There is nothing quite like feeling the vibration of an explosion, while hearing your commander yell orders at you. Even though you are sitting on your couch or in your gaming chair, you need these sound and you need them loud. They are a part of the immersion after all.
Unfortunately, you can’t always have giant speakers blaring while you play your favorite game, there are others in the house, and you have neighbors.
That is why you should invest in a pair of high quality headphones. And the best headphones are studio headphones.
Here are six of the best studio headphones for the ultimate gaming experience.
Best Studio Headphones for Gaming (Open & Closed Back)
Table of Contents
- Best Studio Headphones for Gaming (Open & Closed Back)
- Are Studio Headphones Good for Gaming?
- What to Look for in Headphones
- Open Back vs Closed Back
- Just Use USB Mics
- Final Thoughts
1. Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2
Audio-Technica is a very well-known brand in the audio space. They make great microphones as well as excellent headphones.
Their ATH-M50xBT2 is one of their best, it is certainly one of my favorites of theirs. It is quite affordable while still having superb sound quality.
The headphones sit pretty comfortably, at least over my ears. The leather padding does get quite hot and sweaty after a while, but that is an issue with all leather padded headphones.
The sound is fantastic, though. The M50x has a very natural sound, with the bass being boosted just a bit.
This is a great set of headphones for gaming. They really immerse you with the sound. Every sound in game was clearly audible. I also didn’t notice any latency issues, either in game or while watching videos.
There is also a wired version with detachable cables, which I really like. No more wrapping the cable around the headphones which often leads to damage at the connection point.
The ATH-M50x also comes with two cables, a 9.8 foot coiled and a 3.9 foot straight. There is also a wireless option if you want to go completely cable free.
The wireless version also comes with a dual mic array, one mic on each earphone. The mics are discrete with fairly clear audio. I did notice a touch of audio bleed from the headphones however, but nothing too bad.
The headphones also come in a few different colors. This allows you to match the headphones up with the rest of your setup if you want.
2. AKG K612 Pro
The AKG K712 Pro is one of their most popular headphones, but is also almost $200. The K612 Pro is a more affordable version that doesn’t sacrifice much in terms of quality.
These are some great sounding headphones, which isn’t too surprising for AKG. They have a very neutral sound, with little coloring in the mids and no boosting of the highs or lows.
This means that games sound crystal clear and every detail is clearly audible. The reduced bass, however, does mean that they aren’t quite as immersive.
They also seem to be a little weaker to me than other similar headphones. I had to turn the volume up a bit to get them to an equal level. While the work perfectly plugged straight into an audio output, I do think they will benefit from an audio interface.
That being said, one thing AKG does extremely well is high-end frequencies. There's always been such a great crispness to AKG drivers, and these headphones do not disappoint.
It's important to go with reputable companies that don't cut corners when it comes to frequency response. I find that often budget and Chinese products start their decline when it comes to high-end grades.
Most people think the experience of the low end is the most important. I think that the translation of the voice range and higher frequencies might be even more important for energy purposes. These go up to almost 40 kHz, so you are definitely going to have incredible clarity.
On the comfort side, again, they are great. The ear cups are nice and big, with soft padding that doesn’t get too warm. The headband also adjusts automatically. You just put the headphones on without having to adjust the headband first.
The plastic headband rails are a bit disappointing. Yes, the make the headphones nice and light, but they look and feel very flimsy. I would probably avoid putting these headphones in a backpack if they aren’t also in a protective case.
The cable is also a bit thin and non-detachable. I would also roll up the cable carefully when not using the headphones.
But other than these small issues, I really enjoyed my time with the K612 Pro.
3. Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO
Beyerdynamic’s DT PRO range of headphones has been around for nearly four decades now. They are highly regarded for their excellent build quality and incredible sound. The DT 990 PRO is one of the latest and greatest offerings in this long lived series.
The DT 990s are very well-balanced, with a clear and crisp sound quality. These headphones also sound very spacious, giving you a very immersive gaming experience.
I did notice a bit more emphasis on the high end. On very high volumes, this did cause a bit of harshness, but nothing too bad to ruin the experience.
There is quite a lot of noise leak, both coming from the headphones as well as outside noise still being audible. This is all by design for a more natural sound, but can be an issue if you want noise isolation while gaming.
These headphones don’t really block out any outside noise. I could even faintly hear the hum of my AC during quieter moments. And if you have a mic placed too close to the headphones, they are going to be picked up by the mic.
The ear cups sit quite comfortably and the velour padding is soft. I had no issue using the headphones for hours on end.
I did find the headband to be a bit tight. I don’t have a particularly large head, so it wasn’t too much of an issue. But I can definitely see those that do not having a very comfortable experience.
The DT 990s are on the more expensive side, but I think the price is justified here. The overall experience is just fantastic.
4. Sennheiser HD 599 SE
Sennheiser is well known for making headphones that are great for both professionals and more casual consumers. Their HD 599 SE headphones are an excellent example of great consumer headphones.
The sound quality of these headphones is incredible. The sound is very wide and open, while being crisp and clear.
Games sound very clear and detailed, allowing you to hear even the slightest sound. I felt fully immersed while wearing these headphones.
The bass is lacking just a little bit. It is still great, but I did notice that certain sounds don’t have quite the same punch.
These are open back headphones. They are going to have a bit of noise bleed, and are going to let sound in.
They don’t seem to be as bad as other open back headphones. I didn’t notice quite as much sound being picked up with my mic, and outside noise was a bit less of an issue.
The overall build quality of the headphones is great. I do feel that the plastic makes it feel a bit cheap though. At least the plastic doesn’t feel flimsy, but does feel quite solid. I would be fairly confident carrying it around in a backpack without any extra protection.
This is a very comfortable pair of headphones, however. The headband adjusts easily, and the pads are soft and breathable. The fit is also not too tight.
I've also always appreciated that Sennheiser headphones are usually very lightweight. This is very important to me during long gaming or mixing sessions.
One of the biggest issues I've had with using headphones in general is that, besides causing ear fatigue which can ruin both experiences, they can also cause migraine headaches when worn for a long time. Sennheiser has always been the most comfortable for me for long-term use.
The HD 599 SEs also use a detachable cable to prevent damage and make storage a bit easier.
5. Philips Audio SHP9500
Studio headphones can be a bit of an issue when going below the $100 mark. They tend to be fairly cheap and lack the sound quality necessary to make them worth while. The Philips Audio SHP9500, however, is a true stand out in the budget market.
For starters, these headphones don’t feel cheap. The construction is super sturdy, and the materials used feel quality.
They sit quite comfortably, but I would have preferred a slightly tighter fit. The padding around the ears are also great, but I did notice some slight itching after wearing them for a while. The headphones did stay fairly cool, and at least I was sweating like with leather padding.
The sound quality is a bit more reflective of the price. These are certainly not the best sounding headphones, but they are definitely better than other similarly priced headphones.
Overall sound quality is great. The frequencies are well balanced, and the sound is quite natural and spacious.
I do feel like I was missing out on smaller details. But I wouldn’t say I was being pulled out of the immersion. Those details that are missing are also not enough to distract you during intense gaming sessions, or put you at a disadvantage during competitive games.
The best experience is also had at higher volumes. Since these are open back headphones, that does mean that anyone around you will be able to hear almost everything you do. The headphones will also easily be picked up through a mic.
6. Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro
The second Beyerdynamic headphones on this list. The DT 770 Pro can almost be considered the DT 990 Pro’s younger brother.
The two headphones are actually quite similar. They look almost identical and provide very similar audio experiences. In terms of build quality, I would actually say that the 770 and 990 are pretty much the same. The 770 feels just as well made and sturdy as the 990.
They also sit just as comfortably on your head. The velour padding around the ears is also present around the hears for a soft fit. The sound is also very close. The 770 has that same great midrange, while remaining fairly neutral across the frequency spectrum.
There are two differences that I did notice, however. First, the 770 doesn’t have quite as wide and spacious a sound. It is a bit tighter and more controlled. Second, the bass is a bit fuller than the 990’s. This is of course due to the fact that the 770 is a closed back headphone, so less noise is bleeding out into the world.
This makes games sound a bit more impactful, especially during scenes with a lot of action. The tighter sound also makes sounds like footsteps a bit clearer.
Since this is a closed back headphone, noise isolation is much better than with the DT 990. If you want headphones that won’t be picked up on a mic and won’t let in much outside noise, I would go with the 770 over the 990.
7. Neumann NDH20
In my opinion, Neumann is the undisputed champion of professional studio microphones. Their offerings, such as the M149 tube mic and the classic U87, are my go-to microphones for recording virtually any source in my studio.
A few years ago, I worked in another studio that had a pair of Neumann monitors. I was truly impressed by their quality, though not surprised. This company consistently uses the highest level of audio components.
Therefore, it’s no surprise that their NDH20 headphones are equally impressive. These closed-back headphones offer incredible noise isolation, without resorting to gimmicks that some companies like Beats employ.
When I used these headphones for gaming, I was struck by the incredible depth of the incoming stereo sound. The separation is so distinct, it’s almost like listening to spatial audio. Even a regular stereo mix has a surround quality to it.
One reason for this is the neodymium magnets used in their drivers. These magnets produce a very authentic sound that remains crisp and clear, without any artificial coloring.
I've always preferred this type of monitoring, whether it’s speakers or headphones. I appreciate sound that is real and present, without feeling hyped. The NDH20 headphones deliver this beautifully.
Another reason they excel in gaming is their extraordinary frequency range of 5 Hz - 30 kHz. You get all the sub-bass needed for action games, and the pristine details of the high-end ensure that all vocals come through very clearly. It's truly impressive.
I also found the ear pads extremely comfortable, and suitable for either long gaming or mixing sessions. The headphones also come with a balanced Neumann cable for extra resolution.
Overall, these are exceptional headphones. My only complaint is that they are a bit heavy for my liking. Even though they are very comfortable, this could potentially cause headaches for someone more sensitive.
Are Studio Headphones Good for Gaming?
Even though studio headphones are primarily for studio tasks such as recording, mixing, and mastering, they're not limited to these uses. Many people prefer them for their superior sound quality and precision in hitting the right notes.
For gaming enthusiasts, studio headphones can provide as good, if not better, gaming experience than gaming headphones. They might even enhance your gameplay!
These headphones are designed to capture every last detail of sound accurately, which could give you an advantage in competitions. You could pick up subtle sounds like distant footsteps or the sound of gunfire.
Moreover, since they're stereo, they're excellent at determining the direction of sound. You'll be able to hear sounds clearly and pinpoint their origin.
This is even more true when they have advanced Spatial Stereo Image enhancement as the depth and overall feel of the game goes up a notch.
This is particularly useful for multiplayer games, such as military or fantasy action games. Being able to hear all the chatter while you're in the heat of the action is crucial.
The same applies to numerous sports games like EA’s Madden and FIFA, where you have quarterbacks and coaches shouting out commands just as they do in real life.
What to Look for in Headphones
Of course, sound quality is probably going to be your top priority. You want headphones that sound great while also recreating sound accurately.
Sound quality, however, is sometimes too broad of a term to just leave it at that. It also happens to be very subjective.
Some people prefer brighter headphones, while others prefer extreme bass. To me, the common ground of extremely detailed, natural sound without being hyped, is where it’s at.
Especially for gaming, if the sound quality goes in either direction too extreme because they are hyped to produce excitement, then that could lead to ear fatigue in the long run.
Durability will probably be next. You are likely going to be taking your headphones around with you while you travel. Headphones should be durable enough that you can throw them in a backpack without them breaking.
Speaking of breaking, we all get gamer rage from time to time. A good set of headphones should be able to handle a rage quit without breaking in two.
Lastly, I would say comfort should also be a top priority. Since you are likely going to be wearing your headphones for hours at a time, they should be comfortable.
I try to avoid headphones with leather padding. These can get quite hot and sweaty around the ears. Material like cloth or velour is recommended.
The headphones should also fit snugly on your head. They shouldn’t be too loose, causing them to slip, but also not so tight that they press against your head.
Open Back vs Closed Back
I mentioned this in the product reviews, but you should keep in mind whether the headphones are closed or open back.
Open back headphones are going to bleed a lot of sound and also let in a lot of sound. The advantage is that they sound a bit more natural and open.
Closed back headphones are better at blocking out ambient noise, and don’t bleed as much. Their advantage is that they have better bass for a boomier sound.
Unfortunately, both of these headphones have their pros and cons. Open-back headphones are usually a bit lighter, making them more comfortable for long sessions.
Closed-back headphones excel not only at blocking out ambient noise but also at enhancing the spatial quality of the audio. This is where I think open-back headphones have a slight edge.
Considering mobile and iPad gaming, many of these games are introducing enhanced audio, which greatly benefits the player experience.
A small, but significant detail to consider is the accessories that come with these headphones, especially if they include high-quality balanced cables.
It's a common misconception that all headphone cables are the same. However, with recent advancements in spatial technology, high-quality gold-balanced cables have become crucial, in my view.
Additionally, I suggest looking for headphones with detachable cables. Ideally, extra cables should be included to replace any that get lost or damaged.
Just Use USB Mics
You might have noticed that these headphones don’t usually have mics attached, except for the ATH-M50xBT2. Most of us are usually talking with friends over Discord while we are gaming, and this requires a mic.
Even if your headphones have a mic, they usually aren’t very good. They are often noisy, and being so close to the headphones can cause them to pick up sound, creating an echo.
Luckily, USB mics are fairly cheap these days and have pretty good audio quality.
There are a ton of USB mics available for under $100, but a few I would recommend are:
These are all good sounding USB powered mics. They can also easily be attached to a desk boom stand to reduce noise and easily move them around.
If you are looking for a set of headphones to take your gaming sessions to the next level, look no further than studio headphones. These professional grade headphones aren’t just reserved for musicians and music producers. They are a great addition to any battle station.
But then again, when you think about musicians and music producers, there are so many games out there with killer scores and soundtracks. I've had the privilege of mixing and producing sound for a couple of EA Madden games, and trust me, they put insane amounts of detail into creating those scores and soundtracks. No kidding!
This one time, while working on an EA Madden game, we recorded an 85-piece orchestra at Abbey Road Studios in London. Then we jetted back to LA and mixed in some amazing blues and rock guitar to give it an extra punch.
And it's not just Madden. Games like FIFA have some top-notch soundtracks. They even remaster many of these tracks specifically for gaming, so if you're not playing these tunes in full HD audio, you're seriously missing out.
One of the reasons I totally dig the gaming industry when it comes to music is that the big shots — executives, directors, producers — they actually play the game while deciding if the music fits. This is way more intense than regular film scoring.
In film, the Director listens to music through high-end studio monitors. But in gaming? They use headphones, even consumer ones, to make sure the experience is just right for the players.
So, my friends, if you want to fully appreciate the blood, sweat, and tears that go into creating the sounds and music for these games, do yourself a favor and grab some quality gaming studio headphones. I promise you, they'll bring a smile to your face.