jack in terms of audio quality?ndawgdrake

It depends. If you're talking about headsets, then 3.5mm will win everytime as you can't upgrade the piss-poor quality of their decoders in USB headsets. If you mean amplifers, it depends on their components. You'll only find USB on gaming headsets anyway which you should avoid at all costs if possible.

#10 Posted by NVIDIATI (7596 posts) -

You've done what I got way to lazy to complete, this effort has at the very least earned a sticky. Nice going!

#11 Posted by NVIDIATI (7596 posts) -

I would add such headphones as the AKG K240, Audio Technica AD700, Beyerdynamic D880 (there are many more I can think of, but this should suffice for now).

Also Head-fi.org is an amazing resource for headphones and other devicessuch as amps or dacs.

#12 Posted by DivergeUnify (15150 posts) -
Oh boy finally - way to go Bozanimal!
#13 Posted by LTomlinson21 (24423 posts) -

Good work. This comes in about the right time for me, as I probably will be purchasing a quality pair of headphones in the near-future for music.

I'll let a leader of this board know about this topic to make the decision on a sticky.

#14 Posted by blakostructor (1536 posts) -

How's the Beyerdynamic DT 770-PRO compared to the ATH-M50 since they are about the same price? I heard from many places the ATH-M50 is lacking soundstage, which supposedly the DT 770 has better, but that the bass in the DT 770 is overpowering and takes away from mid/high frequency quality?

How do you think they would be for a game like BC2 / BF3 (when it comes out)?

#15 Posted by grenadedodger (39 posts) -

Some nice information here but it is very biased. This thread is now sticky and therefore going to be one of the first stops for people looking to get a new headset. As such it should be impartial, not a recommendation based on personal preference. Bozanimal you may not believe in virtual 5.1 but there are a lot of people who do. Same goes for "true" 5.1 using multiple drivers in each ear.

Chubbyguy, you actively slate both TB and Trittonproducts as pieces of trashand yet the only experience you appear to have of either of these manufacturers is from quite some time ago, ie long enough that they don't manufacture what you owned anymore, coupled with the fact that theproducts you did own were middle of the range at best. Earlier on in this thread you say that the Turtle Beach HPA2 are crap, have you personally ever used them or is this just another best guess because you used to own a pair made by the same manufacturer?

#16 Posted by LTomlinson21 (24423 posts) -

Some nice information here but it is very biased. This thread is now sticky and therefore going to be one of the first stops for people looking to get a new headset. As such it should be impartial, not a recommendation based on personal preference. Bozanimal you may not believe in virtual 5.1 but there are a lot of people who do. Same goes for "true" 5.1 using multiple drivers in each ear.

grenadedodger

Great point. Bozanimal, if you would be willing to put some more work into adding a couple of these things, then it would be appreciated.

#17 Posted by NVIDIATI (7596 posts) -

Some nice information here but it is very biased. This thread is now sticky and therefore going to be one of the first stops for people looking to get a new headset. As such it should be impartial, not a recommendation based on personal preference. Bozanimal you may not believe in virtual 5.1 but there are a lot of people who do. Same goes for "true" 5.1 using multiple drivers in each ear.

Chubbyguy, you actively slate both TB and Trittonproducts as pieces of trashand yet the only experience you appear to have of either of these manufacturers is from quite some time ago, ie long enough that they don't manufacture what you owned anymore, coupled with the fact that theproducts you did own were middle of the range at best. Earlier on in this thread you say that the Turtle Beach HPA2 are crap, have you personally ever used them or is this just another best guess because you used to own a pair made by the same manufacturer?

grenadedodger

It is true a sticky shouldn't carry a bias and to be fair he should add a little more, maybe a section of natural surround vs virtual surround.

I think most consumers see more than enough ads for a lot of these common brands such as Turtle Beach, Tritton, Asto, Logitech, etc. Personally I think it's great that a consumer can have the chance to learn about some of these audiophile companies which have been in the industry creating some of the world's best headphones for years. Yet in the mainstream media get very little attention. I'm sure this is something that we can all agree on. Its very common for someone to switch from a gaming headset brand, to an audiophile brand, than the other way around.

#18 Posted by DivergeUnify (15150 posts) -
I think the post is fine. It has all the information someone with a limited interest in headphones would care for
#19 Posted by Bozanimal (2483 posts) -

Omitted Headphones


I've added a few of the aforementioned suggestions where the price-points warranted another option, but it's worth reiterating that the list is not comprehensive. The listed headphones represent a very good value for their price range and have reviewed well, but adding more than a couple in a particular price point is only going to result in a reader saying, "Well, okay, but which one of these is best?" I only wanted to narrow it down enough so that their final decision can be based on styIe, availability, and/or features such as a detachable cord.


Bias against surround headphones


I've given it some thought, but I cannot agree that this entry is biased. Bias is an unfair preference for or dislike of something. I am not being unfair to surround headphones: My reasons for not believing in them are described and disclosed for the reader in the second paragraph. It's not that I personally dislike the headphones for qualitative reasons, it's that they offer a poor value and subpar performance relative to other available options. It would be unfair if I had said, "Surround Sound headphones suck," or if I received compensation from a headphone manufacturer, but I provide valid, defined reasons to the reader early in the FAQ and have no such affiliation. I am not disputing that this post contains my opinion, but I do dispute that my commentary is biased.

That said, despite myself I do, in fact, agree with your point. As I reconsider, surround sound headphones are not designed to do the same thing as traditional headphones. Many gamers are sold on the design and are going to buy one regardless: It would be beneficial to have recommendations so that they can get a decent product within the category.

It will take me some time to acquire this new information, however, as I had difficulty in my first go around getting consistent recommendations in the category relative to traditional headphones, so for now I've marked this section as *Recommendations Pending*.


USB vs "standard" 3.5mm jack


If you have a computer and use the 3.5mm jack, you are getting the audio as decoded and amplified by either your on-board audio or sound card, as applicable. A USB option is going to be as good as its included DAC and amplifier: Some USB cards are excellent, and some are not. The Asus Xonar U3, for example, is competitive with dedicated audio cards using a separate headphone amplifier. Other USB cards may use cheaper components and sound terrible; it varies dramatically.


Sound Card Recommendations


I wanted to mention that I felt this was somewhat outside the scope of the FAQ and more suited to PC Hardware or its own FAQ. It's a close call and worth discussing since sound cards support headphones, but probably rare enough that any questions around sound cards can be answered in the forum on a one-off basis. I also find it unlikely anyone would click on a Headphone FAQ for sound card recommendations, and the point of a FAQ is to reduce redundant thread posts.

Happy gaming,

Boz

#20 Posted by ChubbyGuy40 (26100 posts) -

Some nice information here but it is very biased. This thread is now sticky and therefore going to be one of the first stops for people looking to get a new headset. As such it should be impartial, not a recommendation based on personal preference. Bozanimal you may not believe in virtual 5.1 but there are a lot of people who do. Same goes for "true" 5.1 using multiple drivers in each ear.

Chubbyguy, you actively slate both TB and Trittonproducts as pieces of trashand yet the only experience you appear to have of either of these manufacturers is from quite some time ago, ie long enough that they don't manufacture what you owned anymore, coupled with the fact that theproducts you did own were middle of the range at best. Earlier on in this thread you say that the Turtle Beach HPA2 are crap, have you personally ever used them or is this just another best guess because you used to own a pair made by the same manufacturer?

grenadedodger

Its not a problem of believeing in virtual 5.1, but if its even worth it which a majority of us say no because of a lot of reasons.

Yes, I do actively bash them and continue to do so. Why? They aren't audiophile companies. Top-end Trittons? Same drivers, new look with the ability to use the mic with PS3. Audiophile companies keep their headphones on the market for years until they find a way to upgrade them, unlike these gaming companies. Sorry if I take the word of companies that strive in audio and are the ones making advances over companies that sell vastly overpriced hardware. "But you don't know the very latest and newest headsets they have!" No I don't. I'm not going to bother buying something just to try it out and return it. Every headphone manufacturer has their own, unique signature sound that resonates in their headphones. You listen to one of their mid-grade products and you already have an idea of what you'd get from the rest.

I've done my research. I've read multiple articles and forums. I no longer listen to the consumers because everyone should know 95% of consumers are stupid when it comes to buying electronics. I'm not an audiophile, but damnit I care about my audio. If I KNOW something is bad and people are asking about it, I'm going to tell them so. If they're going to spend a decent amount of money on headphones they should be getting their money's worth. Not something thats vastly marked up for the sake of marketing with the gamer tax to further increase the price.

#21 Posted by ChubbyGuy40 (26100 posts) -

@Boz - I say we put some sound cards on there because everyone in the PC Hardware forum swear that nothing is an upgrade from onboard sound unless you own very expensive speakers/headphones, which of course is completely false.

#22 Posted by Bozanimal (2483 posts) -

@Boz - I say we put some sound cards on there because everyone in the PC Hardware forum swear that nothing is an upgrade from onboard sound unless you own very expensive speakers/headphones, which of course is completely false.

ChubbyGuy40

While you or I might notice the difference between motherboard audio and a dedicated Asus Xonar Essence STX, the reality is that the average user is probably going to be perfectly content with on-board audio. In fact, I'm content with on-board audio right now (though that might change when I pick up the Shure SRH750DJs I've been eyeing). I did quite a bit of research before I picked up my Gigabyte board because I didn't want to have to buy a dedicated card, myself, and I'msatisfied using on-board with my Sennheiser HD202s (my prior mobo had buzzing necessitating a card). Further, rare is the situation in which a consumer is going to be evaluating any of these products side-by-side.

This is important; it's why you see a lot of great reviews for Trittons and Turtle Beach headphones: They're being evaluated in a vaccuum. Every review I've read where they're actually compared side-by-side with cans like the HD595s or similar the reviewer says, "These gaming headsets don't even compare from a sound quality, perspective." For the same reason most gamers are going to love Trittons or Turtle Beach headphones. They have neat effects and tons of features (like Bluetooth), and nothing to really compare them against save maybe their stock iPod buds. But you know, many people are very happy with them.

That's why I agree that some recommendations of said headsets are warranted. Traditional 2.0 cans do not offer discrete surround reproduction, wireless, bluetooth, phone call support, and a built-in mic. There might be hiss from the built-in amp and reduced SQ, but they're still a desirable product for some gamers, and in an FAQ readers want comparisons between them. I still believe traditional headphones offer superior value and performance in most cases, especially in wired setups, but I already make that case in the body of original post.

It's important to match people with the right product for them. For headphones this sometimes means foregoing SQ in favor of features. As I continue to research, I will be updating the above, and may add in some sound card recommendations like the Asus Xonar Essence STX and SoundBlaster Titanium HD for the EMI shielding and built-in headphone amp as time permits. Doing so, however, can lead to more in-depth discussions about EAX support, and that's not something I'm keen to delve into.

Happy gaming,

Boz

#23 Posted by ChubbyGuy40 (26100 posts) -

Recommendation of some headsets are good, such as Creatives. They aren't the best, but they aren't the worst either. When you start to pay about $80+ for headphones, you should be getting the best sound you can, IMHO anyway. If they must have the mic attached or don't want the extra adapters/cords, then they are also good for recommendation. It is true though that their sound quality is not worth the price. A few though aren't as bad as their competition, such as the Corsair HS1A and Steelseries Siberia.

But you are right. There is a point for some, where conveience matters more.

I still think some sound cards should be put up there. Most notable the ASUS Xonar DG for what it offers. Better than onboard sound, a cheap headphone amp, and Dolby Headphone for those who "need" virtual surround. At $35 bucks its a steal. All the components needed for better sound, none of the crap.

Also recommendation for the virtual surround set

Pionner SE-DIR800C. They lack a mic, but the sound quality is incredible even though its wireless.

Also a pair of headphones to add

Sennheiser HD558. (Or 598 for looks and it is incredibly sexy) They say Sennheiser pulled the same stunt with the 558s as the 555s. Same as their bigger brother, foam padding added to reduce the sound.

Also some earbuds

Altec Lansing UHP336. They're rebranded UEs at less than half the price (Or used to be anyway.) I personally had a pair and they sounded great from my Samsung P2. The built quality varies though as there are some bad eggs, unforunately mine was one of them. I did cause them to break though from tugging too much, so its mostly my fault.

You should put some more names up there for the contributors. Surely wasn't just 2 people besides you who helped with this info :)

#24 Posted by ndawgdrake (534 posts) -

[QUOTE="ndawgdrake"]Any info on USB vs standard 3.5mm jack in terms of audio quality?ChubbyGuy40

It depends. If you're talking about headsets, then 3.5mm will win everytime as you can't upgrade the piss-poor quality of their decoders in USB headsets. If you mean amplifers, it depends on their components. You'll only find USB on gaming headsets anyway which you should avoid at all costs if possible.

Thanks for that info. I had no idea the decoders for USB audio were so bad. I'm current running my audio through my videocard via HDMI cable. The HDMI cable goes into my monitor, and my monitor has a 3.5mm audio out, which I've connected me desktop speakers. I know this isn't the same situation as the USB headset, but are the same crappy decoders used for this situation as well? Am I better off plugging my desktop speakers into the green 3.5mm jack located on the motherboard's I/O area? I have onboard audio btw.
#25 Posted by ChubbyGuy40 (26100 posts) -

[QUOTE="ChubbyGuy40"]

[QUOTE="ndawgdrake"]Any info on USB vs standard 3.5mm jack in terms of audio quality?ndawgdrake

It depends. If you're talking about headsets, then 3.5mm will win everytime as you can't upgrade the piss-poor quality of their decoders in USB headsets. If you mean amplifers, it depends on their components. You'll only find USB on gaming headsets anyway which you should avoid at all costs if possible.

Thanks for that info. I had no idea the decoders for USB audio were so bad. I'm current running my audio through my videocard via HDMI cable. The HDMI cable goes into my monitor, and my monitor has a 3.5mm audio out, which I've connected me desktop speakers. I know this isn't the same situation as the USB headset, but are the same crappy decoders used for this situation as well? Am I better off plugging my desktop speakers into the green 3.5mm jack located on the motherboard's I/O area? I have onboard audio btw.

Its only in headsets. Some headphone amps use USB as a connector instead of analog.

Yes you are better plugging it directly to your motherboard. Decoder on the monitor is likely to be poor which may affect quality.

#26 Posted by -GeordiLaForge- (7148 posts) -

@Boz - I say we put some sound cards on there because everyone in the PC Hardware forum swear that nothing is an upgrade from onboard sound unless you own very expensive speakers/headphones, which of course is completely false.

ChubbyGuy40
I do agree about that. Onboard sound is fine for some, but dedicated sound cards do have more features, better sound, and save on CPU resources. And if the onboard soundcard's speed is linked to the bus speed, which it often is, then it can cause major problems when overclocking...
#27 Posted by KHAndAnime (13299 posts) -

A good alternative to clip-on mics are desktop microphones. I've had this for over a year and I much prefer it to having a mic near my face.

@Boz - I say we put some sound cards on there because everyone in the PC Hardware forum swear that nothing is an upgrade from onboard sound unless you own very expensive speakers/headphones, which of course is completely false.

ChubbyGuy40

Definitely. I've never heard anyone tell me they didn't enjoy the upgrade to a sound card. The sound improves in nearly every conceivable way with $100+ headphones and $150+ bookshelf speakers.

#28 Posted by Svirepik (63 posts) -

I'm not strong in headphones, so it'd be great if you could help me to decide wich of those ( 1 or 2 ) is better? Or, maybe, you can help me to find something different in this type (30-35 baks). I thank you in advance:)

#29 Posted by Bozanimal (2483 posts) -

I'm not strong in headphones, so it'd be great if you could help me to decide wich of those ( 1 or 2 ) is better? Or, maybe, you can help me to find something different in this type (30-35 baks). I thank you in advance:)

Svirepik

If you have to choose between the two the Philips SHE9550 is probably the better value. In terms of sound quality they review very similarly, but there appear to be issues with fit on the SHE6000s, and fit is one of the most important qualities of headphones not just from a comfort standpoint, but because proper fit affects sound quality on earbuds. In the $30-35 USD range (~850 rubles), I'd consider the Sony MDR-EX57LP, listed above in the "Recommendations" section.

Удачи!

Boz

#30 Posted by Mozelleple112 (6618 posts) -

Philips headphones are horrible. My mate bought some for his phone and to be honest I prefer the ones Apple bundled with my iPhone...

#32 Posted by Bozanimal (2483 posts) -

Philips headphones are horrible. My mate bought some for his phone and to be honest I prefer the ones Apple bundled with my iPhone...

Mozelleple112
Maybe, but he didn't ask if Philips was good or not, he asked which of the two was better. ;) Boz
#33 Posted by Mozelleple112 (6618 posts) -
[QUOTE="Mozelleple112"]

Philips headphones are horrible. My mate bought some for his phone and to be honest I prefer the ones Apple bundled with my iPhone...

Bozanimal
Maybe, but he didn't ask if Philips was good or not, he asked which of the two was better. ;) Boz

And my answer to that would be avoid both. Also Boz... I made a looooong reply where I copy/pasted like 30 links to What-hifi reviews of 30 headphones that you posted in the front page, but GLITCHSPOT wouldn't let met post so I gave up and deleted it... Just a suggestion that you add a CNET/Whathifi review to each headphone you post :)
#34 Posted by mchelo777 (2 posts) -
Hi, I currently use the Turtle Beach X11 on my PS3 but I want something better. My tv is a Panasonic TC-P50S1 (no sound system) with a optical digital out only and I need 12 feet of cord. After reading the sticky here, I am thinking about taking a pass on the Tritton Pros and the TB DPX21s. What would you guys recommend? I want something with excellent sound quality and also want to be able to locate enemys by sound. After doing some reading here I understand that surround sound in gaming headset isn't what it's hyped up to be. So I checked out the AKG K-240 and the Audio Technica AD700 on amazon and they look impressive based on the reviews. I am leaning towards AD700s and the price seems like a steal on amazon. My one concern is that will I be able to control sound level with either of the above headphones. I have a cheap pair of stereo headphones that work through the PS3's AV cables but there isn't a way to control the sound level. Also will I be able to use these headphones when watching tv programming (I have a Dish Network receiver) and blu-rays on PS3. This isn't a priority but if they do I can kill two birds with one stone. I will be primarily using the headphones for gaming and the two biggest priorities are sound quality and being able to locate enemys by sound. Thank you in advance. EDIT: Paragraph didn't break for some reason.
#35 Posted by Bozanimal (2483 posts) -

Hi, I currently use the Turtle Beach X11 on my PS3 but I want something better. My tv is a Panasonic TC-P50S1 (no sound system) with a optical digital out only and I need 12 feet of cord. After reading the sticky here, I am thinking about taking a pass on the Tritton Pros and the TB DPX21s. What would you guys recommend? I want something with excellent sound quality and also want to be able to locate enemys by sound. After doing some reading here I understand that surround sound in gaming headset isn't what it's hyped up to be. So I checked out the AKG K-240 and the Audio Technica AD700 on amazon and they look impressive based on the reviews. I am leaning towards AD700s and the price seems like a steal on amazon. My one concern is that will I be able to control sound level with either of the above headphones. I have a cheap pair of stereo headphones that work through the PS3's AV cables but there isn't a way to control the sound level. Also will I be able to use these headphones when watching tv programming (I have a Dish Network receiver) and blu-rays on PS3. This isn't a priority but if they do I can kill two birds with one stone. I will be primarily using the headphones for gaming and the two biggest priorities are sound quality and being able to locate enemys by sound. Thank you in advance.

EDIT: Paragraph didn't break for some reason.mchelo777

You have several options. You can:

  • You can use a cheap headphone amp like the Fiio E5 with a RCA to 3.5mm converter from the RCA output of your PS3 as a volume control
  • Use the Fiio E7 as a DAC and headphone amp (it connects via USB, I believe)
  • Use a NuForce Icon uDAC-2, which will connect directly to your RCAs or USB (ceonvenient)
  • Use a DAC from Parts Express, though if you're buying a set of headphones that nice, you might want to get a headphone amplifier (all of the above) as well
  • Use your television's headphone jack, if available

Good luck!

Boz

#36 Posted by mchelo777 (2 posts) -
Thank you for the info. I am weighing my options.
#37 Posted by Bozanimal (2483 posts) -

Updated to remove some colorful language concerning surround sound, and a dedicated section explaining Dolby Headphone, as well as what "Surround" means in the headphone world.

Next up: Sound cards.

Happy gaming,

Boz

#38 Posted by DarkGamer007 (6024 posts) -

I'm not strong in headphones, so it'd be great if you could help me to decide wich of those ( 1 or 2 ) is better? Or, maybe, you can help me to find something different in this type (30-35 baks). I thank you in advance:)

Svirepik

I've got a pair of Phillips SHE9500's and they are awful there is way to much trebble for a good listening experience.

#39 Posted by scottahuch (1580 posts) -

Good guide, thanks, I'm a total noob when it comes to sound. The ATH-AD700's finally went on sale on amazon.ca. They used to be $150 on there, as opposed to $90 on the US site, but I just nabbed them for $77 :D

I'm using them to replace my headset... Which snapped in half a couple months ago :(

I wish amazon.ca had that microphone clip you posted.

#40 Posted by DivergeUnify (15150 posts) -
Do I impulse bought a pair of Sennheiser HD650s from Craigslist. They sound BEAUTIFULLY smooth... hopefully the regret goes away soon :P
#41 Posted by NVIDIATI (7596 posts) -

hopefully the regret goes away soon :PDivergeUnify
That is not a purchase to regret :) Enjoy your new cans.

#42 Posted by DivergeUnify (15150 posts) -

[QUOTE="DivergeUnify"]hopefully the regret goes away soon :PNVIDIATI

That is not a purchase to regret :) Enjoy your new cans.

Thankyou! I got them for $250 used. So far my DAC drives them pretty nicely, but I might look into an amp in the future

They do sound ridiculously smooth, buttery ****ing smooth. No harshness at all, and the midrange is simply beautiful. I love the bass response too. Its very tight and punchy. It really is like the big brother of the Shure 530, but 100x better :D

#43 Posted by DivergeUnify (15150 posts) -
Are there any amps in the sub-250 dollar range that would work well with the Senns, and maybe compliment my nuforce well? Tube amps perhaps?
#44 Posted by NVIDIATI (7596 posts) -

Are there any amps in the sub-250 dollar range that would work well with the Senns, and maybe compliment my nuforce well? Tube amps perhaps?DivergeUnify
Would you consider DIY? If so, the Bottlehead Crack headphone amp ($219) might be a good option.

If DIY is not your thing I would say the Little Dot MKIII (~$250 after tax/shipping). I have a LD MKIII and it is a great performer for the price, though I'm still on stock tubes.

#45 Posted by DivergeUnify (15150 posts) -

[QUOTE="DivergeUnify"]Are there any amps in the sub-250 dollar range that would work well with the Senns, and maybe compliment my nuforce well? Tube amps perhaps?NVIDIATI

Would you consider DIY? If so, the Bottlehead Crack headphone amp ($219) might be a good option.

If DIY is not your thing I would say the Little Dot MKIII (~$250 after tax/shipping). I have a LD MKIII and it is a great performer for the price, though I'm still on stock tubes.

I would be absolutely for a DIY, but I've heard great things about the MKIII. For 31 dollars more it might be better to just go with that. I'll do a little research. With the Littledot is it neccessary to use my DAC?
#46 Posted by NVIDIATI (7596 posts) -

[QUOTE="NVIDIATI"]

[QUOTE="DivergeUnify"]Are there any amps in the sub-250 dollar range that would work well with the Senns, and maybe compliment my nuforce well? Tube amps perhaps?DivergeUnify

Would you consider DIY? If so, the Bottlehead Crack headphone amp ($219) might be a good option.

If DIY is not your thing I would say the Little Dot MKIII (~$250 after tax/shipping). I have a LD MKIII and it is a great performer for the price, though I'm still on stock tubes.

I would be absolutely for a DIY, but I've heard great things about the MKIII. For 31 dollars more it might be better to just go with that. I'll do a little research. With the Littledot is it necessary to use my DAC?

Well yeah, its just an amp / pre-amp, so no internal DAC.

#47 Posted by DivergeUnify (15150 posts) -
I think I'm going to get the Littledot MKII. It is a decent amount cheaper and it seems to power the 650s pretty nicely from impressions. I'm not going to get the MKIII just because of money, and I don't feel I need the absolute best.
#48 Posted by gedz (674 posts) -

Hey guys, nice FAQ you got here. I'm thinking of getting the AKG K 240 MKII but I'm wondering, is it recommended to get a headphone amp? Been looking around the net for some answers, but it seems pretty mixed. I have an Asus xonar DX sound card if that makes any difference. Thanks :)

#49 Posted by DivergeUnify (15150 posts) -

Hey guys, nice FAQ you got here. I'm thinking of getting the AKG K 240 MKII but I'm wondering, is it recommended to get a headphone amp? Been looking around the net for some answers, but it seems pretty mixed. I have an Asus xonar DX sound card if that makes any difference. Thanks :)

gedz
I'm not too sure about needing an actual amp, but my friend has a pair and my DAC drives them beautifully. A DAC basically functions as an external soundcard See how they sound plugged into your soundcard- I don't think they need that much juice to drive them.
#50 Posted by gedz (674 posts) -

[QUOTE="gedz"]

Hey guys, nice FAQ you got here. I'm thinking of getting the AKG K 240 MKII but I'm wondering, is it recommended to get a headphone amp? Been looking around the net for some answers, but it seems pretty mixed. I have an Asus xonar DX sound card if that makes any difference. Thanks :)

DivergeUnify

I'm not too sure about needing an actual amp, but my friend has a pair and my DAC drives them beautifully. A DAC basically functions as an external soundcard See how they sound plugged into your soundcard- I don't think they need that much juice to drive them.

Alright that sounds good thanks. I'll give them a try