Get Better Sound From Your Xbox, PlayStation, Switch, PC, & MAC
What are the best headphones and headsets for gaming?
Hi everyone. My name's Ricky, and I'm an audiophile gamer. Look, I know it's a tough road to walk. Trying to keep these two VERY expensive hobbies afloat while trying not to sink your bank account, and having fun while doing it can seem like an impossible feat. But I'm here to show you that there is light at the end of the tunnel. There is hope. I'm here to walk this road with you and hopefully, you'll come out a better audiophile for it. Yeah, there's no way I can help you be a better gamer. Sorry.
Marrying these two hobbies isn't hard to do, but doing it well can be tricky. Great audio can go a long way to enhancing your gaming experience, but unfortunately, most gamers either 1) don't care or 2) don't have the budget. I'm guilty too of investing more in my gaming rig than my audio. But lest we gamers forget, that gaming itself is an experiential process. You can have a $20K gaming rig with dual RTX 3090s, 128GB RAM, 18-core CPU, and cram it in a corner with a 14-inch IPS screen on a tiny desk with a stool that has no back to it. I guarantee you'll be able to play the latest games maxed out but the experience is going to be awful.
I've tried to take every consideration into account here in regard to how to enhance the auditory experience in your gaming. Here's our one-stop-shop for every audiophile gamer out there, or those just wanting more from your gaming experience.
- BETTER SOUND
- BETTER IMMERSION
- BETTER GAMING EXPERIENCE
- Already expensive hobbies
- Console variations can confuse compatibility
Table of Contents
Outputting Audio on Gaming Platforms
Let's cover some fundamentals with gaming audio based on the platform. When it comes to releasing a new generation of consoles, historically manufacturers have released one console per generation. These generations generally lasted about five years or so. When the PlayStation 1 was released, the next release was the PlayStation 2, then the 3, and so forth and so forth. The latest generation of gaming consoles is a little more complicated. We are now seeing manufacturers releasing numerous variations with incremental upgrades throughout the lifespan of the current console. So you might have a slim version released, followed by a more powerful "pro" version. The only trouble with numerous variations is that specs change and sometimes features too. So what might work on a PS4 Pro might not work on a PS4 slim. It just creates more nuanced instructions on what is compatible and what isn't for a specific model. So I'll try to be as nuanced as possible throughout to recognize compatibility with various console generations and versions.
< Swipe to see more >
Sony allows for HDMI, Optical, Wireless, wired (3.5mm on the controller), and Bluetooth (with caveats). HDMI and Optical audio out is standard across the board, unless like in the case of the PS4 slim, the optical port is removed. Wireless audio will work if connecting your headset or headphone to a wireless USB dongle. Sony also allows Bluetooth audio output only to supported Sony-branded peripherals. PlayStation 4 and below do not allow for USB Audio output.* Consoles: Playstation 4, Playstation 4 (slim), Playstation 4 Pro, Playstation 5.
The same as Sony, Microsoft allows HDMI, Optical, Wireless, Wired (3.5mm on controller), and Bluetooth audio output. Wireless audio only works with supported USB dongles, and Bluetooth is supported only with approved Xbox peripherals. Xbox does not support USB Audio output. Consoles: Xbox One, Xbox One S, Xbox One X, Xbox Series X. Note that S and X series do not have an optical port.
Nintendo allows for USB-C audio output as well as open Bluetooth protocol to most wireless headphones. Consoles: Nintendo Switch, Nintendo Switch Lite, Nintendo Switch
Yup, they do it all. You got a port for it, it can do it.
*Playstation 5 does allow for USB Audio output. Newer USB DACs tend to work well enough, though some older DACs/receivers might have more issues. The PS5 is incompatible with USB Audio receivers (DACs) that support the 11-year-old standard of UAC2. Newer formats are supported but coverage is spotty. Feel free to check with us about compatibility with a product if you are considering pairing your Playstation 5 via USB Audio.
NOTE: There is a workaround for Bluetooth audio: you would need to purchase a 3rd party USB Type-A Bluetooth adapter which would then pair with the Bluetooth headphones. For the sake of this article we will not discuss workaround solutions, but rather focus on the native compatibility of the device with your gaming setup. Just note that there is typically always a 3rd party solution to most problems.
Bluetooth Vs. Wireless Audio
Wireless audio uses a different protocol than Bluetooth, so know that they are not the same thing. Both wireless and Bluetooth provide wireless communication using radio signals. Bluetooth connections are quite limited when compared to what wireless signals are capable of.
- Limited to 10 meters (approx)
- Consumes less power
- Requires less bandwidth
- Fewer security features
- Range limited to 100 meters (approx)
- Consumes more power
- Requires more bandwidth
- More security features
It's important to note that when it comes to Xbox and PlayStation if you're wanting to use Bluetooth headphones then you are limited to the brand-approved models that work natively with the console. Unofficially you could use a 3rd-party BT dongle solution for a workaround, but quality control on these devices and failure rates can vary. Nintendo Switch supports open Bluetooth connections but not wireless audio connections. PC and MAC support both Bluetooth and wireless audio protocols, depending on your preference.
Headphone Driver Types: Dynamic Vs. Planar Magnetic
Drivers are small devices inside your headphones that deliver sound to your ears. Each ear cup houses one driver. Drivers transform electrical signals into audible sound waves that are pushed or "driven" to your ears. Think of drivers as miniature speakers. Drivers come in many shapes and sizes, and since they are the primary device used to create sound in a headphone or IEM, they can also vary a lot in sound signature.
< Select one to find out more >
Planar Magnetic Drivers
The dynamic driver from the Focal Stellia Headphone.
Dynamic drivers (aka moving coil drivers) are the most common type of driver, and the least expensive. Able to cover the entire frequency range, they are known for great bass response in your music.
Dynamic drivers include a tiny, stiff, cone-shaped diaphragm connected to a coil of copper wire around a magnet (typically neodymium - a small but very powerful magnet), which magnetizes the coil. When an electrical signal moves through it, the coil creates a magnetic field that causes it to move back and forth (this is why dynamic drivers are also called "moving coil" drivers). Because it is connected to the coil, the diaphragm also moves, displacing the air around it and producing sound. The substantial amount of air displacement is what gives dynamic drivers a good bass response. Also, dynamic drivers usually have vents, which boosts air movement, furthering the bass response.
The downside of dynamic drivers is that because not all parts of the diaphragm move at the same time (ie, the electrical signal moves from the center of the diaphragm outward), a series of events occur that can cause distortion and loss of resolution, especially at high volumes.
- Least expensive; easy to produce
- Capable of covering the entire frequency spectrum
- Easy to power
- Can distort at high volumes
- Loss of detail
Like dynamic drivers, planar magnetic drivers use magnetic fields. Instead of a coil, though, planar magnetic drivers use a flat, thin diaphragm much like the one in electrostatic drivers. The difference here is that the diaphragm in a planar magnetic driver has wires embedded in it. This creates an electromagnetic field that can interact with the magnetic field, creating sound waves.
The diaphragm in a planar magnetic driver is sandwiched between two arrays of evenly spaced magnets. An electric current travels through this magnetic field and causes the diaphragm to move, thus producing sound. So it's not the coil that moves the diaphragm; it's the magnets. This is how the name planar magnetic originates -- "magnets acting on a flat plane."
Planar magnetic headphones are known for their deep bass response. This is due to a large amount of air that goes through the driver thanks to its large surface area and powerful magnetic force. Another benefit of these drivers is that sound vibrations are evenly distributed across the diaphragm, meaning distortion is minimized.
The Isodynamic Hybrid Array from the Meze Empyrean (Planar Magnetic)
- Low distortion
- Easy to drive, but they perform best with added power
- Larger, heavier
For more information on driver types head over to our blog explaining everything you need to know about how a headphone works:
Headphone Type: Closed-Back Vs. Open-Back
Headphones come in two main varieties: open-back and closed-back. It's what you would expect: an open-back headphone has an open or vented ear cup design, whereas a closed-back design has no venting to the outside of the ear cup. There are many pros and cons depending on how you are using the headphones and where, so let's just go over some basics.
Apart from the basics of the easily-understood design differences, there are some notable sonic differences that each type provides to your music. Here's a quick breakdown of each:
PROS & CONS [click to expand]
Closed-Back Headphones Pros:
Open-Back Headphones Pros:
- The best option to study with
- Best when you don't want to be disturbed
- Best when you want the most focused listening session
More Ergonomic Uses
- Best for commuting
- Best portable option to travel with
- Best when you can afford not to be disturbed
- Great for office use when you want to block out background noise
Greater Bass Impact
- An excellent choice for bass-heavy music genres
- Reduced ear fatigue
- Better comfort over long listening sessions
- Lighter weight design thanks to fewer materials
- Allows ventilation for the ears to “breath” thanks to the omission of outer cups
Best for Certain Situations
- Best for at-home listening
- Best used when you don't mind being interrupted
- Great when you want to maintain awareness of background noise
More Driver Options
- Dynamic drivers
- Electrostatic drivers
- Planar magnetic drivers
- These drivers are more established and mature
Closed-Back Headphones Cons:
Open-Back Headphones Cons:
- Little to no ventilation
- Can cause sweat around the ears to build up
- Can cause ear fatigue over prolonged listening sessions
Fewer Driver Options
- Dynamic drivers are one of the only options
- While more driver types are becoming available, the technology is less mature than in open-back headphones
- Not a good portable option to travel with
- Being made of lighter materials means they could be more prone to accidental damage
Fewer Ergonomic Uses
- Best used at home
- Not good for blocking out background noises
- Not a good option for commuting on the train, or plane
- Not a good choice for use at work around other people
Less Bass Impact
- Not the preferred choice for bass-driven music genres
Closed-Back Headphones Sound:
The 'In Your Head' Sound
- Escapism is incredibly immersive
- Centrally located sense of presentation
- A slightly less musical sense of presentation.
- More isolating and introspective sound signature
Open-Back Headphones Sound:
- Escapism has a more “live” soundstage
- The best option for critical listening sessions
- A more open, natural, and wider sense of presentation
To learn more about the differences between closed-back and open-back headphones, head over to our guide:
Gaming Headsets [by price]
What's the difference between a headset and a headphone? Headsets have a microphone. We'll go ahead and classify this section as headphones that have detachable boom microphones. We'll have some headphone options in the next section that have some integrated mics into the headphone itself that would technically work for this section. Headsets are integral to those who like to play multiplayer games, where you can talk to your teammates or enemies during gameplay. Boom mics are great to make sure that you are heard clearly and without interference, as they allow the microphone to be wrapped around to your mouth. The nice thing about these headset selections is that they either come with the option to completely remove the mic or swap out cables for a non-mic version, letting these headphones serve double-duty as great music-listening headphones. They're also versatile in that they can connect in a multitude of ways to your music or gaming source,
The Penrose is one of the best headset options for console owners due to the fact that it specifically comes in an Xbox and PlayStation variant. These come natively compatible with each respective gaming system (plug & play) and use wireless audio via the included USB dongle. These will also work with PC and MAC via the dongle, as well as USB-C with the included charging cable. The Penrose comes equipped with Bluetooth as well to mobile devices, PC, etc, and makes for a much more affordable entry point to high-fidelity gaming audio than the big brother Mobius. The Main differences are that the Penrose does not include head-tracking technology and comes with a different broadcast-quality microphone. If you're a console player, the Penrose should definitely be a consideration.
Playstation: Wireless and Wired
Xbox: Wireless and Wired
PC: BT, Wireless, Wired, USB
Switch: BT, Wired, USB
Detachable Boom Mic, Sturdy Construction
Great closed-back planar sound, on-ear volume, and mic controls
The Mobius is the Penrose's big brother, with added technology that makes even the most seasoned gamer say, "whoa." 3D head tracking is the real star of the Mobius, along with the same excellent-sounding planar magnetic drivers that will make your music and game audio level up. The on-ear volume and mic controls make for easy adjustment on the fly and the rugged construction will assure that it will still be fine after your latest rage-quitting episode. The Mobius is one of my favorite gaming headphones on the market, but I also really enjoy using them for listening to music. The closed-back design of the planar driver gives tons of energy to the music - great accuracy, spatial audioimaging, and just an overall pleasant sonic experience. The head tracking is a neat feature and shines in VR scenarios, as well as lets you experience your favorite music in a whole new way. Connect via the USB-C for USB audio on a PC, or use Bluetooth and high-resolution codecs to go wireless. The detachable boom mic is nice when you just want to listen to music and comfortability is top-notch. The Mobius is the best of both gamer and audiophile worlds for a headphone under $500.
Playstation: Wired, USB
PC: BT, Wired, USB
Switch: BT, Wired, USB
Detachable Boom Mic, 3D Head-Tracking Tech
Great closed-back planar sound, on-ear volume, and mic controls
HIFIMAN Ananda BT
If you're looking for a true audiophile-grade headphone that can do double-duty as a gaming headset then look no further. The Ananda BT is almost identical to its wired counterpart, except for the omission of the headphone jacks and the addition of a boom mic. The "BT" stands for Bluetooth since the physical headphone jacks are removed and it's the only way other than the USB cable to use it. Back when we reviewed the Anandas we were simply amazed at the sound quality and fidelity coming from a pair of wireless headphones. The large, open-back planar drivers are going to bring out amazing details in your gaming sessions, and the added [removable] boom mic will allow you to talk smack to the opposing team to your heart's content. Keep in mind that because these are Bluetooth and USB Audio only, they will not be compatible for console owners without 3rd party solutions. If running USB Audio out, then the PS5 will be compatible. The Ananda BT makes one of the best hi-res wireless options for those wanting to game on PC, MAC, Switch, or mobile.
PC: BT, USB
Switch: BT, USB
Detachable Boom Mic, a great audiophile headphone too
Large, open-back planar sound, hi-res playback via LDAC
If you're already an audiophile, then the format of the LCD-GX probably looks pretty familiar already. The LCD-GX is stylistically a lot like Audeze's other LCD lineup of headphones, only this time they offer you a cable option with a built-in microphone. The nice thing about the mic is that it's terminated before the headphones, meaning you can swap it out at any time for a regular cable (included) for listening to music. The departure from other headsets on this list is that the LCD-GX doesn't have any of the other wireless connection options for audio. That being said, we also recommend pairing the LCD-GX with a headphone amplifier to get the full potential from the planar-magnetic drivers. The open-back design will also provide a great soundstage and airiness to your music and game audio alike. The Audeze LCD-GX is one of the most premium headset options to upgrade your gaming experience when it comes to sound and fidelity.
Multiple cable options for microphone/gaming or music listening
No wireless options, recommended with headphone amplifier
Gaming Headphones [by price]
Sennheiser Momentum 4
The Momentum 4 is Sennheiser's latest wireless noise-canceling headphone. They've made some great updates this year, and the new styling is similar to the popular Sony WH-1000XM5. The sleek black design, minimalist ear cups with added gesture/touch controls, and improved comfort make the Momentum 4 a serious contender for best do-it-all headphone. Where the Momentum 4 surpasses the XM5 is when it comes to the sound quality. Sennheiser has always had some of the best analytical audiophile-grade sound quality in all their headphones, no matter the cost, and the Momentum 4 trumps other consumer-grade ANC headphones in this regard. Clear, detailed, with plenty of bass - it's the crispness of the sound that stands out. I had a blast using these on-the-go with my Nintendo Switch, and the added noise-canceling aided in the overall immersion while gaming on the couch or wherever. If you prefer better sound quality over noise-canceling or other smart-app integration, then be sure to check out the Sennheiser Momentum 4. Your games and music will thank you.
PC: Wired, BT
Switch: Wired, BT
Great audiophile-grade sound in a noise-canceling headphone
Insane battery life, touch controls, ANC
The Sony WH-1000XM5 is one of our favorite multi-purpose headphones at Moon Audio. This thing not only does it all, but it sounds dang good while doing it. Hi-res Bluetooth, wired, noise-canceling, built-in mic, gesture/touch controls, app integration, and more, the XM5 is the swiss-army knife for almost every ergonomic scenario. Sony's headphones and sound signature put you "in the action" with a close soundstage and V-shaped signature, making it a great option for gaming. The noise-canceling is the best on the market, and if you're gaming in a noisy environment and want to block everything out but your game, then there is no better option than the XM5. They're extremely efficient as well, so you won't need any external amplification, which also saves on the excellent battery life when used passively. Connecting via Bluetooth will prevent them from working natively with console, but there are workarounds. Gesture controls are great and let you make quick adjustments during gaming sessions (great for mobile or streaming on phones). The newer style and driver design for 2022 also improves comfort and sound quality over the previous generation, which is why we recommend the Sony WH-1000XM5 every chance we get.
PC: Wired, BT
Switch: Wired, BT
Best-in-class noise-canceling do-it-all headphone
Great sound - puts you "in the action"
HiFiMan Sundara Closed-Back
For under $500, HiFiMan brings their flagship-level tech from their Susvara all the way down to the Sundara, with their amazing-sounding stealth magnets technology. The Sundara is a closed-back planar magnetic driver, that creates highly-detailed and accurate sound reproduction. The ear cup design is reminiscent of the popular R10 series and helps add a much larger soundstage than other closed-back headphones. The Sundara is a great headphone for gaming due to the fact that they are easy to drive as well, and whereas you won't necessarily need an external headphone amp, we always recommend throwing as much power as possible at planar drivers for better performance. There is no USB or digital technology on the headphone, so you'll need to connect via the wired audio connection to your console controllers (via 3.5mm), the Switch, and/or PC. If you're looking for a no-frills great sounding headphone for gaming AND listening to music then look no further.
Wired is the only connection option
Flagship-quality stealth magnets for under $500
Lucky for this list, the Bathys was just released. Like the Sony XM5, the Bathys can do a lot, only when it comes to sound quality, it can do it a lot better. Focal put a lot of tech into their first noise-canceling headphone, and needless to say, it delivers. I don't think the noise canceling compares to the XM5, but it's effective, and combined with Focal driver technology, it delivers a much more premium sonic experience. But that is to be expected since the Bathys is twice the price of the XM5. The Bathys has a nice soundstage with plenty of clarity and dynamics, making it a great option for both gaming and music listening. Obviously, you'll be limited (natively at least) as a console user with Bluetooth, but the pairing process works just fine with the Switch and PC. However, you'll be able to use the Bathys wired on all platforms, but know that because of all the tech you'll need to have the headphone powered on for sound. Like the Penrose and Mobius, the Bathys can't be used passively, but I'll happily trade the option to save battery for a superior audio experience, and that's just what the Bathys offers.
Playstation: Wired, USB
PC: Wired, BT, USB
Switch: Wired, BT, USB
Amazing Focal sound combined with noise-cancelation
French styling, premium materials and construction
If you want the best headphone sound that Sony provides, then you want the MDR-Z1R. It has an incredibly fun and crisp sound thanks to the magnesium dome and HD driver. Like other headphones on this list, you're not going to find any bells and whistles on the Z1R. It's a plug-and-play headphone, only for wired connection. They're also the largest headphones on this list, so they'll be better for at-home use as opposed to taking them on the road (but you could if you really wanted). Despite the size, the Z1R headphone is extremely light and comfortable. The cups are designed that they provide some good spaciousness and the audio sounds just as big as the headphones look. The MDR-Z1R is one of the best headphones at Moon Audio for those who like a fun and energetic sound to their music, and like it's tuned to do well with every music genre, it's also just as compatible with many types of games. That makes it a great choice for gamers AND audiophiles who can't decide which headphones they want. And with a brand like Sony, how could you go wrong?
Big, fun Sony sound - puts you in the action
Large headphones, so great for home use, also very light and comfortable
Sennheiser HD 800 S
To top our list of headphones is one that gamers and audiophiles everywhere revere for its grand soundstage and wonderful detail and clarity. The HD800S from Sennheiser is a favorite on both sides of pro and consumer audio, and that's saying a lot. Sennheiser is known for its clean analytical sound, and when it comes to open-back headphones, it's hard to find an equal for imaging and soundstage. That's why it makes for one of the best headphones all around for gaming. You'll want to pair the HD800 S with a headphone amp to get the most from it, but you'll be surprised with the amount of sound detail it will bring to your gaming experiences. The ear cups are large and extremely comfortable, and I find myself wearing them for hours at a time with no fatigue whatsoever. Of course, they are the most expensive headphone on our list too, but there is a reason why big-time streamers and gamers recommend the Sennheiser HD800 S for their setups. Better sound means better immersion which means better gaming experiences all around.
Best gaming headphone on our list
Recommended with headphone amplifier - incredible sound and soundstage
The moral of the story here is that if you want good gaming headphones, then just use good headphones. Chances are more times than not, if the word "gaming" is in the name, and it's under like $200 bucks, then it's probably not all that great for gaming.
DACs & Amps
DACs and amps are a great way to level up your gaming audio, providing more resolution and power to your connected headphones or bookshelf speakers. An external DAC will more efficiently and accurately convert your digital data than an integrated factory DAC, resulting in major gains in overall fidelity and sound quality. Amplifiers are a good choice if you have a headphone that requires more power, like a planar driver, or if you want to connect to a small set of speakers. They also have a plethora of I/O and connectivity options for a variety of gaming setups that we'll go over in this section.
iFi Audio Gryphon DAC
This DAC amp is insane. Of all the gear I've had the pleasure of checking out, reviewing, and testing in the past year, the Gryphon from iFi is by far my favorite device. I recently did a listening test and face-off with the popular mojo 2 a few months ago with everyone here at Moon Audio, and the big takeaway was that even though the Mojo 2 won out based on sound alone, the features and the very close sound quality, in comparison, makes the Gryphon the better buy. Bluetooth, USB Audio, unbalanced and balanced ins and outs, amazing sonic enhancements, and more, in a portable size that you can take with you anywhere? I don't know why you haven't pressed "Add to Cart" yet. It was one of the few products that worked natively with almost every gaming setup we tested. The Burr-Brown DAC chipset is natural-sounding, with plenty of bass response and a fun signature right out of the gate. The XBass and XSpace sound enhancements go a long way to legitimately increase the soundstage and the bass response when you want it. Read more about the Gryphon in the full review if you want, but I'll just save you time: just get one.
Incredibly versatile DAC Amp - plethora of features and connection options
X Bass and X Space + Burr Brown DAC for excellent sound
Chord Mojo 2
The Mojo 2 from Chord Electronics is by far one of the most popular portable DACs on the market. Chord has made some significant updates to the original Mojo portable DAC amp, including the configuration options and the overall amazing sound quality. The Mojo 2 makes an easy addition to any gaming setup due to its ability to connect via USB audio transmission, coax, and optical. Optical was the preferred connection choice for consoles, and USB Audio sounded superb as well on PC and Switch. The additional crossfeed, frequency and EQ adjustments, and revamped menu system makes the Mojo 2 a very customizable device, although the menu system can be complicated and require a bit of getting used to. It is the best-sounding portable DAC on the market in this price range, and the size and power make it the perfect companion and accessory for your gaming setup.
Playstation: USB, Coax/Opt, USB
Best sounding portable DAC, superior single-ended audio quality
Expanded menu system, dual headphone jacks
iFi Audio NEO Headphone Amp
The NEO is one of my new favorite devices. I have one on my desk here and use it daily for my streaming. The NEO is iFi's 3-in-one DAC, amp, and streamer. You can connect it to your system in a variety of ways, including USB, optical, coax, XLR, and RCA. At home, I can do RCA out of my tv to some HD800s, or plug it into my gaming laptop via USB and connect to the XM5 using LDAC for nice clean hi-res audio. It's a versatile device for any setup, and will provide you with all the power you'll need for power-hungry planar headphones. The wireless options are nice too. From the perspective of an audiophile and a gamer, it's been one of my favorite additions to Moon Audio this year - and the price is fairly reasonable too for what you get.
Playstation: USB, Optical, RCA
Xbox: Optical, RCA
High-quality streaming and I/O selection. RCA a plus for consoles
Hi-res codecs, nice construction, and horizontal/vertical orientations
iFi Audio Diablo Headphone Amp
The Diablo from iFi Audio is an incredibly powerful amp and DAC for the size. I mean, we're talking about almost getting into Astell&Kern KANN Alpha and Max territory. The Diablo's flashy red chassis is surprisingly sleek in person, and the form factor reminds me of the Anker portable power banks that are popular on the consumer market. Power is what the Diablo does well, and that power translates into some great-sounding audio. The low-end presence is striking for a device of this size, and textures and richness in the audio help create wonderfully full and dynamic performances. The Diablo has 3 modes: Turbo, Normal, and Eco for adjusting the amount of power and battery life you'll need. Maxing out at 12 hours of battery life, up to 19.2V at 600ohms, the Diablo can pack a punch when needed. If you have some planar magnetic headphones you'll really benefit from this. There are really no bells and whistles to the Diablo, just the quarter inch and 4.4mm headphone jacks, mode switch, and the volume knob which is also power on the front. On the back, there is the SPDIF, 4.4mm output, USB-c for charging and the male USB type A connector. You know what they say: "with great power comes great sound quality."
Playstation: USB, S/PDIF
Lots of power in a portable form factor
Burr Brown DAC for excellent sound; no frills
SPL Phonitor SE
The Phonitor SE headphone amp from SPL is a great pairing with our favorite top-of-class gaming headphone: the HD800 S from Sennheiser. Drew personally recommends the Phonitor to his HD800 customers because of the output. It's a capable headphone amp for music listening, but I also enjoyed it for a lot of my gaming sessions. You can pair it with an optional DAC - which features the popular AKM 4490 and sounds rich and dynamic. One of the main draws too to the Phonitor is the switchable crossfeed, allowing you to listen and adjust to your game audio and music through headphones, with the sound experience of listening through speakers. Paired with the HD800 S was some of the most exciting auditory experiences I've had while gaming, but it works just as well with any headphones you throw at it, and that's why it makes this list.
Playstation: USB, Optical
Great match for the HD800 S; lots of power
Auris Euterpe Headphone Amp
The Auris Audio Euterpe headphone amp is a great option for those who want a smooth warm tone to their audio. Equipped with low and high-impedance settings, tubes, an ESS SABRE DAC chip, it also allows you to use digital sources like PC or mobile as well. It even has a built-in headphone stand as it's designed. Speaking of the design, the wood panels make the Euterpe stand out from the crowd, and the design aesthetic screams premium. It's also nice to stack it next to your console if you have it standing up too. I really like playing games through a tube amplifier, and the warmth and body of the sound it produces help the overall immersion when playing with headphones. Power-hungry headphones like planar drivers will sound great with the Euterpe as well. The back has RCA inputs, RCA pre outs, and USB. The Euterpe sounds as good as it looks, and the added horsepower goes a long way in making both game audio and music sound more dynamic and resolute with various headphone setups.
Playstation: USB, RCA
Premium design and materials
Great tube sound
Clarus CODA USB DAC
I wanted to make an honorable mention here with the Clarus CODA. The CODA is a handy little USB DAC that works with almost everything. Of course, it won't be compatible with consoles that can't do USB Audio, but it's good for just about everything else. Amazingly clear and detailed sound, no bigger than a flash drive, and it even has manual volume up and down buttons and filter options. It also comes with a USB Type A to C adapter for USB-C connections, making it an incredibly versatile DAC for almost any ergonomic scenario. I always bring a small USB DAC with me everywhere - you never know when you'll need one.
Small form factor, big sound
Physical buttons: volume and filter select, comes with USB-A to USB-C adapter
Generally, stock audio cables are manufactured with subpar materials, metals with impurities, poor geometries, and an overabundance of layers to make them look and feel like a fire hose. Inconsistency and lack of quality control in stock cables can lead to poor sound quality and a veiled sound vs what the musician intended for you to hear and feel from the music. Dragon cables are handcrafted with the highest standards and made to order according to your specific needs. At Moon Audio, we create a custom cable for you using the highest quality UP-OCC silver or copper conductors that can be manufactured. UP-OCC metals are void of impurities and are optimized for signal transfer and sound quality. We have one of the largest collections of audio and headphone connection options available online and we create limitless audio cable options depending on your specific gear and needs.
Silver Dragon Sound Signature: The Silver Dragon is the original cable. Silver strands clarify instrument separation, increase the soundstage, and find previously lost high and mid-frequency sounds. Transients appear more cohesive and the bass tighter for a more controlled sound. The detail and clarity of the Silver Dragon make it a perfect match for classical music and other genres with many nuanced instruments.
Black Dragon Sound Signature: The Black Dragon is warm and smooth with a musical presentation. Copper strands enhance the body, shape, and immediacy of the music. The detail and expansiveness of the Black Dragon make it a flexible fit where a broad range of musical genres are played. It can also improve bass frequencies on bass-light headphones. The smooth, musical quality makes it a perfect fit for headphones that tend to sound a bit edgy or bright. Despite its warmth, the Black Dragon does not have a laid-back, lush sound. It is much closer to neutral, making it a very natural-sounding cable. For more information on finding your signature sound, visit our Sound Signature Guide.
It doesn't take a lot to really improve the immersion of your gaming sessions. I found that investing a little more in a great headphone with convenient controls like the Mobius not only greatly improves the quality of my gaming audio and music listening, but I find myself sitting there much longer and just enjoying the game more. Don't be fooled by gaming companies like Turtle Beach, Steel Series, and Logitech - sure they'll be fine for the consumer, but you deserve better. Pro tip: if it has RGB lighting, steer clear. There are lots of games, and types of games out there, so audio experiences will vary depending on what you are into. Multiplayer shooters? Hear more details like enemies creeping up behind you. Open world? Hear living, breathing ecosystems sound as if you're actually there. Sound (and sound quality) can literally make or break a game, and your ears deserve better than your crappy TV speakers. There are a ton of headphones, headsets, and other gear that can easily be paired to your gaming setup, so let this be your first stop in what will hopefully be a lifetime journey of better sound for your games and music. It still won't make you a better gamer though...
If you have any questions about compatibility with your gaming system, feel free to leave a comment below. Happy Listening!
What headphone is best for gaming??
Really the best headphone for gaming is the one you like. A great headphone is any one that is comfortable and sounds good to you - it doesn't have to be a certain gaming-branded headphone, and many times cheaper gaming-branded headphones actually do not sound good. Of course, if you are wanting to play a multiplayer game that requires talking to others, then a microphone is necessary, and there are great options out there with microphones included. If you don't have to worry about a microphone, however, then if you have a favorite headphone for music listening, there is no reason why you can't use that for gaming as well. The headphone and headset recommendations in this guide are just some of the entry-level to audiophile-level gear that will provide great sound quality depending on your budget.
Do gaming headphones make a difference?
Gaming headphones CAN make a difference. It really depends on the brand and price in many ways, as oftentimes cheaper gaming-branded headphones in actuality do not sound good at all. If you have a headphone that has great sound quality, feels comfortable, and works well with your gaming system, then yes, gaming headphones can make a big difference in your gaming sessions.
Are audio headphones good for gaming?
YES! Music and audio headphones make very good headphones for gaming as well. If you have a favorite pair of headphones that sound good to you and fit you well then, by all means, use them for gaming. These are only recommendations for those who want more from their gaming sessions depending on your budget.
What is a good wireless gaming headset?
There are many good wireless gaming headsets on the market, being headphones that also include a microphone for chatting. We like gaming options from Audeze that fit various budgets, everyday consumer options like the Sony XM5 and the Momentum 4 from Sennheiser are great options for various tasks too. A lot of it comes down to what type of games you like to play, what music you like to listen to, if it's comfortable for you, does it work for your ergonomic scenario, etc. These are some questions to ask when considering what a good headphone is for you, wireless or wired.
Why do gamers use gaming headsets?
Gamers use gaming headsets so that they can communicate with other gamers during their sessions. A "gaming headset" might refer to specific brands that make gaming headsets, or it could just refer to headphones with microphones that people use for gaming. Typically, gaming headsets have great audio quality, letting the user pick up on sound cues and elements that enhance their overall gaming experience. Sound helps to immerse the gamer in the gaming world, and better immersion means a better gaming experience.
Do you need a mic for gaming?
You do not necessarily need a microphone for gaming. If you are gaming with others which requires you to chat with them in real-time, then yes you will need a microphone. Otherwise, if you enjoy the single-player experience, most times you will not need a microphone.
Is there a difference between gaming headphones and normal headphones?
Typically no, as a gaming headphone works in the exact same way a headphone for music listening would work. Usually, the only difference is the inclusion of a microphone for multiplayer chatting or specific connections to work with platforms like Playstation, Xbox, PC, etc.
Gaming for Audiophiles
If you're an audiophile and a gamer, trying to keep these two expensive hobbies afloat while trying not to sink your bank account, and having fun while doing it can seem like an impossible feat. But I'm here to show you that there is light at the end of the tunnel. There is hope for gamers like you. I'm here to walk this road with you and hopefully, you'll come out a better audiophile for it.