You’ll start to yearn for the best audiophile headphones for gaming when you realize that there’s nothing extraordinary about most ‘gaming headphones’, except for futuristic-looking designs with flashing LED lights.
It’s either too bass heavy or lacks crispness in the mid-highs. There’s rarely a gaming headset that comes with well-rounded, sonic quality.
If your gaming preferences veer towards shooters or games where directional sound plays an important role, then it becomes all the more important to have a quality headset.
Despite boasting of 7.1 surround capabilities, most run-of-the-mill gaming headsets lack the imaging capabilities and the soundstage capability needed for accurate instrument placement, that give you a sense of direction.
Best Audiophile Headphones For Gaming Comparison Table
All said and done, which are the best for gaming?
Can you pick studio headphones? Are open backed ones a better bet than closed?
Relax. We have you covered.
Here’s a list of the best choices that will cater to both purists, as well as the discerning gamer who’s more concerned about hearing crystal quality sound in all types of games.
|Audio-Technica ATH-AD700X||Open-Air||3.5 mm||1.25 Pounds||Check Price|
|Beyerdynamic DT-990-PRO||Open Over-Ear||3.5 mm||1.3 Pounds||Check Price|
|Sennheiser Game One||Open Acoustic||3.5 mm||1.38 Pounds||Check Price|
|HyperX Cloud II||Closed Back||USB/3.5 mm||11 Ounces||Check Price|
|Audeze Mobius||Over-Ear||USB/Wireless||2.96 Pounds||Check Price|
1. Audio Technica ATH-AD700x – Best Overall
A lot of gamers prefer open-backed cans for gaming and we’ll talk about the differences in a bit. Meanwhile, here’s the ATH-AD700X from Audio Technica.
The bass is pretty good too thanks to the 53mm driver with the CCAW voice coils that give some additional oomph. (Although it could have been a tad punchier given the number of gaming titles that bank heavily on it.)
That said, this is a breezy, lightweight headphone that you’ll love wearing. A tad bulky maybe.
It’s not a fancy design that’ll draw eyeballs like conventional gaming cans.
But there’s plenty on offer for marathoners. The ear cups are plush and you won’t find your ears getting toasted even if you wear these for hours.
The headbands feature the ‘self-adjusting 3D Wing Support’, which are two pads that rest gently on your temples without clasping too hard.
At times, it may feel that it’s too loose and that it might slip down. But it stays put and doesn’t feel like it. Can’t complain.
For connectivity, it comes with a long cord that has a ¼” connector at the other end. Thoughtfully, Audio Technica also throws in a removable 3.5mm jack that allows you to switch platforms and consoles.
2. Beyerdynamic DT-990-PRO
The original DT-990 is hands down, one of the most popular studio headphones that has been around for more than two decades.
The more recent iteration retains all the features of the original and peppers it with a few worthy tech upgrades, that make it ideal for contemporary gaming use.
Without much ado, let’s dive into the juicy details.
The mids get equal emphasis, and both the vocals and the instruments really pop out. The layering and directional capabilities are excellent. There’s zero distortion in the highs.
Overall, if you are an audiophile seeking true sound representation, this is your ticket.
Now that we have the sound quality out of the way, the design is fairly ordinary by gaming standards.
But it’s not uncomfortable. The headband is made mostly of plastic barring a metal band that goes over the ear cups. It sits comfortably and is light enough to be forgotten about.
The ear cup is where the money is. It’s plush memory foam wrapped in velour and is designed for comfortable all-day use. Why, you can wear these to bed. It’s that comfortable.
Sadly, there are no bells and whistles to boast of. It doesn’t fold for travel use, which means that it’s mainly suited for home use.
Also, the large open-backed design will leak sound both ways. If you are looking for something that can cut out the world around you, this isn’t it.
3. Sennheiser Game One
Sennheiser has recently been pulling every trick in the book to make its presence felt in the gaming space.
The Game One was one of the earliest attempts made by the brand that nearly ticked all the right boxes. They followed it up with the GSP 600 which had phenomenal quality but a crappy, uncomfortable design.
So, we’ll stick to the Game one for this list.
This is paired by a padded headband that’s a little tight around the temples when new. Thankfully, it loosens and conforms to your head as you wear it.
The left ear cup has the boom microphone, which sadly is not removable, while the right one has the volume controls which is so well concealed that you can miss it easily. Lifting and moving the mic away mutes it instantly though, which is great.
Coming to the important part, the sound quality is exceptional as expected from Sennheiser.
It is extremely immersive for gaming titles that have a heavy orchestrated bg. The mid-range stands out as little as compared to the lows and highs. But the overall sound profile is well-balanced. If you crank up the bass, it may rattle the headset though.
In games that demand directional sound, you can pick positions easily as well as hear your co-player loud and clear.
One of the issues that professional gamers might have is with the open-backed design that can pick up every ambient sound in the surrounding. Not a great choice if you are playing in a noisy, professional gaming room.
That said, this is also available in a closed-back version called Game Zero.
4. HyperX Cloud II – Budget Pick
The Kingston HyperX Cloud II is one of the oldest, audiophile headphones for gaming that still manages to tick on.
Well, a lot of gamers believe that it’s a rebranded version of the Takstar Pro 80, which was no muck with the bat either. That kind of explains the on-going appeal.
The construction is a blend of metal and plastic with a faux leather covering over the headband and the memory foam ear cups. Kingston also throws in an additional pair of ear cups with a velour covering that’s more suited for professional gamers who spend hours with these headphones on their heads.
On the left ear cup, there’s a removable microphone and it comes with a USB sound card module that houses bulk of the controls.
You can use the 3.5mm output jack to connect the headphone to any console. But on the PC, you’ll have to switch to the soundcard as it works as a digital-to-analog convertor, processing the sound before it reaches your ears.
The sound quality is top-notch. The Cloud II provides an immersive gaming experience with great precision in directional sound and the 7.1 surround sound to boot. If you spend a lot of time in FPS games, you’ll be able to pick the direction that the firing is originating from.
In other genres, the mids and highs pop out a little more than the low end.
If anything, we found the lows a little lacking even when used as a multimedia headphone. But not lacking enough to deter us from buying it.
Overall, the Cloud II is a great-sounding gaming headphone that’s been around forever. You can’t go wrong with it.
5. Audeze Mobius – Premium Pick
Audeze is one of the audiophile majors looking to set a new benchmark for sound quality in the gaming space.
The Mobius, which is one of their flagships, nearly manages to outdo the competition with a robust sounding headphone.
Nearly, because while it nails the fidelity part in spades, it is let down by a few inherent design flaws that one must be willing to overlook or work around.
The Mobius is a closed-back, best audiophile headphone for gaming that looks pretty much like a standard studio headphone rather than a dedicated gaming can. Oversized with large over-the-ear cups, a thick headband with reasonably low clamp force and a muted finish for the carbon version.
For people who seek a little more flash, there’s the gold version.
Thankfully, neither are ostentatious.
If you find the stock ear cups a little too warm for your liking, there’s a gel version on offer provided you are willing to loosen the purse strings a little.
Under the ear cups lie the planar magnetic drivers which deliver a rich sound. For the uninitiated, planar magnetic drivers are the Cadillac of the audio driver word. Dynamic drivers are feeble in comparison, when it comes to sound quality.
Tactical sounds, impact noises, instruments, vocals, everything will pop out in games across the board. In Witcher, the dialogues resonate with crystal-clear quality. In Star Wars Battlefront series, the level of detail is unparalleled.
Directional accuracy is fairly good too. But it’s not the strongest point for the Mobius.
Even when you are using this as a multimedia headset, it’s as good as using a high end audiophile headphone rather than a gaming one. The Bass fidelity is impeccable as always from Audeze.
How To Select The Best Audiophile Headphones For Gaming
Audiophiles can never make do with standard gaming headphones that deliver subpar sound quality.
Sooner than later, they’ll find themselves yearning for the best audio quality and that’s where the problem arises.
You see, audiophiles are a rare breed. Audiophile gamers are a critically endangered one.
It’s not every day that headphone manufacturers come across these people. So there aren’t too many headphones out there that cater to their rather stringent demands.
That said, it is quite possible to find headphones that can meet even the most ardent audiophile’s checklist. There are ones that can be a gamer’s delight as well.
With some minor tradeoffs and some luck, you can find a few with overlapping features. Those are the ones that made this list.
Here are a few key factors to consider when you go shopping.
Believe it or not, you’ll start to hate even the most incredible sounding headphones, if it sits too tight on your head or clamps your forehead too hard. Comfort is the key to long term gaming use. Look for headphones that have ample padding, a flexible headband, plush ear cups and if possible, a velour covering since it allows better air flow. If velour is not an option, pleather is also a decent choice.
Most customers overlook the importance of having a control panel that’s easy to use. But if you find yourself searching for buttons or navigating through software that’s too cumbersome to use, then you’ll start to rue your choice a lot sooner than you imagine.
A good quality audiophile headphone will accurately generate spatial cues that are of utmost importance to recreate the content as envisioned in the source audio.
Does that make sense?
The sound should play out like it’s happening in front of you with an accurate representation of depth, width and positioning of each instrument, each detail in the sound stage.
Many brands like Audio Technica, Sennheiser and Audeze are pros at this and they position the diaphragms in such a way that the auditory canal gets as accurate a representation as possible.
Usually, the wider the sound stage, more difficult it is to get directional accuracy. That’s the reason why open-back headphones with a wide sound stage have a rich and detailed sound, but falter when it comes to directional accuracy.
Closed-back headphones on the other hand have a more limited soundstage that doesn’t sound huge even with 7.1 surround. That’s why their directional accuracy is a lot better.
Virtual Surround Sound
7.1 virtual surround sound is often used as a USP by manufacturers. But it’s usually a software rendition of 7 sound channels that may or may not make a difference to the audio quality, especially in audiophile headphones.
In comparison, stereo headsets have just two channels.
In a nutshell, it’s a great feature to have. But not one that we would base our final buying decision on.
Open Backed vs. Closed Back
Unfortunately, the jury is still out on this.
There are obvious advantages and cons to each one.
Open-back headphones for example leak sound both ways and will sound terrible when you are travelling. Similarly, if you are in a noisy room, you might get confused with the sounds around you because the headphones will pick them all up.
Closed-back will shut out most of the outside world giving you less intrusion. The bass will be a lot better and there will be little sound leakage if any. That said, the sound will be less dynamic as compared to an open-back one.
Also, open backs give you more ventilation.
That said, each gamer usually has their own preference. Some vouch for open-backs for all types of games. Others just hate the ambient noise that it picks up and prefer close-back.
Pick one that works for you.
The problem with dedicated audiophile headphones is that they don’t always come with an in-built microphone.
That’s a separate purchase.
The microphones on standard gaming headsets are nothing to write home about either.
If you play games where communication with your teammates is critical, look for headphones that feature a microphone with noise cancellation and a mute button. You can thank us later.
By the way, a removable microphone will make it easier to tuck the headphones in your tote for travel. So you might want to consider that.
That fellow audiophile gamers, sums up our list of the best audiophile headphones for gaming.
Do you have anything to add to this? Did we miss out on your favorite audiophile headphone?
Drop your two cents in the comments box. We’ll get right back to you.