What exactly is a gaming headset? How are they different from regular old headphones? Is there actually a difference when comparing headsets vs headphones?

Why yes, yes there is.

In simple terms, a gaming headset is a specialized type of headphones designed to provide the best possible audio experience for gaming, complete with a built-in microphone for in-game communication, or VoIP.

In this article, we’ll delve deeper into what a gaming headset is, how it differs from regular headphones, and what factors to consider when choosing the right one for your needs.

What is a Gaming Headset?

Gaming headsets are a type of headphones specifically designed for gamers. They always includes a microphone to allow for in-game communication, as well as features like surround sound and noise-canceling technology to enhance the overall gaming experience.

While some gaming headsets may look similar to regular headphones, there are several key differences in the design and functionality of the two.

Design Differences

One of the most noticeable differences between gaming headsets and headphones is the design. Gaming headsets are typically bulkier and more robust than traditional headphones, with larger ear cups and a thicker headband to provide extra comfort during long gaming sessions. The extra padding and larger size help to reduce the pressure on the ears and distribute the weight more evenly across the head.

Gaming headsets also tend to feature a more distinctive design, with bold colors, LED lighting, and other flashy elements to make them stand out from traditional headphones. This is particularly true for gaming headsets aimed at younger audiences or esports enthusiasts, where style is just as important as performance.

On the other end, headphones often come with sleeker designs that omit a lot of the flashy lights and aesthetics for a more conventional approach. Some can be exceptionally comfortable, and can easily be used for gaming if you don’t require an attached mic.

Functionality Differences

The functionality of gaming headsets is where they really set themselves apart from regular headphones. One of the most important features of a gaming headset is the microphone, which allows for out-of-the-box communication with other players.

While some regular headphones may also include an in-line microphone, gaming headsets typically have a more advanced and flexible mic (a boom mic) that can be repositioned for better comfort/clearer audio. Many gaming headsets also include a mute button, so players can quickly and easily silence their microphone when needed… You wouldn’t want anyone to hear your keyboard hit the wall.

In addition to the microphone, gaming headsets often include features like surround sound powered by in-line controllers, which creates a more immersive audio experience by simulating the directional audio cues of a 3D environment. This can help players to identify the location of in-game sounds, such as footsteps or gunfire, more accurately.

A nice pair of open-back headphones can also provide a large enough soundstage to accurately detect movement/footsteps, but they also leak sound and can be less than ideal in a lot of scenarios.

Another important feature of gaming headsets is noise-canceling technology. This can be particularly useful in online gaming environments, where background noise or other players’ voices can be distracting. Noise-canceling technology works by using microphones to pick up external sounds, which are then canceled out by producing opposite sound waves through the headphones.

Gaming Headsets vs Headphones

While some regular headphones may be suitable for gaming, there are several key differences between headphones and gaming headsets that make the latter a better choice for serious gamers.

First and foremost, gaming headsets are designed with the needs of gamers in mind. They have been specifically engineered to provide the best possible audio experience for gaming, with features like surround sound and noise-canceling technology to help players hear every detail of the game.

Most headphones, on the other hand, are designed for general use and may not provide the same level of in-game performance that gaming requires. While they may be suitable for casual gaming, they are unlikely to provide the same level of immersion and precision that a good gaming headset can offer.

Arguably the most important factor to consider is the microphone. While some regular headphones may include a microphone, they are unlikely to have the same level of quality or versatility as a dedicated gaming headset. In a competitive gaming environment, clear communication is essential, and a high-quality gaming headset can make all the difference.

Of course, if your main concern is simply in-game communication, an affordable office-grade headset would do the trick.

This isn’t to say that you can’t use a nice pair of audiophile-grade headphones for gaming, because you absolutely can. In fact, a lot of people do exactly this. However, the price is a lot higher than simply buying a good gaming headset. For what you’ll spend on a good gaming headset like the HyperX Cloud II, you’ll only get an okay pair of headphones and a passable mic.

Choosing the Right Gaming Headset

If you’re in the market for a gaming headset, several factors must be considered to ensure you choose the right one for your needs.

First and foremost, consider your budget. Gaming headsets can range in price from less than $50 to several hundred dollars, so it’s important to have a clear idea of what you’re willing to spend before you start shopping. Here’s a list of the absolute best gaming headsets under $100.

Next, consider the type of games you play and the features you need. If you play a lot of first-person shooter games, for example, you may want a gaming headset with advanced surround sound technology to help you locate enemies more accurately. If you play games that require a lot of communication with other players, a high-quality microphone may be your top priority.

Comfort is also an important factor to consider. Look for a gaming headset with plenty of padding and an adjustable headband to ensure a comfortable fit for long gaming sessions. It’s also worth considering the weight of the headset, particularly if you plan to wear it for extended periods.

Finally, consider the brand and reputation of the gaming headset. Look for a reputable brand with positive reviews and a history of producing high-quality gaming headsets. Some popular gaming headset brands include Logitech, Razer, and HyperX.

Overall, you can never really go wrong with a pair of HyperX Cloud II.


While there might be a lot of smaller details that separate gaming headsets vs headphones, such as RGB lighting or flashy colors, the primary distinction ultimately comes down to the microphone. Without the attached boom mic, it’s probably not a gaming headset.

This doesn’t mean you can’t get a similar, if not superior experience from a nice pair of headphones, but you’ll be looking at a higher price of entry when compared to gaming headsets. This simply boils down to requiring a standalone microphone and the cost of an adequate pair of headphones such as the beyerdynamic DT770 Pro. But, that’s a topic for another post entirely.

At the end of the day, the option to spend a little more on an audiophile-grade pair of headphones and a standalone mic, or to pick up a nice gaming headset, it entirely yours to make.

When choosing anything you’ll be using regularly, especially headphones or headsets, consider your budget, the features you need, comfort, and the brand reputation to ensure you choose the right one for your specific needs. If you need a bit of help picking out some good gaming headset options, check out our list of the absolute best budget-friendly gaming headsets you can buy.

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