Headphones vs Speakers: Which Performs Best For Gamers

by Josh Koop | Last Updated:   1 month ago
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Your gaming experience can be radically enhanced by the device you’re using to listen to in-game sounds, and gamers are divided on which device performs best for games: headphones or speakers? If you’re looking to decide which would be best for the ultimate gaming experience for you, here are a few things you should consider.

Gamers deciding whether a pair of headphones or speakers will give them the best experience need to consider comfort, communication, privacy, and the size of the room they’re playing in. Making considerations for these factors can create a fully immersed experience that suits a player’s preferences.

Opinions will always be divided in the gaming community on whether headphones or speakers make for the best experience, and both choices are good choices.

But, depending on where you’re gaming, who you’re playing with, and the specifics of what you want to hear, one option may be better for you than the other.

Headphones vs. Speakers: What They Have To Offer

Let’s start with the obvious and talk about headphones and speakers and some of their features.

Gaming headphones (or headsets) transmit in-game audio directly into your ears, offering the best quality sound.

They come fitted with padding around the internal speakers, as well as on the headband. They also come equipped with a microphone to help you communicate with your friends while playing multiplayer games.

On the other hand, gaming speakers are devices that don’t need to be attached to your body and simply play sounds that fill up the room, without the need for Bluetooth attachments or audio jacks getting clung around your neck.

However, they fill up the room with sound and can be heard beyond it, and they also don’t come equipped with a microphone to communicate with friends in online multiplayer modes.

That’s a basic overview of what’s on offer. Speakers and headphones are pretty self-explanatory, but there are pros and cons for both of them.

Additionally, there are perhaps a few things you haven’t considered that you should think about before to ensure you get the best possible gaming experience.

Is Gaming Better With Headphones?

The majority of gamers tend to opt for headphones for several reasons. The individual, immersed nature of your audio experience is unquestionably ideal for any gamer, and it has a few things to offer that gaming speakers simply don’t.

Here’s a look at the advantages and disadvantages of using headphones rather than speakers:

Speakers provide better sound quality – there’s simply no question; because headphones are relatively bulky, they can support high-performance components that play audio directly into your ears, from different spectrums (i.e., 8D sound), so you can hear the sounds of cars, birds, the moving of objects, gunshots, and so on.

Not to mention, many of today’s gaming headphones come equipped with a vibration function, which can really up the ante in the battle to create a fully immersive gaming experience by allowing you to “feel” the kickback from firing a rifle or the shaking of a car.

In short, you’re hearing everything around you and feel like you’re in the game, thanks to the high performance and specialized nature of headphones.

What’s more is that your headphones come equipped with a microphone that can catch your voice and cancel out other background noises, making communication with your multiplayer teammates easier than ever.

Some people argue that gaming headphones can be cumbersome because a) they have to be attached to your PC/Console through an audio jack that simply gets in the way, or b) they connect via Bluetooth and need to be charged more frequently.

And some people just find the bulky headsets to be uncomfortable in general, regardless of the padding. But so many gaming headphones are so well designed, ergonomically, that if you buy a good quality pair, you won’t even notice they’re there.

Is Gaming Better With Speakers?

Some gamers who swear by speakers use a surround sound system and argue that they can provide a similarly immersive experience – except with trembling bass that can really shake you up. You can immerse yourself in ambient sounds without being tethered to a cable or burdened by a bulky headset.

A big part of the argument is the privacy issue. Some people prefer to get into their own world and be detached from the outside through the audio experience, while others want to hear their kids or the doorbell.

Furthermore, sometimes you’ll be told to “turn it down” when there are other people in the house who aren’t interested in hearing gunfire, sports commentary, revving engines, or whatever it may be.

But what is unquestionably the biggest drawback with using speakers for gaming is that you cannot communicate.

A decent mic is an additional expense, and you’ll probably end up hearing a bunch of feedback anyways, with your friends’ voices coming out of the speakers and straight back into the microphone.

If you’re willing to make an additional purchase, you may as well buy a pair of headphones and speakers and alternate between the two for single and multiplayer modes, but that used to be the only solution.

These days, microphones are equipped with noise cancellation tech that stops background noises from making it through your microphone.

By using algorithms where your computer will adjust speaker and microphone levels for you while you play, you can employ noise cancellation and the technology is only getting better.

Another consideration is that many speakers are designed to be used in specifically sized rooms. In other words, a set of speakers will provide a different quality sound in an open planned living-room compared to the sound it would provide in a small bedroom.

Typically, speakers perform better in smaller rooms, but some high-end products are equipped to accommodate vast spaces. You don’t need to consider this when buying headphones, on the other hand.

Are Headphones Better Than Speakers For Gaming?

The answer to the question at hand is going to depend a lot on your individual circumstances and what you want from your in-game experience.

Speakers are for people who like to involve people around them in the game and who like to be aware of their surroundings or who simply don’t like the feel of headphones.

Headphones are better for online gaming and provide a fully immersive experience regardless of where you are – but you will be locked in the game and won’t hear a thing outside of it, which can be an inconvenience for some.

But perhaps the best advice would be to prioritize quality. When it comes to sound, spare no expense. Always look for the most expensive option.

The technology available to us these days is so tremendous that, regardless of your choice, many of the cons of buying headphones or speakers for gaming could be mitigated at the very least by the technologies that they are equipped with. 

And you should be targetting established brands – the expensive price is worth it in the long run, your headphones/speakers will deliver better sound quality and will last longer, while a cheap pair will compromise on quality and you may need to buy another set in a year or two, which ends up costing you more anyway.

At the end of the day, you need to be sure-footed in making this investment, and when you decide on headphones or speakers, do not compromise on quality. By doing so, you’ll have an incredible gaming experience either way.

Prices pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:

Sources

Gaming Headset vs. Gaming Speakers – Which Is Better?  | Tech Crack

Speakers or a headset? | PC Gamer

Is Wearing a Gaming Headset Better for Gaming than a Speaker? | ArkarTech

Headphones vs. Speakers for Gaming | Linus Tech Tips