Headphones for verticality in gaming

So I have been on an audio journey over the past few months and tried a lot of headphones for gaming and daily music listening. Currently I own the following:

  • Beyerdynamic T1 2nd gen
  • Audeze LCD-GX
  • Hifiman Ananda

Others I have tried:

  • 1990 pro
  • Tygr 300r
  • Sundara
  • AKG K702
  • Fidelio X2
  • HD6XX
  • A few more not worth mentioning

All that to be said, I have been playing a lot of Warzone and other games where I feel like knowing verticality in positioning is just as important as horizontal position. I primarily gamed with the T1 but felt it was more challenging to distinguish footsteps above and below than with the Ananda and GX. I think at this point I’m willing to put my T1s away as I find the other 2 to be more competent in gaming (at least to my ears).

So to the question, is there something technically about a headphone that would improve vertical positioning? Size of the driver? Or are there other headphones that you would recommended over what I currently have for this type of directional audio? I know the HD800S is supposed to be king and I would be willing to try it but I’m also curious if it has good vertical positional accuracy? Thanks!

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Your setup, and what you have tried… only help so far… the ability to be able to place vertically is fine on a lot of those headphones and exceptional on the others… but it also has to be you that adapts and is able to pick those sounds out and comes from mental burn in and natural training to listen for the distinction of those sounds. I use the same headphone as you the T1.2 and have zero issues with this… however, there is also the big issue that is Warzone, and that is the sound engine is trash for placements as it is… which I can tell you from experience hinders everybody myself included when it comes to verticality…

The only thing your missing, is experience with positional audio placements which takes time and practice, the headphones only take you so far they can place the sound you have to be the one to pick this up in what direction and the like.

Edit: Probably what you don’t want to hear and I do apologize for that… but it’s the simple truth. It’s something you have to naturally obtain through actual practice…

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Thanks for the reply and all very good points. I need to do a better job of sticking with a single headphone and being content and then learning it’s nuances. That being said, I’ll edit the original post as I can definitely tell steps with the t1, there are just times when I could swear it’s above and it turns out they are not which maybe we could chalk up to Warzone sounds? I think if I were to tier my current headphones for vertical imaging I would say:

  1. Ananda
  2. LCD-GX
  3. T1

I’m assuming I like the Ananda and LCD-GX so much because of the driver size (though I know very little about the technical details so this could be totally inaccurate). Which then got me thinking about my original question. Is there anything that’s really great at vertical imaging that I’m not aware of and how is the HD800s with it?

I can definitely verify this is warzone… I have this same issue with other headphones too. Games like Tarkov? nope, not really at all… I definitely know if they are above me or below me… then again, that could very well be my own experience as someone who has gamed professionally and played for over 15 years.

dunno bout GX so much, wasn’t a big fan on placements… maybe for warzone? Never tried warzone with that one… but Ananda, yeah probably… that thing is pretty good on it’s placements I just don’t like it’s signature for competitive is why I don’t use it personally.

HD800S is good for it as well, it’s the one trick pony… really really good imaging with an absolute massive stage. I just don’t like it’s sound nor do I like it’s build and comfort like at all lol. It is technically better… that and I want to say the Koss 95x and fellow electrostatic drivers… which in terms of clarity and speed… you probably aren’t besting an estat headphone as it just comes with the territory of that driver

Others would be… let me think… I know for sure Elex is good for that, practically ever beyer is good for that, AD2000X is another really good for that, Denon has some nice ones for imaging and verticality… not the best but worth mentioning however they do tend to have some bass problems, have not tried ZMF but I would wager there is one in there somewhere, I mean can keep going… but point is, you practically have already a good thing going, not going to get much better less you get more air to the sound which it sounds like it may be one of the potential issues. Ananda has all that air to it’s sound with that big ol soundstage paired to the speed of a planar and very good detail retrieval… makes it superb for what the use case.

It’s more a Warzone sound issue imo. You have had good headphones.
You might need to look more down or up, before the sound source clearly “comes” from up or down.

Noticed the same thing. No matter what headphones are being used.
There are times when sound is exactly center (footsteps is up or down), there is no telling.
The aiming change up or down then helps. Same with chanting chests.

Sennheiser GameOne and ELEX, both do the same.

Thank you both for the great responses, definitely appreciate the additional information. I forgot to mention that I did try the Denon AH-D7200. Without a doubt this was the best headphone I tested but unfortunately the comfort on that for my head and ears was hot garbage.

Another good point at placing my ret at the source to see if that changes the sound. Now I guess the harder question is how many headphones do I actually keep :smiley:. I would still like to try a Focal, Electrostat, and maybe an Audio-Technica… but I should probably just try to be content.

Up front I only play Overwatch. I switched to a 95X for two reasons: when everything is exploding in team fights I couldn’t hear everything and I wanted better positional audio. Between the fast driver and Dolby Atmos (enabled in game, not in Windows) it gave me the ability to still hear micro details in fights. Estats are a slippery slope though, because once I got a taste of what I was missing I couldn’t stop until I’d got the L700 and 353X.

Wait…what kind of AMP/DAC are you currently using? I’ve tried the HD800 and the T1.2, but the T1,2 was probably one of the best headphones I’ve used for gaming…I think your AMP/DAC is too warm for you…

Oh, were you talking about sounds in Warzone? Then I’m 100% sure it’s the problem of the game’s sound engine itself, Warzone’s engine is literally Trash. In that game, believe your eyes, not your ears.

I’m looking at a 95x on ebay right now, been curious about it for awhile but now you all have me thinking I should give it a try. You are right though, this is a slippery slope. The open box Hifiman Jade 2 looks interesting :smiley:

For my amp right now I have the JDS Labs Element II. I’ve used several others and never had any issues. I don’t want people to think the T1.2 is not good at gaming. All I’m really saying is that with the GX (I’m using Metal’s eq by the way) and with the Ananda, it’s completely obvious because the sound seems to be delivered higher or lower than stuff that is on the same floor.

I tried Apex the other day and an enemy Wraith put a rift down and I could follow her to my left and up. With the T1 it was there and I could tell she was higher but with the GX and Ananda I could tell you she was on the top of the building rather than the middle balcony.

hardest question ever lol

this could also potentially be possible, but only to a certain degree.

electrostats have the clearest sound and with 95x it is indeed in the ideal signature for the most part… they are worth a try, just make sure you can do a return just incase

that ones not the best for 600 ohm headphones… if I remember it’s like 165 mw at 600 ohms compared to something like… asgard 3 which is 300 mw at 600 ohms(which the asgard 3 needs to be brought to around 75% - 80% to actually amp the T1.2 to begin with). It could very well be possible that your lacking power on some of these, considering the T1.2’s absolute ridiculous levels of scaling it could be lacking in this regard as well…

had to look up the specs… Max. SPL 126 dB (300 mW / 500 Hz) for the T1.2

^ also this lol. Oh and, apex? Apex is slightly better than warzone, but still pretty bad… This is EA were talking here, they damn sure aren’t putting the best stuff in a free game. You should technically be able to hear better with the Ananda depending on the distance though, it has more air and soundstage than the T1.2

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So basically the outcome of this discussion is me spending money on an electrostat and probably needing to buy a new dac/amp :smiley:

Seriously though, I’ve considered some other dac/amps but I tend to like a combo for cleaner desk space. I looked at the Asgard, Topping, and Monolith and I’m not opposed to changing if someone feels it’s a must buy.

Yep pretty much lol.

Well you can get a strong combo unit but you lose power in comparison to dedicated. I tend to recommend dedicated units once someone is at $200+ for the amp and dac. Also do keep in mind some amps do have better spatial recreation and imaging which is another factor on your games.

Just a thought here, have you tried different surround software?
I’m currently using Redscape audio and it’s in a whole other leage compared to dolby atmos or dts for headphones or you other typical headphone surround setups. At least in capability, doesn’t mean it works for every game.

You could try the nxwaves software, they offer a free trial and I thought it was basically the same thing.

Interesting, I’ve considered it but never really played with it in any competitive environment. I think some of the point of this post is that with headphones like the Ananda or LCD-GX, I don’t necessarily feel like I need it. I have read some articles where they swear by surround software couple with a headphone that has a large soundstage. What headphone are you using with this?

balance modded DT880 600 ohm on a zen stack.
I’ve been disappointed by headphone surround since …well …forever, but this stuff convinced me.
At least when it’s used right, which so far? not often. Obviously it can’t replace actual speaker surround setups, but as far as I’m concerned. No headphones ever will, least not on their own.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider spoiler

Summary

There is a dream scene later in the game where the guy is buried alive and you hear his voice from underground in different places. He spawned behind me on the other side of the room and I was able to basically pinpoint his location before I even turned around and definitely when turning around and seeing the graves, as it could basically onyl be in one spot. That was the moment that sold me.

The whole emulating Speaker sound thing is cute but I don’t care. To me, previous solutions at best allowed me to identify based on quadrants (and they all add nasty reverb).
This, to me, has a WAY higher resolution and actually adds verticality. It’s night and day. It’s more like hearing something at X degrees right and a level above vs " I hear something in front of me and right"

I’m guessing it only properly works if the game supports a 7.1 setup though, but yea, if you haven’t tried, definitely give it a shot before considering spending money on better gear. That is waves since this doesn’t have a demo unfortunately.

On a sidenote, headtrackers are total BS. Technology Works, but utterly pointless imo.

gotta tell ya, that 7.1 stuff some people swear by… in my experience? Completely destroys sound quality in most cases, as well as imaging. like maybe only 5% of use cases this will help in gaming.

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Honestly, I really believe there is something to be said about a quality headphone with good vertical staging. The Ananda feels like virtual surround to me. I think at this point I’m going to try the HD800s just because I feel obligated. Then test out The Arya. I’ll likely end up with either the LCD-GX and Ananda or the Arya. I could probably be totally happy with the LCD-GX as well. The build quality is exceptional, I swapped the stock pads for their real leather pads, and apply a tiny bit of EQ and this thing opens up.

Eh arya and 800s are like the maximum for competitive but they aren’t anything spectacular imo for games just music.

I did go try the gx, gotta say not a fan… I definitely perform and hear things better on my 1990 or t1…

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Stock I don’t like the GX at all and totally agree. I applied the following eq which came from Metal:

Filter 1: ON LS Fc 105 Hz Gain 3 dB
Filter 2: ON PK Fc 4500 Hz Gain 8.1 dB Q 1.41

This makes the GX a totally different headset. It sounds more open and as if a veil has been lifted on it.

I’m surprised to hear you say that on the Arya, I’ve seen some really good reviews from people that think it’s amazing for music. Obviously this is subjective for everyone. If that’s the case with the Arya and the 800s then I’m probably back to the Ananda. I really enjoy the out-of-the-box experience with that headphone for music and gaming… I just wish they would put a little swivel on it.

I’ve seen some interesting things about the GoldPlanar GL2000 double-sided version but will probably wait for some more reviews before I do any exploration there. You definitely can’t go wrong with the 1990 or t1. I love the t1 build quality as well.