I’ve been playing video games pretty much since I was born, but I recently upgraded an element of my gaming experience that I had hardly given any thought to before. Not that I don’t care about my auditory experience – I have a fairly nice surround sound system, so it hadn’t crossed my mind that I could be missing out.
Every PlayStation 4 comes with a very simple gaming headset. It’s basically just one earbud and a mic with a mute switch that plugs into your controller. It’s definitely not for listening to your games, since there’s only one ear piece. It’s for voice chat in games like Overwatch, or voice capture if you’re streaming. (Those are the only things I used it for, anyway.)
I got an upgraded headset, complete with sound to both ears (details below), and let me tell you why you should, too!
I first used my new headset with Fallout 4 (a game that yes, I somehow still haven’t finished). Suddenly, you feel like the battle is going on all around you. You can hear your companion (good ol’ Piper) engaged in combat behind you. You can hear the super mutants approaching from all sides. It feels more real. When the rad storm lightning starts cracking overhead, your instinct to get to shelter kicks in even stronger.
In action/survival games like Fallout, Uncharted, and Skyrim, using a headset heightens the urgency of the action. Since the headset blocks out the sounds from real life (think car horns, roommate’s coughs, airplanes overhead), it’s easier to forget that you’re not actually running for your life. It makes for a more cohesive, engaging gaming experience.
Dive Headfirst into the Game’s Environment
The next game I played with my new headset, a game which made me appreciate different aspects of the wonders of my new sound experience, was The Witness. (If you haven’t played it yet, please check it out – I can’t recommend it highly enough.)
In this vibrant world which had already enchanted me with its bright color palette and brilliant level design, I suddenly felt a new connection to the strange world into which I had been dropped. It was almost as though I could feel the tall grass grazing my calves as I walked through the landscape. Perhaps because The Witness is such a quiet, solitary, and intimate game, I deeply felt the power of connecting with the environment. Essentially, the only two characters in the game are you and the environment. As an added bonus, there is a puzzle based on an audio clue that I’m sure I wouldn’t have picked up on as quickly if I were using regular surround sound.
The wind whispers around you, and the way your footsteps ring out in the quiet emphasizes your loneliness. Somehow, being able to hear the crunch of dirt, roll of sand, or squelch of mud in such crisp detail conveys the sensation that you’re really walking over these different types of ground. Whereas using a headset for action-packed games immerses you in the action, using a headset for a puzzle game like The Witness immerses you in delightful solitude.
Don’t Worry About Disturbing the Neighbors
I love my apartment, but I have thin floors and ceilings. I can hear the guy downstairs coughing, I can hear the bed upstairs creaking, and I have no doubt that they can all hear me shooting super mutants in the middle of the night. I’m the type to feel self conscious and not want to disturb people, so if I’m playing at night I often lower the volume to the point that even I can barely hear the action. It’s so much better to just be in the moment and fully enjoy the gameplay, rather than fretting that neighbors or roommates will complain. Having a headset eliminates these worries so you can game in peace. Now I don’t feel bad about waking up at 6:30 am to play Mass Effect!
My Current Headset: PlayStation Gold Wireless Stereo Headset in Jet Black
Cost: $73.00 on Amazon
Overall, this post isn’t intended to be a review of my particular headset – I just got my first one, so I can’t tell you how this compares to other headsets. I will, however, briefly go over the pros and cons of this headset according to my experience. (For what it’s worth, internet research shows that this is generally regarded to be a very good headset for an affordable price.)
- Comfortable ear pads (and I typically have trouble feeling comfortable with over ear headphones)
- Folds down into convenient smaller size
- Easy to charge with the same cords that charge the controllers (as well as coming with its own shorter cord)
- Works with my PS3, PS4, and Macbook Pro
- Hidden mic that works well – no fiddling with mic placement to get your sound capture right
- Occasional “popping” – typically occurs if battery is low or Bluetooth interference, but sometimes for seemingly no reason. I’ve noticed the problem more with PS3 games than PS4 games.
- Short wireless range – you may need to get an extender
- Somewhat flimsy construction – mine hasn’t broken yet, but one of the plastic panels came off in my hand while I was adjusting the size. (It clicked back in easily since they are designed to be switched out, though it seems extremely difficult to find plates for sale anyway)
- They are not comfortable to wear with my glasses, so I have to wear my contacts while using them. Not a huge problem for me since I use both interchangeably, but could be a huge problem for others.
If $73 seems a bit steep for your first gaming headset, I encourage you to at least check out cheaper options (there are plenty), or simply try using regular headphones. At the very least, borrow a nice pair from a friend. You might be quickly converted, as I was!