Audiophile headphones. The best of the best in terms of sound quality. But what exactly is an audiophile headphone? What differentiates a good pair of headphones from an “audiophile” pair of headphones?
We’ve featured a few different articles concerning the topic of audiophile and gaming headsets, but a question needs to be asked before purchasing a pair: are audiophile headphones good for gaming?
In this article, we will be exploring the topic of audiophile headphones, the pros and cons, and finally our primary question: are audiophile headphones good for gaming? It’s a valid question as you will soon find out. Let’s get started.
What Are Audiophile Headphones?
If we want to determine the worth of audiophile headphones for gaming, we first need to define what they are. Unfortunately, this can be easier said than done.
One person’s pair of audiophile headphones may not be what the next person defines as such. For the purposes of this article, we will only skim over the surface of this complex subject matter.
Generally speaking, however, audiophile headphones are high fidelity headphones built with both custom components and purpose.
The individual cans may either be open-backed or closed-backed. The earcups may use a soft velour or a variety of other high end materials for both comfort and improved sound reproduction. The driver or drivers might be dynamic drivers, planar magnetic drivers, electrostatic drivers, or a combination of these three.
All of these different components, and many more, will create a unique and high fidelity listening experience.
Audiophile headphones are also typically custom designed for a specific sound signature due to the type and design of the drivers and other components.
The most common sound signatures are warm, bright, or v-shaped sound signatures (emphasizing either low-range, high-range, or deemphasizing mid-range) or studio/reference quality (flattened and extremely accurate sound reproduction).
When purchasing a pair of audiophile headphones, all of these factors must be considered based on your individual needs and preferences. Most gamers would likely steer toward a warm, bright, or v-shaped sound signature as opposed to studio and reference sound signatures.
Studio quality headphones are only for those that want extreme precision and control over their sound or those working in music or audio production.
As you can tell, the topic of audiophile headphones is quite complex and heavily dependent on personal preferences, budget, and use case. We are only scratching the surface of this topic in an attempt to guide you on whether or not to use audiophile headphones for gaming.
What Are the Pros and Cons of Audiophile Headphones in Gaming?
Next up, we want to take a look at some of the top pros and cons of audiophile headphones in general and for gaming. Most of these should be relatively obvious, but it is worth covering if you’ve never given a consideration toward your headphones until now.
These are some of the top reasons that many people are willing to spend thousands of dollars on their audio setup. When you want quality sound, you’ll be willing to spend the money to get it.
This goes without saying, but audiophile headphones are simply the best. Certainly, there are differences between brands and models, but any pair of headphones at this caliber will produce amazing sound. Audiophile headphones are able to either produce extremely accurate sound or provide you with a custom listening experience based on your preferences.
Audiophile headphones are much better at producing accurate and realistic soundstage. Put simply, soundstage is the ability of speakers to mimic sounds on an imaginary 3D plain. For example, while playing an FPS an explosion or gunshot behind you should sound like it’s actually coming from behind you at an accurate distance. Audiophile headphones are able to produce this soundstage and soundscape in a realistic manner.
Audiophile headphones make use of drivers that are often power hungry and require, or heavily encourage, the use of external amps to power the headphones. This extra power equals the ability to drive audio that is louder and fuller than typical passive headphones. The use of amps can also allow users to further customize their listening experience.
With the premium cost, you can expect premium design. This pro is obviously subjective to your personal tastes, but audiophile headphones are generally built with greater elegance and timeless design than many consumer level headphones. They can even be considered a statement piece in your home.
Audiophile headphones are also built to a higher standard, so you can expect them to be more durable and often more comfortable or extended use. This does not mean that they are designed for rugged use, but you can expect the components to have a much longer life than lower priced headphones.
Lastly, many audiophile headphones feature replaceable components. This means that you can easily replace the earcups, headband, wiring, and even housing based on your personal preferences or if a component ever breaks down. This is not too common with consumer headphones.
For music listening, gaming, or audio production, there are very few downsides to audiophile headphones. However, there are some cons that need to be mentioned if you are uninitiated in the audiophile world.
It’s probably not surprising, but true audiophile headphones are expensive when compared to consumer level headphones. While there are some fantastic headphones on the market below $300, you can expect to pay anywhere from $500 to $5000 (and more) for high fidelity audiophile headphones.
These are not typically for those on a budget. However, feel free to consult this guide we recently published on audiophile headphones for gamers as we do include some great headphones for every budget.
Audiophile headphones are not as accessible as typical consumer headphones. This includes physical availability, you will likely need to purchase these online or from a high end audio shop, but also ease of entry. What we mean by this is that audiophile headphones offer specific sound profiles based on their design.
If you are a listener that prefers warm and bassy sound or bright sound with boosted mids/highs, you have to research to determine if your headphones will meet your expectations.
Consumer level headphones, gaming and standard, are typically catered toward an overall balanced or warm sound, so this is a factor that you may not have considered until now.
Stepping into the audiophile world requires research, and this accessibility level can be a barrier for new listeners. There is certainly a level of gatekeeping as well, but the audiophile community is opening up as products become more affordable for average consumers.
Audiophile headphones typically require an external amp to produce their full sound. This is a pro for sound quality, but it is also a con for the additional cost and simply the requirement of another piece of equipment on your desk.
The requirement of amps also means that these headphones can be more difficult to use when on the go. There are mobile amps available, but this means another piece of equipment in your pocket or bag, and it’s definitely a pain when away from your computer.
While there are exceptions, audiophile headphones tend to be rather large. When at your desk, this may not be an issue, but if you plan to use your headphones for your morning jog, you may want to consider other options. Audiophile headphones are designed for studio, office, or home use–not exercising or commuting.
So Are Audiophile Headphones Good for Gaming?
Looking at our list of pros and cons, it should be obvious that audiophile quality headphones are the superior choice for any type of listening–whether movies, music, or gaming.
However, it does bear repeating that audiophile headphones are custom designed for a specific listening experience, more so than standard consumer headphones.
It is very possible that based on your preferences you might prefer the sound of a $100 pair of consumer headphones over a $2000 pair of Sennheiser or AKG audiophile headphones.
While the average person can tell the difference between a bad, average, and good pair of headphones, there is a point of diminishing returns for the untrained ear after the $1000-$2000 mark.
Unless you have a trained ear, it may not be worth it to spend more than this mark – at least for now.
With realistic soundstage, custom sound signature, and quality components, audiophile headphones are a no brainer for most gamers – provided you can afford them. With that being said, we want to finish our article by exploring four questions that you should ask yourself.
How you answer these questions will determine whether or not to upgrade your listening experience.
What Is Your Budget?
As we’ve already discussed, audiophile headphones can get very expensive. If you are on a limited budget, you may only have $100 to spend on gaming headphones. Or perhaps your budget isn’t that tight, but you are building a new PC and trying to decide between your audio and video performance.
You could buy a pair of Sennheiser HD 800 S for over $1500, or you could instead put that $1500 toward an RX3090 GPU. Most gamers would prefer the GPU over the audio, but the decision has to be yours when sticking to a budget. Do audiophile headphones fit in your gaming budget?
Which Genres or Types of Games Do You Play?
Generally speaking, there are of course many exceptions, AAA FPS titles will have higher quality sound effects and music. Indie games, on the other hand, will have lower quality sound.
If you primarily play games like Stardew Valley or Cities: Skylines, you probably won’t notice a huge difference in sound reproduction with audiophile headphones.
However, if you are playing a theatrical game like Horizon Zero Dawn or Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, then investing in your headphones makes sense. Consider the genres and types of games you play before purchasing a pair.
Do You Play Online?
Remember us talking about soundstage? Soundstage is key in online FPS gaming, and beneficial in MMORPGs. If you primarily play online shooters, then a pair of headphones with realistic soundstage can give you a huge competitive edge over other players.
You will be able to hear where gunshots are coming from or if someone is sneaking up on you in the grass.
There are pairs of budget gaming headphones that use software to mimic soundstage, but it is hard to compete with a high fidelity pair of headphones specifically designed to produce accurate soundstage. If you play online multiplayer games then you may want to consider audiophile headphones.
What Are Your Personal Preferences?
While it may be hard to comprehend for us audiophiles, you might just not care that much about sound quality, and there is nothing wrong with that. Maybe you just need something good enough to block out external noise and let you enjoy the game as designed.
In your case, it just doesn’t make sense to drop hundreds to thousands of dollars for something that isn’t that important to you.
Also, some people prefer the look of gaming headphones. Most audiophile headphones are not specifically designed for gaming, so they generally eschew the “gaming” look in favor of an elegant and clean design.
If you prefer the look of gaming headphones, then there are still some great headphones on the market that stick to that standard look.
It is important to consider your personal preferences regardless of the benefits of audiophile headphones.
We hope that this article has been beneficial for you. We certainly didn’t have the space to explore the topic in an exhaustive manner, but we hope that you can now research your next pair of headphones with greater confidence.
We certainly think that audiophile headphones can elevate your gaming experience, but there are too many personal preferences involved to offer a blanked recommendation.
This site is designed to be a resource from PC gamers to PC gamers, so we really want to produce content that is beneficial to you. In that vein, if we’ve inspired you to invest in your next pair of headphones, then the following articles might be of benefit.
First off, we recently published an article on the best audiophile headphones for gaming. We already linked to it above, but we put a lot of work into designing this list for gamers that want better audio regardless of their budget. You should really check it out.
Second, glasses are not something that a lot of gamers consider when buying a pair of headphones. Speaking from personal experience, you definitely want a pair of headphones that won’t push your glasses against the side of your face or the bridge of your nose. We’ve put together an article specifically for glasses wearers here.
Thirdly, FPS gamers are the most likely to care about soundscape and perfect clarity of sound. This guide on the best gaming headsets for FPS games should be of benefit to you.
Lastly, we’ve put together a guide on the lightest quality headphones currently available on the market. Quality sound is critical for most gamers, but so is comfort. The headphones on this list represent light headphones that will keep you comfortable for hours of gaming while still providing quality sound.
Thank you for reading and feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions on audiophile headphones, gaming headphones, or anything else related to PC gaming.