The numbers of gamers looking for the best studio headphones for gaming is steadily increasing.
Seems like people aren’t willing to compromise with sound quality in exchange for a fancy design anymore.
So, they seek headphones that can multitask.
Be it gaming, where the imaging and soundstage can play a very important role, or studio use, where you need a very neutral sonic profile or general use, where a thick low end might be the most desired quality, the quest is to find a pair that can tick all these boxes.
The question is, do such headphones even exist?
Best Studio Headphones For Gaming Comparison Table
Given that all of these are very unique requirements, how can you find one headphone that fits the bill?
That’s exactly what we’ve done.
We have analyzed some of the top headphones from each category that we mentioned and picked the best ones with features that overlap.
Here you go.
1. Sennheiser HD800S – Premium Pick
When we spoke to a professional gamer about how the Sennheiser HD800S sounded for gaming, he mentioned that it sounded ‘Godly’.
That best sums up the appeal of these incredibly popular headphones from the German brand.
These are a pair of prosumer headphones with one of the largest soundstages ever.
The ear cups are designed in a way that the drivers are positioned in front of your ears (at a fair distance) when you wear them. Sounding like a set of powerful speakers in front of you rather than a headphone over your ears.
Usually, large soundstages and directional cues don’t mix too well. But you’ll be able to gauge every single instrument and foley added to the soundtrack with this. Footsteps, gunshots, explosions, dialogues, everything sort of pops out, sounding extremely clear and crisp.
There’s no muddiness in the mids, the treble doesn’t sound shrill ever and the bass doesn’t overpower the rest.
There’s enough impact to satisfy even the most bass-craving gamer. Yet, it sounds so much better as compared to any of the super-bass headphones of today. Explosions will be felt, but it won’t be a jittery sound, if that makes sense.
The Sennheiser HD800S is also one of the most comfortable headphones you’ll ever use. The construction is a blend of metal and plastic, and it sits on your head rather than clamping it. There’s enough padding on the aluminum headband to allow hours of continual use.
The ear cups have plush cushions with a microfiber covering that keeps you comfortable.
For those who are interested in the more technical side of things, under the ear cups lie a 56mm transducer, and drivers that are positioned on an angle to mimic the sound of a pair of speakers.
The HD800S comes with a 10-foot long copper cable covered in Kevlar with a 6.3mm phono plug at the end.
Irrespective of whether you are a professional sound recordist looking to dabble in gaming, or the other way round, the HD800S provides a very satisfying sound quality.
2. AKG K702
The AKG K702 is one of the top studio headphones.
It has a very neutral sound profile which means that you will hear exactly the way the soundtrack is intended to be. The headphones do not add any warmth to it, nor does jack up the bass.
For those who are new to this, AKG is an Austrian brand that’s quite popular among professional recordists and musicians. The K702 is one of their lower-priced offerings that brings studio-quality sound to a consumer-grade product.
The headphones are open-back with a very wide soundstage. You will feel the air and the space in the track with excellent detailing. This will pick up every tiny detail and reproduce it accurately.
Be it the mids, the treble, the bass or the vocals, everything sounds neutral. That’s the best way to describe it.
Directional imaging is exceptional as compared to any flashy gaming headphone that you can pick. There’s no 7.1 surround, which is often hyped by manufacturers. But you can pin point the directions with great accuracy in FPS games.
As is the case with any open-back headphones, there’s very little noise cancellation. But it sounds so immersive that we doubt that anything in the surroundings is going to disturb you.
The construction is top-notch too. It uses the vintage dual-rod, spring-loaded harp design with a leather band that sits on your head. There’s little in terms of padding on the band, but you probably won’t even notice that it’s there. The 3d-foam ear pads are perfect for all-day use.
The clamping force is not too much either and you can easily adjust this according to the size of your head.
A few technical details for your reference.
The K702 features a Patented Varimotion two-layer diaphragm that improves the performance at different frequencies. It uses a flat-wire coil which improves the sensitivity as well as the response in treble and impulse.
It ships with a 10-foot-long cable with a 6.3mm phono plug and a 3.5mm adapter in the pack.
3. Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO – Budget Pick
To be honest, we wanted to include the DT990 pro in this list. These are amongst our favorite Beyers.
But after picking two open-back headphones, it’s time for a close-back one that works equally well for gaming and studio use. There are few better options than the DT770 pro.
At first glance, it looks exactly like the DT990, albeit with a close-back design. The metallic headband, the large circular ear cups with ample padding, there’s nothing fancy about the DT770.
The clamping force is a tad high out of the box. But it does loosen after the ‘Break-in’ period.
The sound quality is a little more refined, if that’s the right word, as compared to a ‘pure’ studio headphone. But it’s still very accurate as compared to most run-of-the-mill headphones out there.
You’ll feel a little extra punch in the bass, while the rendering of the mids is just perfect. It’s clean, not thin at all and the highs are just as clear as they can be without sounding distorted or grainy.
If anything, the vocals and audio sound a little distant. But even that’s too tiny a difference for most casual users to take notice.
The soundstage is the best that we’ve seen in a close-back headphone. It almost sounds like a 7.1 surround sound even in basic stereo mode. Extremely precise imaging too. You will have no problems whatsoever picking up objects, gunshots, footsteps and whatnot.
Also, there’s very little leakage both ways unless you want to test your eardrums and crank up the volume all the way up.
Given a chance, the only thing that we’d like to change about the DT770 pro is the permanent cable that it comes with. A removable one would have added to the portability. But that’s just a tiny quibble that most people would be willing to overlook.
4. Audio-Technica ATH-M50x – Best Overall
These headphones need no introduction. They are Audio Technica’s bestselling headphones that continue to tick on despite sizeable competition from other brands.
The ATH-M50x is essentially the ATH-M50 with a few cosmetic upgrades. For the uninitiated, those were Audio Technica’s consumer-grade studio headphones that became wildly popular.
The ATH-M50X is an extremely comfortable headphone. There’s reinforced padding on the headband and the ear cups, which now sport a swiveling design for storage.
The clamping force is minimal and despite looking a tad bulky, these headphones only weigh 283 grams, which means that you can wear these all day without feeling any discomfort. It also comes with a detachable cable.
A close-back design ensures that ambient disturbance is minimal if any. Sound doesn’t leak in nor does it get out, which is what most gamers prefer.
Coming to the sound quality, it is very well balanced. The bass has enough punch to impress gamers who prefer a bassy, booming sound. Punches, gunshots, everything pops out of the soundstage.
The midrange and treble is very detailed and clear with absolutely no muddiness or distortion. Vocals and audio sounds very well layered and is never overpowered by the other tracks. Irrespective of whether you listen to music casually or are a more discerning audiophile, you’ll be impressed with the sonic balance.
There’s a lot of detailing too. Even tiny, feeble instrument tracks sound very clear.
The imaging though, is not as great as some of the other headphones on this list. Don’t get us wrong. You’ll still be able to get positional cues.
But it’s not as accurate as what you’d get with the AKG-K702 or the DT-770 Pro.
If you are looking for a wide soundstage with a close-back design, the DT-770 Pro is your best bet. On the other hand, if you are looking for a more consumer-friendly design with a balanced sound profile, the M50X will be a better buy.
5. Drop + HIFIMAN HE4XX
The original Hifiman HE400 was one of our favorite headphones when it was launched. That was ages ago.
Massdrop though has shown no plans to let go of their position as industry-leaders offering planar magnetic headphones for pocket-friendly prices.
But there are some much-needed upgrades. For starters, the stainless steel headband has been revamped. So have the ear cups which are now the Focus-A hybrid pads.
These are pleather covered with soft, velour. Marathon tourneys? No problem. These are incredibly comfortable.
Let’s talk sound.
If this is the first time you are listening to a planar magnetic headphone, you’d be a little surprised at the sound quality. There will be a noticeable boost in the low end. But that’s how planar headphones are.
Not that we see too many gamers complaining. The explosions, bass-heavy sound tracks and gunshots will really shine. Why you can tweak it to have a more prominent low end with an equalizer and it still won’t sound distorted like dynamic drivers do.
The high frequencies are equally good and clean, but the mids sound a little feeble as compared to the other two. Nothing overly thin, mind you. But it’s still on the weaker side as compared to lows and highs.
The sound stage is pretty wide being an open-back headphone.
The placement of different instruments and foley sounds are layered with precise separation. You should have no problems picking the directions that the sounds originate from, which can amplify your decision-making in some games.
Overall, we’d highly recommend the Drop + HIFIMAN HE4XX to anyone looking for a great pair of headphones for gaming. These are a great introduction to the world of Planar magnetic headphones and they don’t sound too different from their much more expensive counterparts.
Go check them out.
How To Select The Best Studio Headphones For Gaming
Studio headphones are designed for professional tasks, like recording, mixing and arranging tracks, which means that they have very neutral sound signatures.
Gaming headphones are a different beast altogether.
These are typically designed with a noticeably heavy low end, decent imaging capabilities, a reasonably-wide sound stage and some noise isolation.
In a nutshell, they sound nothing like studio headphones.
So, while selecting the headphones specifically for gaming, you’d have to keep aside every preset notion that you might have had about how gaming headphones should sound.
Instead, here are some of the factors to consider while shopping for these.
Sound Stage And Imaging
While a very large sound stage is not required for a gaming headphone, it makes the listening experience immersive, which is a prerequisite for gaming.
Imaging on the other hand is one of the factors that we based our choices on, because it can be very useful in some types of games, like FPS shooters.
Open-back headphones have capacious sound stages which make them sound closer to listening a live band playing on stage. The caveat is that they are notorious for leaking sound.
Closed-back ones on the other hand have slightly narrower sound stages, but may offer better imaging and directional cues as compared to open-back ones. (Not always)
All the headphones listed here have an excellent sound stage with decent imaging capabilities.
Build Quality And Comfort
Most studio headphones are designed to take a beating.
That’s irrespective of whether it’s made of aluminum or stainless steel or heavy-duty plastic.
You should have no complaints about the build quality of any of the headphones in this list. Most of these brands offer replacement parts as well, should one of them get damaged prematurely.
Gaming headphones must be comfortable. There’s no workaround for this. If its uncomfortable, too heavy, too tight, you’ll start to rue your decision to buy them.
To this end, we have picked headphones that offer ample padding, cushy ear cups, removable cables (barring one) and are light weight. Clamping force is subjective, but we have carefully avoided headphones that are known to be too tight out of the box.
Top tier studio headphones can cost anywhere from $100 to $2500 and more.
Not everybody has that kind of cash lying around though. So we have picked headphones at varying price points. There’s one for the budget-minded shopper, a couple for gamers looking for a healthy mix of price and features, and one for the user who cares a hoot about the price tag.
We hope that you can find the best studio headphone for gaming in this list to suit your requirements.