Advice sought on gaming headphones

What are the better gaming headphones out there?

Something that works well for first person shooters and also has good sound for music. Cordless might be nice if interference and battery life aren’t too limiting.
Have there been significant advances in the last 5 years?

I, and a few people I know, have the Logitech G930 and are very happy with it. The only issue I have are with random power downs of the head set but other than that they are fairly comfortable and the sound quality is fine.

Is it battery-only or battery/cable? That is, if the battery is down, is it possible to plug in a cable and keep using it?

You mention the sound quality being fine. How is the surround sound aspect of it?

Aside from Logitech, what are the more trustworthy brands?

It is charged via a cable and you can run them via the cable if the battery has run down. I don’t really use any surround sound features so I can’t really comment on it.

Anybody have experience with the HyperX Cloud 1 or 2?

I’m guessing that you want headphones with a mic. If that’s the case, you can ignore the rest of my post.

If you don’t need a mic as well, I use the Sennheiser RS 180 wireless headphones for general gaming/movies when I don’t want to bother my wife. They’re pricey, but the sound quality is fantastic and the reception and range are quite good. I live in a two floor condo and there’s only a couple spots in the whole place where the reception drops out. No static, either, the sound just blanks out. They’re not cheap, but they work great and they’re incredibly comfortable. They come with rechargeable AAA batteries and a charging dock. I’ve never even had to think about the batteries since I got them in November 2014. I think my longest session (not quite continuous) was around 8-9 hours, and they didn’t run out of juice.

If you’re looking to spend less and don’t need the wireless, the Sennheiser HD 380 is excellent as well. I use mine all day at work, and they are quite comfortable. I got mine on sale for $100 last year.

The HD 280 is a bit cheaper than the 380s are now, and has comparable sound but is somewhat less comfortable. They put more pressure on the noggin and tend to trap heat more than the 380s. Still, I used them nearly every workday for about three years.

If they’re good enough, I can make do without a mic.

Are the Sennheiser headphones surround sound? Do they require a discrete sound card?

That’s what I do, just put on the headphones and use my computer’s mic. Though I’m sure I end up getting more ambient sound on the line.

The RS 180 evidently does not have surround sound, according to the Amazon page, but I’ll admit that I’m not positive how that works. My understanding is that the 180 base simply takes the left and right audio streams from the driver and transmits it wirelessly to the headset. Headset receives, decodes and plays into the L and R speakers. I thought that headphones basically just used simulated surround sound by definition. Are there true surround sound headphones that have multiple speaker elements in each ear or something?

The RS 170 evidently has simulated surround sound. If it’s anything like the RS 180, then it has a standard 3.5mm TRS jack that can plug into a 3.5mm audio out or those larger L/R audio cables (it has an adapter). You shouldn’t need a special sound card.

The RS 180 is the most comfortable of the three I mentioned, but you’ll probably get the best sound out of the HD 380.

Yes, although from what I’ve heard, it’s better to use simulated surround in headsets because having several speakers in each ear requires them to be small.
You mention the sound quality being fantastic. Obviously, you can’t make me listen to them but can you give me an idea of what that might mean?

I picked up a pair of Monoprice 8323 headphones for ~$16 on sale, and bought a V-moda boom mic for ~$30 to plug into it. Best gaming headset I’ve ever had, and my clanmates all say I sound great.

Pick up a set of spare earpads (~$5) if you order the 8323 though. They LOOK identical, but as an experiment I put one of the spare pads on when I got the headphones. Inside a month, the original earpad was getting hard and uncomfortable. A year later, the spares remain soft as they day I got them.

I don’t mess with surround headphones, USB headphones, or wireless headphones, so I have no opinion on them. I subscribe to the Logitech subReddits though, and it seems ppl are always having issues and complaints about their wireless headphones. It’s a shame - I use logitech mice and keyboards exclusively. Love 'em.

Do you use wireless mice and keyboards? How well do those work? Why Logitech for mice and keyboards?

I have used a wireless mouse. They’ve gotten quite good over the years. The one I used was the Logitech G700s, a gaming mouse, and I had no issues with lag. That particular model used rechargeable batteries, and you could use it either plugged into your USB port (while it simultaneously charged the battery), or unplugged and wireless. It could only run about 8 hours in the highest gaming settings before needing charged, but you could swap out standard AA batteries if you needed more time. Some of the newer mice have insanely long battery life, measured in months, or even YEARS. With my desktop computer setup, I don’t really need anything wireless though.

I’ve stuck with Logitech products due to build quality(again, I’m speaking only of keyboards and mice), reasonable prices, and because they offer features I like. My previous keyboard was a g15, which worked well in games and had all the features I needed, PLUS an LCD display built-in. I programmed it to give me all sorts of info at a glance - time, day/date, how much free space I had on different hard drives, CPU load, RAM usage, volume setting, IP address, how much I was currently uploading & downloading, all on one little screen at the top of the keyboard. I could push a button to switch to another screen, which would show me the local weather & temp. It worked with other programs, like games where it would tell you how much ammo I had left, who was talking in my Teamspeak client, etc.

I had the g15 keyboard for about 9 years, then bought a Logitech g910 last Black Friday for ~$90, which I LOVE. Pricey perhaps, but it’s a mechanical keyboard with RGB lighting, macro keys, multimedia keys, and a feature called ARX. ARX lets you use your cell phone as another screen, like the LCD screen on my g15, only bigger and in color. There are so many old android phones floating around out there now, sitting in drawers because their owners upgraded, it’s great to see these things find a purpose. It updates the phone’s screen via your wireless router, which most people have these days.

I tend to upgrade my gaming mice more often - every 3-5 years. Not because they break, but because they come out with new ones that have a style/shape I like better, or new features/more buttons, or better/more accurate sensors. I’m currently using the g502, and love it. I never thought I had any complaints about the G700s sensor until I used the g502. The G700s was nice, but the g502 sensor is sweet.

There are other products out there that are just fine. I’ve heard good things about the SteelSeries mice, but I like a lot of buttons on my mouse. There are some snazzy, upscale mechanical keyboards that likely have Logitech beat for build quality, but they usually lack some of the features I use a lot, like multimedia/volume controls, and you’ll pay quite a bit for the quality.

I’ve never owned anything by Razer, another company that sells popular gaming mice and keyboards. I usually don’t like their style/features, and even when I do, I don’t trust their build quality a bit. Still, there are those that swear by Razer, much as I do Logitech.

When I want a new keyboard or mouse, I figure out what features I can’t live without, then I read reviews and do some Googling and see what ppl say about their real-life experiences. Sometimes reviews don’t catch problems that only show up after a few months of use.

I use the Logitech G930, and I am happy to have it. However, it is a bit fickle. You can’t entirely trust the software to know how much charge it has left. Once in a while, I find that it starts producing horrible noise, and this seems to be related to being at low power, though the software hasn’t figured out that the thing is at low power. It may be that the problem is because if you wear it while it’s connected to the USB, you might move away without remembering you are already connected, so you do damage to the USB connection. So, gradually you make the USB connection finicky. But I’m only reporting how I find it. Generally, it behaves.

It can be charged while listening, which apparently some headphones can’t. It transmits most of the way through the house, so I can be listening to my podcasts while I do household chores. But when I need to enter the bedroom at the far end of the house, it’ll cut out. Also, the microwave seems to interfere.

The controls are quite useful, because I am the father of a family that not rarely wants to talk to me. The padding of the headset is excellently family cancelling, if that’s what you’re looking for, but my family frequently wants to talk to me, so it’s useful that I can pause my audio at a touch. The Next and Previous buttons work well, but here’s the thing: they seem to accept Media Player Classic as default unless you’ve got something else in focus on your desktop. So, I end up using Media Player Classic for audio that other programs can handle, because I have more control with it. I use Winamp to follow a Podcast’s RSS feed, but then I drag the file to the playlist on WMPC so that I can start-and-stop it at will wherever I was. I wish somebody would make one of these that could be told to start-and-stop the feed from a video website like YouTube, but I guess I’m dreaming.

I’ve actually broken the part that holds the earphone in place twice, but it has been marvelously susceptible to repair by superglue. They won’t advertise ‘repairable by superglue’ where you buy it, but it’s because that part is so stiff that being flexible doesn’t stress out that critical point enough to make repair futile, as was the case with my last two sets of headphones.

If I had to replace these, I’d probably buy the same again, unless Logitech came with a better design of the same thing.

The spot with 4 screws? Epoxy has lengthened my G35’s life a few times too.

Any advice on maintaining cleanliness on the earpads?

I’m no connoisseur, but I know what I like. Truth be told, I’m not really sure how to put the quality into words. Watching TV and movies on the RS 180s had me noticing background noises that I hadn’t before. Outside scenes had insect noises or bird song that sounded, to me, like I was actually outside. My 380s are at work, but I just did the Pepsi Challenge with the RS 180s and HD 280s. I think the 280s have more, but muddier-sounding base, while the 180s feel better balanced overall. Keep in mind that I’m just using the built in audio out for my laptop; probably a fine DAC but nothing to write home about. I think it shakes out to this:

[li]RS 180s: Best comfort, great sound, expensive.[/li][li]HD 380s: Better comfort, best sound, good value.[/li][li]HD 280s: Good comfort, great sound, best value.[/li][/ol]

I hope that helps, it’s hard for me to communicate audio quality. Check some audiophile reviews if you need more details.

Slightly off topic, but what is special about “gaming headphones”?

I use a headset because I am on a LOT of conference calls for work. Whenever I search Amazon or wherever for a cordless headset with microphone (an over-the-head set versus earbuds with inline mike), I get a LOT of hits for “gaming headphones” - and I can’t figure out what’s so special about them.

Not that my recommendations met this requirement, but I think that gaming headphones tend to have an integrated mic for in-game chat.

Yes, integrated mic and (increasingly) 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound. It may have been wiser of me to make my question broader because I don’t care about having an integrated mic, only good surround sound for gaming and good stereo sound for music.
I heard a rumor that it’s possible to use normal headphones (like the Sennheiser ones) and install software that makes it capable of reproducing 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound, any truth to that?

That’s how surround sound works with headphones. There is a DSP somewhere along the line that encodes surround sound for your stereo headset.

Usually the DSP is coming from your sound card or the drivers for your mobo sound. Sometimes it comes from the game itself, and there are also third parties who provide the DSP - Razer has an app that does this too.

The holy grail is full 3D audio with occlusion using game data, but that hasn’t been supported in most games since the heyday of soundcards. It looks like it’s coming back though thanks to GPU’s of all things. AMD and possibly Nvidia will support hardware accelerated 3D audio for headsets, and VR might be the catalyst for developers to support the technology (since 3D audio is critical for VR immersion). Integrated audio in high end mobo’s are likely to follow suit.

That soundcard heyday is past, if I understand correctly?

Do headphones like Sennheiser require a discrete sound card? How much difference is there between sound cards? What do high end soundcard/mobo do that lower end ones don’t?