I remember not longer than two decades ago, Tetris and Solitaire were the best games you could play on your computer. But thanks to the unprecedented technological innovation strides that we have witnessed in the last few years, the gaming realm has undergone quite a transformation. The introduction of PlayStation and Xbox is the latest highlight.
Computer games have evolved and gotten better with time as well. More processing speed, lots of memory space, and powerful graphics cards have made it possible to play games even in virtual reality.
However, these games are not as thrilling without decent sound. It is one thing to fiddle with FIFA 18 and another to be able to clearly hear what the commentator is saying or even better, catch the sound made when a player hits the ball.
Earbuds for gaming are responsible for the immersive feeling experienced when playing your favorite game. However, not all of them are the best fit for you; so before purchasing a set of gaming earbuds, there are a few things you should consider such as comfortability, battery life (if they are wireless), and sound quality just to mention a few. I have been disappointed on several occasions but I’ve learnt my lessons, I hope this list of considerations will help you get the ideal earbuds for gaming.
What To Look For Before Buying The Next Earbuds For Gaming
Whether they have quality sound or are compatible with all your gaming consoles, best earbuds for gaming should be able to fit comfortably in your ears. All gamers know that sessions can get emotional at times; jumping up and down or unusual movements as reactions to whatever is happening in the game are regular occurrences.
Also, I recall this set of earbuds I purchased some time ago that always got warm in my ear, thereby getting me sweaty and eventually falling off. Pausing the game after every few minutes to wipe your ears or put back your earbuds can be irritating, especially if the game has multiple players involved. Look for things such as tiny ear wings on the earbuds; they are there to ensure that your earbuds don’t fall off while you are enjoying your game. Also, new models have more comfort as opposed to traditional earbuds.
The best earbuds for gaming should not only feel comfortable when being used but should also not leave a painful feeling in your ears after hours of use. Considering gamers can be fixated on a game for more than twelve hours, you need earbuds that will protect your ear canal and prevent ear damage. Some of the most comfortable earbuds on the market include the Bose QuietComfort 35 Wireless Headphones, V-MODA Forza and Sennheiser CX 300 2
Comfort is also dictated by the cord length if you opt for wired earbuds. The average length of most cabled earbuds cord is 18 inches. However, you can get a pair with incredible cable length which can allow you to make any movements comfortably while gaming without the earbuds falling off. Also, ensure that even if they fit perfectly, they have quality sound. You do not want to wake up the next morning feeling like a battalion is marching in your head.
2. Sound Quality
I visited my friend Dave a few months ago, and I wasn’t aware Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon (Wildlands) was out. Dave handed me an extra set of earbuds but warned that they did not have the best sound quality, but I didn’t care, all I wanted was to get the game started. After five minutes of game time, I couldn’t take it anymore and decided to hold my urge to play until I got home to my quality earbuds.
Sound quality is everything when it comes to gaming earbuds. Bass boost and a surround sound experience are what differentiate playing the game for fun from being fully immersed in the action. The clarity produced by good earbuds, alongside the right balance in the bass are necessary. But that’s not all to look out for.
The best earbuds for gaming should also have the following features.
Have you ever played one of those games such as Call of Duty that require you to pay attention to every sound so as to decide which move to make? A soldier could be shooting you from the left-hand side, and you wouldn’t know about it until you turn if your sound quality is faulty. Soundstaging helps you quickly determine the direction the sound is coming from thereby allowing you to react faster in certain scenarios during the game.
Correctly soundstaged earbuds make it easy to maneuver through the game and if they have a microphone, speaking to other players in the game becomes an easy task.
Fine-tuned mids and taut bass are two characteristics found in properly soundstaged earbuds. The Sennheiser mx580 and 585 earbuds are notorious in this capacity and will leave you feeling like you are inside the game. I remember using them first while playing Call of Duty 4, a feeling I will never forget.
• Noise Cancellation and Isolation
There is nothing more disturbing than having to play a game with the audio effects mixed with outside noises. These noises should not interfere with your game audio and if they do then your earbuds are not ideal for playing games, or anything else as a matter of fact. Noise cancellation not only prevents external sounds from affecting your gaming experience but also helps with proper sound staging.
Earbuds fitted with noise cancellation reverse the phase of sound waves from outside then cancels them out to give you crystal-clear game audio. Not even noise from a landing plane can affect your gaming experience when you have noise cancellation technology on your earbuds. Seeing how most of them are designed, in-ear earbuds are naturally capable of noise isolation since they act as a physical barrier between external sounds and your ears.
The Razer Hammerhead Gaming Earbuds are the best when it comes to noise cancellation and isolation. Also, they have tremendously accurate low and mid-range sounds which translate to an enhanced bass experience and better overall sound quality.
• Decent Mic
Earbuds with in-line 360-degree microphones are the best for games which require more than one player. There is no telling where gaming could be if microphone fitted earbuds were not invented. Most gamers stay up late until the wee hours of the morning; and shouting over a microphone so as to coordinate a fellow player can be quite the nuisance for other people in the house willing to get some precious shut-eye.
Omnidirectional mics help capture sound from every angle so even if you whisper, your friends on the other end will hear you clearly. A good mic is essential for good in-game communication with other gamers. To ensure that the microphone is properly protected, many companies have designed earbuds with waterproof mics. Some juice may spill over the mic or a drop of sweat, but with this feature, none will affect its performance in any way.
Examples of some of the best gaming earbuds with good mics include; the Sennheiser PC300 G4ME Earbuds with Integrated Microphone, SteelSeries Flux In-Ear Headset for Gaming and the Edifier P270 In-ear Earbuds just to mention a few.
While the frequency response might be the same for wired and wireless earbuds, (approximately 20Hz to 20 kHz) the technology involved might set them apart regarding sound quality. Both have advantages and to be honest, I’d pick wireless earbuds any day over their wired counterparts just for the comfort and ease of movement that they come with. However, battery life is an issue, and I might not get to use them for as long as I desire without having to recharge.
Most wired earbuds use a traditional wire cord with titanium sound tubes to relay sound while wireless ones use Bluetooth technology. As a result, the audio quality transmitted through wireless earbuds is often not of the best quality, in fact, wired earbuds have proven to be better when it comes to sound quality. The reason for this is because the sound travels in cables; as a result, no decompression or compression takes place.
Wireless earbuds compress then decompress the sound, and this may cause distortions or buzzes in the sound relayed. Not all wireless earbuds have poor sound quality; similarly, not all wired earbuds have the best quality. Consider the price, specifications, and the manufacturer as well before choosing between these two options. As far as durability is concerned, it is hard to tell which of these two earbuds lasts the longest but wired earbuds tend to be more fragile.
Comfort is another issue to address before settling on either of these options. Wireless earbuds are more comfortable because some of them come with ear fins that fit into your ears Concha for extra support. You can also loop the ear fins over your ear and tighten it at the back of your head to ensure they do not fall off while you celebrated a much-needed goal or kill.
Some examples of the best-wired gaming earbuds include; V-MODA Forza, ADV.Sound Model 3, and the Etymotic ER4SR earbuds. Wireless options include; the JayBird BlueBuds X, JAM Transit Wireless earbuds, Photive PH-BTE50, and the DinoTwin T2. Whether wireless or wired, ensure that the earbuds you settle for prove to be good value for money by ticking all the boxes required of earbuds for comfortable gaming.
The technology used, materials, and brand are all factors that influence the price of gaming earbuds. A classic example is wireless earbuds which require a receiver, transmitter, and an amplifier to function. These features make wireless earbuds a little pricier than wired ones, but the latter can be pretty expensive as well. Nonetheless, you can get high-quality gaming earbuds (wired or wireless) at a price ranging from $10 to $100.
My first cheap earbuds were the Monoprice 108320 Enhanced Bass Hi-Fi Earbuds. I bought them for $10, and to-date I consider that my best budget buy. They had proper isolation, comfort, easy controls, and the sound quality (especially the bass) was unbelievable. Recently, many brands have entered the gaming earbuds business, and most of them use their company name as a way to price their products.
As a result, some earbuds are expensive yet provide poor sound quality while others come at a low price yet provide excellent audio quality. A typical scenario is startup companies that being forced to sell earbuds at a lower price than their competitors to attract a considerable market despite having better earbuds than established brands. So, before making a choice on what earbuds to settle for considering the price, it would be best to ignore the manufacturer and focus on the specifications.
An excellent example of cheap earbuds with smooth sound quality is the Panasonic 120 Ergo Fit. You can get these earbuds at less than $10 with a pair going for $7 inclusive of shipping in some areas. You can also get quality wireless earbuds such as the Skullcandy Smokin Buds two at less than $40.
5. Earbud Specifications
Price, design, and comfort might contribute substantially to the earbuds you buy, but none of them bear as much weight as the specs that come with the product. If you are not physically present to test the earbuds out, read the specifications carefully if purchasing online to get a better understanding the product you are buying.
Things like impedance and sensitivity significantly affect the sound quality and thereby should not be overlooked. Earbuds with the best sound quality often have a mid-range level of sensitivity. Mid-range sensitivity is vital because anything above that limit can result in ear damage.
Another thing to look out for as far as earbuds specifications go is the frequency response. I like my gaming experience with a deep bass; as a result, my earbuds have a low bass frequency. If you prefer earbuds with little bass, then go for those with a high bass frequency. Examples of gaming earbuds with the best specifications include; the Focal Sphear, Bowers & Wilkins C5 S2, and the Mad Catz ES Pro, which is ideal for multiplayer gaming.
The Bottom Line
As much as the search for the elusive perfect earbud can be frustrating, it is well worth it in the end. In fact, any avid gamer knows that the difference that quality sound makes in the heat of an action-packed, adrenaline-drenched duel cannot be overstated, really.
- Cameron Faulkner, 10 Best In-Ear Headphones Available Today, Tech Radar, November 3, 20167
- Nick Schmiedicker, Marshall Mode Headphones Review, Reviewed.com, December 29, 2014
- The List, In Ear Matters, February 25, 2015
- Andrew Williams, Best Headphones 2017: 14 best headphones for any budget, Trusted Reviews, December 5, 2017
- InnerFidelity’s “Wall of Fame” In-Ear Monitors, InnerFidelity