This is a pretty common question that I see, and it’s something that I would like to help clear the air about because headsets and headphones are definitely two different things! Sure, they can both be used in pretty much the same manner, but they’re not the same thing! Let’s take a look at a few of the points that separate headsets and headphones.
When you’re talking about a “headset” you’re probably going to be referring to something with an attached or integrated mic of some kind, right? Well, that’s our first, and probably one of the biggest consistent differences. The term headset almost always refers to a pair of headphones with an attached microphone, but a pair of headphones are just that, a pair of headphones.
More often than not, the mic that you’ll get with a gaming headset isn’t going to be great when compared to a standalone mic like the Mod Mic 5 or the Blue iCE, but there are definitely exceptions. The HyperX Cloud II is a gaming headset known for having a great mic (for a gaming headset) and it’s definitely not the only one. There’s also Sound BlasterX H7 and Sennheiser GAME ONE, off the top of my head.
The second biggest difference is generally the overall sound quality of a gaming headset when compared to a pair of even low-end audiophile headphones. Yeah, there are some really good headsets out there that can compete with some of the low-mid range audiophile headphones, but they are few are far between. Even a cheaper pair of headphones like the Takstar Hi2050 will blow away most headsets in the ~$100 range, and this is solely due to headphones only having to focus on one aspect – sound quality.
I don’t mean that the sound quality of a gaming headset is horrible, but you’re more often than not going to get better sound quality from a pair of headphones. Headsets like the HyperX Cloud II or even the Razer Kraken offer up very immersive sound, but they’ll still get beaten by a $100 pair of audiophile headphones.
Third up we have the convenience factor. Headsets are arguably more convenient than a pair of headphones for the primary reason that the headset will have an associated mic of some sort, some mics will be permanently fixed to the headphones but others (usually higher quality headsets) will have removable mics. This usually makes things easier if you’re going somewhere and you need a headphones + comms.
The alternative is basically lugging around a standalone mic, having to set it up, making sure it doesn’t get broken, etc.
There is always the option of the Mod Mic 5 that I previously mentioned, you can basically stick it to any pair of headphones to create your own headset, but it’s also going to cost more and it’s another cord you’re going to have to deal with.
Price vs. Performance
Fourth, it’s really hard to compare a headphone + mic combo to a $50 headset when it comes down to price vs. performance, gaming headsets can offer something that most headphones don’t, the attached mic. If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t like a whole bunch of bulk, or you are constantly on the go, then a gaming headset can definitely offer a value that headphones can’t – without mods.
The cheapest pair of headphones that I would want to recommend would be the Takstar Hi2050s I mentioned earlier, and you can get a semi-decent standalone mic for anywhere from $10 and up, so we’re looking at a minimum of $60 to set ourselves up with a reliable combo. On the other hand, we could get a pretty decent gaming headset for $50 or less and save a bit of money.
When all is said and done, headsets and headphones are two different pieces of equipment whose names are often interchangeable – or at least they’re used like they are. Knowing the difference is going to determine whether or not you’re going to enjoy your gaming experience, or not. You could easily make the decision to buy a bunk $60 headset, or you could learn a little bit of the specifics and get yourself an awesome product.
When you’re thinking about if you should get a good ol’ gaming headset or a pair of audiophile-grade headphones and a mic, you should first consider what you need them for the most – and then how much you can spend. Are you going to use them mostly for movies and a bit of gaming, or mostly for gaming/voip and a some music? If you’re on the go, is packing 2 extra things going to be a nuisance instead of 1?
There are a few really decent headsets out there that you could consider, and you really don’t have to break the bank to get one of the best. Sure, there are quite a few headsets for upwards of $150, but Kingston’s HyperX Cloud II is easily one of the best on the market and it comes in at just under $100. But, you could get comparable quality for around the same price by going with the Takstar Hi2050 headphones and a Mod Mic 4.0.. This is where it comes down to a matter of what you need – or want.
If you’re on a tight budget, or you need something to game with on the go, then you should take a look at our top 5 gaming headsets for under $50 or top 5 under $100. But, if you’re looking for the best sound quality coupled with the ability to call people noobs with crystal clear clarity, then you might want to consider looking at some audiophile-grade headphones and a standalone mic.