Gaming has come into its own over the past few years, with esports prizes falling into the millions of dollars. As such, gamers are always looking for an edge, and one of those is sound, clear good quality sound. Studio headphones are excellent at producing good quality sound.
Studio headphones are excellent for gaming as they provide more precise and transparent sound, having better bass definition and a stereo spectrum (vast spatial range). This is due to their quality, allowing them to have high impedance ratings and a wider and flatter frequency response.
If you don’t know anything about studio headphones or what factors could make them better or worse than gaming headphones, then this article is for you.
We’ll cover the ins and outs of everything you need to know concerning studio headphones and why they might be the perfect choice for you as a gamer.
Understanding Studio Headphones
Studio headphones are to headphones as what studio monitors are to traditional speakers, meaning that studio headphones are of the highest quality audio reproduction devices you can get that will sit on your head. Why is this?
Studio headphones are designed like studio monitors, meaning they are used explicitly for sound engineering purposes such as mixing, mastering, and production, where attention to sound detail is paramount.
Studio headphones offer a more comprehensive and flatter frequency response. Humans are able to perceive frequencies in the ranges between 20Hz and 20kHz.
Suppose you don’t know anything about frequencies. In that case, low-frequency ranges are where the bass sits, mid-range frequencies typically deal with instruments such as guitar, cello, the voice, etc., and the high-frequency range caters to electronic instruments, drum cymbals, and pipe organs.
Please take into consideration that many instruments have harmonics which means that their frequency range will be much wider than where they sit in the spectrum. This is what gives instruments air and depth.
Now studio headphones (as with studio monitors) are designed to have the widest possible frequency range so your ears can pick up all the subtleties in sound; this is especially true for bass frequencies.
If your headphones don’t have at least this frequency response, then audio will be lost, become muddy, and will even be distorted at times.
Some gaming headphone manufacturers have jumped on the bandwagon and started to introduce this engineering in their headsets, but many “pro gaming” headphones do not have such a wide response.
The next thing to note is that studio headphones are designed to have a flat response. This means that no frequency has been attenuated or strengthened in order for the audio to be more pleasing to the ears.
What will typically happen is that manufacturers of headphones and speakers will push or cut specific frequency ranges such as the bass frequencies to give the headphones more “boom” and even vibration (some headphones have a bass toggle to create this illusion).
Having a flat response makes the audio more precise, and you can pinpoint subtleties that you could otherwise not hear. This could help you a lot in-game when you are trying to listen for footsteps or where the gunfire is coming from.
Types of studio headphones
If you are considering better headphones for a more immersive in-game experience, you should note that you get different types of studio headphones.
Open-back and semi-open back studio headphones
Open-back headphones are headsets that do not have an ear cup on the rear. This allows air to pass through them. It also means that pressure won’t build up in them while listening to loud audio.
Audio is created by sound waves which move through the air, and specific frequencies, if they are reflected, and loud can cause booming, distortion, and even feedback.
The other thing to note is that they are not so immersive and will allow ambient noise through. So this is something you will need to consider.
As you would have guessed, semi-open back headphones offer a balance between closed and open that lets some air escape while not having too much ambient noise bleed through.
Closed-back studio headphones
Closed-back headsets offer you complete immersion because the ear cups are solid, and thus you will typically hear no outside ambient noise when you slide your headphones on. Studio headphones are especially good at this because they are also designed with this in mind.
This allows you to really focus on the audio and become engrossed in it. For gaming, you probably want to try out closed-back headphones because the audio you are listening to most likely won’t be so excessive that it will cause any booming, distortion, or feedback.
Understanding Impedance in headphones for better audio
Headphones have come a long way since their inception, and nowadays, if you get a good pair of headphones, it will even need its own amplifier. How crazy is that?
This is because headphones now come with varying impedance levels, and this is a critical factor you have to consider if you are looking for total in-game immersion along with the best sound quality you can get.
Your studio headphones will more than likely require more power to drive them sufficiently due to their high impedance rating, which is a measure of how much something can resist electrical current and is measured in ohms.
High impedances allow headphones to be built in ways that can result in better overall sound quality, such as the sound is more precise and transparent, having better bass definition, and the stereo spectrum (sound stage) is more spacious (wider).
This is primarily determined by the driver’s (speakers) voice coil. Take, for instance, Beyerdynamics high impedance versions of the DT-990. Similar to pictured above. These are the headphones I’m currently using, besides being incredibly flat they are also super comfortable!
Manufacturing the wire for these voice coils is exceptionally complicated (it’s all done in Germany). The higher impedance versions feature wires with a smaller diameter which allows them to fit closer together. This means that there is less air that can pass through the windings, essentially making the electromagnetic field of the voice coil much stronger. This, in turn, reduces distortion.
Check out the Beyerdynamic DT-990 headphones on Amazon here (open-back)
Check out the Beyerdynamic DT-880 headphones on Amazon here (semi-open back)
Check out the Beyerdynamic DT-770 headphones on Amazon here (closed-back)
You should take into consideration that headphones that have an impedance that is below 50 ohms won’t require an amplifier or DAC to drive them and won’t offer the best sound quality compared to higher impedance studio headphones.
Check out my article on DACs here.
Also, note that if you are looking to get a pair of headphones with a specific impedance rating, then you will need the appropriate amplifier to drive them; otherwise, you may blow your headphones, or the amp will not be strong enough to drive them.
Check out this video to help you choose the correct amplifier for your high impedance headphones.
What about 7.1 surround sound gaming headphones? Arnt they better?
You may be considering gaming headphones that feature 5.1 or 7.1 surrounds sound instead of studio headphones.
However, you have to consider that these headphones will not be able to reproduce surround sound the way that speakers can due to the distance from which the drivers are located from your ear.
Furthermore, computers and games have come to the point where DSP (Digital Signal Processing) software (either standalone or even in-game) will reproduce surround sound with good quality stereo headphones.
Furthermore, you would have to consider the other factors that we covered, such as frequency response and impedance, along with the quality of design and material in order to determine whether they could match up to a pair of studio headphones in terms of sound quality.
We discovered that studio headphones offer quality that far surpasses regular and even most gaming headphones, if not all of them. This is because they are designed for use in sound engineering, such as mixing, recording, producing, and mastering.
Therefore they have to provide the best possible audio that you can get and that money can buy. We found out that there are reasons for this, such as wide and flat frequency response and well as high impedance.
These two factors create sound and overall audio quality that just can’t be beaten. If you are a gamer and looking for the clearest, most precise sound that has good spatial depth (stereo spectrum), you should consider studio headphones.