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Difference Between Headset and Headphone: Which is Better?

Difference Between Headset and Headphone

The difference between headset and headphone used to be quite clear. Not as much anymore.

With the emergence of the latest high-end gaming headsets, we now have so many more options to choose from and even more features to consider. So the difference between headset and headphones may not be as clear as it once was.

Headsets and headphones are almost identical, they both have small but loudspeakers attached to a band worn over your head or around your ears.

But there is one major difference, headsets have microphones.

In this post, I will explain the differences and if you are looking to purchase either a headset for your gaming or you’re treating your bestie to the latest headphones. But, you are unsure which one to choose.

Reading my post will give you a deeper understanding of the difference between headset and headphone. Not only that, I will cover almost everything in between.

And, I will highlight why you don’t need to break the bank to own a decent budget gaming headset.


CONTENTS OF THIS PAGE: Difference Between Headset and Headphone


Headsets help with communication and will free up your hands

A simple guide to what is a Headset?

What is a headset? Not necessarily a simple question with a simple answer and there are various meanings to this question with varying answers.

But for this article, I will only be talking about headsets for computers, better known as gaming headsets. Although, some would call them headphones, which they are not.

A headset is a combination of a microphone with a set of headphones. And they can be used as listening, recording, and communicating devices, where the recording takes place through the microphone.

Headsets can have single earpieces that are commonly found in call centres, offices, and fast food restaurants and there are headsets with double earpieces, normally used for gaming.

Additionally, headsets with a double earpiece will have a broader range frequency than a headset with only a single earpiece and they either support stereo or mono sound.

Gaming headsets use stereophonic sound which is achieved through two audio channels: the left, and the right ear, creating the illusion of multi-directional sound.

And that is why headsets are superb for gaming because you can hear enemy gunfire and also have a good idea of the direction the sound is coming from. For this reason, a decent headset will give you an advantage in-game.

Finally, both double and single earpiece headsets have the same goal, to allow you to talk to another person/s and hear what they say. At the same time, as using your hands for other tasks like typing on your keyboard and/or using your mouse and/or controller.


Headset Microphones are Superb for Gaming

Headsets are ideal for gaming because you can communicate with your teammates through the microphone and this will give you an advantage over your enemies

Headset microphones can either be omnidirectional, which means the microphone will pick up sound from all sides. Essentially, 360 degrees. 

Which is not ideal if you have a lot going on around you because omnidirectional mics will pick up virtually every sound in the room. Although, superb for those wanna be popstars. But not me.

Additionally, headset microphones can be unidirectional, which means the sound will be picked up from only one direction, and this type of microphone is more common on gaming headsets.

Headset microphones are attached to a tube protruding from the base of the ear cushions and they can be retractable like the Razer Kraken mentioned earlier.

They can also be removable and can double as your on the go headphones. Additionally, these microphones are bendy so they can be easily positioned.

There are many other features to consider when researching a headset with a microphone, like the sensitivity, the frequency range, and the frequency response of the microphone.

Although, these details can be highly confusing and probably a story for another day.

That said, a decent gaming headset microphone will have a mic sensitivity of around -45dBV and a frequency response between 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz, which is the range of human hearing.


What are headphones

A simple guide to what is a Headphone?

Unlike headsets, headphones do not have microphones, they are predominantly made for listening to or making music and watching movies.

Although, like headsets, headphones are worn over the head, around the head, or over your ears. And they have one job, that is to allow one person to listen to audio independently.

Although, amazingly the latest top-end headphones will let you answer your phone and chat with your friends without removing your phone from your pocket.

Put simply, headphones are two small speakers that are attached to a headband and the headband will be padded for additional comfort. The headband is there, so the speakers stay positioned and fit over your ears comfortably.

Additionally, headphones connect to an audio source with either a cable, wirelessly, or via Bluetooth, just like with headsets. Typically, headphones will reproduce better sound than what headsets can because of the wider variety of drivers used to produce the sound.

That said, there are some decent headsets for gaming offering high fidelity sound and the kind of sound you would experience with the equivalent set of headphones.

An example of this would be the Corsair Virtuoso RGB Wireless High-Fidelity Gaming Headset. Which is a quality headset that would give you an uncompromising audio experience.

But for that, you will be paying a little bit extra.

Finally, similar to headphones are earphones and earbuds, and they plug directly into your ears. They will do the same job as headphones, just without the headband.


Difference Between Headset and Headphone: Connections

The difference between headset and headphone connections are few and far between.

They both connect to an audio source in the same way, and the only real difference is that headphones can use the bigger 6.5mm audio jack to connect to an audio source.

This type of connection was the original connector used on the old telephone exchanges. Although, nowadays they are more commonly used with equipment such as electric guitars, loudspeakers, and standalone microphones.

Whereas the more common 3.5mm audio jack is used on headphones, headsets, and smaller portable devices we love and use today.

Headset Connections

Gaming headsets come with two different connections, a 3.5mm audio jack and USB. Headsets with the 3.5mm connector will connect to your computer via the headphone/speaker jack which is connected to your computer’s sound card.

The sound card will convert the digital signal from your computer to an analogue signal to pass onto your headset. Whereas USB gaming headsets will connect to your computer via the USB port and the audio conversion will take place within the headset.

Headphone Connections

As for Headphones, they also use the 3.5mm audio jack, or aux cable to connect to an audio source. Things like amplifiers, stereo players, or electrical musical instruments also use this type of connector.

Like I have said before, headphones can also have much bigger 6.5mm connectors, although this type of connector is not as common with the latest portable devices.


Difference between Wireless Headsets and Headphones?

The difference between headset and headphone is not so big when it comes to a wireless or Bluetooth connection because they can both connect to a single audio source wirelessly or via Bluetooth and they will transmit radio waves in the same way.

Wireless and Bluetooth Headset Differences

A USB wireless headset will connect to your computer by inserting a wireless transceiver into your computer’s USB port and the transceiver will exchange radio signals with your headset.

Most wireless headsets use the 2.4GHz range, a range also used by most Wi-Fi networks. A wireless headset is a good option for portability and there are no dangly wires for your cat to swing on.

However, wireless and Bluetooth headsets can also be problematic.

Things like, your device can be out of range of the transceiver, or you may lose connection. And you can also suffer battery failure or the batteries you are using could become corroded.

Bluetooth headsets are very similar to wireless headsets, they also use radio signals to connect your devices. Although, the range is much shorter. But, the problems you could face are very similar as with wireless headsets.


Problems with Bluetooth and Wireless Devices

  • Device compatibility issues
  • Batteries running out, or corroded
  • Your devices are out of range
  • Your Bluetooth is disabled
  • Struggling to pair the devices

Wireless and Bluetooth Headphones Differences

Wireless and Bluetooth headphones are similar to wireless and Bluetooth headsets because you can connect them to any device that supports Wireless or Bluetooth technology.

The devices can include laptops, phones, tablets, and TV’s.

Amazingly, a Wireless model such as the Sennheiser CX 400BT true wireless earbuds will allow you to connect to multiple devices simultaneously.

Although, you can only listen to sound from one device at any one time.

Not only that, but the Sennheiser HD 350BT wireless foldable headphones are compatible with both Android and iOS mobile devices. And they will allow you to answer your phone calls without lifting a finger.

Well almost.


Difference Between Headset and Headphone: Wired Version

Both headsets and headphones can be used on a wired connection therefore there is no real difference between the two. I suppose it just depends on what you are planning to do whether you use a wired connection or wireless with either your headphones or headsets.

Wired Headset Differences

For gaming, a wired headset would be best because they would give you a more stable connection. Not only that, wired headsets will offer better sound than wireless headsets.

Most importantly, keeping a connection throughout your gaming is a must, especially when playing games where you have teammates, like the Battle Royale games Fortnite and Call of Duty Warzone.

In games such as these communication is king.

Although with other games like Minecraft and Roblox, it may not be as important to worry too much about losing connection or having sound issues.

That said, you can find some amazing Wireless headsets like the Astro A50 headset that has everything you need to immerse into your games, and more.

But, you may still experience the issues I mentioned earlier.

Wired Headphones Differences

But what about wired headphones? Well, that would depend on what you are using them for. In this day and age, I could not imagine seeing someone walk past me in the street with a wire stretching from his/her ear to their back pocket listening to music.

It is just not the case anymore, they would use wireless headphones or wireless earbuds.

However, if you are recording music in a music studio, or listening to the top 40 at home would you be using wireless headphones? Maybe, maybe not. Therefore, I think it would depend on what you are doing whether you choose to use wired or wireless headphones.

On a personal note, I use a wired gaming headset which has a 3.5mm audio jack and they work perfectly for me. I never run into any problems, and I don’t have a cat. Therefore, I do not need to worry too much about the additional wire.

And when it comes to my headphones, they are wireless. Again, I don’t have any problems. And they serve their purpose as I only use them when I am out and about.


Headset and Headphone differences between the prices?

When it comes to the price difference between headset and headphone, in most cases headphones would be more expensive.

Predominantly, headphones will produce better sound than what you can get with most headsets. However, top-notch gaming headsets can also produce amazing sound.

But there are two main reasons why headphones are more expensive than headsets.

The first being, headphones are more balanced giving a more detailed sound in the high and high-mid frequencies.

Secondly, headphones will have better tuned drivers. An example would be headphones with electrostatic drivers and these will produce a higher frequency response, and in some cases above the 20 kHz audible level.

Whereas headsets do not use this type of driver, you will mostly find dynamic drivers used for gaming headsets.

The benefit of electrostatic drivers is they will produce sound that is smooth, precise, and with plenty of detail. And these types of headphones are popular for classical music sorts, acoustic, and no amplified music fanatics. 

Which is great, but prices for headphones with electrostatic drivers can climb into the thousands.


Other Types of Headphone & Headset Drivers

  • Electrostatic
  • Planar Magnetic
  • Balanced Armature
  • Bone Conduction
  • Hybrid
  • Dynamic

Other headphone drivers include the planar magnetic driver you will find in many top of the range headphones. They will help create sound using similar technology as the electrostatic drivers.

A good example would be the Audeze LCD-1 Foldable Over-Ear Headphones.

And more often than not, the latest headphones will offer noise cancelling features that help reduce unwanted ambient sounds.

They work by listening to your surroundings with tiny microphones inserted in the outer ear cushion and then deliver the exact opposite sound into your ears.

You will find many of the latest high-end gaming headsets also offering this feature like the Sennheiser GSP 600 over-ear noise cancelling gaming headset.

At the same time, you will see many gaming headset brands at the lower end offering noise cancelling with their headsets. But, will they reduce as much ambient sound as most headphones can? Possibly not.

That said, gaming headsets have come a long way and can be a match with many decent headphones. They now feature amazing technology from high fidelity stereo surround sound, to custom tuned drivers, to active noise and echo cancelling microphones.

Therefore, these days there are far less differences between headphones and headsets when it comes to features and prices are somewhat similar near the top end. 

But headphones will still come out on top when it comes to sound and price at the very top.


Can you use Normal Headphones for Gaming

Can you use Normal Headphones for Gaming?

Yes off course, you can use normal headphones for gaming, but in doing so you will be at a disadvantage especially if you are playing a Battle Royale game, or a game that requires you to be stealth.

You need to be able to hear enemy footsteps and using normal headphones for gaming a don’t think that would be possible, well not as well as someone using a dedicated headset.

Ok, you may not be in a position to nip down the town to purchase a brand new headset. Therefore, you have no choice but to use your normal headphones.

And that is ok if the games you play are games such as Minecraft and Roblox. These games you don’t necessarily need a mic and you don’t have to worry too much about footsteps either.

The only downfall is unless you have a standalone mic you won’t be able to communicate with your friends online. Unless they are in the same room.

That said, you don’t need to break the bank to buy a decent headset for gaming. You will find many decent budget headsets around the £50 price point on Amazon like the Razer Kraken X wired gaming headset mentioned above.

My advice would be to keep your normal headphones for listening to music and invest in a budget headset to play your games. Besides, we play games to win.

And you will give yourself a much better chance if you use a gaming headset instead of normal headphones unless they are of the highest quality.


Are Expensive Headsets Worth it?

The prices of gaming headsets range from £20 at the lower end to over £300 for high end wireless headsets. And the difference in spec from the lower end to the top is huge.

Brands such as Astro, Jabra, Logitech, and SteelSeries produce some of the best gaming headsets on the market.

However, from my own experience you don’t need to rob a bank or go into debt to find a decent headset with superb features.

Although it would be nice to have the latest edition from the Astro audio range. But not always necessary. I suppose as the old saying goes you get what you pay for.

Besides, I use a budget headset for playing my favourite game on my laptop, Call of Duty Warzone. And I use the same headset for work, editing videos, and watching movies.

And the Razer Kraken wired gaming headset does a job for me.

For less than £100 you will get a decent mid-range headset more than capable. That’s not to say a more expensive headset would not be worth it.

Ok you might get the extra features with a more expensive option. Like headsets similar to the Jabra Evolve 2 85 Wireless PC Headset offering, hybrid Active Noise Cancellation, paired with enhanced digital chipsets.

Or more affordable options like the SteelSeries 61504 Arctis 5 gaming headset, both quality products for more than twice the price of the Razer Kraken.

So to answer the question, are expensive headsets worth it? Yes, and No.

But even with the most expensive headset don’t expect to increase your KD just because you have invested over £300, that takes time and skill.

And why I think a budget headset is always worth a punt.


Final Thoughts…

The difference between Headset and Headphone is now clear. Headsets have microphones and headphones don’t. And headphones are made for listening to music, whereas headsets are what we use for gaming.

However the differences in the features are definitely not as clear as they once were. Top of the range gaming headsets can offer the same sound quality as some of the best headphones.

Most importantly, buying either a set of headphones or a gaming headset will come down to what you plan to use them for. So compare their uses to your needs.

Additionally, when buying a headset, you want a pair with a decent microphone and a retractable mic would be better. And you would best to purchase a branded headset so they last longer. Also ensure they offer surround sound and noise cancelling.

And when buying headphones you need to consider their use. Choose between over the head headphones, or earbuds. And you don’t need to break the bank if all you want is headphones for listening to music when you’re out.

But make sure they offer noise cancelling and they are compatible with your devices.

Finally, you could have the best of both worlds by purchasing headphones that can double as your gaming headset. But be prepared to pay a hefty sum for a decent set.


READ NEXT: 18 Must Have Gaming Accessories | What is a Docking Station?


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