Male e-sports gamer wearing headset looking at monitor

Gaming headsets are not always more expensive than regular ones. In fact, non-gaming headphones might be better for you! Let’s discuss what the main differences are between the two so you can decide for yourself.

What Is a Gaming Headset?

Gaming headsets are an all-in-one solution to immerse yourself in games while chatting with friends and teammates. They’re over-the-ear headphones equipped with a clear microphone. You can usually distinguish these headsets as they have a bulky build and come with RGB lighting.

One key feature of gaming headsets is that they offer true surround sound, which allows you can distinguish where sounds are coming from in a game. Gaming headsets do a decent job of canceling outside noise but they don’t provide the same level of sound quality or noise cancellation as noise-canceling headphones. To get you more familiar, let’s take a more detailed look at these differences.


Gaming headsets can be cheaper than regular headphones. Lower-end models can start as low as $15, but they’re not worth the investment. Yes, they might have some features that are great for gaming, but the overall audio and build quality will be subpar. A decent gaming headset will be around $50 with high-end options near $150.

You can also find cheap regular headphones that also start as low as $15, but just like cheap headsets, they’re not worth it. The audio quality won’t sound great, and they’ll probably break in the near future. A good pair of headphones can start around $30, with high-end models costing over $200.

Generally, you’ll get better audio quality with regular headphones around the same price range as gaming headsets. This is mainly because gaming headsets are geared toward gaming, which means they’ll have extra features that benefit gamers. Headphones that aren’t designed for gamers focus more on delivering clear, high-quality audio.

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True Surround Sound

One of the main advantages of gaming headsets is that they offer true surround sound. This lets you hear where sounds are coming from more accurately, which can be a big help in competitive games that require you need to know exactly where your enemies are, or what’s going on around you.

Gaming headsets achieve this by placing multiple speakers in both headphone cups at various angles. Each speaker’s designed to handle different sound channels, which are then mixed together to give you the full surround sound experience. When browsing for the latest gaming headsets, you’ll often see that they offer 7.1 surround sound. These headphones have seven dedicated speakers that feed into seven sound channels to deliver realistic and immersive audio.

On the other hand, regular headsets typically only have two speakers–one in each ear cup–to deliver basic audio. You won’t get the same level of positional awareness from these headphones as you would with gaming ones. If you plan on playing games where sound clarity is important, meaning you need to know where people are and where sounds are coming from, then you’ll benefit far more from a gaming headset.

However, if you simply want headphones to play sound, then a regular headset will do just fine. For better audio quality, you could invest in music headphones instead, such as the Sony WH-1000XM4. You should only invest in a gaming headset with true surround sound if you care about the audio clarity it provides for gaming.

Alternatively, you could go with headphones that offer virtual surround sound, which is a cheaper solution. These headphones create an artificial surround sound experience through the two speakers. It’ll sound more immersive than your basic pair of headphones, but not as accurate as 7.1 gaming headsets.

Noise Cancellation

Noise cancellation is a headphones’ ability to reduce the amount of background noise you can hear in real life. These include passing cars, people talking, dogs barking, or blenders going off. In other words, noise cancellation allows you to stay focused on what you’re listening to and not be too distracted by outside noise.

RELATED: What's the Difference Between Noise Isolation and Noise Cancellation?

Both gaming headsets and regular ones can offer noise cancellation. However, if you’re strictly looking to reduce background noise, you’ll get more value out of a pair of headphones with active noise cancelation or ANC. This is true even for gaming as noise-canceling headphones reproduce game audio more clearly.

Gaming headsets will block out background noise to some extent, but they’re not specifically designed for it. They focus more on providing an all-in-one solution for gamers, featuring things like surround sound, a clear-sounding microphone, great comfort, and other customizable features like RGB. They’ll assume you’re gaming in a quiet room at home rather than in public or on the go. This is why you’ll often find noise-canceling headphones to be more expensive than your average gaming headset.

Microphone Quality

A clear-sounding microphone is one of the most important features of any gaming headset. After all, how else are you supposed to clearly communicate with your teammates? When searching for a pair of headphones with a good mic, you’ll usually always come across gaming headsets.

This makes sense because having a clear-sounding microphone is essential for gaming, especially when competing at a higher level. Your voice will sound richer and fuller in one of these headsets, which will help your teammates understand you easily. Of course, a quality microphone is useful for communication outside of playing games, such as for talking on Skype or Discord. Overall, gaming headsets do a good job of picking up your voice with clarity even when there’s background noise.

Meanwhile, regular headphones usually don’t come with a quality microphone. They might not have one at all! These headsets usually focus on audio quality as opposed to communication. In this case, you’d have to get yourself an external standalone microphone if you wish to communicate with others.

It’s not a bad idea to use an external microphone as they can sound just as good or even better than the built-in ones on gaming headsets. So if you pair it with your high-end noise-canceling headphones, you’ve ultimately got the best of both worlds. You’ll get great audio quality clarity for gaming, outstanding audio quality for music, and the ability to communicate easily with others.


Depending on the build quality of your headphones, both a cheap gaming headset and a cheap regular headset can break easily. It all depends on how well they’re made, how often you use them, and how you take care of them. This is true for both gaming and regular headphones, but more often with gaming models. No-name brands start as low as $15, but you can expect to replace them in the near future. Going with reputable brands such as Razer, Sony, HyperX, SteelSeries, and Bose will always be a safe bet.

RELATED: The Best Headphones of 2023

If you don’t want to replace your headphones soon, it’s best to invest in a quality pair with a strong build. You can usually differentiate a well-made pair of headphones by its weight, structure, and design. If it’s made of metal with thick padding, those are usually good signs. However, if the headphones are made of cheap plastic and feel flimsy, they’re properly not very durable.

Less expensive headsets around $20-30 will often be more durable than gaming models in the same price range. As we mentioned earlier, gaming headsets are designed to be an all-in-one solution for gaming. It’s too expensive to produce them with a solid build that’ll last long while pricing them at a low price.

The Best Gaming Headsets of 2023

HyperX Cloud Alpha S
Best Gaming Headset Overall
HyperX Cloud Alpha S
HyperX Cloud Stinger
Best Budget Gaming Headset
HyperX Cloud Stinger
SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Headset
Best Wireless Gaming Headset
SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Headset
Razer BlackShark V2
Best Gaming Headset for PC
Razer BlackShark V2
Sony Pulse 3D Wireless Headset
Best Gaming Headset for PS5
Sony Pulse 3D Wireless Headset
Xbox Wireless Headset for Xbox Series X|S
Best Gaming Headset for Xbox Series X|S
Xbox Wireless Headset for Xbox Series X|S
Profile Photo for Andy Nguyen Andy Nguyen
Andy Nguyen has been a professional freelance writer for over three years and has written hundreds of articles. He has loved computers and technology ever since he started gaming as a kid back in the 1990s. He's the person everyone he knows turns to for help with tech, too. Andy also runs a blog where he provides information and guides for students on becoming more productive.
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