I’ve spent almost a month (wow, really?) researching headphones. I can’t remember how I got addicted into this research, but I’ve already returned one set of cans and hoping the next will fare better. I can’t believe how complicated the audiophile world is.
Thankfully, I have Google to help me in my searches and it brought me to head-fi.org, a great resource and review site with a vibrant community forum. The trickiest thing is that I’m not an audiophile, nor do I want to become one. I’m interested in budget headphones (or headset) for movies, music, and gaming. I’ve discovered that audiophile-quality headphones lean too far off the bass end. Perhaps I am part of the culture of bass-heads that they detest, but I like what I like.
Last week, I thought I had finally concluded my extensive, borderline-obsessive, search for a gaming headset. I originally was going for good headphones for music so I can enjoy tunes while I code at work. But then, my wiser-half noted that I probably should not be wear noise-isolating headphones at work since I needed to hear when the phone rang or when a coworker stopped by. So, I turned my attention to gaming headsets since I have participated in multiplayer games more often (and loving it).
I used to play games with bluetooth headphones and used my webcam as a microphone. It worked pretty well, but it did mean I had an open mic in my living room during my gaming sessions. And that has gotten me in trouble when Jenni didn’t know that it was an open mic.
At the beginning of 2011, my friend Clark gave me a gaming headset as a gift. I was really appreciative and I’ve used the Plantronics .Audio 355 since. It helped keep the volume down as I no longer had to shout into my webcam for my friends to hear me. He had gotten it for me so we could communicate better in Battlefield Bad Company 2, but I ended using them much more for StarCraft 2 team games.
As I was building a new computer for work at the end of 2011, I came across an system-building article that convinced me to get a dedicated sound card for our home computer. The on-board sound had served well, but I always had to turn up the volume for movies and it came with a background hiss. The recommended Asus Xonar DG was only $20 after rebate. The audio quality is definitely better as I can turn up the volume with little distortion from my trusty old Klipsch ProMedia 4.1s. And there was no more background hiss. Music has always and continues to be an important theme (pun intended) in our lives, so having better quality sound for music was easily justifiable.
The Xonar DG also included Dolby Headphone technology, so I experimented with virtual surround sound. It has been fun, and after reading a round-up on Tom’s Hardware for 5.1/7.1 headphones and HardOCP’s recommendation, I purchased the Corsair Vengeance 1300 to see what I’ve been missing with more expensive headphones. Tom’s had recommended the 1500 model, but I didn’t need a USB sound card since I had a dedicated sound card, and from HardOCP’s review, it seemed like the 1300 and the 1500 had the same 50mm drivers.
I felt very disappointed at how underwhelmed I was with the 1300. I investigated further and figured out that since they’re “gaming” headphones, they don’t really emphasize bass much at all, so that you are more competitive hearing footsteps and gunshots. But I really missed the booming bass for explosions, especially when I used the headphones to watch the Bourne series with Jenni. Every time there was a solid punch from Jason or a car crash, I would get a thud but no resonance that I’m accustomed to.
So back to Amazon the Corsairs went, with a $9 restocking fee. Thankfully, their purchase price was subsidized by my birthday gift card.
Looking ahead, I’m going to check out the Koss KSC75, which got recommended on head-fi for its fun and competitive gaming capabilities. And I can’t lose for $16.50. After I get a refund for the Corsair 1300, I think I’ll look into the Creative Aurvana Live! as well.
I’ll follow-up later when I receive my next batch of headphones. Until then, here are some great links I’ve come across in my pursuit for budget-gaming-movie-music headphones:
- LifeHacker’s How to Choose the Perfect Pair of Headphones
- Mad Lust Envy’s Comprehensive Round-Up of Dolby Gaming Headphones
- Matt Mullenweg’s Headphone Recommendations
- The Wire Cutter’s Home Theater Headphone Recommendation
- Head-Fi Fall 2011 Headphone Gift Guide
- Tom’s Hardware Review of 5.1/7.1 Headsets
- HardOCP’s Review of Corsair Vengeance 1300 and 1500