Looking for audio upgrade for gaming (Audio noob)

Hello. I currently have been using Astro a40 for 6 years, and I have been thinking about getting some real cans. I also want to add that I have AKG headphones that come with Samsung galaxy phones. I don’t know if these headphones are absolute trash or what, but I wanted to mention that I have a pair in possession if they are good. Honestly, I have been using them for gaming over my Astros. I plug the AKG headphones into the Astro mix amp. Anyway, I digress.

I really don’t know much about the audio game. I just started dabbling within the last week. I really want headphones strictly for gaming. I mostly play PUBG, but I don’t really want my decision to be restricted to just that. I keep reading the Sennheiser 660s are pretty good for gaming. Something tells me they are the right choice, but the price is kind of a turn off. If they are really worth it I’m okay with purchasing them, but I am open to suggestions for other options. Open vs. closed isn’t really too much of an issue either for me I guess. I would prefer closed to not bother others, say during the night, but I am willing to go with open for that extra advantage in game.

Next I need a Dac and amp right? Do I need both? Do I just get a combo? From my research, topping dx3 is a good combo option or the fiio k3. I watched the z review on the topping. That’s all I know. I don’t know anything about cables, or which type of cable to get versus another and so forth. Anyone willing to help I would greatly appreciate it. Thanks a bunch. I am open to all suggestions. I am kind of on a budget don’t hesitate to say whatever haha, but I am not buying $1000+ headphones. I greatly appreciate anyone who helps if anyone does. Thanks again

if you want a good starter headphone for gaming I suggest you look into open backs such as the dt 990, hd 58x, the audio technica Air series and , the akg k7xx. these are all really good mid fi open backs. but if you wanna go cheaper we can,

Also consider the Philips SHP9500 or sivga sv007.

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The DX3 Pro is a good DAC/Amp combination unit. And I wouldn’t worry about cables at all unless you find something that is reasonably priced that strikes your aesthetics.

What is your projected budget? You mentioned HD660 S and the DX3, so can we assume no more than $700 total? Do you need headphones for competitive gaming or casual? Is listening to music a consideration at all?

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I wasn’t expecting so much feedback! Thanks to everyone’s support. Firstly, I don’t want to give an exact number for budget, but I guess well keep it at $1000 max limit? That might be too high but whatever. Some prices for headphones just seem way overpriced…

Questions:

  1. Do you need headphones for competitive gaming or casual? These are going to be mainly for gaming. I am a forward leaning try hard, so I guess you can say competitive, however I don’t play on a team or anything professional if that clarifies anything. I want them to be competitive as possible to give me the greatest advantage. I don’t really listen to music much, so I wouldn’t really consider that i guess.

If anyone has any questions feel free to ask. Thanks again

Ad1000x is the best gaming headphone I’ve tried. It’s the only one that I feel actually gives me a comp advantage. It’s comfort is iffy, but can be driven by mostly anything and has insane imaging and tight natural soundstaging. Its also bass light and has emphasized higher end, which is what you want for pure comp gaming

Edit: the 660s also has great imaging performance, but owning both I feel that the ad1000x bests it for gaming. But the 660 totally wins for comfort and has a slight edge in technical performance for music, but not as good for pure gaming as the ad1000x. Both would be great options though

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I had some conversations on these forums previously and determined that I am a FPS dinosaur where I favor a small soundstage with the best imaging, and I want treble for footsteps above all else.

My personal solution was IEMs: Westone UM Pro 30. The soundstage is very intimate and I would describe it as a floating circle inches off of your face. The imaging is exact. The sound was neutral until the footstep range in most games where it has a spike in the response which helps in having footsteps be more noticeable. But, again, I am finding myself and preferences to be an oddity of a time when Doom clones and wax-on, wax-off AWPing were a thing, and practicing set smokes and grenades for retakes was so drilled into my mind that I could tell if it was done properly by the timing of the bounces.

Anyways, headphones in the current day and age: from previous forum posts, a lot of gamers want soundstage for better awareness in games where verticality and distance is a thing. From what a lot of people say, the HD 660 S can be a great open back gaming soundstage and imaging choice. A possible issue for me when looking at the frequency response graphs is the sound is recessed between the 4 kHz and 10 kHz range. Musically this is what Sennheiser does and it is part of their sound signature, but for my perhaps outdated preferences this seems like it would make things too dark sounding (more than just warm bass, like pulling down the midrange treble and hiding it).

So for myself, I own the Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro headphones. The soundstage and imaging is about the same between the DT 1990’s and HD 660S, but the sound signature is more of what I personally want. That all being said, I am a FPS dinosaur (so everything I say probably doesn’t apply today) and I only use my DT 1990’s for casual gaming sessions. If I get into try hard mode, then the IEMs come out.

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I use dt 990 for gaming I find the imaging and the wider soundstage to be better than the 660 or the. 59x and the sharp highs really highlight footsteps really well. I play a lot of siege so positional audio is something I like to play a lot with

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I really want to be able to hear footsteps extremely extremely well.

One thing that I want to bring up is that the $200 to $700 price range really is a buyer’s market with a lot of options that are competitive.

In talking about sound signatures, generally speaking the Beyerdynamic sound signature usually emphasizes highs like where footsteps exist in games. Do note that this sound isn’t for everyone and some people will find the sound profile fatiguing and perhaps sibilant. For gaming the fatiguing aspect should be the main concern if the sound goes too far.

When possible, it is always recommended to audition (try out) headphones if you think it will be a close call.

I would love to try out headphones before purchasing them, but it’s impossible for me unless I bought them first.

Iems also have excellent isolation and really give an intimate and immersive experience.

IEMs can be interesting when playing games, although personally I find that iem imaging, unless you go pretty high up, is kinda lacking in positional accuracy because of the fact that they are inserted in your ear, and therefore bypass the outer ear, causing a lack of detail in the spacial image. It’s not a problem for music, but can cause misrepresentation of the placement of sounds in a space.

Which IEMs are you referencing?

Most of my experience with IEMs and gaming are with the mid priced Westone in the $350 to $500 range.

I would agree, since the main fault with using a 58x or 660 for pure gaming performance is imo the mid-range and the lower end sort of blending, and might unintentionally disguise some sounds. The beyerdynamic sound signature has more boosted high end and a little tighter imaging, along with more separation of the mid-range and bass, which can make it sound a little off in music, but is good in games.

I would be going off of what I own or have had, and the brief times I’ve been able to borrow a pair to try out. I do feel that sometimes iems are able to more accurately represent a space with soundstage and imaging, but the main issue is that the space it represents does not necessarily correspond with what is in game, and has lead me to only play with iems if I want fun, not pure competitive

Yeah, thats the main issue. If you live in a big city or know of any high end stores, it might be worth a visit, but there are very little of these stores, and they tend to focus on the upper echelon of audio. Your best bet would be to buy something from Amazon or another store with free returns

I would suggest this is a similar statement to make for headphones or IEMs as some are good with imaging and others are not.

IEMs that I have had issues with imaging were ones with soundstage inside your head. This being said, this is why I have stuck to the Westone products as I found a group of items that I liked.

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I’ve tried a westone w40, and I would say it was a wide sounding iem, and also fairly accurate, but didn’t get the chance to try it with gaming.

Iems are also much more dependant on fit then headphones. While this isn’t an issue for me, it is for some people and can really mess up the sound of an iem. The main issue I find isn’t necessarily the imaging performance of a particular iem, it’s that how you perceive that sound is different from how you would from headphones. The design of the outer ear is important in funneling sound and helping us understand what’s around us. When you bypass that with an iem, you can still experience imaging and soundstage of excellent quality, but it’s also more unnatural then how we normally perceive space in sound. This sometimes causes an inaccuracy when trying to relate the sound you are hearing to an outside force like a game. It’s just something I tend to notice when focusing on the sounds of certain games. While it isn’t super noticable to some, after an hour or two, I start to notice it if I compare back to regular headphones. While this does happen, I wouldn’t say it really effects people too much, and they just get used to it, but for me I’d prefer the more accurate spacial representation. It’s one of those things that you might not notice, but once you do, it’s kinda hard to ignore for me at least. Iems are still a great option, but imo if you are aiming for the best possible preformance, headphones might deliver a little more spacial accuracy.

Edit: something to note is that some pro players use IEMs for various reasons like isolation and dynamic range, so it’s definitely not a bad option, just different use cases

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The W4 and W40 have a very wide soundstage for musical enjoyment. This is very different from the UM Pro sound.

I used the W4’s for music and UM Pro 30’s for gaming because of the massive difference in soundstage.

My preferences for IEMs came around because I needed imaging and not depth or wide soundstage. The special cues came from in game differences but were not as important as were imaging.

For my observations between the UM Pro 30’s and DT 1990 Pro, I find the IEMs to be more accurate and consistent in imaging. The DT 1990 Pro have a much wider soundstage than the very intimate UM Pro 30 which were designed for musician/technical monitoring and not audio enjoyment as the W4/W40 would be.

I must admit that my expectations of imaging came from years of use through the IEMs, but I still prefer the UM Pro 30’s when playing competitively (what is to say try-hard more now). Perhaps it is like using a 800x600 res…more the familiarity and brain-burn-in, muscle-memory than much else.

As I hopefully said previously as a disclaimer, I and my game audio preferences are probably obsolete.

Lol I still play 4:3 stretched out of habit. A agree that it’s all preference and what you are comfortable with for sure.

I find myself more focused on the spacial awareness then pure imaging

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