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While classic gameplay is ageless, video games have still seen major improvements through the years in a lot of areas. One of those is definitely in the audio department. Forget the blips and simple MIDI orchestrations of yesteryear. Today’s video games feature booming sound that surrounds and envelops players — provided they have the right equipment, that is. Whether you want to enjoy all that crisp, beautiful sound without investing in a stereo system or you simply want to indulge in your booming pyrotechnics without getting an earful from your significant other, gaming headsets are a great way to get your audio groove on. Add mic capabilities that allow you to communicate with other players and gaming headsets start looking even more attractive. Here is a list of various headphones that I have personally tried, each with their own unique set of features.
Turtle Beach’s Ear Force XP400 is a straight up gaming headset for the PS3 and Xbox 360 with a singular purpose. To fulfill that purpose, it eschews what it considers non-essential features and focuses on things designed to enhance the video gaming experience. These include Dolby 5.1 Surround Sound, dual-pairing broadband that allows you to answer your phone while gaming so you can keep playing uninterrupted, and wireless capability for added comfort. Sound-wise, the XP400 features excellent treble and a healthy amount of bass that is not overpowering. Sound quality is further improved by its dual-band Wi-Fi, which reduces interference issues. The XP400 is also light despite its bulky look. Initial setup can be finicky and the headset does not have 7.1 surround sound. You also can’t use it for anything else but gaming. If you’re looking for a pure gaming headset, however, the Turtle Beach Ear Force XP400 is worthy of consideration.
Unlike the XP400 and the Afterglow — or even Astro’s own higher-end headsets — the A30 headphones don’t have the fullest bass or most powerful sound. It’s smaller form factor, however, also lends itself to several advantages. For starters, it’s the most portable of the bunch. It’s also the only one that you can actually use as a regular headphone in public without having people pointing at you and snickering. This package’s greatest strength, however, is the accompanying MixAmp. For starters, the device adds Dolby 7.1 capability for a more immersive sound experience. One of the neatest features of the MixAmp, however, is that it also allows you to plug in any headphone that you want to use (provided you don’t plan on using a gaming mic, of course). That means that if you have a nice set of premium headphones at home that you really like, then you can plug that into the MixAmp and use that instead. This versatility makes the A30/MixAmp combo another gaming headset that’s worthy of consideration.
Some may associate lower cost with lower quality. In the case of Performance Designed Products’ Afterglow Universal Wireless Headset, however, that certainly is not the case. This headset delivers one of the best sound experiences you’ll get from a gaming headset. Despite its lack of Dolby capabilities, the Afterglow still delivers its own surround sound mode and delivers crisp audio quality with nice, clean bass. You can also use this with every major gaming console from the PS3 and Xbox 360 to the Nintendo Wii. You can use it for the PC as well, including video chat services such as Skype. Downsides include the use of analog stereo outs to lower costs. Also, while this delivers great sound when used with an MP3 player, its bulky design makes it a less than ideal option for listening to music on the go. All things considered, however, the Afterglow delivers the best bang for the buck out of all gaming headsets out there.
With a sleek design and solid performance, Skullcandy's SLYR looks like a premium headset. With a price tag of just $80, though, the SLYR is definitely in the budget category. Don't let the price fool you as there's a lot to like about this headset. At the top of the list is the in-line mixer. In addition to serving up three sound settings, the mixer allows you to plug in any set of regular headphones just like it's more expensive cousin, the A30. That means you can use your prized cans to listen to your gaming audio, provided you don't have use for a mic, of course. The SLYR headset itself sounds quite good, offering balanced sound with clean bass that isn't muddy. The biggest downside? That would be all the wires you have to deal with. Still, given what you get for the price, this headset's definitely worth a look.