Headphones vs Headset – Which Should I Choose For Gaming?

Which should you choose - a pair of headphones or a headset? Read this simple guide and find out which one is the best for you.


Headphones provide better audio than similarly-priced headsets because the latter have to make compromises due to the inclusion of microphones and other features.

Many people often mistakenly refer to headsets as headphones, and vice versa. This is because the two are actually fairly similar. The only apparent distinction that sets the headset apart is the inclusion of a built-in microphone.

That said, choosing between headphones and a headset might seem simple and straightforward, yet it is a deceivingly complicated matter.

Why is that?

That is the very question we will be answering in this article!

Table of ContentsShow

Types of Headphones

All in all, headphones can be divided into three distinct categories:

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

These differ when it comes to their target demographic and their intended use, along with other differences that we will discuss below.

Mainstream Headphones

headphones vs headset

The Pros:

  • Minimal and stylish design
  • Easy to carry
  • Good and versatile sound

The Cons:

  • Can suffer from sub-par build quality
  • Variable overall quality

Often referred to as “consumer headphones,” these products are versatile, stylish, and usually affordable. These headphones prioritize design and portability before anything else.

After all, they are designed for casual users who might want to use them in a variety of contexts. This is why they offer an all-around decent audio experience while providing a sleek design that makes them look fantastic.

Unfortunately, given that the priority is their appearance, these types of headphones’ comfort and build quality might suffer.

On top of that, the overall quality – including the sound – can differ significantly based on the manufacturer and the price range.

Studio Headphones

headset vs headphones

The Pros:

  • Audio reproduction accuracy
  • Sturdy build
  • Easy to repair

The Cons:

  • On the expensive side
  • Made specifically for professionals

These headphones are designed for professionals who require practicality and prize performance and above all else.

With that said, they offer a sound that is as neutral as possible, reproducing sounds as faithfully to the source as possible. This means high-fidelity but a “flatter” listening experience compared to the more bass-heavy headphones. Apart from that, they tend to be very well built – including many metal parts – and are also the easiest to repair.

Meant primarily for professionals, they are neither popular nor very fitting for gamers and casual users, especially since other products would offer a more enjoyable experience for less money.

Gaming Headsets

headset or headphones for gaming

The Pros:

  • Immersive sound quality
  • Surround capabilities
  • Integrated microphone

The Cons:

  • More expensive due to microphone and other features
  • Not very versatile or portable

And finally, we have gaming headsets. There are essentially headphones with built-in microphones. They strive to offer an immersive sound experience, clear communication and often employ colorful and aggressive designs that have become a staple for all sorts of gaming products.

Now, when it comes to sound reproduction, they are much closer to mainstream headphones than to studio headphones, since they are designed to provide an enjoyable gaming and multimedia experience.

This means clean sound with powerful bass, virtual surround capabilities, or even actual surround. On top of that, they are generally manufactured to be light and comfortable and well-suited for long gaming sessions.

On the downside, gaming headsets tend to be quite bulky and unwieldy, so they are not as portable as mainstream headphones. Furthermore, the sound quality that they offer tends to lag behind similarly-priced headphones because the integrated microphone and other features can add quite a bit to the price.

Which Should You Choose?

When it comes to choosing which type of headphones to get, there are several questions you should ask yourself:

Do You Need An Integrated Microphone?

If you play a lot of multiplayer games and like the convenience of having a built-in microphone, then a gaming headset is the best choice for you. They are easy to use and much easier to carry around than separate headphones and microphones.

On the other hand, if you prefer single-player and play multiplayer occasionally or rarely, you could get a better sound out of a set of headphones while having a dedicated microphone for multiplayer communication.

Do You Need Portability?

If you intend to use the headphones in many ways, then you will appreciate the smaller frame and foldability of mainstream headphones. On top of that, they tend to have a lower-profile design, which makes them ideal for use in public.

Will You Be Doing Audio Editing?

This is the only case where you should consider getting a pair of studio headphones. As explained above, they offer the highest fidelity and the most accurate sound reproduction, but this can actually take away from the gaming/multimedia experience.


This is all you need to know before choosing which type of headphones to buy. To sum up:

  1. Get a gaming headset if you play a lot of multiplayer games and intend to use it solely for gaming.
  2. Get mainstream headphones if you want the best audio quality for your money and/or want to use them for things other than gaming.
  3. Get studio headphones if you intend to do audio editing.

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Samuel Stewart

Samuel is GamingScan's editor-in-chief. He describes himself as a dedicated gamer and programmer. He enjoys helping others discover the joys of gaming. Samuel closely follows the latest trends in the gaming industry in order to keep the visitors in the flow.

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