For many gamers headphones are a necessity. You may not be able to afford a giant surround speaker setup. You may want to play games when it could disturb other people (and you’re a courteous gamer). You may simply prefer the up-close soaking in sound your skull gets when speakers are right up against your ears. We’ve tested out a number of headphones currently available and we’re going to break them down from the average gamer’s perspective – we’re not going to get super technical with audiophile stuff, but just let you know what features each set has, how comfortable they are, and whether they sound like crap or not.
Turtle Beach Ear Force X12/P11
We’ll start things off with one of our favorites. The X12/P11 (the X is for Xbox, P for PS3) is one of Turtle Beach’s more affordable headsets, but it’s a step up from their lowest-tier stuff, so it’s a nice balance of quality sound and affordability. Surprisingly, these may be the best-sounding headphones of all the ones we tested. They have some really nice, clean and deep bass which is what you want for your explosions and stirring orchestral cues. As a headset each version works with their corresponding console and PC, but if all you need is headphones and not a mic, you can use the X12 with your PS3 and vice versa.
This headset is powered by USB so you’ll need a free slot, and the volume control comes with separate sliders for game sound, chat sound, and bass boost. The cable is 16 feet long so it will stretch across almost any living room. Comfort-wise it’s fantastic – the ear cups fit around your ear and don’t pinch or sit heavily and the head band is nice and squishy. The microphone swivels and also has a bendable stem so you can adjust it exactly where you want it. The only real “down” side to these is that you have a lot of cord to trip over. Note that it comes with a splitter cord that plugs into component cables – if you’re using HDMI you’ll need a headphone jack in your TV or a receiver.
iFrogz Ear Pollution CS 40s
These are pure headphones – no mic – and they work only through a regular headphone jack. They don’t require power, and the price is reasonable. For “big” headphones they’re pretty compact, and they’re definitely going for the stylish approach, with numerous colors to choose from, like the electric green ones we tested. The sound is impressive for being relatively budget headphones, although every editor who tested it said the sound was a bit bass-heavy for their tastes, including one editor describing it as “muddy” sounding. The cord is only a few feet long so it won’t reach to your couch, although this could be circumvented with an extender.
Unfortunately, we encountered a problem with comfort with these headphones, which is unexpected considering their main selling points are their “aerofoam comfort cushions.” They certainly look comfortable, as the ear cups have thick, pillowy padding around them. They sit right on your ear, though, and we found that after only a few minutes of wearing them our ears began to hurt. We wanted to make sure we weren’t imagining things so we had multiple editors try them out – we didn’t tell them anything to taint their assessment – and five out of six people said they were uncomfortable. Perhaps most GR editors aren’t fans of “on-ear” design – people are clearly finding these things comfortable, based on a perusal of Amazon user reviews. One of our editors also wore them for hours and had no problem whatsoever with comfort. If you’ve used headphones that sit on your ear and like them, these might be fine for you, but if you’ve never tried this style, we’d say approach with caution.
iFrogz Ear Pollution Mogul
These humongous headphones are similar to the CS 40, but have some features that elevate them considerably. The obvious point is the size of the ear cups – they are “DJ style” and will totally surround your ears, but they do still sit on-ear like the other iFrogz offering. Again, most of our editors found them to pinch the ears, if a bit less so than the smaller ones. The sound is better, though, with a more powerful driver and a greater range of highs and lows. Again, we suggest that you be sure you like the on-ear style before you drop cash on these.
Think you can’t get impressive sound from ear buds? These may change your mind. These little dynamos use actual wood chambers for some surprisingly rich, deep sound (not to mention a classy look). They have an in-line mic (won’t work for 360 or PS3), and the advantage of ear buds, of course, is that they double as portable listening for music. The Timbre comes with multiple sizes of rubber end pieces to fit your ear’s preference. Really these aren’t going to be your first choice for pure gaming, but if you’re working on a budget and like the idea of a portable, multi-purpose solution, these are not bad at all. The only issue we had was that due to the braided design of the cords, whenever the cords rubbed against something (or face, our clothes), the rubbing sound carried right up into our ears, which was distracting. Of course, we’re the easily distracted type, so this may be a non-issue for some people.
Go on to the second page to check out more (and fancier) headsets...