When setting up my gaming setup a few years back, I constantly wondered if I should get a speaker or some headphones. Now that I’ve tried both solutions, I can confidently point out the benefits and disadvantages of both sides!
Speakers VS Headphones For Gaming Verdict:
Speakers are best if you seek for a realistic audio experience. Especially if you are into open-world, atmospheric styled-games, speakers will be best for you. Headphones are great for multiplayer, as they can be easily connected with a microphone and allows you to fully isolate the audio.
Advantages Of Using Speakers For Gaming
Speaker Advantage 1: No Fatigue – Great For Long Hours
This is one of the most prominent reasons that drove me to switch to speakers. There are some really comfortable headphones out there, but if you’re spending upwards of 7 hours a day, the headphone cups soon becomes unbearable, and you’ll need to take them off within the first couple hours.
Some headphones clamp are just not fit for long hours, even gaming headphones for that matter, it feels like it’s compressing your head together, and your ears will go numb from all that squishing a few hours in. Especially for gaming, during long sessions, speakers will be a more comfortable experience.
At least this was my experience, I previously used the Steelseries Siberia 840, before I knew any better about audio gear – (I highly don’t recommend getting headphones from gaming brands, as they aren’t tailored to give you good audio, instead, they are mostly there to capitalize on RGB lighting, and other gaming features that don’t impact your audio experience, or make it worse, more on this later in my headphone buying guide down below!)
Speaker Advantage 2: Ability To Get True Surround Sound (7.1, 5.1)
Context: 5.1 refers to 5 speakers, 1 subwoofer. 7.1 refers to 7 speakers 1 subwoofer. These are surround sound configurations that allow you to get a more immersive experience, as the sound will be more accurate in comparison to just 2 speakers. For more on surround sound, I recommend you check out this Wikipedia article.
Speakers allow you to get true surround sound. Even though the current virtual surround sound technologies in headphones are decent, there’s simply nothing that beats placing multiple speakers throughout your room/area.
On the other hand, headphone manufacturers claim to get virtual 7.1 surround sound, and so forth, by, they really aren’t as good as true surround sound.
There are also true surround sound headphones such as the Razer Tiamat 7.1 V2 that has managed to fit all 7 speakers and 1 subwoofer into the headphone cups, but then again, it won’t “truly” be surround sound as the speaker aren’t place throughout your room.
If you manage to get a surround sound setup whether that is 5.1 or 7.1, you’ll definately be able to hear the difference between virtual and true surround sound. And you’ll have better accuracy for games that support surround sound.
Speaker Advantage 3: More “In Your Room” Experience
Speakers, hands-down, provide a more realistic experience. Even with just cheap bookshelf speakers, it’ll sound more of “in your room”, than “in your head”.
For instance, when listening to music, it’ll sound less like you’re listening to it through digital files, and more like it is being played right in front of you. And if you play singleplayer, or open-world styled games, the sound will be more realistic, as if you were in the map itself; immersing you into the gameplay.
Advantages Of Using Headphones For Gaming
Headphone Advantage 1: Sound Isolation
Speakers are only for areas where there is nobody else around. Therefore, if you play games in a common area, or have roommates around, speakers would disrupt and annoy everyone else within that area, and wouldn’t give you any privacy.
If you are streaming or are always on voice chat with friends, speakers wouldn’t be a viable option, as the microphone would pick up on the audio outputted from the speaker.
If you are purchasing headphones for this specific reason to not let any sound out, you might want to avoid open-back headphones. In summary, open-back headphones allow sound to leak out, to give a more “around you” experience. Closed-back headphones are what we typically see, but the audio experience is all within “your head”. For more on open and closed-back headphones, I recommend checking out this article by Howtogeek.
So, if possible, get open-back headphones, but if you’re purchasing headphones to not let anyone else hear your audio, go with closed-back headphones. You can see if a pair of headphones are open or closed-back through the description, or through a quick Google search; usually open-back headphones have grills on both ear cups. I have listed some recommendations for open and closed-back headphones down below!
Side note: Open-back headphones can make the listening experience more realistic, but, in general, speakers will be more realistic.
You could even purchase noise-cancellation headphones if you’re on-the-go, and want to play handhelds such as the Nintendo Switch, without being disrupted by the ambient noise.
Headphone Advantage 2: Portable, Quick, Easy
Speakers, take hours to set up. You need to find the right position to place them, route the wires neatly, find out how to connect it, download drivers and software if needed, and hope it all works. Especially for surround sound setups, it could take up to a few days to get everything right, and you’ll need to find the right space for the speakers as well.
But with headphones, you connect them, and you’re all set! Moreover, you can bring them along on flights, vacations, conventions – just about every occasion. And if you have a wireless pair, you don’t even need to bring cables along.
However, if you have headphones that require a DAC to provide the necessary power, you will have to bring that along as well. But this is only for higher-end headphones that require more power. More on that under my headphone buying guide down below!
Who Are Speakers For?
Speakers are best for users who have a room or big area to themselves and have walls thick enough to isolate the noise so others, especially neighbors don’t complain when you’re up till 1 AM.
Speakers are also great for singleplayer, atmospheric, and open-world styled games due to their realistic sound quality, and Some bookshelf speakers can be upgraded in the future, to 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound speaker systems to enhance the immersive experience.
If you’re looking for a cheap, and easy-to-set-up 5.1 system, I recommend the Logitech Z506. I have personally used them for about 3 years now, and have yet to point out any flaws, especially for that price! And if you’re not into surround sound, and just want a simple stereo, 2-speaker setup, I recommend the Edifier R1280T powered bookshelf speakers. It has just about every feature you could need and comes at an affordable price tag.
Speakers are a good all-rounder when you wish to play music, watch movies, and play games.
I adore speakers, and can’t go back to any headphones after using speakers for about 2 years now, mainly due to their comfortability. (I mainly use them for watching Netflix, videos, and gaming)
Who Are Headphones For?
Headphones are an essential component for multiplayer games as it’s the only easy way you can attach a mic to yourself, and to ensure that your mic doesn’t pick up any in-game audio like it would with a speaker.
There are some high-quality headphones out there, especially audiophile-grade ones that will exceed your expectations, hence, if you’re going with headphones, don’t go with gaming brands, just to match the RGB lighting on your keyboard, because as good as they are when it comes to gaming mouse and keyboards, they don’t tailor their headphones for audio, they manufacturer it to give you features such as RGB which you don’t need.
Instead go with brands such as Sennheiser, Beyerdynamic, and you’ll be much better off. (One I recommend is the Sennheiser HD 559, as it doesn’t cost as much as other Sennheiser headphones, and doesn’t require a DAC or any other audio equipment to power it)
I recommend headphones for streamers, multiplayer games, music, but it might get uncomfortable when watching movies, or when using for longer periods of time. (3+ hours)
Headphones and Speakers have equally compelling features to offer for gaming, and it realistically boils down to what you need your audio device for.
If you’re mostly playing singleplayer games, and have the room for it, speakers are the way to go! While headphones are best for multiplayer gamers. Moreover, headphones offer a portable solution for wherever you may go!