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The Best Headphones for Gaming [In Depth Guide]

by Stuart Charles Black
The Best Headphones for Gaming

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Hey guys! Before we get started, check out Apos Audio. They are a great up-and-coming distributor with a phenomenal-looking website and excellent customer service. They also offer free shipping, the lowest price guarantee, a 2-year warranty, and a 45-day return.

Also, consider Sweetwater sound where applicable. I have been buying from them since around 2007 and don’t regret one single purchase. They have the best customer service in the business and really care about your satisfaction. What other company calls you to make sure you’re happy with your gear? I digress.

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  • To send me any type of gear for demo, just Contact me! – Use the form “all other inquiries & questions”

9,474-word post, approx. 25 min read.

Updates

  • 2/27/19.
  • 9/15/19. Article cleanup. Removed outdated HD558. Added Ananda and Utopia to Upper Echelon. Moved Black Mage, X2, and K712 to mid-tier, reflecting the price change.
  • 12/26/19. Article cleanup.
  • 3/9/2020. Added Ananda and K702 image.
  • 5/26/20. Article cleanup.
  • 6/30/20. Added K5 Pro and G6 to Console Setups, added Top 5 Under $100 video. Article cleanup.
  • 1/24/21. Removed Magni 2, as I don’t think it’s relevant anymore. Article/link cleanup.
  • 4/10/21. Removed Objective 2 as it’s been discontinued.
  • 4/21/21. Article/link cleanup.

It may seem long, but this article will attempt to provide every bit of information you need to make a decision!


Hey there friend, and Welcome aboard!!

This is part 7 in a 7 part series on Genre, which takes a nostalgic look at some of my personal experiences with various types of music, games, and pop culture over the years. Check out the others if you would like!

  1. The Best Headphones for Jazz
  2. The Best Headphones for Classical
  3. The Best Headphones for Rock
  4. The Best Headphones for Metal
  5. The Best Headphones for Pop
  6. The Best Headphones for Hip-Hop
  7. The Best Headphones for Gaming (This article) (Bonus)

Before we get into the Best Headphones for Gaming, grab a snack (or three), sit back, and relax because…

You’ve come to the right place!!

The Best Headphones for Gaming

Sometimes you gotta go back to the start.

What I will bring you in this article


Table of Contents

Click any of these to navigate the page!


The NES/Super NES Years
Microsoft DOS and the IBM PS1
The Game Boy
The Playstation Years (1 & 2)
The Playstation Years (3 & 4)
Considerations
Should You Get an Amp or DAC?
Standalone Amps for PC Gamers
Standalone DAC Recommendation
Amp/DAC Combos for PC Gamers
Your Console Rig
Top Recommendations for Consoles
Other Options
Hooking it all up
The Microphone
The Headphones
The Audiophile Headphone vs. “The Gaming Headset”
Criteria
Entry Level ($0-100)
Mid-Tier ($100-300)
Top-Tier ($300 and beyond)
Final Word


Now without further ado, let’s get rolling!!

If you don’t care to hear my ramblings, just skip over this part. I tend to get long-winded about stuff I like. 🙂 Should be interesting nonetheless!

The NES years

(Circa 1988-1989)

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been a gamer. In fact, my signature at the bottom of every article is an animated GIF of Mario running. 🙂 I remember back in the late 80’s when I was just a wee boy, my biological father had a Nintendo Entertainment System and we played Super Mario Bros. on it.

I can barely recall, but we also had Excite Bike, Duck Hunt, and some other stuff I can’t remember.

You remember Duck Hunt, don’t you?

It came bundled with the Mario game and an Orange pistol that you used to shoot the Ducks down on the screen! Kind of morbid now that I think about it. 😛 I have pictures somewhere and will include them in this article when I go back to my parents’ house.

Super NES

(1991 – 1995)

This is the one I bought off of eBay years back.

Part I of My Childhood.

I never actually owned an NES, but in 1991 my stepdad and mom got me a Super NES for my birthday/Christmas bundled with Super Mario World. I was in heaven, and still to this day I play the game on occasion. I also have favorites such as Donkey Kong Country 1-3, and Super Mario All-Stars.

That game combined all the great Mario games: Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. – The Lost Levels, Super Mario Bros 2, Super Mario Bros 3, and later on down the road they remade it to add Super Mario World. As for Donkey Kong, for years and years, I always read 2 as “Diddy Kong’s Quest”, when in actuality it said “Diddy’s Kong Quest.” Dyslexia much? Haha. Mind blown.

Super Mario Bros. 2

The game after its eventual revival.

The interesting thing about Super Mario Bros 2 was that it was a markedly different game in terms of the overall design, look, feel, and gameplay mechanics. Instead of jumping on stuff to kill it, you had to pick vegetables out of the ground and throw them at enemies. Instead of fighting the infamous Bowser, they replaced him with a giant Toad named Wart. Huh?

While I absolutely despised the game at first, and never gave it a chance for the better part of my life, it eventually grew on me once I decided to really sit down and play through it with an open mind.

Famicom

What’s cool is that the game was originally intended for use with the Famicom (Family Computer Disk System), and only in Japan during February of 1986, with proprietary double-sided discs. These could hold more data and were cheaper to produce.

In fact, the original cover of Super Mario Bros. 2 is actually the same cover of what would become Super Mario Bros. – The Lost Levels.

What made the game different from the original, is that they clearly gave Mario and Luigi separate traits based on their unique build and structure. Luigi is faster and can jump higher, but loses his footing easily (as if he was on ice). Mario is slower and cannot jump as high, but has more control when you’re moving at higher speeds.

This cover would eventually be scrapped and become “The Lost Levels” years later.

Other notable differences included:

  • The poison mushroom.
  • The inclusion of wind.
  • Secret hidden blocks must be used in order to advance the level.
  • Warp zones that could either further you or set you back.
  • Piranha plants move quicker out of the tubes and don’t stop even when you’re close by.
  • Hammer brothers that do not stop coming… towards you.
  • Fewer lives (3 vs. the 5 in the original).
  • Unlimited continues…

    The Original game was called Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic

The difficulty of the game (plus the fact that it was identical in appearance), along with the inconvenience of having to convert it from a disc format to a cartridge, prevented the offering from being released in the United States.

The developers didn’t think it a wise marketing decision, and thus it never came to fruition as the official title of Super Mario Bros 2.

Doki Doki Panic

In the end, Super Mario Bros. 2 was released as basically a rework of an older title called Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic, released in Japan around the summer of 1987.

Being bogged down with other projects but needing to release something to compete with other consoles (namely Sega. SEGA!), the game (which was originally shelved due to creative limitations), was finally fully realized with Arabic themed characters known as the Dream Factory family.

SEGA!

Shigeru Miyamoto and his team at Nintendo would eventually replace these 4 main protagonists with Mario, Luigi, Princess Toadstool (Later Peach), and Toad in an effort to re-brand the game for North American audiences.

Because they already owned everything but the original Arabic characters, the transition proved seamless. Aside from some minor differences, the two games played almost exactly the same, and now instead of being an obscure Japanese title, it became an unprecedented, groundbreaking, and fresh new sequel.

Best Seller

The game would go on to become one of the best-selling of all time on the SNES, which is odd considering nobody I knew during my childhood even liked it! We always skipped over it in favor of the other Mario games. POOR RUDOLF. LOL.

The Best Headphones for Gaming

The two at the top are originals, the bottom 4 were purchased from eBay. 🙂

Aside from that obscure history lesson, I played many more games on the SNES, including Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island, Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Super Mario Kart (1992), Super Mario RPG (Legend of the Seven Stars), Turtles in Time, Mortal Kombat, NBA Jam, The Lion King, Aladdin, The Magical Quest Starring Mickey Mouse, Paperboy 2, and others.

The nostalgia is getting real up in here.

This was my most treasured time playing video games with my sister Tara. Completing a game was of the utmost importance and took on a sort of life and death quality.

Mash

“DON’T mash any buttons” she would sternly tell me. “Okay, okay. D**, chill.” I didn’t say that second part because I was like 8. XD

After thinking I outgrew the Super Nintendo, I eventually sold it at one of my parents’ many garage sales. Really dumb idea, and even to this day I remember the moment vividly. Later on down the road, I regretted it and eventually bought another one with the games that I mentioned at the start. I won’t make the mistake of selling it again. 😀

What about my early experiences with Computers?

Microsoft DOS and the IBM PS-1

The Best Headphones For Gaming

The Best Headphones For Gaming

In addition to consoles, my sister and I also played games on my dad’s old IBM PS-1. It’s hard to believe that this modest machine once functioned as the family’s primary computer! Technology has certainly come a long way.

Floppy Disks

Floppy Disks were once considered the method of data transfer, but it’s almost comical to think about that nowadays. Put another way, you know you’re starting to get old when a floppy disk becomes the universal symbol for a save button. Lol.

It’s also amazing when you consider that one of the first FPS games originated from this very computer program. Yeah, you heard me correctly. I’m talking about Wolfenstein 3-D; the game that started it all (for me at least), inspired by 1981’s Castle Wolfenstein.

This was our computer at one time, and towards the end of its life, it sat in my Grandmother’s old house before she passed away.

There were other titles that originated the First Person Shooter, including games like Maze War, Atari’s Battlezone, Midway’s Wizards of Wor, Taito’s Gun Buster, and Atari’s Midi Maze, but Wolfenstein pioneered the genre and made it accessible, fun, and polished to an impressive degree for the time period.

The objective? Kill all the Nazis, and then kill a Cyborg Hitler. Wow. Times were much simpler back then.

KILL ALL OF THE THINGS.

Wolfenstein was pretty much my favorite PC game back in the day, but the fun didn’t stop there, no siree bob. Some other notables of the era included Crystal Caves, Duke Nukem (the side scroller), Ski Free, Wheel of Fortune, Shooting Gallery, Mario is Missing, and a whole bunch of other stuff that I can’t even remember.

ID software would follow up the smash hit with Doom in 1993, and later Quake in ’96.

The Game Boy

The Best Headphones for Gaming

Part II.

I also still have an original Gameboy from 1989, and it still works! I used to always take it with me on trips to New York (Smithtown, Long Island) to see my grandparents when they were alive, along with my brown Teddy Bear. Those were some of the best times of my childhood.

Traveling through Baltimore, my Dad would speed through the Fort McHenry Tunnel, while my mom panicked as I innocently and calmly played Donkey Kong Land. The game was so difficult that I still to this day have not beaten it.

The Best Headphones for Gaming

The Original Lot.

2015 was the last time we spent Christmas at my Grandma’s before she passed in 2017. Knowing it was likely the final goodbye in terms of visiting her at her house, I packed my Teddy and Game Boy for old times’ sake. I did all I could to re-live those wonderful childhood memories one last time, and it was bittersweet. I still got stuck at the same level/world after it started getting dark outside, and I still had a lot of fun on the way (I love road trips).

Donkey Kong Land

Check out this explanation of why it seemed nobody could beat the game on the original Game Boy. I guess it had to do with the fact that even in broad daylight I could never see what the heck I was even doing! 😛 I suppose I could get a Game Boy Color and try to finish it? 🙂

My younger cousin was so enamored with the Game Boy when he saw it that year, that it really made me happy. I didn’t expect him to know what it was or even care (you know how kids are these days). But to my surprise, he was completely ecstatic that I had one and begged me to play it. Best cousin EVER. LOL. He’s like me in so many ways.

I went home that year feeling sad, nostalgic, and grateful all at the same time. I cried like a baby for the old times but eventually had to let them go.

He was enamored.
He was enamored.
And I was shocked.

After getting a little older, I gravitated towards Sony and the Playstation…

The Playstation Years (1 & 2)

(1995 – 2007)

The only remaining picture of my original consoles. :/

After Nintendo, I got a Playstation 1 from my Dad for Christmas in 1995 or 1996, and never looked back. I never had a Nintendo 64 or Sega Genesis, though my best friend Ryan did back in the day. Because he lived right next door, we had the perfect setup. He could come over and play Playstation, and I could go over there and play N64. It was really the ideal scenario growing up. 🙂

I’ve since had all 4 PS systems at one time or another and currently have a PS3 and PS4. My PS2 was sold, as well as my PS1. Again, I kind of regret both decisions, but it is what it is. I may purchase both in the future for the sake of completeness. It’s fun to collect old systems and games!

PS1 & 2

Some notables on the PS1 and 2 included Metal Gear Solid (my personal all-time favorite), Crash Team Racing, Crash Bandicoot 1-3, Syphon Filter, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1-3, Tomb Raider 1-3, and The Last Revelation, Spyro the Dragon, Silent Hill, Twisted Metal, Grand Theft Auto III, Vice City, Metal Gear 2 and 3, and more.

Spring Break

Gaming has always held a special place in my heart, and to this day I still do play sometimes, but I simply don’t have the time anymore like I used to. I remember back when I was still living at my parents’ house, Spring Break was pretty uneventful.

At that time I had severe social anxiety and phobia of certain situations, so I wouldn’t really go out unless I had to for class at my local Community College. So for a week straight I played Fallout 3 literally without moving a muscle on the couch (well not literally, but you get the idea). I had plenty of food and refreshments, and life was good. I would fall asleep at night, wake up in the morning and start all over. Times were much simpler back then.

As the years went by, my need to play video games kind of diminished…

Playstation 3-4

Fallout, Metal Gear Solid 4, and the COD years

(2008 – present)

I even got into Call of Duty for a while, but have been on hiatus from it when my PS3 kind of conked out (temporarily). I held a 3-1 K/D ratio on COD4, which is really the only shooter I played because I just wasn’t any good on the others. 😛 They even came out with a COD4 Remastered, and I’ve been itching to try it out with some Headphones and a Mic proper.

PS4

The most recent games I’ve purchased are Fallout 4, Metal Gear Solid V, and The Outer Worlds. I do play Fallout 4 on occasion, but it never resonated with me like Fallout 3 and New Vegas did. There was something really special about both of those games, but perhaps it’s just nostalgia talking.

I came across a great video about how Konami basically killed the Metal Gear franchise, and I agree completely with it considering I was a fan since the early days.

Let me know what your favorite games of all time are!

Now that the trip down memory lane is complete, let’s get to the actual purpose of this review. 😛


Disclaimer

While I do know a fair bit about gaming headphones, I don’t claim to know it all. If you have any suggestions, I am more than willing to hear them. Just don’t be rude about it. Thanks!

Also, this guide will come from the mindset of an audiophile who’s looking for a gaming headphone, and not a gamer looking for a gaming “headset”. On the surface that might sound almost counterintuitive, but work with me. There’s a reason for it. More on that in a bit.


Considerations

Budget

The first thing you’ll want to think about is your budget. How much are you willing to spend? Today we’ll cover some affordable options as well as some higher-end gear. There are some great models in all categories, and fortunately, you can spend a very small amount and be more than satisfied. I’ve always aimed to provide my readers with the best recommendations for the price, and this article is no different.

Console or PC?

Secondly, are you on a console or PC?

Your PC Rig

If you’re on a PC:

  • You will need one of two cables. If you do plan on purchasing an all-in-one “headset” with a mic included, you’ll need something like this: 3.5mm Jack Adapter – Y Splitter. This will allow you to plug your headset into the female end, while the male ends (one for the mic and the other for the headphone), are plugged into your PC/Laptop, or Amp/DAC.

Second Cable

The second cable looks something like this: 3.5mm Audio Stereo Y Splitter. If you plan on using a separate Mod Mic + an audiophile type headphone, you may need this if your PC does not have two jacks. You will need it regardless with an Amp/DAC.

PC

If you’re plugging into the PC, and it does happen to have 2, simply plug the mic into the mic port and the headphones into the headphone port. If you’re like me and your laptop only has one, you’ll need this dongle. It has two female ends to plug into the mic and headphone, and one male end to plug into your PC/Laptop or Amp/DAC.

Soundcard

Another thing to consider is upgrading your Soundcard or external DAC. What is a Soundcard? Even though my laptop’s card is really crappy, I’m not obligated to use it. Why? Because I have an audio interface, along with 2 different Amp/DACs at the moment. What does an audio interface do?

Scarlett 2i2

I don’t game on a PC, so I really don’t have a need for a Soundcard right now. My Scarlett 2i2 is basically an external Soundcard, but the fancy name for it is an audio interface. It powers my studio monitors (What are Studio Monitors?), serves as a headphone DAC (Digital to Analog Converter) in its own right, and provides 48v phantom power for my AT2020, or any mic I decide to use. Learn more: Audio Technica AT2020 Review!!

External Amp/DAC

With all that said, you could and probably should bypass the Soundcard and go straight for an external Amp/DAC if you’re a PC gamer. This will still provide you with an upgraded sound experience, while also eliminating the need to install a separate Soundcard into your PC or Laptop.

This process can be challenging if you haven’t done it before or don’t feel particularly comfortable with it. Plus, nowadays the technology that comes with the newer PCs and Laptops is markedly better in terms of motherboard quality, etc. An external DAC just makes more sense in most cases. Put it this way, would you rather take apart your PC, or just plug in a USB cord in a matter of seconds? I digress.

Check out this really helpful video on the various ways to connect your headsets!

So…


Should you get an Amp or DAC?

  • An Amp: If your headphones have a high impedance and/or low Sensitivity, they’re going to resist the power and not be as efficient. Impedance is a measure of resistance and Sensitivity is a measure of efficiency. Generally speaking, anything around 97dB and lower is not very efficient and needs more power from the amp to perform optimally. Anything with an Impedance over 100 generally tends to resist power quite a bit. It really just depends on the headphone in question. Contact me for clarification!

DAC

  • A DAC: A Digital to Analog converter’s job is to convert the 1’s and 0’s from your computer, into an analog sound that you hear (and vice versa). During a microphone recording, the computer takes the analog (your voice) and converts it into data that it can understand (1’s and 0’s). Basically, either of these exchanges is always happening depending on what you’re doing. The only reason you would upgrade a DAC is if your existing one is crappy. You’ll know because it either won’t be loud enough or just generally sound bad (noise, crackling, etc). What is a USB DAC?

Great Resources:

For the question of should you get one, in almost all cases I say yes. Why? Because it’s going to instantly increase sound quality across the board.

Let’s discuss some good Amps for PC gamers!


Standalone Amps for PC Gamers


The JDS Labs Objective 2

Note: Objective 2 has been discontinued by JDS Labs. Just go with the ATOM.

JDS LABS ATOM

This is a well-respected Amp/DAC by a guy called NwAvGuy. It provides a clean, neutral sound output for your headphones, and is similar to a Magni/Modi combo in that it can power just about any headphone you throw at it. If you’re interested I would go ahead and get the combo.

The first iteration was a stand-alone amp, required the ODAC plugged into the front, and generally looked like a science experiment. The more elegant and attractive black version is the Amp with built-in DAC. Much more convenient.

See it for yourself here: Objective 2 + ODAC. Here is the standalone DAC that will work with any amp: Standalone ODAC. Here is the original amp: Original 02 with Standalone ODAC (not pictured).

 

 

Video Comparison to the Atom

Here I discussed the updated Atom. Definitely worth a look!

What about a Standalone DAC Recommendation?


Standalone DAC Recommendation


Cambridge Audio DAC Magic 100

Cambridge Audio DAC Magic 100

Hooray!

There’s a reason why they call this thing a DAC Magic. the A/D conversion is pristine, and music, as well as the gaming environment, takes on an added dimension of clarity that must be heard to believe.

I used the Magic with an Objective 2 as well as a Magni 2, and the results were stunning, to say the least. Every intricate detail is heard, and even the PS4’s Dashboard music sounded interesting and was also revealing to an astonishing degree. I heard little nuances to the song that I never dreamed were there.

Also extremely versatile, this baby has RCA inputs, a Toslink/Optical input for use with Consoles/Receivers, two S/PDIF inputs, and a USB input.

 

Combos for PC Gamers…


Amp/DAC Combos for PC Gamers

There are a few good options to consider when deciding on an Amp/DAC combo for your PC. Let’s get into some of them!


Top Budget Pick


FiiO E10K or K3

FiiO K3 vs. E10K

FiiO K3 vs. E10K

If you only have a Benjamin or less to spend, the E10K is the absolute go-to solution in my opinion. It’s one of the best portable budget Amp/DAC combos. With an output impedance of less than 1.04, it will sound very crisp and also power most headphones without issue.

600 Ohm?

I would steer clear of trying to use it with 600 Ohm headphones, as well as power-hungry planar magnetics with their weird drivers. 😛 What is a headphone driver? However, these will work with cans like the HD600, and the amp is more capable than some give it credit for. I love the crisp and neutral sound these provide. Comes with coaxial out, line out, and USB. Very clean signal, lots of detail. You like!

 

My Video Comparison

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Step Up


Audioquest Dragonfly Red

Audioquest DragonFly Red

A Great Desktop Setup.

Doesn’t really get much simpler than this folks. Plug this little crumb-sized wonder into a USB slot, plug in one of those dongles (if you’re using a mic) that I mentioned earlier, and have yourself an afternoon delight.

The Dragonfly Red really impressed the snot out of me upon demo, and I actually plan on purchasing one in the future because it instantaneously increases the quality of all my headphones in a matter of seconds, plus I can take it anywhere!

The other great thing about this combo is that it powers my HD600’s with ease. I wouldn’t recommend trying to use it with anything over 300 Ohm, but it provides just enough juice for the 600.

 

Video Shootout

Don’t forget to leave me some love! <3

I really don’t want to overwhelm you, so I’ll stop there. The important thing to remember is not to stress out over which one you get. You’ll be happy with any of the above to be perfectly honest.

To me, buying an Amp/DAC is like choosing what to have for dinner. Do you go with a juicy homemade burger with home fries? Spaghetti and Meatballs? Chicken/Rice and Broccoli? (my preparation is anything but boring), or Steak and Eggs? Salmon? If you’re anything like me, you’ll cook up a masterpiece regardless of what you decide to eat.

The same goes for these options above. Man, I’m hungry.

With that, let’s check out your console rig…


Your Console Rig


Fortunately, your console rig doesn’t have to be complicated either.

Hobo Method

Just plug your headphones into the 3.5mm jack on the controller. Pretty good sound, easy as can be.


Separate Headphones + Mic – Simple Method.

  • First, get one of these: Sabrent Aluminum USB External Stereo Sound Adapter. The adapter plugs into a USB port on your Playstation and allows you to plug the mic into the appropriate jack. If you’re on Xbox, unfortunately, the Sabrent doesn’t work from what I’ve read. Not a problem. Instead, we’ll run the mic into a Y Splitter and plug it into the controller’s port. You could also do this with the Playstation if you want.
  • Set the output of your console to optical.
  • Set the input device to the USB device mentioned above.
  • Set Output Device to “TV or Amplifier”.
  • Adjust the mic volume.

Here are some of my recommendations…


Top Recommendations for Consoles

Option 1

A quick note: I don’t know much about the newer consoles (PS5, XBox X, etc.). Do keep in mind that what I’m recommending here can’t be guaranteed to work on those, but if I’m being honest, this whole situation is a bit messy.

I have heard that PS5 is almost completely proprietary and doesn’t provide the all-important optical input, so proceed with caution. I can confirm the G6 will work with a PS5 though (as it does NOT rely on an optical connection), which is great as it happens to be my favorite DAC overall.


Creative SoundBlasterX G6

Best for FPS gamers who need mic input

Creative SoundBlasterX G6

Gamer’s heaven.

The G6 has completely taken over and sits atop the list of most recommendations I make to people, whether that be for Gaming, Film, or Music. It’s truly a jack of all trades Amp/DAC that is easily transported between your desktop and living room. I keep one USB-C cable plugged up to my PS4, and another at my desk for music.

In fact, right now I’m listening to it through HIFIMAN’s DEVA and it sounds marvelous. The great thing about the G6 is that it’s incredibly versatile. It has a line input and output, plenty of power for any headphone, a mic input jack, a 3.5mm jack, SBX mode (5.1 virtual surround), Scout Mode, and a Gain Switch for the most demanding of headphones.

You can even download the SoundBlaster Connect App which is packed with even more features that add to its overall value. It’s simply one of the best products that I’ve ever used, and I recommend it wholeheartedly as a “drop everything and buy solution.”

 

 


Option 2

FiiO K5 Pro

Best for single-player gamers

I’ve thought a lot about it over the last few months, and this desktop Amp/DAC from FiiO may be the only thing you would ever need in a home studio or home theater/gaming environment.

It works incredibly well as both a desktop amp and a gaming amp in my living room. The sheer amount of ways you can connect it with other components in your rig is simply astounding.

Let’s take a gander:

  • Use it as your desktop Amp/DAC via USB. Pretty straightforward. Great for listening to music through Tidal or Spotify, as well as PC Gaming.
  • Use it as a console gaming Amp/DAC via Optical. Just run an optical cable from the back of your PS4’s output to the Optical in on the K5. Unlike the D1, the K5 is instantly recognized and plays sound immediately. You won’t have to fiddle with any settings inside your console dashboard. Just make sure the switch on the left is set properly (should be in the “up” position).
  • Hook it up to your turntable. If you have something like an Audio Technica AT LP60 (or any turntable with a built-in phono preamp), simply plug the red and white RCAs into the inputs on the back of the K5. Now you can listen to crispy vinyl through headphones in a snap.
  • Use it with a separate DAC or Amp. Because it’s an Amp/DAC combo and has both RCA Ins and Outs, you can basically use it with any separate DAC that has RCA Outputs, and any Amp that has RCA inputs.
  • Use it with anything in your home theater via its optical in. Anything in your home theater that has a Coaxial output on the back can hook up to this. You can use it with a Receiver + CD/Bluray Player if you like to listen to CDs and watch movies that way, and you could in theory hook it up to a TV that has a Coaxial out. The possibilities are vast.
  • Use it as a Preamp. Because it has RCA outs, you can hook it up to separate speakers or monitors and use it that way. This could also work as a preamp between your Turntable and speakers if your turntable doesn’t already have built-in preamps. Pretty convenient!

As for its sound, it errs on the side of warmer, and much more laid back than a typical neutral-ish amp would sound. Great for kicking back with some Jazz tunes on your couch!

 

 

 


Option 3

JDS ATOM AMP + OL DAC

Best for aspiring “audiophiles”

What is an Audiophile? This combo will run you about $200. You can pair the ATOM with any DAC that has optical, but I’d recommend saving some money. The DAC magic 100 is an extra $100 and does have a few extra connections (seen below)

I also have a great Amp/DAC combo below as well if you don’t want to go through the trouble of hooking up an Amp and DAC separately (D1).

So versatile. RCA/Analog outs, Optical input, S/PDIF, and USB. What more could you ask for.


Option 4


Audioengine D1

Warmer type of sound

Audioengine D1
Mugshot.
Versatility for days.

This was my previous go-to combo solution before the K5 Pro took over. Not only does it work for Gaming, but it’s also a headphone amp for your desktop, and you can use it to power your studio monitors as well! What are studio monitors? All of this is made possible by its RCA/Analog outs, Toslink/Optical input, and USB input.

Gaming

The D1 may not have as much pure, raw power as the above setup (DAC Magic + O2) but it’s perfect for Console gaming and livens up the sound to an absolutely startling degree. Playing Fallout 4 was a totally different experience, as the environment I was in became so lifelike and immersive that I had trouble leaving the couch! The soundstage is impeccable, and the detail present will make your head spin. What is Soundstage?

FPS

I haven’t played Call of Duty in a while, but I could imagine using the D1 with any of the headphones I’m about to discuss would be like cheating. If you opt for the Mod Mic mic to pair with all this, just be prepared for little 12-year-old snot-nosed kids to start yelling at you after you own them repeatedly. In other words, get excited 😛

 


Option 5


Chord Mojo

Best overall soundChord Mojo USB DAC ReviewThis is the best Amp that I’ve personally heard (alongside a Bryston BHA-1) and will make everything sound the best it can possibly be – this includes music as well. It supports micro USB, Optical/Toslink, and has 2 separate 3.5mm headphone jacks for sharing. So you can A/B test 2 headphones, share with a friend for movies, or share with a friend for Gaming!!

Upgrade

The Mojo represents a true upgrade from an entry-level amp and you can hear a clear difference in sound quality. I’m a firm believer that it’s worth every penny and represents everything that you could ever want in an Amp/DAC. Learn more: Chord Mojo DAC Review!

 

What about some alternatives?


Other Options


All of these options have optical capability, which is necessary for hook up to your console.

  • The Astro Mixamp. This is the obvious secondary choice here and will be for a lot of casual gamers that aren’t as familiar with some of the other options we discussed. That’s completely fine. The Mixamp is very convenient, does provide 7.1 surround sound, and will net you exactly what you’re looking for at a reasonable price. It will also work with your Laptop/PC as long as it has an optical port. That said, It shouldn’t be your primary solution for a higher impedance set of headphones. It will get the job done, but won’t be optimal. PS version: Mixamp for PS4. Xbox Version: Mixamp for Xbox.
  • FiiO D3. A fantastic budget option is the FiiO D3, which gets almost impeccable reviews for less than $30. This would be ideal if you want to get your feet wet, don’t feel comfortable dropping the money for the above options that I mentioned earlier, and only need something for gaming specifically. See it for yourself here: FiiO D3.
  • FiiO E17. The original FiiO E17 had optical input, and will thus work with your PS4/Xbox. The E17 does not provide surround sound, but doubles as a solution for your Laptop/PC as well as your console and will provide better overall quality than the Mixamp. Something to keep in mind. See it for yourself here: FiiO E17.

Wondering how to get it wired?


Hooking it all up


Hooking it up is quite easy, but I’ll take you step by step through the process as it helps me understand it better too. I always like to simplify things as best as possible for myself, and I know you’ll appreciate it as well! 🙂

Note: The PS4 Slim does not have Optical input.


Amp/DAC Combo with Console


(Audioengine D1 as an example)

  • The PS4/Xbox receives an optical cable in the rear.
  • The other end of the optical cable plugs into the back of the D1.
  • Use a USB cable from the back of the D1 into the front of the PS4 or Xbox One. I’m not familiar with the SexBox because I don’t have one, but there are USB inputs on it so don’t fret!
  • Plug your headphones in.
  • Go to Settings > Sound & Screen on your PS4.
  • Go to Audio Output Settings.
  • Click Primary Output Port
  • Change it to “Digital Out”
  • The Input format should be Linear PCM.
  • Go back to Settings > Devices > Audio Devices.
  • The Output Device should be the name of your DAC, i.e Audioengine D1.

Note: With the DAC Magic 100 I had no issues. With the D1 I ended up having to change the output device from “Audioengine D1” to “TV/Amplifier.” Your mileage may vary.

Switching it to TV/Amplifier allowed the sound to come through the headphones. I’m not sure why it was being difficult, or why the sound wouldn’t come through even though the settings were right. If you have any insight into this, let me know!


Amp with Standalone DAC

Don’t forget to pin the graphic if you found it helpful!


(Cambridge Audio DAC Magic 100 or OL DAC)

  • The PS4/Xbox receives an optical cable in the rear.
  • The other end of the optical cable plugs into the back of the DAC Magic 100 or OL DAC.
  • Use a USB cable from the back of the DAC Magic 100 or OL DAC into the front of the PS4 or Xbox One.
  • Use these RCA to RCA cables from the DAC into the amp.
  • Your headphones plug into the front of the amp via 1/4″ 99% of headphones come with a 1/4″ adapter one so no worries. I have like 9 laying around. Lol.
  • Use the same PS4 settings as we used with the D1, only this time the name of the DAC will read “Cambridge Audio DAC Magic 100.” As mentioned above, I had no issues with sound coming through the 02 paired with the Magic with these settings.

Need a mic?


The Microphone


In the flesh.

If you end up purchasing a set of headphones without a detachable cable:

  • Go with the Ant Lion Audio Mod Mic which is super convenient and awesome.

If you end up purchasing a set of headphones with a detachable cable:

  • Go with the V Moda Boom Pro. The cable pops out, and the Boom Pro plugs right in! V Moda Boom Pro.

Now for the part you’ve been waiting for…


The Headphones


Finally, we’re getting to the meat of it. An Amp/DAC is important, don’t get me wrong. But the headphones are the main draw here. You’ll want the absolute best. That’s why I’m here. 🙂 First, we’ll take a look at 2 different types of headphones.

Closed or Open?

Before we get into the crux of this whole issue, let’s talk about Closed Back vs. Open Back headphones. For gaming, you’ll want open back without question. It provides a much more immersive experience by default, and you’ll be able to hear all the juicy and subtle details that you may otherwise miss out on with a closed-back homie.

In short, a closed-back headphone is just that, closed. It traps the sound inside, and thus results in a more boxed-in, in your head type of feel. There are exceptions though. Some notable closed-back headphones that I’ve tried that don’t sound closed:

Keep in mind, we haven’t gotten to the actual list yet, these are just some appetizers. 🙂

  • The Mage Audio DT770 from Craig Boyles. I talk more about these headphones towards the end, but it’s absolutely phenomenal in the way it renders Soundstage and an immaculately detailed signature. I fully believe this is one of the best closed-back headphones you can buy. Learn more: Beyerdynamic DT770 Review | Mage Audio’s DT770 “Black Mage” Modded Version!
  • Sony MDR Z1R. One of the best examples of a closed headphone that sounds completely not. Lol. Also ridiculously expensive and probably not worth our time today, though it is up there with the best of the best. Learn more: Sony MDR Z1R Review.
  • AKG K550/553. This baby is sweet and does provide a nice airy sound in a closed-back temple. Great for mixing/mastering/reference, and could also be a good option for gaming. We’ll see if it makes the list soon. 😉
  • Status Audio CB-1. Rounding out this shortlist is the CB-1, a fantastic budget option and currently in my Budget Kings series. I had read that this bad boy sounded pretty open and spacious, but I was a bit skeptical until I got my hands on a pair and boy howdy they do deliver! Learn more: Status Audio CB-1 Review.

As for an open back?

An open-back leaks sound and people will be able to hear what’s going on. It’s advised to use open-back headphones in an isolated studio/gaming environment where you aren’t bothering anyone. That said if the volume is low enough it’s not really a big deal for gaming. I have mine up fairly loud and when I take them off you really can’t hear that much from the standpoint of a video game situation. Shootouts and the like will get loud, however, so keep that in mind.

With that laid out, let’s discuss the ongoing issue of the audiophile headphone vs. the gaming headset.


The Audiophile Headphone vs. The “Gaming Headset”


The truth of the matter is this: A “Gaming Headset”, while a popular choice, isn’t the best choice. Not by a long shot. I feel fortunate to understand that the differences between the two are not only vast but important when considering what to buy. I know this because I have a lot of experience with what headphones are actually supposed to sound like. I’ve demoed over 100 at the time of this writing, and I would never consider investing in a “Gaming Headset” given everything I know about audiophile headphones.

The reality is that the sound coming out of these headsets is just not very good. Like most things in life, it comes down to marketing, and because marketing is powerful, the results are powerful. Powerfully bad and deceptive.

Because the Gaming headset has to take into account a mic plus a headphone, corners will inevitably be cut somewhere; either in design, comfort, build, and/or the quality of the driver itself. What is a headphone driver?

In a true audiophile type of headphone, you’re getting the absolute best sound specific to your need. There’s a ton of different headphones out there, and while some do share similar characteristics, each sound is unique and thus we can kind of specialize and hone in on what works best for gaming.

Built-in Mic vs. Mod Mic

The advantage of a Mod Mic or something like the Boom Pro (both mentioned earlier) is that:

  1. They deliver excellent quality.
  2. You can simply unpair them with the headphone should you just want to listen to music. Very convenient.
The Best Headphones for Gaming

The E10K is a fantastic OG set up for PC Gaming.

The Best Headphones for Gaming

Another look with the updated K3 on the left.

So what are the criteria for a Gaming headphone?


Criteria


Just one last thing before we get into it, promise! We have to know why we’re purchasing a headphone specific for gaming anyway.

  • Soundstage, Instrument Separation, and Imaging. For gaming, this is probably the most important aspect. A few minutes ago I sat down with the HD600 and HD558 and A/B tested both while playing Fallout 4. It wasn’t that the 600 was “bad.” Quite the contrary; It sounded great! But the HD558 did a better job of immersing you in Fallout’s world. Sounds were spaced out better, and I could hear stuff in all directions. The 558 gave me more of an out-of-body type of experience vs. the more narrowly imaged 600.
  • Fun vs. Competitive. Parlaying off of that, because the 600’s are more closed in, they may do better in more of a casual setting. A headphone with a better Soundstage like the 558 fares better in competitive gaming because you can hear stuff all around you. The point is, we’re looking for headphones that match either of these criteria, and we’re going to be pickier about it.
  • Bass vs. less bass. Blasphemy! Give me Beats or give me death! Okay sorry, that was corny. Piggybacking off of the last point, if you’re aiming (no pun intended) for a more fun experience, and you want to hear explosions that provide greater bang for your buck, you will want some bass impact. In a competitive setting (like an FPS shooter), you don’t want a lot of bass because it negatively impacts your ability to hear footsteps, reloads, etc. around you.
  • Good Mic. I placed this last because you may or may not even want to use a mic. It’s not absolutely mandatory, but some folks like to be able to chat, strategize, and talk smack in the lobby. 😛 I was never that guy, though I did go off on some guy once for cheating in COD4.

Okay, we’re finally ready. 😀 I’ll outline this by stating the headphone in question, and then quickly mentioning fun level, competitive level, and comfort level.

Entry Level ($0-100)

If you want to laugh, check out my top 5 options under $100, and don’t forget to subscribe!


Audio Technica ATH AD500x/700x. If you want to save some money, the 700x is similar to the 900x but does color the sound a bit more. More on that in the Mid-Tier section.

  • Fun: No.
  • Competitive: Absolutely.
  • Comfortable: Yes, but make sure you use the rubber band mod.

 

 

The Best Headphones for Gaming

The 9500 is a sure bet.

Philips SHP9500. Not sure why people are saying this doesn’t have a good Soundstage, because they are absolutely wrong. What is Soundstage? I lost count of how many times I thought certain noises were coming from my apartment/outside and not the game.

Fallout’s music has always been top-notch, and while I don’t like 4’s score as much as 3 and New Vegas, both the intricacy and atmosphere are still there, and it’s wonderful. There are all kinds of subtle noises the 9500’s pick up that I was simply astounded by. I literally thought someone was knocking on my door a couple of times and had to calm myself down a little bit. 😛

Think about that for a second. The knocks in the game gave the illusion that they were coming from the right of me, and to the back. That’s incredible for any headphone, much less one costing roughly $50. Check out the #1 Budget King: Philips SHP9500 Review!

  • Fun. Yes.
  • Competitive. I think so.
  • Comfortable: Absolutely. Some of the best in terms of comfort over long periods. I wore mine for about 6-7 hours, with a few breaks in between.

Video Discussion!

I’ve talked a lot about the 9500 on this blog and channel. Here’s the latest!

 

 

 

Samson SR850 Review

Samson SR850/Superlux HD668B Again, in the interest of keeping things condensed, simple, and straightforward, these 2 headphones sound a lot alike as well. The 850 is rather bright and exciting, but incredibly detailed with not a lot of bass. Great for gaming. The 668B is similar to the 850’s sound.

  • Fun: Yes.
  • Competitive: Yes
  • Comfort: Decent. The padding on all of these is rather bad, but tolerable, especially for the price.

Video Review

 

CHECK ‘EM OUT @ SWEETWATER!!

 

Status Audio CB-1. Yeah, I had to include this one in some regard as I was very impressed with its Soundstage even despite it being a closed-back headphone. The large pads have something to do with this I think. For under $100, this is pretty much a perfect closed-back gaming headphone.

  • Fun: Yes.
  • Competitive: Yes.
  • Comfort: Excellent.

My Video Review

This is an older video, but still relevant. 🙂

 

 

The Best Headphones for Gaming

The CB-1 is a fantastic open-sounding headphone.

How about Mid-Tier?


Mid-Tier ($100-300)


Audio Technica ATH AD900x. Yup, this is probably the best out of all the options mentioned today. The 700x is cheaper, but the 900x is more neutral and doesn’t color the sound. So it’s an easy recommendation and also doubles as a nice reference can. Learn more: Audio Technica ATH AD900x Review!

  • Fun: No.
  • Competitive: Absolutely. The best.
  • Comfortable: Yes, but make sure you use the rubber band mod. Super simple, and you can find out about it in the above review. 🙂

 

Sennheiser HD598/599. Continuing the line into the mid-tier category, the 598 and 599 are the obvious culprits here. While the sound of the 598 is identical to the 558 without the strips, the 599 is a bit of an upgrade. In fact, in this category, the 599 and 900x are top dogs.

  • Fun: No
  • Competitive: Yes.
  • Comfortable: You’re darned tootin’!

My Video Review

Don’t forget to like, comment, and subscribe to my growing channel! Any support is much appreciated!

 

Beyerdynamic DT770. A great all-around headphone similar to an ATH M50/50x, this baby does better for gaming because it does sound more open. In a competitive setting, you should definitely go with something else, though it will work better than your average closed back. It has good positional accuracy, but the bass kind of gets in the way of the details. Learn more: Beyerdynamic DT770 Review!!

  • Fun: Absolutely.
  • Competitive: Not particularly.
  • Comfortable: Very much so.

 

 

Beyerdynamic DT990. This is a great all-around headphone with some nice bass impact and an open sound. In fact, these weren’t as obnoxious or extreme sounding as graphs would indicate. It’s a V-shaped signature, but it didn’t feel overbearing or too hyper-aggressive by my estimation.

I want to quickly touch on the differences in Ohms.

  • 32 Ohm. Easier to drive, great with Mixamp, slightly less refined, Soundstage is a bit smaller. This may be the only one you need to worry about for gaming.
  • 250 Ohm. A darker tone, fuller bass, less mids, more refined than a 32 Ohm, Bigger Soundstage, mid-range not as forward as a 32 or 600 Ohm. Needs a desktop amp.
  • 600 Ohm. Needs a good amp, the most refined, the bass is tighter but with less impact than 25o Ohm, mid-range is more forward than 25o Ohm.

Back to the subject at hand.

  • Fun: Absolutely.
  • Competitive: Absolutely.
  • Comfortable: Absolutely. The 990 is a great jack of all trades piece.

 

 

Beyerdynamic DT880. The 880 is a good choice but isn’t quite as good for sounds coming from behind you. Don’t purchase this and expect it to do well with an FPS shooter for example. It’s very comfortable however and has a very balanced overall signature with a bright-sounding treble.

  • Fun: Yes.
  • Competitive: Yes, with that drawback I mentioned.
  • Comfortable: Absolutely.

 

 

AKG K612. The K612 is a great gaming headphone, with a smooth sound and competitive spirit. Comfort is impeccable as always with AKG, and it’s a great option if you’re looking for a step up from something in the $100 range but don’t want to spend a ton.

My K612 ready for some gaming action!

  • Fun: Yes.
  • Competitive: Absolutely.
  • Comfort: Fantastic.

 

 

The Best Headphones For Gaming

K702 ready for some PC action with the Dual Shock.

AKG K701/702/Q701. The K701 had a massive Soundstage, and it was a bit unnatural but for gaming works amazingly well. The 702 is similar, with the only real difference being that it has a bit more bass (to some). The Q701 has a bit more bass even than the 702 and is thus more fun, but keep in mind these are very, VERY slight differences. AKG K701 vs. K702.

  • Fun: Not particularly, but the Q701 more so.
  • Competitive: Absolutely.
  • Comfortable: Yes.

 

 

AKG K553. Yup, I included it because it sounds fantastic and works for gaming much like a CB-1 in the budget category. Here we’ve got a bass that has an impact but isn’t overbearing, a fantastically balanced mid-range, and a somewhat dark treble. The spacious presentation really surprised me, as this baby functions more like an open back than a closed one. Learn more: AKG K550 Review!

  • Fun: Yes.
  • Competitive: Perhaps!
  • Comfortable: Yes, but you’ll have to fiddle with them a little to get a good fit. More on that in the review.

 

 

Beyerdynamic DT770 Review

Precision Revisited.

The Black Mage DT770 Mod from Craig Boyles. This is absolutely one of my favorite headphones. Somehow Craig was able to make the closed-back Beyerdynamic DT770 sound like an open back, and for Gaming? Oh my God, it’s perfect. Like “drop everything right now and buy it perfect”. You can hear everything.

A Standard For Reference?

I’m not being biased either. To be honest, I was expecting to like the headphone, but not quite as much as I did. He spent over a year tuning this baby, and it really shows. It’s quickly becoming my new standard for reference. If the HD600 is my open-back barometer for what a headphone should sound like, the Mage is most definitely the closed-back version.

A link to his website where you can purchase a pair will also be provided there.

  • Fun: Absolutely.
  • Competitive: Absolutely.
  • Comfortable: Absolutely.

 

Philips Fidelio X2HR. The more bass-heavy of the two, this guy is an extremely fun addition to your cabinet and also works incredibly well for gaming. Comfort is also on point.

  • Fun: Absolutely.
  • Competitive: Absolutely.
  • Comfortable: Absolutely.

 

AKG K712. Perhaps the best all-around can, the K712 does pretty much nothing wrong by boasting perhaps the flattest response ever, with the perfect amount of bass (not too much roll-off) and a fantastic mid-range. It even looks like a gaming headset! (Bleh). I love the Orange and Black here. Learn more: AKG K712.

  • Fun: Absolutely.
  • Competitive: Absolutely.
  • Comfortable: Absolutely.

Link to 712 in the Final Word!

Upper echelon?


Top Tier ($300 and beyond)


I’m only going to mention 2 headphones in this category today because:

  1. I don’t want to overwhelm you.
  2. I want to keep it simple and outline the best options without a laundry list.

The Best Headphones For Gaming

HiFiMAN Ananda. This just may be the best all-around Planar Magnetic headphone for around $1000. It provides an extremely open, spacious, and airy sound with a great Soundstage and phenomenal resolution. These work really well for Gaming because they have a fast response, crisp treble, flat mid-range with a bit of emphasis on 1k, and a perfect bass that knows its place. Learn more: HIFIMAN Ananda Review!

  • Fun: Absolutely.
  • Competitive: Absolutely.
  • Comfortable: Absolutely.

 

The Best Headphones for Gaming

Doesn’t get much better than this.

Focal Utopia. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced anything quite like Utopia. This headphone excels with basically anything, rendering music with startling accuracy, precision, detail, and clarity, to the point of simply being unbelievable. For Gaming, it works extraordinarily well due to its mostly flat response and amazing bass. It’s really the perfect package but does cost a pretty penny. Learn more: Focal Utopia Review!!

  • Fun: Absolutely.
  • Competitive: Absolutely.
  • Comfortable: Absolutely.

 

So what’s the final word?


Final Word

If I had to choose one headphone from this entire list for Gaming, I like the K702. The K712 is good, but you’ll find out why I prefer the 702 in both the K712 review and AKG shootout (linked above).

In short, I think the 702 is crisper and snappier. The 712 tends to sound a tad too laid back at times which may not be ideal when you’re trying to remain hyper-focused on everything going on around you. For me, the 702 wins out because I can discern smaller details a bit easier and prepare myself accordingly for a gunfight that may be a bit farther off. It’s close, but I’d rather have a 702 at the end of the day.

Interested?

 

 

For a more in-depth look,

 

If I was forced to choose one headphone in the lower price bracket?

Definitely the AD900X. A while back, Metal571 sent them over to me for demo and while I may not really enjoy them for music as much as the next guy, they make wonderful gaming headphones because of transparency alone. Add to that their impressive Soundstage and almost clinical sense of detail retrieval, and you can understand why they show up in nearly every search for good gaming cans.

Highly recommended.

 


Well, that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you’ve enjoyed this article on the best headphones for Gaming.

Questions? Comments? Requests? Did I miss the mark on something? Please let me know down below or Contact me!!

Marvin, what do you make of all this? I would love to hear from you. Until next time…

All the best and God bless,

 

 

-Stu

[Xtr@Ba$eHitZ]

Can’t decide which headphones to purchase? Interested in a complete buyers guide outlining over 40 of the best options on the market? Click on over to the best audiophile headphones to learn more!!

Be sure to also check out my Reviews and Resources page for more helpful and informative articles!

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52 comments

jonathan September 7, 2018 - 6:54 am

Man you really broke this down. I have a pair of Turtle Beach earphones right now and they work pretty good on desktop though I am still using the on board sound, with the built in speaker. I was thinking of upgrading my audio, its makes listening to internet things a bit difficult as the built in speaker doesn’t sound so clear.

Reply
Stuart Charles Black September 7, 2018 - 3:16 pm

Hey Jonathan, that sounds good! What do you think about the Audioengine D1? I believe it would be the perfect upgrade for you that won’t burn a hole in your pocket. Absolutely recommended. Are you thinking about upgrading your cans as well?

Reply
Clay Westfall September 20, 2018 - 7:13 pm

What a trip down memory lane! It was hard to get past the Wolfenstein 3-D game, but once I did I found so much useful information. I can’t tell you how tired I am of buying different sets of headphones only to see that they are not quite what I wanted them to be. Thank you for the very comprehensive look at all of the options and all the choices. IT’s nice to finally know what I am doing!
Clay

Reply
Stuart Charles Black September 20, 2018 - 7:25 pm

Haha thanks man! There are navigation buttons at the top. You could have skipped all my rambling!! Hehe. Glad you enjoyed it though. Are you in the market for anything in particular?

Reply
Edric September 27, 2018 - 5:54 pm

Hi Stu,

I stumbled upon your site by accident and love every detail that you go through to provide those informations.

I am currently using an A50 v2 for my gaming setup but am looking to venture into something further. I was wondering if you have any combo recommendations so that my setup can be connected both to my PC and PS4 without me unplugging to transfer. Hope that make sense.

Budget wise would probably be best as a starter or mid range. I have never been much of an audio person, more like a grab of the shelf kinda guy.

Thank you

Reply
Stuart Charles Black September 27, 2018 - 10:52 pm

Hey man!

My first question is: Is your PC close to your PS4? I assume so but I want to verify. Thanks for the nice comment by the way!

Talk soon,

-Stu

Reply
Danilo do Amaral Ferracini October 14, 2018 - 2:00 am

Hey, sorry if this doubt is noob and the bad english.

After read this guide, i decide buy a HD 598 SR for gaming. It came with a long cable and another more short with an in line microphone, which is surprisingly better than the lapel I wore before and i need a Y splitter to use the microphone.
The question is if the splitter can lower the sound quality in any way.

Finally, thanks for the guide, it is very difficult to find a good guide that does not try to push us awful quality gaming headsets.

Reply
Stuart Charles Black October 14, 2018 - 1:47 pm

I’ve heard of cases where it does but for the most part it does not and you should be fine. From my understanding it splits the voltage in half so it may result in a bit of a volume drop but actual quality should be okay. Just make sure to get a decent quality cable that double shields. Also are you on console or PC for gaming?

Also, have you thought about getting some amplification? A dedicated amp would help out with the issue of a drop in voltage depending on the quality of the Soundcard that you have now. You may not need one. Let me know!!

Reply
Maki December 7, 2018 - 5:42 am

I think you basically sold me on the DT 990s. I’ve been looking at multiple headphones maybe for a year and the DT 990 is everything I need from your description. It does a good job in rock and hip hop and the sound stage is excellent for competitive gaming. A lot of people complain the treble/brightness is too much but maybe it will be fine for me from your description. I was jumping back and forth on multiple headphones and going crazy thanks mate.

Reply
Stuart Charles Black December 8, 2018 - 2:58 pm

Nice and no problem man! Yeah you really can’t go wrong with a headphone like that. Please let me know how you like it!

Reply
Miguel July 25, 2019 - 1:49 am

in competitive games your choise? Samson SR850, AKG K240, sennheiser 559 or wait for dt990 for the price?

Reply
Stuart Charles Black July 26, 2019 - 5:27 pm

Hmm that’s a tough one Miguel! The K240 probably has the best Soundstage out of these but it’s treble is a little darker. The 850 also has great Soundstage with a brighter treble which is also great for Gaming. I think it would depend on if you’re sensitive to treble or not. My go to for Gaming has been the 850 for awhile now. I love the sound of the DT990 as well. Great Soundstage, more bass emphasis than the others. Does really well for movies with lots of explosions but perhaps you won’t want that if you need to hear more stuff going on. Have not heard the HD559 but I have owned a 558 and heard a 598. Loved both for Gaming. I would say they are a bit warmer and less edgy/analytical than something like an 850. I think more similar to the K240 but with a slightly brighter treble than the 240. So If I had to choose for you, I’d either go with the 850 or the HD559. The 559 is going to be extremely comfortable over long sessions so if that’s a main concern I’d go with that over the 850. 850 is fairly comfy but you will be making adjustments and your ears will be touching the driver as well. Keep me posted and let me know if I can help out further!

Reply
Ron July 30, 2019 - 12:54 am

Thank you Stuart for the concise review on such an overwhelming topic. Good job!

Irrespective of price, what is the first headphone that comes to mind when I say I am looking to precisely pinpoint the location of sound sources in an online FPS game (Battlefield) in a 360 degrees sphere including up and down, without much sacrificing the fun & immersion factor.

Thank you

Reply
Stuart Charles Black July 30, 2019 - 5:35 pm

Thanks so much Ron! Means a lot as this article doesn’t really come up in search. How did you stumble upon this if you don’t mind me asking?

Hmm pinpoint accuracy. The first headphone that comes to mind is the AKG K240. The headphone is a bit flat but it’s super fun in the sense that you’re hearing so much detail. It’s kind of overwhelming at times actually. It makes me want to cry tears of joy.

Keep in mind you will definitely need an Amp/DAC with this one as it’s not very efficient at 91dB or thereabouts. What is Sensitivity in Headphones?

Let me know if that helps or if you want to explore other options.

-Stu

Reply
Ron July 31, 2019 - 6:09 am

Thank you so much Stuart.

To answer your question, I came across your awesome site as follows:

A. I needed to know the difference between AKGK612 and AKG712 to help with my shortlist so I googled it and a comparison article on your site was among the top results.
B. I really liked the presentation, logical structure, and conclusion of the article so I browsed for more articles on your site.
C. I typed the word “gaming” in the search bar on your site and read 2 very interesting articles: The Best Audiophile headphone for gaming and the definitive comparison between Sen HD598 vs HD600 vs HD650

I still have 1 more article bookmarked for further reading (DT770 Black Mage Review). That one is not even covered on Head-fi.org.

While the K240 is great for gaming, I am willing to buy a headphone in the medium to high-end tier in order not to sacrifice too much on the immersion front. I just need to clarify one thing: Did you recommend the K240 because you can hear so much detail with it or also because you can pinpoint the exact location of the sound source in a 360 degrees sphere? I am seeking the latter and not just the former. Does the K240 still qualify? I can already hear so much detail on my current closed back Arctis 7 Wireless 2019 edition (non-audiophile) but spatial cues only go as rough estimates to the left, right and a little bit to the rear. Up, down, front left quadrant and front right quadrant are all combined together and not separated so i cant pinpoint anything. I CAN hear everything, footsteps, reloads, gunshots, birds, waterfall, wind, leaves, but i CANNOT tell exact location from a distance.

I do have a shortlist if you’d like to help me eliminate what does not meet my criteria or nominate a winner. Based on your answer to my question above I will decide on adding the K240 to the list. (List was longer but thanks to your website I eliminated a couple)

1.AKG Pro Audio K712PRO: A head-fi member reported that the Soundstage starts at an offset away from the ear, misleading the player as to how far or close the footsteps are around. True?
2.AKG 7XX: SS too wide can make you lose sense of direction, plus cable quality issues in reviews
3.Audio-Technica ATH-ADG1x
4.AD900x: Sacrifices on the fun and immersion factor but is legendary for pinpointing audio cues.
5.Sennheiser HD598: not the ultimate SS depth and most accurate 3D audio imaging but is a great all-rounder for competitive FPS
6.Sennheiser HD660/650: Love-Hate relationship with FPS gamers
7.Sennheiser G4ME ONE: Not enough FPS player feedback
8.DT990Pro 250ohm: Jack of all trades, highly praised over X2, Q701, 400i, good immersion, issue with treble fatigue, no clear statements about its 3D accuracy in FPS
9.Philips X2HR Fidelio: not as competitive and 3D accurate as others, better for single player games, will dismiss this headphone
10.HE 400i: Not enough FPS player feedback

Some users told me the ultimate headphone that meets all of my criteria is the Senn HD800s, but that is a bit over my budget @$1,600.

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Stuart Charles Black August 3, 2019 - 3:20 pm

Hey man! I’ve bolded my responses below 🙂

Thank you so much Stuart.

To answer your question, I came across your awesome site as follows: Thank You!

A. I needed to know the difference between AKGK612 and AKG712 to help with my shortlist so I googled it and a comparison article on your site was among the top results.
B. I really liked the presentation, logical structure, and conclusion of the article so I browsed for more articles on your site.
C. I typed the word “gaming” in the search bar on your site and read 2 very interesting articles: The Best Audiophile headphone for gaming and the definitive comparison between Sen HD598 vs HD600 vs HD650

I still have 1 more article bookmarked for further reading (DT770 Black Mage Review). That one is not even covered on Head-fi.org. Definitely check that headphone out. My good friend Craig modded a DT770 and it’s absolutely incredible for Gaming and music. *Positional Accuracy!* Def reach out to him about it. More info is on the article 🙂

While the K240 is great for gaming, I am willing to buy a headphone in the medium to high-end tier in order not to sacrifice too much on the immersion front. I just need to clarify one thing: Did you recommend the K240 because you can hear so much detail with it or also because you can pinpoint the exact location of the sound source in a 360 degrees sphere? Yes, with the K240 you’re able to pinpoint the exact location of sounds I would say. I can’t speak to behind you specifically though. I am seeking the latter and not just the former. Does the K240 still qualify? I can already hear so much detail on my current closed back Arctis 7 Wireless 2019 edition (non-audiophile) but spatial cues only go as rough estimates to the left, right and a little bit to the rear. Up, down, front left quadrant and front right quadrant are all combined together and not separated so i cant pinpoint anything. I CAN hear everything, footsteps, reloads, gunshots, birds, waterfall, wind, leaves, but i CANNOT tell exact location from a distance.

I do have a shortlist if you’d like to help me eliminate what does not meet my criteria or nominate a winner. Based on your answer to my question above I will decide on adding the K240 to the list. (List was longer but thanks to your website I eliminated a couple)

1.AKG Pro Audio K712PRO: A head-fi member reported that the Soundstage starts at an offset away from the ear, misleading the player as to how far or close the footsteps are around. True? Haven’t used the K712 for FPS so I can’t speak to that one.
2.AKG 7XX: SS too wide can make you lose sense of direction, plus cable quality issues in reviews. Yes the 7xx series is known for being extremely wide.
3.Audio-Technica ATH-ADG1x. Haven’t heard this one.
4.AD900x: Sacrifices on the fun and immersion factor but is legendary for pinpointing audio cues.

    I would strongly consider this one first actually. It’s true the fun isn’t really there, but it’s probably the best for Gaming period with regard to positional accuracy and being able to locate.


5.Sennheiser HD598: not the ultimate SS depth and most accurate 3D audio imaging but is a great all-rounder for competitive FPS. Really love this one as an all around option but yes, the Soundstage depth isn’t the absolute best. Still a nice wide image. My friend Luke uses this one for COD/Battlefield specifically and loves it.
6.Sennheiser HD660/650: Love-Hate relationship with FPS gamers. The 650 in my opinion has a bit better SS width but it could be my imagination. I tried the 600 and it just didn’t work as well. Still, I’d have to go back and try it again. I’m not sure why the 650 sounded more immersive. It’s tough to say. For now, scrap the 600 but do consider the 650.
7.Sennheiser G4ME ONE: Not enough FPS player feedback. Haven’t heard this one.
8.DT990Pro 250ohm: Jack of all trades, highly praised over X2, Q701, 400i, good immersion, issue with treble fatigue, no clear statements about its 3D accuracy in FPS. Fun factor is very high but could interfere with accuracy due to bass. Still I’d keep this in consideration.
9.Philips X2HR Fidelio: not as competitive and 3D accurate as others, better for single player games, will dismiss this headphone. Agreed. A bit to bass heavy.
10.HE 400i: Not enough FPS player feedback. I’ve had extensive time with this headphone but not specifically for Gaming. It could work because Soundstage is very good, but I’d have to get back to you on that.

Some users told me the ultimate headphone that meets all of my criteria is the Senn HD800s, but that is a bit over my budget @$1,600.

======

So out of those I would strongly consider the 900x from a strictly gaming standpoint although the fun factor is just not there. Still, it’s by far the most positionally accurate along with the K240. The rubber band mod is necessary because as the winged tips are a design flaw in my opinion. All you do is take a rubber band and wrap it around the tips so they kind of close together. Otherwise because the headband doesn’t have anything in the middle, it tends to drag down your head and hit your ear lobes, causing discomfort. Here’s a pic: https://www.overclock.net/photopost/data/1274949/6/62/626539c2_c18fe358_DSCF9325_resize.jpeg

My final 4 would be the 900x, Craig’s modded DT770, a K240, or a DT990 because of the mix of fun and accurate.

Let me know what you think. I will link Craig’s article here: DT770 Black Mage.

I want you to choose the best one so please do get back to me with your continued thoughts. I’m also going to go over my gaming article again.

-Stu

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ron August 11, 2019 - 4:39 pm

Thank for your time and dedication Stuart. And for nudging me by email!

The K240 is really climbing up the ranks on my shortlist now given its sweet price point. I have also been doing extensive readings in the past 10 days and this is my updated shortlist:

1- Fostex T50RP: Rave impressions about how accurate it is in FPS gaming. Uncomfortable, but can be modded with Shure pads., Price 235 CAD, needs heavy amp
2- AKG K702: More accurate than K7XX and K712, price 180 CAD, needs amp
3- AKG K240, Price 99CAD
4- HE-4XX, praised for being a great all-rounder with accurate imaging without treble fatigue, price 240 CAD, needs amp
5-AD-900x: FPS gamers swear by its accuracy, though lacking fun factor.
6- DT770 BM by Craig!

That’s where I stand now. Today I will pick up a used HE-4XX to start testing but i still dont have an mp. I will also buy the K240, T50RP, and maybe on black Friday the AD-900x. That’s the best it can get when it comes to accurate imaging in FPS games. If you have experience with the T50RP, or HE-4XX (HE-400i) in FPS gaming please do share your feedback.

Many thanks.

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Stuart Charles Black August 17, 2019 - 6:26 pm

Hey man my pleasure!

I don’t know if we discussed the K702 but that’s one I have been wanting to purchase for Gaming for quite awhile actually. I’ve tried both the 400i and Sundara but not the Massdrop 4XX. I assume that’s going to be mostly the same; a perfect all rounder which both the 400i and Sundara are. Love those headphones.

Haven’t heard much about that Fostex. I think that’s a good list. I have not used the 400i or Sundara for gaming unfortunately. I may take one home this weekend from Audio Advice and try it. I will let you know.

Keep me posted!!

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ron August 11, 2019 - 6:31 pm

By the way there seems to be two version of the K240: AKG K240 and AKG K240 MKII. In Europe it is a 5 Euro difference but in North America it is around $65 difference. Which one were you referring to?

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Stuart Charles Black August 17, 2019 - 6:29 pm

Both are essentially the same sound but the MK II comes with 2 sets of pads as well as a coiled AND straight cable. 🙂 Check out my comparison: https://homestudiobasics.com/akg-k240-vs-k240-mk-ii-main-difference/

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Stuart Charles Black September 14, 2019 - 9:40 pm

Hey man did you get everything sorted? How are you coming along? Let me know!!

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Mac October 7, 2019 - 12:06 am

Thanks for the great guides Stu.

I’m glad I found your site first in my search. (my son is a fantastic producer and I wanted to get him the proper tools for his art)

I’ve just thought of headphones as… well… headphones. I kinda threw a dart at a pair, bought what I thought looked cool, or was “reasonable” in price.

I grabbed the 240s you suggest above and WOW what a difference from the $60 Sennheisers I’ve been rocking for 12 years (461 I think).

Then I grabbed a Masters and Dynamic on sale (originally for my son, I went with the 600 ‘gold standard’ for him instead) and hooooollleeeee whatthehellhaveibeeossongallmygaminglifeimnevergonnaleavethecomputer!!!!!

Totally eye opening. I’m a FPS kinda guy and I swear I can hear EXACTLY where my opponent is walking.

Those cans sound fabulous but are crazy uncomfortable after a 3 hour gaming sesh.

Since I’m now ruined from using low priced cans, I have some K712s coming.

Your Utopia review has me eyeballing those but, gotta admit, going from $80 cans to $4k is a jump that might take a minute…

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Stuart Charles Black October 20, 2019 - 1:40 am

Hey man! What kind of stuff does he produce? I make beats myself (mostly hip-hop and sampling). I think you’ll love the K712!! I actually just went to an Audio Show a few days ago (Music Matters) and they had the Utopia, Stellia, and Clear. Of course, I can go to Audio Advice and demo the Utopia anytime but the events are fun to go to.

I’ve listened the Utopia on many occasions and every time I come back to it it sounds just as good as when I first heard it, if not better. Not only is it still the best headphone I’ve heard, but it’s really not even close. Highly recommended if you have that kind of dough to drop. It’s just a breathtaking experience all around: Sound, Comfort, and Build Quality all come together to form a picture perfect experience. I don’t always recommend expensive headphones, but when I do, it’s the Utopia hands down. I firmly believe it’s worth the investment as a true end game type of headphone. Are there headphones out there that sound better? Perhaps. My friend Luke said the Stax 009 at around $3-4k was the best he’s ever heard and he was truly blown away (he’s pretty picky). That’s how I feel about the Utopia. It’s definitely worth a look!

I haven’t gotten enough time with the Stellia to formulate a concrete opinion on it, but first impressions were very solid.

Keep me posted on your happenings!

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Ron November 26, 2019 - 3:25 am

Hi Stu, this is a quick update on my journey for a proper audio setup for competitive FPS gaming.
I purchased the AKG K702, AD900x, and Massdrop HE-4XX for competitive fps gaming.

I’m trying to figure out which route to take to complete the setup:

1. USB soundcard with Virtual Surround features, just for when i need them in Single Player games. (My best options are SoundblasterX G6 or X7 or Senn GSX 1000. Do you agree?)

OR

2. Dedicated stack of external amp and dac like JDS EL DAC + Massdrop THX AAA 789 balanced amp (future proof investment that allows me to upgrade to more demanding balanced planar headphones like the Argon MK3 BUT this setup lacks any VSS features at DAC level so i would only play in stereo mode. Can I still use software VSS engine in this scenario, e.g. HeSuvi, just for single player games? If not, can i skip the DAC and output processed VSS signal from my onboard card directly to the amp via the standard line-outs on the laptop?)

Option 2 is way more expensive but opens up the cans and brings them to life, reportedly better than a USB soundcard. I can’t decide between 1 and 2, strictly for competitive FPS gaming in Battlefield and occasional single player immersive gaming.

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Stuart Charles Black December 4, 2019 - 4:05 pm

Hey man!

Not too sure about the VSS and all that stuff. Keep in mind I don’t use Soundcards and can’t really comment one way or another. You know I’m mostly a separate Amp/DAC guy so I don’t want to tell you something that may not be entirely accurate. I did some research and stumbled on your post in the Overclockers forum. From the looks of it they know a whole lot about it so I’d probably take their advice on this one. Do keep me posted though! Sorry I couldn’t help out but I’d rather not give you advice that may not be that great. 🙂

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Ron December 6, 2019 - 2:35 am

Here are my results. My 3 headphones, the k702, HE4XX, and AD900x have arrived. Please note that I am running them without an amp, out of my laptop’s built-in audio chip.

Game: Battlefield 1
Windows Sonic for headphones: ON
In-game settings: Headphones, Surround
No external AMP/DAC in this test

1. Imaging Short Range: K702 = AD900x = HE4XX
2. Imaging Long Range: K702 > AD900x > HE4XX
3. Separation of sounds: K702>HE4XX>AD900x. K702 has the cleanest distinction of sounds. AD900X throws all sounds at you in one lumped up package; sounds like a dirty mess.
4. Sound Stage: K702=AD900x > HE4XX. The AD900x has a hollow sounding stage, you can hear the air, hear echo, hear the emptiness, not clean.
5. Sound of my gun: Loudest and most immersive on AD900x, balanced on K702, acceptable on HE4XX.
6. Sound of footsteps: In BF1 is very low on HE4XX, not competitive, makes me lose. Will an amp improve it or should i use EQ to better hear footsteps (which frequency?)

K702 is clear winner without any amp. Wallhack can.

I am researching 3rd party VSS software to use other than Windows Sonic. I don’t know how to buy the soundblasterx 720 suite. Razer surround, free version, sounded too bassy but good enough for positioning. Still looking.

I have an SMSL Sp200 amp and SU-8 dac on their way so I will test further with them.

Screenshots within 1 hour of gaming with the k702:

https://imgur.com/a/RQ3XsjI

https://imgur.com/a/hJrVZUZ

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Stuart Charles Black December 6, 2019 - 7:16 pm

Hey man! What fantastic impressions! This is actually helping me decide on upgrading my own Gaming headphone. I was using the 850 and 9500 for awhile, but I want a dedicated rig with the FiiO K5 Pro and have been wanting to purchase a pair of K702’s for a long time. Your impressions, combined with my research have further cemented my decision. Thank you so much.

Nice matches there! I was thinking about getting COD4 Remastered. Have played a little BF in the past and it’s a great game.

An amp will most definitely help the 4XX being that it’s Sensitivity is so low at 93dB. It needs quite a bit of power actually. Glad you invested in something. Surprised that you weren’t having much trouble with the K702. It’s sensitivity is around 91dB which is even lower.

Keep me posted!! Looking forward to your impressions of the amps.

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Stuart Charles Black December 7, 2019 - 8:12 pm

Hey bro. I went ahead and purchased a K702! I will be doing an in depth review on it soon. I will keep you posted.

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ron December 10, 2019 - 9:58 am

Congrats on your purchase, hope you enjoy them and looking forward to your review. It is important to note that while the K702 makes Battlefield sound realistic and enable me to be highly competitive while still immersed, it is not a good headphone for single player games. I tried in Anthem and the sound was poor, as in very metallic and tinny and thin. I guess it all depends on the game audio engine. I use the AD900x for my singple player games, as well as in competitive FPS. K702 has an edge in FPS due to its cleaner separation between sounds and its realistic soundstage (no echo or reverb).

It is important to enable VSS in windows, either:
-windows SOnic
-Dolby Atmos
-DTS Headphone X

Last 2 can be found for free in Microsoft store. They allow for better positional accuracy.

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Stuart Charles Black December 17, 2019 - 2:24 pm

Thanks Ron!

I will let you know what I think about it in single player games once it arrives. Should be here in January.

Could you explain more in depth why you like the AD900x in single player games? You said the sound was very hollow as far as staging and not clean, so I’m kind of confused. Wondering why it sounds metallic, tinny, and thin in SP but not in MP.

Is it maybe because there’s more noise in MP to offset the overall sound?

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Ron December 19, 2019 - 8:39 am

I was not comparing SP vs MP in the SAME game. Two different games: MP in BF1 and SP in Anthem. K702 does not sound tinny, metallic or anemic in BF1 at all, on the contrary. But it was treated differently by Anthem.

Pointing out the game when giving impressions is very important because it seems that different game engines treat the same Headphone differently.

I am not using an amp with K702, which I should, so I will try again in Anthem SP. AD900x gives a fuller more immersive sound in Anthem. It does not need an amp so it sounds louder too.

I still play competitive FPS using K702 and Anthem and Star Wars BF2 using AD900x. I did not notice the downsides of AD900x in BF1 MP, in Anthem, or Star Wars BF2. I use the AD900x as my pseudo-closed-back headphone for SP immersion.

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Stuart Charles Black December 19, 2019 - 2:35 pm

Hmm.. Interesting impressions! Sounds like the AD900x has the edge for you in most facets. Keep me posted on the updated K702 + Amp thoughts as well.

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Ron January 11, 2020 - 2:09 am

Happy new year!

Just wondering if you tested your new K702? I am still waiting for the balanced cables for my DAC/AMP to arrive.

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Stuart Charles Black January 16, 2020 - 4:21 pm

Hey man! Happy New Year to you as well! I’ve been listening to the K702 nonstop since I got it on the 21st. Great headphone. Absolutely love it for gaming. I have a hard time taking it off my head actually! Be on the lookout for an A/B comparison with the HD600 in the coming weeks. 🙂 Also keep me posted on your cables and Amp!!

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Ron January 24, 2020 - 7:28 am

After using an external DAC and AMP, I can say the AKG K702 is superior to AD900x both in competitive and single player games. The K702 has a relatively stronger bass with a tighter punch, clear separation of sounds, deep soundstage, and excellent imaging. Although the AD900x does have deep soundstage and excellent imaging, it has a very anemic bass, and not as crisp separation of sounds. It requires my brain to work harder. Both headphones suck in terms of meaty bass that you expect to come with a rumble. They don’t offer that. I will sell the AD900x and buy a closed-back headphone that offers a meatier bass with a punch and adequate soundstage to be used for single player games and movies. K702 is clear winner for competitive gaming and occasional singple player gaming. My shortlist for closed back headphones is as follows:
– Sony Z7
-Mobius
-DT770 pro 80
-M1060c
-Senn HD 630VB
– AKG K…?

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Stuart Charles Black January 27, 2020 - 11:39 pm

Nice man! This should help out folks who come across this article for sure. Have you come close to a decision on which closed back you want? DT770 is a great choice! I haven’t heard the Mobius, or the others you mentioned.

I love the K702 for single player as well. Been playing a lot of Outer Worlds lately and they sound fantastic with the K5 Pro. Man though, I couldn’t believe how much detail I was hearing watching Primal Fear on Netflix with them. I kept thinking someone was walking around outside on the first floor of my apt! (I live on the second floor). I kept taking the headphones off and looking around; that’s how good the Soundstage is on them. Directionality is crazy good.

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Ron January 29, 2020 - 3:08 am

No I haven’t decided yet on the closed back; I also added Fostex TH-900 to the list. But the K702 is definitely not best for single player games. I have a cheap steelseries Arctis 7 headset, closed-back, and though it sounds worse in all aspects that the K702, but it packs a RUMBLE in its bass. The sound of shooting heavy weapons like cannons is more meaty, fuller, and rumbles my head. The K702 cannot do that and the cannon shot sounds thin and metallic. Even if you enjoy the K702 for single player games, you are still missing on a lot more immersion by not using a closed-back. The ones I listed do have relatively good soundstage and imaging for closed backs so i will not be sacrificing a lot of directionality when using closed-back in single player games. I will let you know.

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Stuart Charles Black February 1, 2020 - 10:06 pm

Hey man! I will have to consider that for sure. Right now I don’t actually have a closed back headphone which is crazy to think about. I sold off most of my headphones last year. My current line up is the 9500, K702, and HD600.

Another fella asked me about K702 and K712 for Multi-Player. I figure you have some really good experience with it. I replied and told him about our convo. I will link you to the article. Maybe you can get in on the action: AKG K702 vs. K712. Talk soon!

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Dbizzle88 February 29, 2020 - 8:10 pm

Hi, I’m looking for a very specific headphone for competitive Call of duty Modern Warfare Remastered (basically COD4) on the ps4

I am only interested in sound whoring – being able to identify enemy footsteps and the direction they are coming from with the most accuracy. I already have headphones for music / movies, so the fun aspect of the headphone doesn’t matter.

From my research, I think that a headphone with excellent imaging is what I’m after. Perhaps even a smaller soundstage is beneficial, as I’m mainly looking for sound cues of enemies in a close proximity. Sounds from a long distance across the map aren’t of huge importance. I may have got this wrong though, regarding a smaller soundstage.

My budget for the headphones are 300$ and here are the ones I’ve identified

AKG K612: It seems these have better imaging that the K701/k702 and are quite highly recommended for sound whoring. These appear difficult to drive

AD700x: these are recommended as #1 in a lot of places, but I have read these have worst imaging but a larger soundstage. Maybe the large sound stage is not ideal for a game like cod 4?

Sennheiser HD58X: I saw these recommended earlier in another thread as best bang for buck

Beyerdynamic DT990

Sennheiser HD599

Fostex T50RP: seen a member of another forum raving about these. Semi closed, incredible imaging but small soundstage. Perhaps ideal for what I’m after? Very difficult to drive

Upon a bit of further research it appears what I’m looking for is:

Best possible imaging and separation
Decent soundstage but not HUGE
Not bass heavy (reduce explosions sounds)
Good mid / mid tones (for footsteps)
Good treble (for reload animations of nearby enemies, and some footeteps)

Any advice would be much appreciated. Btw thanks a lot for this article as it has been very useful.

Thanks in advance 🙂 !

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Stuart Charles Black March 9, 2020 - 4:51 pm

Hey man!

First off sorry about the late reply. I’ve been getting lots of spam recently and sometimes good messages go into the trash because of specific words I’ve set that filter out those bad comments (if that makes sense). Sometimes if good commenters use those words it will trigger their post to bounce. Anyways..

Wow I’m looking to get that game here pretty soon!! Would love to link up with you on PSN!! Let me know your username 🙂 What’s your K/D? On the original COD4 I was pretty close to 3/1. I think the highest at one point was like 2.75 or something. I would love to see what it is nowadays. I absolutely loved that game. Played it nonstop around 2011-2014 or thereabouts. How is it remastered? Do you love it?

As for a headphone that would fit that bill, currently I’m running the AKG K702 with the SoundBlasterX G6 and also a FiiO K5 Pro. I do think they would be perfect for COD4. You’ll notice that the Soundstage is pretty wide, i.e. you’ll start to hear things to your left and right a lot. So to give you a visual, imagine you’re sitting on the couch and there’s a window to your left about 6-8 ft. away. You can hear things outside of that window to about 20-25 feet I would say, below that as well near ground level (I’m on the second floor), and to the right as well. The image is very good height wise, but you’re not going to really need that per se with COD.

Things will start to seem like they’re kind of far away, but not too far if that makes sense. However, in some cases if I hear a siren or something, it does seem like it’s coming from the highway which is about maybe 250-350 feet from the window.

People tend to exaggerate a little the effects of Soundstage actually. With any of the headphones you mentioned (K702 as well), the image is going to be spacious but still intimate if that makes sense. With the 702, I never get the feeling that sound is too far away from me, though some will claim it is. Perhaps it comes down to a matter of preference.

Out of the ones you mentioned, I’ve heard the AD but it was the 900x and not the 700x. Pretty much the same headphone although one has more bass I believe (Can’t remember which). the 900x was super airy and dry sounding. Also have heard the 990. Nice and open.

Haven’t heard the 58X but it’s pretty similar to the 6XX which I have demoed. Just more bass and a tad grainier sounding. Not quite as good as a 6XX tbh. Also, 6XX/650 does pretty well for Gaming, better than a 600 imo. I think the 600 is way too closed in sounding but the 650 for whatever reason gave me a more immersive experience with Fallout 4 in particular.

Haven’t heard the K612 but just for you I’m going to purchase it. I’ve also been meaning to do big video shootout with the K701/702/Q701/K612/K712 so this will be a good addition for that purpose as well down the road.

Have not heard the T50RP either.

Let me know what you think!! The K702 does tick all those boxes actually.

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Isak Storm March 9, 2020 - 4:55 pm

Hey Ron and Stuart!

Got myself a k702 based on your discussion/recommendations today. Would like to thank the both of you for great details on soundstage and imaging. Thank you!

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Stuart Charles Black March 10, 2020 - 3:15 pm

That’s awesome man! So glad that we could help out!! Keep me/us posted on your impressions. I actually have a K612 coming as well. I want to do a big shootout of the K701/702/Q701/K612/K712.

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Ivan October 17, 2020 - 4:24 pm

Hello Stu! Really good job! Loved the article.
So, I already have SHP9500 and the 58x. I love the philips, great all around, I use all day for gaming, youtube, music etc… great sound signature and very confortable.
The 58x it’s good. I use in my digital piano and for this, it’s the best. But very unconfortable (ohh, my big head kkk).
So, could you help me? I looking for somenthing like de 9500, but better. I look for X2hr (i don’t know about the bass, could be too much), AD900x (same price of the x2 hr), K702 and 4xx (last both have the double of the price of the other two).
For all around, to use all day, gaming, browsing, music etc. What do you think about the options? (I pretend keep the 9500 and 58x, so, it’s a plus).

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Stuart Charles Black October 22, 2020 - 2:17 pm

Hey man! I think the DEVA or 400i 2020 revision would be fantastic for you. Listening to the DEVA now; it’s an amazing all around headphone that is a cut above your typical dynamic driver headphone in terms of Timbre, resolution, and an overall effortless sound. It actually sounds more revealing than my K702 and I never thought I’d say that – especially given the 702’s fantastic Soundstage and propensity to uncover very small and nuanced details. The DEVA’s SS isn’t quite as wide, but still better than something like an HD600’s staging. For all intents and purposes, it’s above average.

I definitely need to edit this article to reflect the DEVA. It’s probably my go to all around headphone for everything: Music, Gaming, Film, Editing, etc. It’s incredibly revealing but still sounds enjoyable. A definite step up from the 9500, but a similar, neutral-ish profile with some treble sparkle and a great bass response. Responds very well to EQ! Check out my DEVA review and let me know what you think!

I’d caution you on the 4XX because of it’s build issues and poor long term reliability, but yeah.. you’re in the right ball park for an upgrade in sound there. DEVA is similar sounding to the 4XX, but has a better build and perfect comfort levels.

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JT November 19, 2020 - 2:31 am

Do you know if the G6 is fully compatible with the PS5. I just got the system and my astros no longer work. While looking for a new setup I stumbled down the audiophile rabbit hole and want to get a modmic uni + philips 9500 + G6 soundblaster but not sure if it will work on the ps5. Thanks in advance.

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Stuart Charles Black November 21, 2020 - 3:43 am

Hey JT! I’m actually not too sure about that. I was going to get a PS5 at some point though. Found this: https://www.reddit.com/r/SoundBlasterOfficial/comments/i00lyv/g6_for_ps5/

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Andy K December 24, 2020 - 1:05 pm

Great post! But I want to know some other headphones in the high-end price range(top-tier) besides the Ananda and the Utopia. Can I get some information about it? Also, is it possible to use the SBX G6 only as a DAC?

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Stuart Charles Black December 27, 2020 - 4:06 pm

Hey Andy! Thank you! As for your question about the SoundBlaster, yes absolutely! You’d just use the line out on the back with something like a 3.5mm interconnect or 3.5mm to RCA depending on the amp in question. A lot of them have both, some have one or the other. 🙂

As for higher end headphones for gaming, what specifically were you thinking about (because I know you had something in mind, lol). Or maybe not. For me it doesn’t get any better than a Utopia. You could opt for an Audeze, and certainly I’ve heard most of their LCD line and love them.

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Stevo S February 25, 2021 - 11:18 am

Hey man – First off just want to say I’m beyond happy I found this blog post. I’ve always had a feeling gaming headsets were marketing fluff and struggled to find any reviews on youtube/online as it always seemed focused on gaming headsets being the “best” for gaming. Fortunately I found this post.
I decided to buy the K702 headphones which I love however I have an issue now with the right earcup cuts in and out constantly. I looked this up and it seems to be a common issue with the headphones. I found this post which goes into detail on how to fix the problem – https://www.reddit.com/r/headphones/comments/adwvq0/repair_akg_k7xx_right_ear_cutting_out_fix/
I have yet to try this as I’m sure it voids any type of warranty. Going to reach out to AKG and see if they’ll issue a RMA first. If not, I’ll try this out. I wanted to share this with you in case you or any others run into this problem that come across your review.

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Stuart Charles Black February 25, 2021 - 10:26 pm

Hey man, thank you! Wait, you got the K702 and that happened? That really sucks. I’m sorry. I love mine and have had them for over a year now without issues. I tend to have good luck when it comes to gear though. Always been that way.

I will def keep that in mind. I used similar feedback for a different type of product (Mojo) to do a review helping others decide, so I hope the issue with yours is a one off. I will be following this closely.

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Jaceneliot July 10, 2021 - 8:22 pm

Hi !

Thanks for this amazing article. It’s SO hard to choose when you are a perfectionnist. Here my situation : i’m looking for a very good headphone. I play mainly FPS, but solo games too, and lots of stuff. Music is secondary but still important i guess. It’s mainly for games. I already ordered the SoundblasterX G6, i hope it’s a good choice. I have this list :

0) AKG 612
1) AKG 701
2) AKG 702
3) AKG 712 PRO
4) Beyerdynamics DT990
5) Beyerdynamics DT770
6) Astro A40 + MixAmp
7) Sennheiser HD560s
8) Sennheiser HD599
9) Sennheiser HD58x
10) 1More H1707 Triple Driver

I know it’s a lot. But maybe you can already exclud some ? Maybe in the same price range there is a clear choice ? Again, i play solo and multiplayers (FPS) games. I want to put like 100-150€ but IF it worth it, i can put 250€.

Thanks a lot for your advices.

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Stuart Charles Black July 13, 2021 - 1:39 pm

Hey man! I’m just going to post my email response here so if others stumble across it they can get some help as well 🙂

That is a great list!

Here are my opinions of each.

0) AKG 612. A decent headphone but not something I’d rely on for gaming as it’s just a bit too flat and not quite as revealing as a 702. Def check out this article for a shootout of all of them (612/712/702/701/Q701). https://homestudiobasics.com/akg-k612-vs-k712-vs-k702-vs-k701-vs-q701/
1) AKG 701. You don’t really need this one as it’s basically a clone of the 702 with slightly more bass roll-off.
2) AKG 702. The 702 is what I’m leaning towards for you. Great for gaming, great soundstage, works for all types of music. https://homestudiobasics.com/before-you-buy-an-akg-k702-read-this/
3) AKG 712 PRO. As you’ll see in the shootout, this is my second choice as far as AKGs. It’s a tad too laid back for gaming in my opinion, but still a good choice. Here’s my full review: https://homestudiobasics.com/akg-k712-review/
4) Beyerdynamics DT990. 990 is great for gaming and probably my second overall choice behind 702. Check out the 770/880/990 shootout I think it will help a lot in deciphering the differences between these guys: https://homestudiobasics.com/beyerdynamic-dt770-vs-880-vs-990/
5) Beyerdynamics DT770. See above 🙂
6) Astro A40 + MixAmp. Haven’t heard these.
7) Sennheiser HD560s. Haven’t heard this but I will be getting one very soon for demo.
8) Sennheiser HD599. The 598/599 also great for gaming, probably tied for second with 990 or a very close 3rd. They are very flat and have great Soundstage. Less bass than the 990 which may actually be a bit better for competitive gaming. So maybe they are actually second behind 702.
9) Sennheiser HD58x. I just got this one but have not tested it for gaming yet. I did notice that it has better Soundstage than I was expecting given that I’ve owned the HD600 since 2016. The 600 is something I’d never use for gaming but the 58X is likely pretty good.
10) 1More H1707 Triple Driver. Haven’t heard these.

So to sum up, I’d probably consider a K702 first, then 599 followed very closely by the 990. Comfort is going to be fantastic on all three, but the 990 and 599 are probably going to be ever so slightly better for longer sessions although I pretty much never have to adjust or take off my 702.

Great choice in the G6! It’s my daily driver for gaming and film. You’ll love it!

I know that’s a lot but take your time and keep me posted with any questions!

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