We've gone a bit niche this time, at reader requests. We're going to be looking at an expert on GAMING HEADPHONES.
This genre of headphones is a special beast in itself, as you'll see. We talked with the owner of pcgamehaven.com Branton. PC Game Haven is still a relatively new site focused on providing awesome PC gaming related content. Thousands of gamers are currently using one of their tailored gaming PC builds and you could be the next!
Please enjoy the interview!
A.) The primary difference between a gaming headset and a pair of audiophile headphones, or general listening headphones, is the attached microphone. All gaming headsets will have either a removable mic or one that's permanently fixed. General listening headphones will almost never have an associated mic, I say almost because some do include a built-in mic. Personally, I try to differentiate between the two by keeping the terms "headphones" reserved for units without a mic, and "headsets" for those with one.
A.) Some of Turtle Beach's headsets are great and definitely worth it, but then you have some of their more expensive headsets that are hard to justify. I mean, if you're looking for a wireless headset then they're often one of the better go-to choices, but if you want to put sound quality first and connectivity second then there are definitely other options to consider.
I think a lot of what draws people in is brand recognition for sure, similar to Razer, but the bulk of their headsets are getting mostly positive reviews pretty well anywhere you look and have been forever. So I guess it comes down to both brand recognition and that they know what they're doing when it comes to putting together decent gaming headsets. A lot of people don't know this, but Turtle Beach has been making audio equipment in one facet or another since the late-80s, so it's safe to say they have plenty of experience and a proven track record to back it up.
A.) That's actually somewhat of a tough question. As far as just gaming headsets go, I probably wouldn't end up with anything crazier than Creative's H7 Tournament Edition or Kingston's HyperX Cloud II for the simple reason that they offer wide enough soundstages to get an edge in FPS games and the mics they come with are well above average quality. Or, who knows, in that situation I might end up with a pair of Beyerdynamic's 2nd gen T1 powered by a Beyerdynamic A20 amp and then probably an Audio-Technica AT2020 mic to top things off instead. Like I said, it's a tough question.
What happens if someone who's passionate about audio creates their own headphones?
MrSpeakers was founded by Dan Clark, an electrical engineer who has been working in and around the high-end audio market for more than twenty years. Dan’s experience includes working in high-end retail, designing amplifiers and electronics for personal use, and designing commercial and custom loudspeaker solutions, including the highly-regarded and award winning Platinum Audio speakers from the late 1990’s. Dan has a particular fondness for Isobaric subwoofers.
So without further delay, let's get into the questions.
Passive noise reduction uses the headphone’s cup, pad and other parts to keep sound from reaching the ear canal, while active noise cancellation typically uses a microphone to capture external noise then injects an “opposite” (out of phase) signal into the music to cancel out the noise at the ear.
In practice, passive noise blocking doesn’t affect the audio signal as there are no electronics, though the degree of isolation is very dependent on the construction of the headphone and can range from barely any blocking to almost as much as noise cancelling.
Active noise cancelling is a more complex system and while it may deliver better isolation from noise (especially at lower frequencies) as it’s directly manipulating the audio signal it is more prone to creating distortion and other artifacts that degrade the sound quality.Passive sound cancelling is typically most effective at voice frequencies and higher, while active noise cancelling is often most effective at the lower frequencies. On a practical note, this means that passive noise blocking, when well implemented, will be more effective at blocking ventilation system noise, PA announcements and crying babies while active noise cancellation is more effective at blocking rumble.
As a very frequent traveler, I’ve found rumble doesn’t bother me but constant announcements and loud passengers do, so all other things being equal for my own use I prefer passive noise blocking to active noise cancelling simply because it is more effective at eliminating the noises that disturb me and because it doesn’t degrade the sound quality. This has obviously manifested in our designs, which offer among the highest levels of noise-blocking Innerfidelity has measured in closed-back headphones.
Open back headphones have no “cup” or enclosure behind the audio driver while a closed-back headphone has a cup that is sealed or partially sealed behind the driver. The benefit of a cup is isolation and improved ability to use the headphones without being disturbed by or disturbing others. However, the downside of closed back headphones is typically that the headphones will sound more congested and closed-in, with a less detailed presentation and a smaller soundstage and a “cup” sound (place your hands over your hears, you can hear the tone of noises changes when you put a cup over your ear). A simple way to think of the effect of a closed cup is that there is a lot of acoustic energy being put into the cup which then interacts with the driver, and this stored energy can smear the sound and cause elimination of details.An open cup doesn’t store energy behind the driver, it just dissipates into space. For this reason, many headphone enthusiasts prefer open headphones because they tend to sound more spacious and detailed. That said, we have built something of a specialty making closed-back headphones that sound like open headphones. We’ve done so because many people only want to own one good headphone and since closed back headphones are more versatile, having a closed headphone with open-back performance is something of a “unicorn” product that allows users to have both excellent isolation yet delivers an open-sounding detailed and spacious headphone experience.
In many ways this is a very difficult question to answer.
First, my real introduction to headphone design and tuning came from the Head-Fi Fostex T50 modification thread where dozens of enthusiasts get together to modify off the shelf headphones.
It inspired me to start modifying headphones and was a wonderful introduction to different ways to modifying the sound of headphones. This helped me appreciate many of the subtle ways designing headphones differed from designing loudspeakers. There were many users on the thread whose work inspired me to get started and to get better, including Smeggy, BlueMonkeyFlyer and others.
Once I made the decision to go commercial with my work, I turned toward more rigorous research such as reading old patent filings and poring over audio, acoustics and engineering textbooks, trade publications, etc.
But of all the things that have been most important to me is simply listening to the positive and negative feedback of customers and reviewers with an open mind. Headphones are uniquely personal devices, and by paying careful attention to user feedback, I can broaden my design process to incorporate other people’s perspectives on how to assess and analyze sound.Beyond that is our primary experimentation and research where we try to understand the effects of the system on people’s perception of sound quality.
I’ve been working on headphones for seven years now, and there’s still so much to learn about how people perceive personal audio, and what factors they weigh to determine “good” and “bad,” or “fun” vs “audiophile.” Clearly audio has a continuum of variables that affect perception of sound quality.
The sound LITERALLY felt like it was behind me!
This is the effect you get with the enhanced 3d audio tech of Ossic headphones.
If you're keeping up with the latest up and coming tech in the headphone space, you've probably heard a lot of buzz about this company! Ossic is pioneering professional 3d audio for every day listeners, gamers, and movie fanatics.
Imagine hearing the same thing these stars were hearing on set when they made transformers. Hearing the thuds grow louder behind you as Optimus Prime lunges on screen, and the audio position transitions with him to the front. The tech behind these headphones is INSANE!!
And we were blessed enough to have the most in depth answers to the questions people have been dying to ask. So take a minute from work to prepare yourself for the future of audio!
There are actually a number of technologies integrated into the OSSIC X that form the OSSIC X 3D audio technology. These technologies are all developed by OSSIC and each one contributes to the product immensely. The Headphones themselves have sensors onboard to allow for calibration to your individual anatomy - this is incredibly important to delivering accurate 3D imaging with audio.
Factoring in the size of the listener’s head and the shape of the listener’s ear allows us to inform the software algorithms we have developed so that you have a personalized listening experience without any strange calibration steps or needing to have recordings of your head data to input into any experience you want to play!
In addition to this, there is an onboard head tracker, which allows for listeners to choose to “lock” the content they are listening to in place and turn their head through the scene.
This feature augments the experience of listening to traditional media like music and movies immensely, and enables you, for example, to ‘lock’ the soundtrack of a movie to your screen and turn your head to help localize where the sounds are coming from in the surround mix.All of this sound is delivered over a multi-driver array in each ear cup.
There are 4 drivers in each cup, allowing our 3D audio algorithms to literally move the sound your hear around your head. This physical element is what really makes the OSSIC X different to both other headphones on the market, and other 3D audio processing on the market.
Literally of the technology in the OSSIC X is cutting edge technology. OSSIC is developing the most advanced set of headphones in the world and they are developing them for the everyday user that wants to experience the future of audio.
The problem with most 3D audio processing is that it’s based of research and often even measurements that were developed years ago and are can be based off generalized forms called ‘dummy heads’.
These forms are made to look like an ‘average’ human head and torso and are made of materials that behave in a similar way to the human body (in terms of acoustic properties).
The challenge when basing algorithms and processing off generalized data or forms is that the resulting 3D image isn’t accurate for anyone (because it’s not based off your anatomy, which is intrinsically different to anyone else’s).
The X includes sensors to Calibrate to your individual anatomy so that the algorithms we have developed are suited to you and your individual anatomy.
This means that you’ll be able to localise sounds in the content that you listen to more accurately and leads to a more immersive experience all around.The X is also a highly adaptable headphone that can work with many traditional formats of audio (stereo, 5.1 and 7.1) as well as new formats such as object-based mixes and ambisonics.
If you follow the news about what’s happening in VR audio you’ll know what these formats mean and you’ll know how tricky it is to get high quality playback of these formats. In some ways, this is a challenge that is waiting to be discovered by the mass market (which means your readers will be excited to find the solution when they need it).
There is nothing quite like the OSSIC X available today - the unique combination of features and the impressive hardware and software technology will be a pioneer for all mediums and media types when we launch them.
For VR especially, where the visual technology is limited by the field of vision of the headsets available (most are 90-120 degrees, when your eyes can see up to 115 degrees plus an extra 40 degrees of peripheral), there needs to be a way to deliver the rest of scene in an immersive and convincing way.
There also needs to be tools for content creators and developers to alert the player about what’s happening in the world around them, and ways for them to audition and develop on a platform that guarantees their listeners the most consistent and most immersive experience possible.
This is why we’ve developed the X and why OSSIC is so committed to developing products that deliver the most advanced 3D audio technology possible to all listeners.
What's that you say, Google's making their own wireless headphones?
Yup, that's what they've implied with their latest info leak on the Pixel 2!
Of course it's not guaranteed that these will happen, but come on, if you're Google and Apple released their own wireless headphones, what would you do?
Counter with another set of same-old-same-old wired headphones?
I think not! We have more faith in the Google lords than that.
The good ol' info scrapers at 9to5google searched through the code of the Google 7.10 app to find suggestions of Google's new project. This project was codenamed BISTO, and bisto implies that the new tech will be smart and have audio functions...sold.
In this code of the Google 7.10 app the code actually reads “Your headphones have the Google Assistant. Ask it questions. Tell it to do things. It’s your own personal Google, always ready to help,”.
The code also suggests that the device will have the activation features similar to the iphone, instead you'll press the left ear device, and hold, to begin your interaction with the ai.
This last info leak almost confirms what we hope and wish for so bad, and that's that the Pixel 2 will ship without headphone jacks.
I remember another company doing this when they revealed their wireless earbuds, but I can't seem to remember the.... was it pear...avacado...pinapple...oh yea, APPLE! We all know that Google and Apple are pretty good at sharing, so in my opinion this is great evidence that the competition for wireless earbuds just got bigger!
Which means we can hopefully expect lower priced tech like this!
Do you toss and turn at night because there's too much....
Well you're not alone, and we got in touch with a up and coming headphones company that's pioneering a new way to sleep better. Sleep Phones are the product of AcousticSheep LLC, which was founded in 2007 by Dr. Wei-Shin Lai, a family physician, and her husband Jason Wolfe, a video game developer.
Dr. Lai struggled with getting back to sleep after patient phone calls in the middle of the night. She needed to listen to some meditative music to help her relax. But headphones were bulky, and ear buds were uncomfortable. Since there were no headphones specifically designed for sleeping on the market, she invented her own and called them SleepPhones.
We wanted to be able to listen to music in bed, so we invented the first headphones designed precisely for that. We have a completely new headband design - using an actual headband that fits comfortably around your head. That's what sets our headphones apart - comfort. You can wear these all day and all night without hard earbuds poking into your ears or over-the-ear headphones that don't work on your pillow.
Side sleepers who like to listen to an audiobook at bedtime can share a bed with someone who wants to sleep in complete silence.To have a true audiophile experience, you will need to block out extra sounds from your environment with large cups to seal out extraneous noises. Or you will need to have ear buds that fit very precisely and also seal out sounds.
That will allow for a more immersive listening experience.
However, neither are safe during sleep. You need to be able to hear your alarm clock or emergency alarms.SleepPhones don't claim to have audiophile quality sound, but the sound is excellent and more than sufficient for normal listening.
Plus, SleepPhones are far more comfortable and safe for use in bed and during sleep.
I believe that making charging electronic products easier is the way of the future.Wireless connectivity is commonplace now, but charging the headphones can be inconvenient.
Wireless induction charging is making that process easier - eliminating the need to plug in a metal plug to a matching socket.
Our SleepPhones Effortless induction charging headphones allow for charging through the fabric, where magnets induce a current in a coil attached to the battery inside the headband. We just launched it recently, and our customers are loving it!
40% of people can't sleep in complete silence. Often, they need to have a fan going, listen to white noise, or have the TV on low.
But they might have paired with with a partner who can't sleep with that same sound.
SleepPhones allow for the listener to comfortably create their own sleep sound space without disturbing anyone else.
Do you ever feel like you're just glad to be doing what you're doing?
I was so grateful to get to work with Michael from headfonics.com! It was so humbling to know that he was willing to take time out of his day to answer questions for you guys who are just starting on your audio journey. So from the bottom of my heart, thank you, Michael!
If you've been looking in the audio space at all, you've probably noticed these guys. They've been mentioned by folks like Forbes, Tech Spot, and other leading names in the audio industry as well as professional outlets. So soak up this information, guys, and if you'd like to get their suggestions on anything else, just leave your questions in the comments or get in touch with us!
Absolutely not. The musical world is immensely diverse and far too generous with incredible, emotional response provoking material. Most Audio based companies have plentiful hits and misses in their arsenals of headphones and amps. To date, I can't name a single company that has produced 100% fantastic products without any failures.
More so, no one headphone is the true end all, be all, for any given individual. You can buy an expensive product and come to find that it isn't well rounded, probably intended to sound great only with certain types of music.
One trick Pony products are common in Hifi, so you likely need to spread that around a bit and look to more than one manufacturer. Generally, each headphone manufacture does have a typical "house sound" that is common in most of their headphones. Because of that, you should keep your door open to other brand's products to fill the rest of the gaps and short comings your chosen primary headphone might have.
If you are infected by the Audiophile bug, congrats. Your world just opened up to new potential ways to experience bliss. That emotional connect to a musical piece is what I am after. I ask of my products "what can this headphone or amp really do for me on a personal level?" There are two routes to Hifi: The first is the clinical, accurate experience.
The second is raw musicality and total disregard for how realistic the product sounds. As a newbie to high end audio, you will come to find out which path makes you happy.
Do you listen for enjoyment factor through exaggerated low end, sparkly, beautiful treble and an overall emphasis on the music itself?
Or, do you find your happiness through how true to the track the product really is?
Either way, there are plenty of headphones and amps out there that cater to either route you take first. My advice is to save up a little and buy both types of headphones to start out with, see which you prefer.
You'll need to do some research to see what other experts say about which ever product catches your eye or ear. Ask questions to your favorite reviewers, most of us absolutely adore and love answering questions and helping others.
Often, headphone designers offer generic, low quality fake leather earpads on their semi-expensive products...and that infuriates me enough to make a black hole or star gone nova seem like a small matter to the universe.
Earpad alterations or swap outs would be my answer to that. So many headphones are greatly improved with new pads. For example, Grado headphones come with a not so nice set of ringed earpads that are absent a center area. Installing Sennheiser HD414 yellow earpads onto Grado's usually improve the overall heft to the sound signature and also bring the bass out more.
The trade off is a loss in some treble. Comfort is greatly increased as well. A while back, I came up with the Sunflower mod for Grado Headphones, which is merely installing both the Sennheiser 414 pad on my Grado headphones as well as the stock donut Grado pads.
The results were excellent. If the pads are detachable on your headphone, play with other pads and see which combinations you like!
We've got a real treat today in the form of a great conversation I got to have with Abhishek, owner of theroundingsound.com.
Abhishek's site is focused on reviewing the best of the best headphones, primarily on Amazon, and benefiting the reader with amazing buying guides. His slogan "Life is too short to music via bad headphones" rings true throughout his site.
He's done a great job of evaluating the best of the best when it comes to headphone audio. And in these few questions he shares a bit of his knowledge with us to answer some of the readers questions about things like soundstage, amps, and whether or not to worry about the brand of the headphone.
Everyday headphones/earbuds have evolved a lot and have many features in them; derived from high end headphones/earbuds.
However in everyday use; where listening to music is just a way to 'not get bored during commute', then you don't need headphones/earbuds with great soundstage because you'd be too busy to even feel it completely or notice the small litte nuances.
Moreover the ambient noise around kind of affects how you perceive the soundstage.
Headphones with great soundstage are necessary while you're at home and when your main motive is to listen to music only.
External amp is not a basic requirement if you're primarily ok with listening to music with cheap or budget headphones/earbuds on your smartphone.
However when you scale up things and buy headphones in the hifi/audiophile/premium range, it's only then you need an amp to unlock the headphone's full potential.
Usually the headphones/earbuds I suggest are from small and not-so-known manufacturers because they offer value for money products.
However to be on a safer side if you're not very familiar with headphones/earbuds. Buying from a known brand is an optimal choice but sometimes even reputable brands too manufacture worthless products and never known brands too develop one-of-a-kind products.
Still I'd suggest to read professional and customer reviews before making any purchase.
You guys asked, and we tracked down the expert to answer the questions!
This time we got in touch with Matt from headphonesaddict.com. Matt was great to chat with, and was very candid with his answers. To the point where if he didn't know the best answer to one of the questions, he admitted he didn't know, which is much better than trying to blow smoke. So a huuuuge thank you to Matt and the headphonesaddict.com team!
Matt's site is a review and information site for all things headphone/iem audio. If you want to know the best headphones to wear for sports, best headphones for a budget, or any other question like that, the team that Matt has will help you out.
I'd say anywhere from $100-$200 is where entry audiophile headphones start. Which is not little money, especially when you want to buy a couple pairs like these every year. And once you have a couple "cheaper" models you will start looking after those $500+ 🙂
I don't know. I guess you always have to start as a beginner and if something interests you you will do a lot of it. With time you won't be a beginner anymore.
I really like the head-fi.org forum. Lots of good content there but you have to know who knows what they're talking about, and who's just full of it. Apart from head-fi, that I visit regularly, I don't have any other specific sources. Usually you make a Google search and find small pieces of great stuff.
I think it all comes down to experience. Once you listen to a couple high-end headphones and audio system, at audio shows for example, you get to notice the differences. Then you're always looking for that next perfect thing that will blow your mind even more.
And there it is, another great set of answers from a well known site in our space!
Be sure to check them out at headphonesaddict.com if you have any questions about which headphones to get.
You keep your phone or mp3 player in your pocket, where lint lives. Of course your headphone jack is going to get a little gnarly if your phone stays in your pocket and then you shove your jack into that little lint catcher!
You'll know your receiver jack has gotten dirty or damaged from this kind of use if the sound quality has noticeably dipped, or if there's an ongoing connectivity issue.
In the same way that there's more than one way to milk a one legged cow (#gadgetimpactpun), there's a few ways that work when it comes to cleaning the headphone input. The most popular is using compressed air, next is the DIY micro lint roller, and finally the cotton swab. source
The cotton swab is a good trick to hold on to just to do routine maintenance.
These things aren't just for turning upside down and spraying your friends with, you can actually get some real work done with them when used properly!
And it's pretty straight forward, just point the nozzle at the receiver or headphone jack, and spray away to get rid of all the nasties that were taking up residence in there. Viola! A clean receiver!
If your inner Martha Stewart is flaring up, or that compressed air didn't do the trick, you can always DIY a cool micro lint roller out of a paper clip and some scotch tape.
First, straighten the paper clip out so it can easily go into the jack. Then wrap the tape around the end of the straight paperclip, except with the sticky side up. This might take you a few tries before you get it tight enough so that it won't fall off, but once it's on there tight and snug you'll be ready for the fun part.
Make sure the tape is wrapped as tight as possible, so that you can actually get it in the receiver.
Next just imagine you're bobbing for apples instead of rolling your shirt. Don't mash the paperclip in, just push it around and let it grab whatever it grabs. You might be surprised how much this thing pulls out of your seemingly clean headphone jack.
This one is a last ditch effort, as the part of the cotton swab that we're going to use can do some damage if you're not super careful with it.
First, you're going to get your cotton swab, then you'll clip the cotton ball off of one tips of the cotton swab. Try to fray the end that you've just cut, so that it doesn't mess up the inside of the headphone jack.
If you need to, add a bit of rubbing alcohol to the frayed cut end, and clean away!
There are a few site's that recommend these methods below as useful ways to clean your headphone receiver. Except that they're not.
These two options could seriously damage your phone, and make the damage much more expensive to fix correctly. So please don't do them.
We have the great privilege of getting some answers to you guy's most upvoted questions, and from the one and only, hifiman.com!
Hifiman has come out with some of the greatest listening equipment on the market! They've been featured in publications like Wired, TIME, Forbes, and many others. So the quality and knowledge of audio from Hifi man is second to none!
It was so great to interact with these guys. They were open to hearing me out, and even found an incredibly knowledgable guy to answer these questions. So big thank you to hifiman!
And here are the questions and answers.
Well that depends what you mean by stock headphones. I would say if you are finding that you can't get enough volume out of your player, then your using the wrong things or your listening waaaaaaaaaaaay too loud. But....... lets say you have a moderately hard to drive headphone like the HE400i and your phone cant drive it loud. you have two options.
1 buy a portable amplifier, there are lots out there and some are really small too.
2 buy a real player where the audio is the priority (that means not your phone) something like our little Super or Megamini's there are many others out there too, but real DAP's (Digital Audio Player's) are probably your first step towards a proper audio setup.
Well for listening to what and where? If cash is tight and you can listen somewhere alone, then an easy way to get a better audio quality is get an open pair of headphones. They don't block out anything but you get better audio for the same price points.
Also, skip your mainstream brands, ones you'll find in big mass market stores you're paying for a lot of marketing over substance most of the time.
Don't buy anything because of its looks, or its name and if its endorsed by a sports star, run from it. If you want to get the best audio you can for your money, it means you'll need to spend some time looking into things and the best place is likely Head-fi.org.
The other thing to skip is wireless. A cheap wireless set means that most of the money spend is going on internal battery, dac, amp and everything else. A cable is vastly cheaper and works better.
Do you mean the impedance of a headphone? The impedance is just the electrical resistivity of the headphone.
It's a science thing.
What it generally means is, the higher the impedance that more work it is for your amp / player to drive them.
Low impedance things are as a rule easy to drive so should be fine out of a phone. Things with a high impedance mean harder so you more likely need a proper amp or player to make them be their best.
There you have it guys! If you have any other questions you'd like answered, please drop them in the comments below.