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Looking for a pair of High Quality, Sound Isolating, 7.1 Surround Sound, Gaming Headphones

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

I posted this on TomsHardware Forum before, but I got barely a response back and no answers at all. I'm hoping and posting this on this website will get me some answers to what i'm looking for since this website is centered more on the focus of headphones and headsets instead of PC hardware and peripherals.

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I have been searching online for a Headset that meet my specific needs for almost a year now.
I started out with a pair of Plantronics GameCom 380s that I purchased at BestBuy. They had pretty good basic stereo surround sound. The microphone sounded very good in my opinion and didn't pick up that much background noise except for when somebody came in the room and started talking to me, then the mic would pick that up. The cord was very durable and it never shorted out anywhere in the cable line for the 8 months that I had it. There were a few things I did not like about this headset. The square design of the ear cups didn't fit completely over my ears, so the tops of my ears were going a little bit underneath the inside of the ear cup padding. The ear cup's outer material was made of velvet, which collected lint, dust, and hair very easily. They were not very comfortable to wear for a very long time for me since the headset pressed down on the arms of my glasses and after 2 days of gaming all day (I slept), it was pretty sore behind my ears. After ruining the microphone from taking a bite of a nice, tall, juicy homemade burger and forgetting the mic was down in front of my mouth, the mic went into the burger and ketchup and juices some how made the mic permanently stop working.

Now BestBuy is really good when it comes to returns (in my opinion). Since I had purchased a 2 year warrantee on the headset, I was able to bring the headset back (with the receipt) and switch them out for a new pair. Turns out they were out of stock on the headset so I picked something within the same price range, a pair of Razer Carcharias. They were only $15 more ($65) so I gave them my GameCom 380s and got the Carcharias for only $15.

They were my first Razer headset so I was kind of excited. In the end, I was pleased with them. The circular design of the ear cups fit around my ears perfectly. They didn't press down on the arms of my glasses hard enough to be annoying. The ear cup's outer material was made of velvet so they collected lint and dust just like my old pair. The surround sound was noticeably better for some games compared to the GameCom 380s. The cable was braided, (which I absolutely love), and there was an audio adjuster and microphone mute switch on the cable line. This headset didn't feel as durable as the GameCom 380s, but I would say they were better in audio quality and comfort. Now I used this headset for 6 and a half months, until 3 days ago, where the cable met the left ear cup, it cable had shorted out and I could not hear out of the right ear.

The day after this had happened I returned to BestBuy to return the headset. Turns out this entire time I was using the 2008 model of the Carcharias. Since I wasn't looking for a new headset just yet, I got the 2012 model they had this time and I had to buy another warantee, (since it was technically a different headset), and apparently the 2012 model was $70 instead of $65. So I left that day spending another $15, upgrading to the 2012 model of the Carcharias and buying another warantee. 

Now upon returning home I was curious to see the difference in the newer model. The 2012 model was the same in every way as the 2008 model except the the Razer logos on the left and right sides of the headset glowed green when plugged into USB power, the cable was now coated in rubber instead of being braided (why on earth would they change this), on the cable line was a larger and newly improved volume adjuster which included a Bass adjuster, microphone switch, a 2.5mm headphone jack to plugin to an XBox controller (the 2012 model is XBox compatible), and instead of having just a audio and microphone jack on the end of the headset like the 2008 model, there was now a audio and microphone jack including a USB plug which needs to be plugged in for the headset to work. This means I can't just plugin the headset to my 5th Gen IPod Touch and listen to music with them unless they are plugged into power. This isn't a huge disadvantage for me since I can just use my Apple Earpods, but sometimes I would like to use my Carcharias on my IPod in some cases. The main thing I love about this newer model of the headset is the amount of Bass it puts out. There is a ton of it and it's completely adjustable right there on the cable line.

Now after a solid year and a half with these 3 different headsets, i'v gotten a job at my Dad's store and have been able to afford nicer things now. I'm 15 and have no bills to pay, and I won a free car last Friday, (1999 Volvo), so I don't have to save for a car now. I have some extra money to spend and i'm looking for my dream headset. I am looking for a specific kind of headset. One that includes the following:

• Isolates sound, like to the point where if you are standing 2 feet away from me and i'm listening to music pretty loud, you wont be able to hear it and I wont be able to hear you. So a closed design headset, right?

• Has a pretty good frequency response, say 10hz - 25khz for example. I want to be able to hear everything in my music and games.

• Has very good surround sound for hard core gaming. 7.1 capabilities preferably. I want to be able to hear everything around me perfectly. It's very important.

• Does NOT have velvet ear cup material. I'm tired of the feeling and I honestly don't really like it.

• Must be comfortable to wear for long periods of time. I would prefer the cup material to be made of that soft leather/rubber material that most high quality headphones are made of.

• I would prefer the headset have any control buttons/volume adjustment on the side of the headset and not on the cable line. This is the least important to me, it doesn't even need to have any type of adjustment at all honestly, as long as it meets all the other requirements I listed.

• It should have at least a great sounding mic to record with.

• My budget for now is $350 and lower.

Now, I have looked at A TON of headsets online and read and watched many hours of reviews. The 2 pairs of Headsets I have found that seem to closely match what i'm looking for are the Sennheiser PC 350 SE's, and the Razer Kraken 7.1's.

The Sennheiser PC 350 SE's match everything i'm looking for and i'm currently thinking about buying them, except for 1 thing. I'v heard they aren't very good for surround sound. The PC 360's or PC 363D's match what i'm looking for as far as frequency response, perfect surround sound, comfortable to wear for long periods of time, and a great microphone. But they lack my need for a headset that has outside of the headset noise/sound isolation, and the ear cup material looks like it's made of velvet or foam, which I really don't want. 

The Razer Kraken 7.1 headset matches everything i'm looking for except a few things. The headset claims to be a closed design headset for blocking out sound and noise, 7.1 virtual surround sound (i'v heard virtual surround sound is never nearly as good as real 7.1 surround sound), the material of the cups are that soft rubber/leather material, and they have a decent mic. The things they don't have is they say they have a 20hz - 20khz frequency response and i'm not sure about how comfortable they are to wear for long periods of time. Also they are only $99 and i'm not sure how durable or just overall how nice they would compare to the Sennheiser PC 350 SE's.

After all of this comparing and searching, should I just look into getting a nice studio pair of headphones which have everything I need except the mic? I havn't looked into studio headphones at all yet so... Or is there a gaming headset out there somewhere that somebody could possibly find for me or tell me about? Also I don't yet have a soundcard, but i'm getting a new Motherboard and upgrading to an i7 and 16gbs of RAM by the end of this month, so I will be looking for a sound card then.


So that's it for me. Please somebody out there read this and help me on my "quest" to find my dream headset.

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So about 2 hours later I get a reply and this is what the guy said.

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I've tried a lot of headsets, and the best ones out there (*for gaming) are the Astro A40s. They're only 5.1 surround, but that's fine for gaming, and they have EXCELLENT quality and crispness, and a great mic. Other than that, they're everything you're looking for.

Finally, a few notes.

1) Do your research. This applies to everything below, because you haven't done enough of it.

2) Physical surround is better ONLY when it comes to large drivers. In a headset, where it means having tiny drivers as opposed to larger, more powerful drivers, this is not true.

3) Come on. An i7 and 16MB of ram are going to be absolutely useless. Neither give you ANY benefit when you're gaming - 8GB of ram can run battlefield 3, photoshop, AND 30 tabs in chrome simultaneously, and the only difference between an i7 and an i5 is that the i7 has a few more mb l3 cashe and hyperthreading, neither of which do diddly-squat for any properly programmed game.

4) Ditto on the sound card. You're much, MUCH better off using an external DAC, no matter what your scenario is. The point of a sound card is twofold: 1) to convert from digital to analogue, and 2) to amplify enough to power high-end headsets. An external DAC is going to be able to convert without all the electrostatic interference bouncing around inside your case, thus doing much better, and amplification is just a matter of large transistors and incoming power - both of which are found in excess on an external DAC. The A40's already come with one, by the way, and connect through optical out, which is a digital connection, meaning a sound card is pointless if your motherboard has optical or spdif out. If it doesn't, buy the cheapest sound card that does have that option, as that's its only benefit.

Sounds like having a job has made you realize what having money is like. I've been there, it's fun, you rack up credit card debt awfully quickly. Don't end up buying things you don't need, because buyer's remorse HURTS.

Go with the Astros - the company has an incredible warranty even if you don't purchase an extended warranty. (But since headsets take such beatings, you might as well.)

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This was my response:

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The reason why I haven't even considered Astros is because in my opinion, they were just picked up and mainstreamed by the public but aren't like the "real deal". Like Skrillex for example. He was discovered out of no where and then very quickly picked up by the public and mainstreamed as the "king of dubstep". Some people even still believe that he invented dubstep, (which is complete BS), and there is nobody better than him, etc.. To be honest, I listen to the real deal of dubstep and enjoy some Skrillex every now and then, because come on, not all his music is just unorganized random sounds and screaming, (have you heard Rock N Roll, Disco Rangers, or Breakin' A Sweat? They are actually pretty good quality songs in my opinion compared to all his other stuff.) But then compare Skrillex to what actual REAL dubstep is, REAL dubstep is completely different from what Skrillex makes. I mean seriously, compare Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites to Jenova Project by Datsik, they are completely 2 different genres, yet they are considered the same genre, only because Skrillex was mainstreamed as Dubstep. I feel the same way about Astro headsets. They were picked up and mainstreamed by the public and overrated for what they actually are but don't get me wrong, i'm absolutely sure they are an amazing headset (seriously, every single person in a Dota 2 championship is wearing them pretty much. www.youtube.com/watch?v=J7XZhwf1JIM and skip to 33:16, you see a bunch of A40s.) Also, I completely understand that the larger the driver the better the surround sound.

On the other hand, Sennheiser, (the real dubstep), has always had the best reviews and are known to be one of the best, top of the line brands out there to date. I'v asked many of my friends in real life and some that I game with every day, they have all recommended I should go with Sennheiser since it's an option for me and the price isn't a problem. (By the way, you mentioned before to be aware not to spend money on unnecessary purchases, but I have it completely under control. You don't have to worry about me spending extra money on something that's "overpriced".) I'm not just going to end the discussion here and disregard your opinion and say, "Sennheiser is better and i'm not going with A40's." I want to get as much feedback I as possible on what i'm looking for and a wide range of opinions on what I should do.

Currently, I have a type of amp, I have external speakers and I can plug my headset into and just turning the speaker volume to 20%, and the headset volume to 100%, it already insanely loud, lol.
However, I do have some sort of problem that you may have mentioned. If I were to take my Apple Earpods and plug them into either my speakers or the front audio port headphone jack in the front of my PC case, I would get clear audio and that very faint sound of static that you hear when your headphone/earphones have power. But if I were to plugin my Webcam into the USB port next to where my Apple Earpods are plugged into, I start hearing a kind of high pitched tone that keeps stopping and going and never stops no matter what I do until I unplug whatever is in the USB port. Same thing with my speakers. I plug my Carcharias into the speakers, the mic into a audio jack extension cable I have so I can plugin my mic right next to where my audio is plugged into, and I have a USB extension running from the back of my computer next to my speakers and audio jack extension cable so I can plug everything in right there. Since my headset needs a USB cable to be plugged in at all times for power, I ALWAYS hear this faint annoying and constant tone. Same thing no matter where I move the cables. Also if I turn my speakers off, I still hear the tone, and if I turn them all the way up, I still hear the tone the same volume level, just very faint. I think this is some sort of problem with the power. It's unnoticeable while i'm listening to music or gaming, but if I just sit here not listening to anything with my headset on, it's very annoying.

 

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His response.

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Yes, there is a lot of hype surrounding the Astro brand, but they're designed for gaming, and do that very well - they're horrible for an audiophile listening to music, but you aren't looking for that. Sennheiser are SOME of the best headsets out there... for music... but also have a lot of the problem you're railing against; they've held the crown for so long that I find their build quality is lacking sometimes, even though their audio quality is incredible.

The problem you're talking about with interference is exactly what's going to be solved with an external amp; your speakers are an interesting makeshift solution, but what motherboard do you have? If it's got an optical out, you can just get an external DAC and your problems will be solved.

(However, let me clarify one thing - you hear this when the headset is plugged into the computer, no matter if it's on or off?)

 

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My response.

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I read around online and found that my problem is most likely that the port is not grounded properly. (Does that sound right?) The only solutions would to be get a new motherboard, buy a sound card, or get a new DEC or Amp, but i'm not sure a new amp would change anything.

Back to the main topic, headsets. I actually spend an equal amount of time listening to my music as I do gaming. 
In case you might have skipped over what I said before:
"• Has a pretty good frequency response, say 10hz - 25khz for example. I want to be able to hear everything in my music and games." 

Also the time when I mentioned:
"• Isolates sound, like to the point where if you are standing 2 feet away from me and i'm listening to music pretty loud, you wont be able to hear it and I wont be able to hear you. So a closed design headset, right?"

So music is kind of a big thing to me. I only listen to all of my music in FLAC/WAV format or high quality MP3 files with a bitrate of 320kbps. The top 2 games I play are APB:R and Dota 2, during the time when i'm playing these games I rarely ever have the game sound on and i'm blasting music. So in that case, the A40's are not for me. I want a headset that has fantastic quality for gaming surround sound and music. It seems like everything is either 1 thing or the other and never both. And remember, the headset needs to be able to isolate outer sound for me. :/

 

Basically what i'm looking for is the Sennheiser PC 350 SE headset, but with very good surround sound.
Or the Sennheiser PC 363D headset with outside the headset sound isolation, good bass, and that soft rubber/leather material for the ear ups instead of Velvet or Foam.

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So that's everything that was said on TomsHardware. I never got a clear answer and it's been a few weeks now and I still have yet to have an answer. I'v asked all my friends about their experiences with headsets they've used in the past and are using now. But nobody has any idea what i'm talking about when I start talking technical about audio.

I am really anticipating a nice headset that matches all my needs. I'v been searching and reading reviews about so many headsets for the past year now, I just really want the right one.

 

post #2 of 9

Get the Creative Labs SB-Z (Sound Blaster Z, SB1500, retail box) sound card, $100.

(Sometimes it goes on sale for as low as $65).

 

I'm switching to external audio and one of the reasons is no more "electrical noise", which is generated inside the computer case.

But I spent $300 for my external DAC/amp (Audio-GD NFB-15.32) and I'm going to be using an Asus Xonar DX (used, $60) for Headphone surround sound. A FiiO E17 ($140) is about as cheap as you can go for good (external DAC/amp) audio quality for a PC  gaming setup, and you still might have to an internal sound card.

So the SB-Z at $100 is a great value, nice CS4398 DAC chip and a headphone amplifier, plus has headphone surround sound.

 

Motherboard built in audio has been getting better every year, but I personally would prefer to get a cheaper motherboard with really cheap on-board audio and just add an internal sound card.

 

I prefer Velour ear pads, not sure what headphones you should get?

post #3 of 9
Thread Starter 

Thanks for informing me on a Soundcard, but at the moment i'm really looking for the headset before I get a soundcard. I'll keep the Creative Labs SB-Z bookmarked until it comes time when I need to get a soundcard.

post #4 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by Klawsome View Post
 

Thanks for informing me on a Sound card, but at the moment I'm really looking for the headset before I get a sound card. I'll keep the Creative Labs SB-Z bookmarked until it comes time when I need to get a sound card.


AKG K550 headphones.

Closed and good surround sound, would need to buy an add-on mic

Use with a low impedance headphone amplifier (Magni, $99) would provide the best sound quality.

I'm sure music will sound better with it then any "gaming" headphone.

 

HarmanAudio (AKG) sell refurb K550s with factory warranties, on eBay, my winning bit was $180.

 

http://www.ebay.com/itm/AKG-K550-Reference-Class-Hi-Fi-Headphones-Closed-Back-Design-/390701993345?pt=US_Headphones&hash=item5af7a74d81

post #5 of 9
Thread Starter 

Wow, these look pretty nice. They seem to be more music orientated though. As for surround sound, they claim on the website, "They deliver rich, lifelike sound across a frequency range of 12Hz to 28kHz, with the full dynamics and 3-D spatial imaging of a live performance". To be honest after hearing that, I would go with the Sennheiser PC 350 SE's instantly over a pair of K550s since Sennheiser claims, "The sound of the PC 350 Special Edition Noise Blocking gaming headset has been specially developed to provide an extremely game realistic soundscape. Like its predecessor; the PC 350, it features our EAR “Ergonomic Acoustic Refinement” technology, which delivers ultimate sonic accuracy and clarity by channeling signals directly into your ears".

 

Compared to the K550s, the PC 350 SE's have a noise cancelling mic, the frequency response is virtually similar (10hz - 26khz) so I would assume they would sound good for music as well. Also I can get them cheaper at BestBuy since they sell them for $199, I have a $50 giftcard, and I can trade in my Razer Carcharias ($70) and get the headset for only $80 (Brand New). Also I can get a 2 year replacement warantee at BestBuy for only $10 so if anything happens to my headset, I can just get another pair for free. As where with the K550's, i'd have to find a deal online, since BestBuy discontinued the headset.

 

Now i'v heard a lot of good and bad things about the PC 350 SE's.

Reviews that give this headset a 10/10 like this one for example.
http://www.amazon.com/review/R3HL9S49GAJFCD/ref=cm_cr_pr_perm?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B008O510Y8&linkCode=&nodeID=&tag=

 

And then there are the bad ones like these.

http://www.amazon.com/review/R1J3A2REY55XFN/ref=cm_cr_pr_perm?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B008O510Y8&linkCode=&nodeID=&tag=

From TrustedReviews.com: 

"Just got these and during the first use I noticed a tremendous amount of cable noise. Cable brushing against clothing or the desk drives a huge amount of sound into the headset. Is this normal or is my set defective? I am ready to return these tomorrow!"

 

 

But I still am not sure about this headset since i'v read reviews on it not having very good surround sound compared to the PC 363's.

post #6 of 9
Thread Starter 

Am I allowed to bump? It's been 2 days.

post #7 of 9
Thread Starter 

Bump

post #8 of 9

I would guess your original post was so long that most do not want to spend the time to read it.

Maybe you can start up a new thread with the same type question, just make it 1/10 the size.

post #9 of 9
Thread Starter 

Alright then.

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