Headset vs. Headphones Comparison - What's Best For Gaming?

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Written By: Lorenzo • Updated: 15/04/2020

So, you may be thinking, what's better, a headset vs. headphones?

A headset having an attached microphone, and headphones... not having an attached microphone.

Subtle difference, but a question that needs to be asked nonetheless.

To answer this simply, do you want a microphone attached to your headphones, or would you prefer an external mic?

Depending on your choices, this will affect things like:

  • Your sound quality
  • Your microphone quality
  • The shape of your headphones
  • The convenience of the mic placement
  • Needing to buy an external mic

There is quite a lot to cover, so keep reading below.

And if you want to get the best cheap gaming headsets (microphone attached), feel free to check out our review.

Enough chit-chat, let's dive in!

Headset vs. Headphones Comparison

Quick Answer: It's the microphone. A headset has a microphone, whereas headphones do not.

If you wanted a quick answer, there you go - but just because it has a microphone, doesn't mean that it's better.

Below I will explain the minor differences between the two.

The Biggest Difference - The Microphone

Let's get one thing straight:

  • Headphones are simply the two pieces of earphones attached by a band which goes over your head.
  • A Headset is a pair of headphones which have an attached microphone to them. Hence the "set" since it's all 3 elements combined.
Headphones vs Headset differences

Earphones are more commonly used when you're describing two smaller speakers that are placed comfortably inside your ears. Here is an example below.

So to clarify - the biggest difference between a headset and a pair of headphones are the attached microphone.

  • No microphone = Headphones
  • With microphone = Headset

For someone who needs a quality mic, a headset may not always be the best choice since the attached mic would likely be inferior to a separate standalone mic.

Buying a standalone mic like the Mod Mic 5 by Antion Audio (which is attachable to selected headphones) will always triumph over a headset mic.

And if you want to go a step higher, getting a stand-alone desk mic like the Blue Snowball iCE with your headphones would make for even better sound quality.

There are select few headsets which are known for their superior attached mics like the HyperX Cloud II from our best cheap gaming headsets, so if you're not interested in getting an extra mic, then getting a gaming headset is a great option.

Sound Quality

When it comes to sound quality, there are 3 different types of devices you want to look out for:

  1. Gaming headsets
  2. Studio headphones
  3. Mainstream headphones

Gaming headsets have a clear goal which is to provide immersive sound and clear communication.

They're made with the intention to provide powerful bass, surround sound capabilities and are made for comfort so you don't feel uncomfortable after long gaming sessions.

Where gaming headsets start lower in sound quality and pricing is when resources are put into creating an attached mic since that feature will add to the price.

And like I said earlier, not all attached mics are bad, but you're better off buying the two separately if you want high-quality sounding peripherals.

Studio headphones are made more for enthusiasts that want the best quality, performance and practicality.

They are made to try and re-create the original studio recordings as accurate as possible.

This gives off a more satisfying listening experience, especially when viewing a part of the cinematic experience which pulls at your emotions or listening to your favourite songs.

They are well developed, consisting of many metal components, and put together in a way that so you can repair them easily.

The consumer market for studio-quality headphones are professionals who are constantly in the studio...

So for everyday use, it will cost quite a bit, but for gaming - going studio-quality isn't needed since there are better-suited headphones out there for you.

Lastly, there are the mainstream headphones which are the typical consumer headphones that you can buy at your nearest Kmart.

They are made to be functional, stylish, and affordable to the mainstream market, the emphasis being on portability.

They're more for the laid-back type of person who just wants to block out the noise, zone in on their

Price vs. Performance

Now knowing the differences the types of headphones/headsets you can get, pricing will definitely play a factor on each product and their purpose.

It's hard to match a headset worth $50 when it boils right down to rate vs. efficiency.

Gaming headsets have something that earphones don't - a built-in microphone (that sometimes can be detached).

If you're the type to travel frequently and want to carry around gear which is compact, mainstream headphone may be the best option for you.

To be even more efficient, getting a wireless solution can suit you better (and as a bonus you don't have to deal with cables).

You can check out our previous post on wired vs wireless headphones if you want help choosing between the two.

If you're looking for the best bang for your buck - you can get decent pair of headphones and a standalone mic for less than $100, easily.

  • RUNMUS Stereo Headset: Provides great sound and is one of the headsets on the market for its budget price.
  • Blue Snowball iCE: Amazing high-quality stand alone mic.
  • These two pair incredibly well since the RUNMUS mic doesnt perform too well.

This would be the optimal solution since you're almost always guaranteed better sound quality with a stand-alone mic.

In comparison to a headset, it really boils down to individual preference...

If you prefer having an all-in-one solution, you can get the best of both worlds and grab a headset like the HyperX Cloud II which provides quality sound, and incredible mic for its price.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What's Better For Gaming?

The inexpensive option is to buy a gaming headset since they're the middle-ground to getting quality sound, and a decent mic option.

E.g. HyperX Cloud II

The more expensive option is to buy a high-end pair of headphones, even going as far as studio-quality, and grabbing a stand-alone microphone.

E.g. The RUNMUS Stereo Headset + the Blue Snowball iCE

Depending on your budget, both decent choices. If you're an aspiring pro gamer or streamer, investing in higher-end gear is always better for the long term.

But if you're lacking in budget, entry-level products should do till you reach the next level and need to upgrade to better gear.

What's The Difference Between A Bluetooth Headset And Wireless Headset

I have explained in this in more depth in our wired vs. wireless comparison post, but to sum it up quickly:

  • Wireless Bluetooth Headset: Can be classified as a "subtype" of being wireless. Bluetooth is a technology that uses radio frequencies to transmit data. You can usually travel about 9m before the connection starts to drop.
  • Wireless Headset: A wireless headset uses radio and infrared waves to transmit data. Brands usually provide some sort of adapter that you need to plug-in to your device, but the connection is stronger, you can usually travel about 30m - 100m without dropping the connection.
Article written by Lorenzo
Since the age of 6, Lorenzo has enjoyed gaming on computers. Having grown up in the digital age, the technology revolves around him. He enjoyed growing up gaming throughout his high school years and is now a young adult who does most of his work on his computer. Lorenzo's mission is to make buying products and building PC's an easy and fun experience for all.

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