(update in progress) Falenkor's Competitive Headphone Write Up. Now with added Hardware explanations!

Well, 1990s are just very aggressive extremely analytical. The T1 though… well… okay so pretty much take the balanced pads on the DT 1990 take that sound now bring up the mids much more into the mix. Widen the soundstage and angle the drivers. Relax the sound push it back a bit and Lose just a small amount of clarity to the sound. Roll off some of the bass extensions. add warmth to the vocals. Take that treble dip from the 1990s and get rid of it now smooth it out without such extreme peaks. Upper mids will be the roll off point going into the treble and may be seen as recessed going into the lower treble. Add detail across the board like the 1990 with the mids more in the mix but also take the treble’s sparkle and add more detail the sound. That would be the T1.

Then lastly, change the cable plug to be able to be balanced to a damn liquid platinum making it sound even more open and warm. It’s a very relaxing, fun, bright headphone with just an incredible sound if you can stand treble.

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So, I picked up a copy of the new cooler masters MH630 cause I wanted to plug to my amps. I have to say… my thoughts on it initially were pretty spot on. It’s definitely not bad though I contemplate whether to put it on this list… I think this would be a more all rounder it’s a hell of a lot bassier than the mh751 but I absolutely love those clothy pads it has on it very breathable for a closed back and very welcome. The equalizer software allows you to dial out the bass enough making it just fine in competitive but its innate tuning is very relaxed and fun. Not bad at all kudos cooler master another great headset. Mic quality is a little iffy though and build quality is a bit on the plasticy side I suppose this is fine for a gaming headset but as far as mic quality goes… I have heard better from my pc37x its a bit compressed but not bad.

Current next gaming headset audition is the brand new CREATIVE SXFI GAMER headset that boasts big claims on being the “best” in sound for fps gamers and what not… I have heard some reviews and so far I am impressed with the mic quality and the like… though I won’t know for a while if this truly can hold a candle in fps

Gamed few hours with these yesterday and… bullets never sounded so good.
I was distracted how nice the fly-by and ricochet bullets sounded…and then i died. Multiple times. :smiley:
Plus everything else also sounded very gooood. Sounstage was not the widest possible but still enough.
Might use these more often with games when mic is not needed than i ever thought.

The focals really are something special for sound. I have been meaning to grab the clears for a little while now after being able to audition them.

Elex is one of those that while, I want to audition, doesn’t seem to be any way to do so. Though I have tried the other focals of elear, elegia, clear, and listen pro. I think I have a sort of general idea of how the elex is however, I go by what others tell me on that one. It’s one of those headphones that I may or may not purchase in the near future though.

Wanted to add a note in the thread with an interesting signal chain that I find amazing for gaming.

Modius > gs-x mini > aeon2 closed

I found excellent rendering with verticality and extremely accurate placement. It’s really wild because the modius is lightly rolled in the highs but retains detail and the mini is neutral warm. This should not result in what I’m hearing in the aeon2, but wow was it game changing (pun intended). I actually have been more confident in modern warfare and feel like it’s almost cheating (I’ve heard this from dt1990 users). I’ve been able to put some really crazy kill streaks (for me this is not super common) together and pull off some wins by calling enemy positions by just using audio. While I’ve been able to do this in the past, this current setup is WAY easier to hear.

I actually hooked the modius up this way out if latency concerns with the bifrost. I have no idea if those are grounded in reality but I do thing the modius is much better suited for gaming. An amp like the gsx mini has no business in a “gaming” setup but I’ll be doing some testing with the rnhp and see if it’s comparable in any way. I’ve found in general it’s not as open as the mini which in these scenarios has made a big difference imo.

The aeon2 have always felt quite good for gaming, this just pushes them further into the arena for me. They render enough detail without being distracting and have enough stage to keep from feeling boxed in. The 360 rendering I’m experiencing with these really impressed me and I’m hoping it’s possible to get the same performance on another chain with these cans.

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To my knowledge and experience so far it appears that Aeons in general have a good sound for gaming even in competitive though they are a fantastic all rounder headphone with good vertical capabilities in their sound. However, GS-X Mini is quite the expensive amp I don’t think many gamers are willing to pay upwards of $1,700+ range for the amplifier. If anything your typical gamer would be more inclined to pay like maybe $100 less they were an audiophile and even then they’d likely stop at something like an RNHP, Liquid Plat, etc in the $400 range at maximum.

I Found the same factor in terms of the vericality coming into play upon plugging them into the Liquid platinum though perhaps not as accurate as your hearing. Though I do feel the aeons will lose out in terms of soundstage placement in larger fps such as Tarkov which is where headphones like the 1990 truely shine.

In terms of recommending the Aeons I would probably recommend someone the Open-X for first time user getting into the headphone as the open-x has more neutrality to it’s sound while having some brightness called Harman Curve V type of signature. The RT variations are tuned more towards the V signature with the RT open having more bass than open - x. Aeon 2 opens have even more neutrality and relaxing sound than the others so I am not sure if I can recommend them, again going off what people have said, though from the sounds of it Aeon 2 Closed is a damn monster for a closed back in terms of detail and resolution. However I will say that Aeon 2 Closed still has that bass presence unless you dial that in you could struggle in larger fps to face off against something as insanely accurate as a 1990.

I still love the headphone though. It’s easily one of my favorites and I feel it is so unique in tuning, design, and overall luxury comfort. I would have a hard time doing away with it. I play competitive with both my 1990 and Aeon Open X both are great but in the more expansive games like tarkov, arma, planetside, etc I felt the 1990 has quite the edge

They are good, however dwarfed by the likes of focal clears or or lcd-x. I would say the 4xx actually resolve a bit better because their frequency response doesn’t extend nearly as deep. They do however scale, like insanely well. They’re a gem.

I totally agree that the mini is by no means a gamer amp. Like zero chance that would be on the table just for gaming. But I just wanted to share what I found.

Also agree that for the money, for gaming, the aeon X is a steal and a very special headphone indeed. I honestly like how it looks better than 2. Probably driven by a stack closer to a modius/asgard3.

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To my knowledge, it seems the aeon performs better when it’s balanced but at the same time it does incredibly well when it’s a balanced tube hybrid. Though I do not believe there to be a strong option for a budget tube hybrid under the $400 range that offers good enough spacial recreation and the like.

At the same time I am unaware of any sort of combination setup that allows a good balanced port in the $100 range. The only one I know of is the combo unit IFI ZEN DAC but it’s not the greatest for sure. I have been hoping that Schiit would develop something like a balanced pairing for the modius or a budget balanced tube hybrid. Straight tube amps and planars just don’t mix, or so I have come to believe. Hell, I would like any of the companies to develop some better budget options for balanced and hybrids

Can’t speak on the lcd-x but yeah clears are just really good headphones. Albeit extremely expensive. In terms of gaming though for that price range I would just point someone to the HD800S. Probably like the absolute best your going to get in terms of competitive gaming.

That’s a headphone I never bothered to actually sit down with. I have heard good things on it though but it sounds like a hit or miss crowd sort of deal.

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True, I wonder how a modius/erish stack would fare

As a gamer/audiophile I understand the want for better headphones but “competitive” is not a word I would ever use to describe headphones. I mean I remember getting to diamond 3 in league and master guardian 2 in csgo in college with just $20 earphones and a $10 mic. Sure I love my ndh 20 and audeze lcd1 to death but for gaming, any headset will do.

While it is accurate that any headset can work okay. It stands to be factual that a headphone that has a certain signature, accurate placements, etc like I have listed in the write up above can provide an advantage. Not so much in cs go(though noticeable) and league does not use sound cues as much as map awareness. In games that rely on sound heavily such as Tarkov however headphones that are good for sound placement such as a dt 1990 tend to have clear advantages

You can still rise in the ranks just fine. Im not saying that this headphone is going to make you some sort of gaming god. It’s going to boil down to your skill. However, having a headphone that allows you to better pickout fps cue sounds like footsteps, reloading, etc does most definitely help

I keep forgetting about the erish. Though, granted I am not a big fan of only balanced ports for an amp. IIRC the erish makes headphones sound a bit brighter right? Not quite sure how it would fare. I think a setup that could bring the mids more forward with the aeon, seeing how they are dialed in a little bit, could do well for the aeons. Raising the upper mids would allow someone to pinpoint fps sounds quite a bit easier in a few cases.

I mean, I suppose theres also the two Cavelli amps on drop though I have no experience with them. M0N mentioned that going with drops amps isn’t particularly the best idea.

What pads do you recommend for the DT 177X Go in respect to gaming?

The ones they come with are fine. You can switch them out for another sheepskin if you prefer. I know zeos mentioned using brainwavz xl perforated for sound. If you are looking to dial in the bass. Something such as the perforations or Suede may be used.

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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.