When it comes to building your ideal gaming setup, we often jump straight to improvements of our visuals with more powerful components.
An often overlooked facet of great gaming performance is sound. To take your gaming to the next level, you really need a gaming headset.
Sound Channels and Quality
First prize goes to me for stating the obvious, but above all, your gaming headset needs to omit a good quality of sound. Still, there are a couple of considerations to make with regards to sound.
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Central to which is how many sound channels your headset will contain. The main choice falls between surround sound and stereo. Just like when you’re sat in front of your TV watching a film, surround sound will obviously give you a more immersive experience when gaming. Surround sound headsets will cram multiple speakers into the device, giving the headset greater positional audio. Stereo provides your standard dual-speaker solution, but surround sound ramps up those channels to either 5.1 or 7.1 solutions.
One vital distinction to make is the difference between true surround sound and simulated surround sound. True surround users multiple speakers operating at different angles for greater sound. Simulated surround sound however, users sound processing in an attempt to recreate true surround sound. Predictably, you’ll find that simulated headsets are cheaper, so it all depends on your budget.
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Elsewhere, sound quality can be a difficult concept to realise. In the end, it largely comes down to individual preference. Some people prefer more bass. Others might want force feedback, as the headset rumbles or vibrates in time with the game. Obviously, it can be hard to gauge a headsets sound without going hand-on and giving them a test. So do your research and look for reviews online.
Why it’s important: A gaming headset with surround sound allows the user to pinpoint the exact location of sounds as the game rumbles along. For gamers, this can be a vital tool in getting the upper hand when gaming. Gunfire can be picked up by the user from exactly the right point, and you’ll hear a rival car scream towards you as they try and pip you at the finish line. Ultimately, cancelling out exterior sound and immersing yourself in a greater depth of sound removes any external distractions, allowing you to concentrate fully on your in-game performance.
Sound quality is all well and good for gaming, but if you’re ears ache from the hefty headset lumbered around them, it isn’t going to be worth it. Common plus points to comfortable gaming headsets include a lightweight design and padded and soft ear cups. Ensure that the headset is adjustable so it fits your head, and look for controls on the cable itself (for wired headsets at least), allowing you adjust certain settings without having to move.
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Again, comfort can be a matter for interpretation, and you’ll find yourself trusting the review sites to find what you’re looking for.
Why it’s important: Ears are sensitive organs. And if you want to remain in the game for those long all-nighters, you don’t want to be tearing your headphones off in pain after 10 minutes. Getting a comfortable gaming headset then, is of paramount importance.
An imperative tool to any gamer is communication, particularly when part of a team. Another factor to consider in your headset purchase then, is a microphone. Firstly, it’s important to ensure the headset comes with a noise-cancelling mic. If not, you’re likely to infuriate the other members of your team as the mic picks up static or background noise rather than just your voice.
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It’s also worth considering an adjustable and flexible mic, allowing you to move the mic into a more comfortable position for both you and the other gamers. Similarly, a fold-away mic allows you to tuck the mic away when your gaming solo, removing any potentially distracting positions a mic might have in your peripheral vision.
Why it’s important: Any gamer knows that teamwork is paramount to victory. And without a mic, your team’s chances of pulling if off are severely hampered. For any gamer then, a decent microphone is imperative.
Wired Vs Wireless
Our final consideration is the input source for your headset. For simplicity and reliability, wired is always likely to be your first choice. Many now come with USB connectors, and without any batteries required, you’ll never have to worry about being caught short. Wired headsets will also often come with controls built into the wire, adding an extra layer of usability and functionality.
That’s not to instantly dismiss wireless, as they do come with their own unique advantages. The most obvious of which is convenience. Without a pesky wire, you can move about at your free will, safe in the knowledge you’re always getting a good feed of sound. Wireless headsets are often criticised for their tendency to pick up interference. And it’s, the many other devices you’ll inevitably have hooked up to your standard 2.4GHz wireless network means wireless headsets may pick up irritating interference.
If you’re intent on investing in a wireless headset, it’s worth considering a dual-band Wi-Fi solution. Some headset transmitters will come with the option to communicate via a 5GHz frequency. Shift all your data-exchanging devices onto the standard frequency, and reduce the risk of any interference seeping in during play.
Why it’s important: The input source for your gaming headset has a direct impact on its everyday performance. Consider what you need from a headset, and make your decision accordingly.