Falenkor's Competitive Headphone Write Up. Now with added Hardware explanations!

Nice write-up, @Falenkor! It’s a nice guide for competitive gamers in general. Haven’t been able to try out all of them yet. I’m still trying to find the best for me.

I’ve wanted to add my thoughts on some of these headphones, especially for those who play Rainbow Six Siege. In the past few weeks, I’ve been able to test the Beyerdynamic DT880, DT990, Philips SHP9500, Sennheiser GSP 300 (not on the list), and the Audio Technica ADG1x (basically the AD900x with a boom mic).

So simply put, the SHP9500 and the ADG1x were definitely the best overall (for siege).

SHP9500… Pros: Good imaging and soundstage, great price, quite comfortable, boom-pro compatible, not too much bass that could otherwise be distracting, and not too bright like the Beyers
The only con I found with them was the amount of sound that leaks. They’re very open and it is possible for a boom mic to pick it up at a loud enough volume

ADG1x (compared to SHP9500) : Better Imaging and soundstage, Less comfortable (pad material, pad depth, and 3D wing support system may be a problem for you as it was for me), attached boom mic, and nice sound signature overall for gaming (again, none of that rumbly bass or harsh brightness as with the Beyers). I REALLY wish there was an option that sounded exactly like the ADG1X, but with a “normal” headband. The earpads I could probably switch and fix the comfort issue I was having after long periods of time, but I’ve heard from others that the 3D wing system may not be comfortable for everyone. It seems gimmicky to me. It was comfortable for me but having short hair, whenever I took the headset off it pulled a hair or two. Otherwise, you may not have a problem at all with the wings. Head shape and size also plays a role.
A minor con with these was that when you turn the mic mute switch on or off, there’s an audible popping noise

For me, the Beyerdynamics were pretty bright. Although the DT990 was a bit more bright and sibilant, the DT880 were still a bit bad in that regard. Maybe I’m more sensitive than others (I’m relatively young and take good care of my hearing), so your experience may differ. To give an example of what I was experiencing: anytime I broke or walked through barbed wire, or when a concussion grenade went off, or when I used Amaru’s hook, the brightness was so bad I had to turn down the volume or actually remove the headphones from my head. None of the others (Audio Technica, Sennheiser, Philips) had this problem. Other than that, they’re comfortable, have good build quality, good imaging and soundstage (although not quite better than the ADG1X), and are not too expensive.

The GSP-300 is comfortable, has decent imaging but not enough soundstage (being closed back), bass can sometimes cover up some audio cues, and is less than $100 like the SHP9500. So in that price bracket, I would choose the SHP9500 over the GSP-300. Though I do like the “flip-up to mute” feature on some of the Sennheiser gaming headsets.

Again, these were my observations and sound is subjective and whatnot. So it’s best to try before you ultimately make a purchase decision. For example, I read the section about the DT880 and thought I would love them, but that harshness that I experience in the treble region is a big problem for me personally and I can’t play like that (having to turn down the volume whenever I do certain things in the competitive game that I play the most).

P.S. My testing was done using the SoundBlaster G6 as either a DAC/Amp, or as a decent DAC with a line out to the Aune X7S 2019 Class A amplifier. I also tried the Aune amp with no external DAC and it seems to smooth over some of those rough edges in the treble region when using the Beyerdynamics. You could probably use EQ but I don’t like messing with it.

Just try not to get sucked into the audiophile hobby too much or you will never locate that “best” headphone and it will drain your wallet lol. Thanks for the compliment though.

I actually never had the sound leaking through the v moda issue and I have that headphone combo currently. However, a larger complaint is that the shp9500 sounds relatively boring and it lacks head clamp which a lot of people have mentioned when it comes to this headphone. Great for the price but nothing spectacular.

agreed on the soundstage and imaging. Definitely had issues with the 3d wing crap and the headset itself just feels cheap to me. The signature is the same as the ad series as it has recessed bass with mids and highs forward making it fine for competitive gameplay though granted it doesn’t sound very good for music like at all in my opinion. You wont find rumbling bass on it due to its bass and as for the brightness it wasn’t till ad1000x that it became pretty bright.

If thats the case that you enjoy that signature go pickup the AKG on this list. K612,K702,K712 all have similar frequencies just slightly different but are identical to what the ad series has in signature… The only drawback is it has a slight inaccuracy to its imaging and a much much larger soundstage. Has a better build quality and much more comfortable especially if you grab the yaxi pads for the k712 which I think fits the k702 as well.

This will completely depend on what you pair those beyers with. One of the issues is that beyers make very bright headphones as it is so you need an amp that dials that back while maintaining its signature. Pairing it to for example an ATOM amp or THX 789 is not recommended as it will make it sound brighter and potentially anemic while also causing a world of other issues. As for the soundstage the adg1x has a slightly larger soundstage yes but not better imaging nor build quality let alone comfort this is because the 880 is semi open backed while the adg is fully open.

The gsp’s issue is mainly just that its kind of all over the place… It wasn’t designed for competitives it was designed for casual. As such that series tends to have more bass than needed narrow soundstage and imaging thats kind of all over the place depending on the model. It’s not very good in my opinion less your playing casually and even than I would bring up potentially the gsp 500 or 600 instead of the 300 as they have better quality of sound.

Yeah, this is one of the reasons I have to sit and rewrite this guide. I want to put it in a .doc format so I can write more(it’s at the character limit for a post) and explain a bit more indepth so people don’t pick up the wrong headphone for them… Then again its hard to figure out if your treble sensitive at all less you actually pick up a bright headphone.

So, the aune over there will smooth out the highs but it wont do very well for the more bright headphones especially for someone whos more treble sensitive. G6 is decent as a dac no real remarks there but could do with cleaner sound with a more dedicated dac unit like an E30. Some good test units with a brighter headphone are something like the Liquid Spark, Asgard 3, RNHP, in some cases enog with archel, if balanced liquid platinum, among a few others such as a few tube amps like darkvoice.

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True that! Just started researching about 2 months ago out of boredom from quarantine. There is so much to learn about this hobby it’s pretty intimidating. As much as I’d love to get ZMF headphones, a Feliks Audio tube amp, and an RME-ADI2 DAC, I am not worthy! Plus, my bank account couldn’t handle it.

I suppose it is boring but personally, this would just be for competitive gaming. It does a good enough job for it without breaking the bank. For listening to music, it’s worth spending more on better, more fun-sounding headphones. I wasn’t able to find a V moda boompro mic for $30 so I went with an off-brand alternative

It does the job I guess but the arm feels really malleable to the point where it feels too fragile.

Yeah you’re probably right but like I said this headset, at least for me, would strictly be for competitive play. For music I would definitely get something pricier and more fitting to my musical taste

Hmm I feel like I wouldn’t prefer them over the technicas since I feel like the ADG1x doesn’t need a wider soundstage for Siege and imaging seems to be more important in that kind of game. But I guess I shouldn’t knock 'em before I try them. The AKG K7XX was my first choice for a while and was going to get it in great condition on eBay for like $100 because Badseed Tech really praised it for competitive gaming. But then I started reading more reviews and wondered if he was maybe glossing over some flaws because he had some sort of deal with Drop. I noticed that other reviewers speak quite favorably toward products for which they have some special affiliate link.
I noticed that the ADG1x have recently been discontinued on the Audio Technica site. I hope they put out a better-designed open-back gaming headset soon. A guy can dream, right?

Oh ok. Thanks for clearing that up. I do generally prefer a warmer signature for my music listening, so if I do ever go all in on this hobby I’ll likely get a tube amp. Heard those do the trick

Totally agree

Yeah that’s a tricky thing. I kept hearing Joshua Valour say in his reviews that “if you’re treble-sensitive like me” and I wasn’t sure whether I was until I got the Beyers.

Yeah whatever headphones/headset I get for gaming has to be fed by the G6, as it’s the only good (that I know of) PS4-compatible device that has a Game:Voice mix feature to let me adjust the volume of my squadmates’ mics so I can focus on footsteps and whatnot. For $130 I’m pretty happy with it. Also noticed that the Aune doesn’t go well with lower impedance cans (SHP9500). The sound was somehow quieter and a bit more far away. I remember hearing Zach (ZMF) talk about dampening and what goes on when a headphone’s impedance is incompatible with that of an Amp. Also the 1/8th rule and all that. Have to go back and really pay attention to that conversation. It’s a lot to take in at first

True but if your really serious… Sit down with a dt 1990, T1, Hell even the HD800S and you will definitely see the difference.

It’s due to this that I picked up a competitive headphone and a more fun headphone together starting out. My beyers are nice and all and they are superb for competitive, especially in tarkov where sound is everything, but they get fatiguing for regular use like podcast, music, and movies.

Ah, that’s probably why the leak then. V-moda is actually really nice. I considered beyers microphone attachment as they have one as well but I heard so many great things about the v moda I ended up grabbing it. Sounds pretty great for a cheapo attachable mic. better than like 95% of the gaming headsets I have sat with.

well the issue with adg as well is that it lacks in seperation and its just kind of meh. the k series imaging is just fairly minor… like it’s noticeable if you really pay attention but nothing big enough to write off the headphone. That big soundstage is quite nice very concert like so it’s good enough to lay back with.

Lol, k7xx is probably the one I wouldn’t tell you to grab for competitive. It has rolled off around neutral treble unlike the others which have the treble raised. Good for those who are sensitive but the others can really make the fps sounds pop in comparison. Just if you are going to buy one of the k series make sure you find them at the right price… Akg loves to for some reason over price the hell out of them. K712 I see listed at like $300+ yet you can find them often around $100 or so. K7xx I have seen around $150 - $200.

It wasn’t the most well received to my knowledge so another revision of it just better would be good to see. Just please, get rid of the headband 3d wing stuff and don’t make it sound so meh when it comes to music and casual gaming. Hell I would take the MH751 or their new lineup of the MH6-- gaming series over that audio technica.

If warmer signatures are up your alley and you want a beyerdynamic headphone perhaps look into the Tygr 300R it’s practically the only beyer that actually is not bright. It has a slight peak in the treble and the bass is raised. Very warm sounding with a soundstage thats just as large as the k7 series with laser accurate imaging. Not so much fun but super relaxing extremely comfortable built like a tank gaming headphone. They go for like $200 I got mine for $175 on the sale. Only obtainable by itself through beyer(whenever the hell they restock it) or through the bundle which is like $300 and that comes with an external microphone.

Yeah, when it comes to reviewers you tend to want to pick ones that go along with your sound tastes and the way you hear things. For me, I have practically zero sensitivity to treble so I can take extremely sharp highs. However, I have a couple buddies who can’t even stand the Fidelio X2HR whch is barily bright and more of a warm headphone.

Some amps are just bad for low ohm headphones. You will learn that even quicker if you pick up a tube amp and is one of the reasons you shouldn’t particularly go pairing a planar to a tube they don’t tend to get along in most cases(not all though).

There’s just a ton to actually figure out and learn when it comes to this hobby. I think one of the biggest things someone new should learn is that price doesn’t dictate quality. You can’t just up and go throwing thousands of dollars at this and expect the “best” for your gaming hobby. There is far to many setups and headphones and everyone hears things differently so you could end up with a huge mess instead. There is no “end game” in this hobby theres just what you stick with and truly enjoy. Headphones like the tygrs and shp9500 are good examples of this as they punch much higher than their pricepoint. In most cases, especially for gaming, going beyond around $500 is pretty pointless as there is only a very select few headphones above that point truly worth going after. The best potential headphone right now for compettiives is easily the HD800S as it’s just a monster but its $1,600 meanwhile you can just get close to that sound signature by grabbing a beyer T1 and throwing it onto a balanced setup while you won’t have as large of the soundstage it’s plenty for gaming. 1990 is easily one of the best in my opinion that one is just hard to beat and is one to try if you have the money and can take the treble.

I think though if you were wanting to get more into beyers you could do to learn a bit more about how to actually fix them for yourself personally. First off, you can go get ahold of Solderdude over on DIYHeaven and he can make you a cable filter that will practically remove that peaky treble from a beyer by simply plugging it into the cable. Other methods are of course making sure your using a amp/dac that is good for a brighter headphone, I always recommend the spark to start with as you can get them from $80 - $100, and the last method is to mod it which is pretty simple to do. To mod out some of the brightness on a beyer simply pop off the pad and remove the foam on the driver. Grab some thin type of cloth, I tried 3 ply toilet paper when I did mine first time around just to test it, and cut it into circular discs essentially the same size as the foam that covers the driver. Place the cloth on the driver followed by the foam again and then the pad. You will notice a substantial change in the treble but using this trick will also dial in the bass, which is how you can go about tweaking a dt 990 to be more in line for competitive gaming. You can also outright change the pads on the beyer to a thicker pad and it will definitely change stuff around. I put dekoni Elite Velour or Dekoni Suedes on mine from time to time.

Until you swap the pads as you know


Alright I want to give my thoughts in regard to competitive gaming on 4 Dekoni pads that I bought for my Beyerdynamic DT 177X Go. Currently I own the Velour, Fenestrated Sheepskin, Suede, and normal Sheepskin. I’m interested in getting the Hybrids but looking at the DT 1990 fr curves on the Dekoni website, it seems they lean more on the “fun” side.

Okay so on to the “review”. I tested these pads using Overwatch’s replay system. This is great because you can hear the exact same set of sounds over and over again using in-game audio. I also reviewed these four pads in 2 waves. The first wave was to determine if they were good for competitive and the second wave was to determine the best of the best.

For the first wave, I spent a couple hours swapping between the 4. Luckily for me, it was pretty easy. The Velour and Fenestrated were definitely “footstep” pads and the Suedes and normal Sheepskin pads were more casual/fun pads, respectively.

For the next wave, I spent a few hours swapping back and forth between the Velours and Fenestrated Sheepskin.

Firstly, the Velours have the leanest bass. In short, they provide the best, “undistracted by bass” footsteps between the two pads. Another advantage is the DT 177X gain better imaging from these pads (but not by much). Wait so are these the best pads for competitive? Review over? Well no. Although the Velours do provide these advantages, they come at a cost. Clarity and sound separation is lost to the overly bright highs. In best, I could describe them as “muddy highs” because as soon as the teamfight starts and bullets are flying and explosions are going off, you can’t tell what from what. All the advantages previously gained are lost. Technically yes, in a 1v1 situation, before the “real fight”, when everything is quiet, you could technically hear approaching footsteps slightly sooner, but when the teamfight starts that’s where the advantages stop.

The Fenestrated Sheepskins don’t have this problem. They fix the muddiness by smoothing out the highs and separating the sounds out a bit. But aren’t they worse for competitive? Footsteps and imaging is king. Well, not all the time. See the Fenestrated still make the “footsteps category”, they still have the analytical highs of the T1 drivers. They just provide clarity and calm in a shitstorm that the Velours can never provide and actually do the exact opposite of.

So which do I prefer? Well tldr, the Velours may be better in very handpicked situations, but the Fenestrated Sheepskins are better almost always. So I go with the fenestrated.


Just now got around to reading this… Honestly I ended up using Perforated suedes from zmf, fenestrated are very good too, velours are good but they tend to really brighten things up and lean out the bass like mentioned, and lastly hybrids are nice in some scenarios… Though for competitives? I definitely found that the perf suede seems to be the most balanced out for competitive gaming… velour is best for larger fps and footstep placement and fenestrated had a bit more balance and warmth too it probably due to the fact its a leather based material instead.

While I don’t particularly recommend T1 or 177x for competitives… they are still solid choicse for me especially pad swapping with them which is quite lovely in my opinion… I love my suedes for my T1 they sound amazing and perform exceptionally well

I may be in sort of the minority here, but I think if someone wanted a truly competitive headphone it’d be closed or noise cancelling of some sort. This would allow them to stay in tune with the game sounds even when the pc fans rev up, keyboard clicks are clicking, and their own yelled callouts fill the room.

That’s why I love the 177x, particularly with pad swapping.

I’m not so familiar with ZMF’s lineup of pads. I assume you’re talking about their Universe set of pads, right?

Yep, Universe perforated suedes. I thought it odd at first but they aren’t bad at all.

well technically a closed back is more the regular tourney standard… granted it also depends on personal preference and really if you need that room isolation… your not going to get that open backed 360 degree field of sound around your head that a open back has with a closed back since they center the sounds around to the center of your head. Naturally open backs are better but again… it boils to preferences…

well generally your gonna hear yourself in most cases for starters. As for the keyboard clicks depends on the keyboard and the sound of the game… most of the time with open backs and keyboard you won’t really hear the keys less you have an obnoxiously loud keyboard. Same for the fans it depends where the pc is sitting… I mean, less you have a jet sounding computer which not quite sure why in the world you would buy such loud fans lol. I barily if ever even hear my pc or keyboard clacks and I have sat with sundara which is extremely opened up.

I’ll definitely check out ZMF’s pads. Thanks.

In this case, it does come down to preference. I’m coming from an Audio Technica AD700 and an AKG K702 and the issues I listed were things I had to deal with. I’m not saying that those headphones did not have amazing sound for competitive. But being able to hear everything outside of the game did influence my next purchase.

probably a good idea to shop around… they are pretty expensive considering just being pads.

ah well alright then yeah. If I had a whole bunch of noise outside my headphone bugging me I would definitely go to closed as well lol. I grew up with closed for years

The PC37X scale up extremely well with a Modius/Asgard 3 on high gain. More so than the K702, AD700, and 177X.

According to other threads, this is a unique quality to Sennheisers.

hmm, no. They scale slightly but nothing completely out of left field to replace something like a k702 it’s still a gaming headset with a relatively average soundstage with a more neutral sound as per the norm with sennheisers while it’s good for general use all around in comparison to the k702 it has massive soundstage ever so slight imaging issues, raised highs, recessed bass. AD700x is cheaper than the pc37x has a larger soundstage and has issues with seperation in this regard I would say I would pick a pc37x over it but only due to the issues with comfort and seperation on the ad700x. 177x GO is a different story entirely this is not a competitive headphone its far too bassy however stating a pc37x is better musically and for gaming? no not even. Large soundstage for being closed, closed back, multiple pads allowing a bit more flexibility in the sound, amazing comfort, portability due to low ohms, good placements, good seperation, is a very well rounded headphone and is more of a U signature while pc37x is more of a neutral signature.

Most headphones tend to scale up when you pair them to better equipment asgard 3 is quite a special amp and can really bring out a lot of character in headphone. In Sennheisers case not all their lineup is like that to where they scale upwards. 6xx is a good example as it definitely changes pretty drastic especially when paired to tubes however pc37x not so much outside of the usual equalization or tube pairing sounds

as for the fact of it being a unique scaling quality to just Sennheiser? DT 880 over there scales just as much if not more in a lot of cases as does beyers T1

I should add of course this is my subjective point of view and it also will really depend on a persons preference

The K702 do have vastly superior soundstage but I’ve never been a fan of its imaging and while the PC37X did have average soundstage it’s imaging was OK.

What is improved for the PC37X while on the schiit stack is the separation and distinction of sounds, of course still below the K702. In summation, it’s not that it surpassed my other more expensive headphones, it just sort of joined their ranks as the best all-arounder. All technicalities are vastly improved except it’s ability to resolve detail. That’s the only thing reminding you it’s not a $400 headphone.

Very similar experience as the koss kph30i

I bought a used pair of original ad700s and they don’t have the same issues with comfort as the newer models. I have a pair of ad900x to compare.

Yes, it is bassy with the two included pads. While it’s not greater in pure competitive sound when compared to open back options, pad swapping closes the gap ever so slightly.

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oh Definitely agreed here. I like the well rounded nature of the pc37x I just feel k702 may be better for musicality but it may be my preference in that regard.

Yeah, it’s one of the best gaming headset’s on the market in my opinion especially for someone on a budget where is why I have the cooler master on here as a closed back good alternative. PC37x is a very good all rounder with really very little drawbacks considering it’s price tag it’s just not the -most ideal- for competitive gaming due to no raised upper mids or treblethat isn’t to say it can’t work though it works in pretty much any scenario or genre imo.

lol that headphone has no business costing as cheap as it is considering how good it sounds though I use ksc75 modified to the porta pro headband instead.

Well, I say comfort due to the old models but also due to that wing system. It’s just not very good in my opinion mind you if you go to the ad1000x the build quality is better and it’s not -as- bad but I seriously hated that wing system just wasn’t comfortable and old ad700x just screams cheap headphone due to build quality… it doesn’t come close to beyerdynamics build quality or Sennheiser in that regard and AKG with it’s k series have a similar sound signature due those ad series and yet have a better comfort and build quality in my opinion.

I mean, I love the headphone to death it’s one of my favorite closed backs, However since I didn’t need a closed back I switched them out for the Aeons which are similar in signature but open back and sound better due to shear scaling the amount they change upon going to liquid plat balanced is crazy amazing and they sound incredible. Though I have open x so it’s more neutral RT is the bassier one. I think one thing though to remember with this guide is I wrote it up to be the most -ideal- in most cases… so all -rounder daily drivers I skipped most of them… otherwise I would guaranteed have to google doc this thing as there would be at least like 20 more headphones on here

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In an ideal world, I’d only have one pure analytical closed back for comp and the rest would be standout open backs. I have the T60RP Argons coming in… 11 more weeks lol So i have that to wait for.

My analytical headphone trophy goes to my 1990 hands down right now. That headphone loves to rip apart the sound and point out bad portions of music. Haven’t really had a true bright analytical closed back in house except maybe the 1770s but that’s kind of pushin it. T60RP argons I think were supposed to be like polar opposite to the dark t50rp right? It sounds interesting.

Hi @Falenkor have you tried the dt880 pro (250ohm)? I know people say the 600 ohm is better. But, I cannot find the 600ohm anywhere. I like the tight clamp the pro lineup of the beyers.
I’m a beyer fan as you. I have the t1.2nd, dt1990 and tygr at the moment.

Edit: I used to have the dt800 600ohm all black edition, sold it by mistake.

I have indeed. I did feel the 600 ohm was a bit more refined… treble sounded smoother more detailed. However, the headphone has lacking fullness / body to it’s sound with that brightness which causes me to not like the headphone personally. I preferred the 1990 with A pads completely over the 880 though I know others who definitely prefer the sound of the 880. Currently, I am in the process of sitting down with the 880 and a Darkvoice tube amp whenevr I actually get some time to sit down and give it a good listen, supposed to help with that lacking body.

ah yeah I think the black version looks better however, the interesting thing is that the 250 ohm limited edition black actually has a different tuning… its fairly similar to like a mix between 880 and 990 which I found odd after having sat with it.

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I’m completely new here but I will say I’ve wasted more money on sub $50 headphones every year or 2 for about the last 22 years which probably totaling around $600 at this point. About 6 years ago I bought a an Asus Xonar DG because I made the mistake of trying to save money on a motherboard and CPU based on some aligning opinions of terrible people who thought AMD’s FX processors were good value for money. I’ve gotten sick of all of it and I’ve grown to be willing to spend more and I’m done buying $100-$300 CPUs and sub $300 motherboards and sub $600 graphics cards.

A couple years ago I bought some Audio-Technica M40X’s and they were a step up in sound quality but of course those broke, kind of the same story as my $50 headphones. I’m done with $100 and under headphones. I’ve been looking at headphones for the past 3 weeks and obviously I’m here now. I’m done with closed-back headphones and it seems maybe I should have bought the Philips SHP9500 instead of the M40X but I’m passed that now.

I’m hesitant about the AKG’s because I’ve had the Samson/Superlux which are a similar design. I’ve looked at the Sennheiser HD 58X and the Beyerdynamic dt 990’s, and then I started comparing the 990’s and the 880’s and I’ve seen what DMS & Z and others have said about the 600 ohm 880’s. At first I was hesitant to go up to $200 but I wasn’t quite looking to buy an external amp yet and I’m certainly not at the point of buying a JDS Labs Element II and the dt 880’s. As far as I can tell the best option based on the soundstage and directional imaging, build quality and comfort are the TYGR 300R’s as a step below the 600ohm dt 880’s but close to those and maybe about 75% of the 1990’s. The only problem is the TYGR’s aren’t in stock so now I’m wondering what competes with the TYGR’s? Does anything even exist that competes with them at $200 and under or do you have to go up market to the $250 range to find something?