Headphones vs Headset for Gaming

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Updated October 25, 2022

As a gamer, you often look for the best audio option, whether you want headphones vs headset for gaming. The best gaming headset offers comfort and virtual surround sound, but it also lacks the sound quality you expect from a pair of headphones.


  • Gaming headsets feature a built-in microphone with noise reduction and comfort for extended periods.
  • The sound quality of a set of headphones or high-end earbuds typically surpasses that of wireless gaming headsets or wired gaming headsets.
  • If you decide to use a separate microphone and headphones with earcups, you need a cable splitter and two different cables.

The differences between the two types of gaming audio devices are many, including a microphone, comfort, sound quality, and price range. To learn more about other headsets, read about a gaming headset vs an office headset.

Difference Between a Gaming Headset Vs Headphones

The most significant difference between headsets and headphones or earbuds stems from the inclusion of a microphone. However, substantial sound quality, prices, and comfort differences set them apart.

Insider Tip

If you opt for the separate headphones and microphone option, you will need an audio splitter.

Ultimately, you experience your game’s audio as it was intended using a gaming headset, but the sound quality may deteriorate for other functions. Because of this factor, many prefer using headphones for listening to music on their computer or mobile device.

For more of our comparison content, check out our gaming headphones vs normal headphones, headset vs headphones and a mic for gaming, and a headset vs gaming earbuds.


Many gaming headset brands consider that you will most likely use their product for an extended period when they design their headsets. As a result, gaming headsets feature additional padding in earcups and over the top of the head.

A more traditional pair of headphones offers some padding on the ear cups and a little on the headband. Unfortunately, they don’t provide the same comfort level because the padding is designed differently. However, headphones, especially earbuds, remain lightweight compared to the over-ear headsets used for gaming. In some ways, this characteristic may reduce headaches caused by pressure.


A good pair of headphones offers versatility in terms of the devices it works with, but it may not work with a gaming console. However, if you have a PC or Mac, you probably don’t have to worry about finding a headset that works with your device. Additionally, gaming headsets and headphones could allow you to control the volume from a dongle or dial.

On the other hand, gaming headsets typically feature drivers and hardware designed to work with gaming consoles like an Xbox or Playstation. Unfortunately, if you have both consoles, you may need a separate wireless headset or wired headset for each because of these software differences. Additionally, the audio jack differs greatly between the two consoles, so your device has to match the console you have.

Audio Quality

You may find the design of a pair of headphones more suited toward audio quality for non-game settings. These devices provide an option for listening to music or watching TV, but gaming headsets feature bass-heavy sound. Because of this factor, game audio is designed to match, and many offer virtual surround sound to let you know where your enemies are.

Gaming headsets generally include microphones, which sets them apart from other headphones and earbuds. Furthermore, some gaming headsets feature noise-canceling microphones, so they still outpace many headphones or earbuds that offer a built-in microphone in terms of microphone quality. If you choose a set of headphones, you most likely need a separate microphone for community or competitive gaming.

Headphones and Microphone Setup

If you want a headset designed for audio quality, the design of headphones outranks that of a gaming headset. However, you will need to use a microphone and a wired headset instead of wireless gaming headsets. These setups require a cable for the headphone models, a separate one for the microphones, and an audio splitter.

These models may not include earcups that cancel background noise, but you also won’t need a battery for the wired headphones. Additionally, you will have a wired connection instead of a USB dongle.


Games are designed for bass-heavy headsets, so you’ll suffer degraded audio quality if you use a pair of headphones.


Do you need an integrated microphone?

Although you don’t need an integrated microphone for gaming, you probably want one. Without a built-in mic, you need a separate microphone for any communications-based games or playing with friends. As a result, you need an audio spitter to accommodate both devices.

Do you need surround sound?

Surround sound (or 3D sound) refers to the ability of a headset to make it feel like you’re in the game. This technology allows you to hear directional audio, such as listening to your enemy’s footsteps coming from the direction they approach. It is not a requirement for gaming, but it helps.

Why do gamers wear two headsets?

Pro gamers wear multiple headsets to receive in-game sound and communications separately. Additionally, some amateur gamers look like they’re wearing numerous headsets when using a home-built headset, which features a separate headset for the microphone and a cable splitter device as described above.

STAT: A headset is a necessary part of gaming equipment for anyone into team-based games or competitive gaming. (source)

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