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2012 Head-Fi Holiday Gift Guide (Gaming)





While my avid gaming days have long since passed, I still enjoy giving my laptop's video card something to overheat about from time to time. Favoring first-person shooters, imaging is important; but as rusty as I am with games nowadays, it's mostly so that I know precisely from which direction death is raining down on me. (I also use the headsets for telephony and software speech recognition dictation.)

A few gaming headsets I've used that I feel comfortable recommending include:





Skullcandy SLYR
Closed, on-the-ear headset (around $80)

I almost considered putting the Skullcandy SLYR in the over-ear headphones section. For 80 bucks, it's a good closed headphone, period, and with the added functionality of a built-in stow-away microphone.

As has been covered before on Head-Fi, Skullcandy is getting very serious about sound. They've hired a lot of talent, and built their own labs, and have moved away from OEM to designing and engineering their own stuff. The SLYR is a product of those efforts, and a very good result.

The SLYR comes with a USB gaming sound mixer. To put it in non-gamer speak, this mixer is like a USB DAC (plus USB mic in) that also allows you to adjust audio settings, especially for mixing game audio and voice. It also comes with three different EQ settings. Because the mixer's cables are so long--and because I think the SLYR sounds better with music without the mixer (though the EQ is fun to experiment with while gaming)--I just plug the SLYR directly into my computer, or into one of my good USB DAC/amps, most of the time.

With or without the included mixer, the SLYR is very good for gaming. Its sound signature favors clarity over boom, though it still does a fine job of conveying sounds, impact, and effects of the death and destruction I usually find myself suffering from when I enter the gaming fray.

The thing is, when I'm done gaming--when I've plugged it directly into my computer or one of my good DAC/amps--I regularly forget to change the SLYR out for another headphone when I return to music. I'll say it again: this is actually a good $80 closed headphone. The SLYR's overall clarity is good. Its bass is well balanced, mids could use a bit more refinement and richness, and there's occasionally some mid-treble glare. Still, though, it's musical enough that I'll use it for an all-'round headphone on days I know I'll be Skyping a lot (its built-in stow-away boom microphone comes in handy). 80 bucks--a very good deal.








beyerdynamic MMX 300 (around $400)
Closed, full-size, around-the-ear headset

This imposing headset from beyerdynamic has earned many accolades with gamers everywhere, for combining the sound quality and durability of beyerdynamic's famed "DT" family of audiophile and pro audio headphones, along with the expertise in headset communications from beyerdynamic's aviation headset products.

The MMX 300 is among the most serious looking of all the gaming headsets I've seen. It may be built for something fun (gaming), but its styling seems to suggest very clearly that the MMX 300 is stony-faced serious about doing its job very well.

Like the Skullcandy SLYR, the MMX 300 is a closed headphone, but offers more isolation than the SLYR (and, given its around-the-ear design, substantially more comfort, too). It's important to keep in mind that it's also a very large headset that doesn't fold flat, and, even though its case is nice, the MMX 300 is still going to take up a lot of space in your bag (assuming it fits in there at all).

The MMX 300 comes with a nice, small detachable in-line USB DAC with volume control and mute button. I like these USB converters (my Sennheiser PC 166 USB came with one), and wish all wired gaming headsets had them included.

My experience with the MMX 300 is quite limited so far, but first impressions included just what I'd have expected from beyerdynamic, which is excellent clarity, good bass, and brighter-than-neutral (but not edgy) top end. Also, the microphone on the MMX 300 has a wider frequency response than the SLYR's, so the sound from it is more broadband, more full, making the MMX 300 a candidate for podcasting duties.

I may have to add the MMX 300 to my arsenal as my primary closed headset of choice.








Sennheiser PC 360 G4ME
Open, full-size, around-the-ear headset (around $250)

What a lot of Head-Fi'ers don't know is just how much experience Sennheiser has with communications products. They make countless products at the center of which is voice clarity. And, like beyerdynamic, Sennheiser also makes well-regarded aviation headsets. Now take all of their experience with the aforementioned, and couple it to Sennheiser HD55X family sound. What do you have? A killer headset.

If you've heard the Sennheiser HD 55X headphones, you have some idea of what to expect from the PC 360 in terms of its sound signature with music. That kind of clarity and fidelity translates well to gaming, and it's no surprise to see some of the most serious gamers choosing audiophile-quality pieces by Sennheiser as their headsets of choice.

Unfortunately, the PC 360 G4ME does not come with a USB adapter, which, again, I wish all premium wired headsets included. Though I could live without it, I'll poach the one from my PC 166 USB to use with the PC 360 when I desire USB connectivity.

I expect the Sennheiser PC 360 G4ME may be my primary open headset of choice.


Comments (11)

No Logitech G930? Shame.
Butler: As I stated in the Introduction, this guide isn't intended to be an encyclopedia of all things personal/headphone audio, and almost all of it is gear that we've had here at Head-Fi HQ to use in a variety of rigs. I've not used the Logitech G930, which is one reason it's not in the guide. Thanks for the suggestion, though--I'll look at it on their website, perhaps for the next update.
What brings shame is the fact that there is no mention of Astros at all.
wanderer000: For me, a gaming headset is going to be used regularly only if it's also good with music, which is why, in previous editions of the guide, I did not include the Astro A40 (which I do not enjoy with music). I did previously include the Astro A30 (which I do like), but chose to replace it in this update with the SLYR. To my ears, the SLYR is better with music, is still very good for gaming, and is more affordable.
I'm a bit late and not sure if you'll ever see this, but have you ever used the Steelseries Siberia v2 headset? If so, how good was it for music?
You should try a pair of Astro A40's
I know I'm also late to this discussion, but if you can get your hands on a pair of Sony's Pulse Elite Edition headset, can you review it for it's sound quality and versatility? I just want to know that I'm not tripping here. With the headphones/gear I have, I've concluded that these Sony's match pretty much all (with the exception of the Sony's having just a bit less Soundstage - but I've found an easter egg for this...) Ultrasone HFI=-780's that I have. I've always known the Pulses had great music sound quality, but to be on par with my HFI 780's, I need 2nd, 3rd, 4th, lol.... opinions!
New MMX 300 has no USB sound thingy now. It shouldn't matter too much as it wasn't a very good either. On the plus side they can finally sell these for $300 now, which is a much more appropriate price for these.
Surely the best headset on (at least the European market) is now Sennheiser 363D.
I think you should link the actual gaming section of the forums, lol.
cCasper TFG: Look up in the comments. He said he doesn't like the Astro A40's for music, therefore did not include it in this list based on his criteria.
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