There are quite literally thousands of headphones and headsets out there. How can you choose the best one for you? Well, the simplest answer is to look to your peers, those who partake in the world of streaming. For example, Ninja uses the Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pros. If you look at other larger streamers, they may opt for things like the Audio Technica M50X‘s. Others still may opt for Sennheisers. But which is right for you?
Audio is a tricky business, and figuring out your needs will help to narrow down your choices from thousands, to hundreds. From there, you apply a budget, and you are in the dozens. We’re here to take that down to just Five.
How will we do this, you ask? By doing a bit of a check list.
How to choose the headphones for you:
First, as a streamer, you usually have a Mixer or an audio interface, which is needed to drive an XLR microphone. As a result, if you have this hardware in place, you are actually capable of using far better quality headphones than “normal”. This is due to the fact that these devices usually come with a decent headphone amp jack, which is needed to drive these headphones to decent volumes.
Because of this, you are able to eliminate many of the lower end options that conform to a lower standard. However, if you are a user of a USB Mic, then you aren’t out of luck, because we have an option for you guys too.
Next up, we need to narrow down your particular isolation needs. Most headphones are designed with a “closed back” design which prevents a lot of sound from leaking out to your surroundings. However, there are two other forms, “Semi-Open” and “Open back”.
The final thing to consider is your budget. Audio equipment is often synonymous with “extremely expensive.” For the most part, though, we keep things under $200 in this list. Our goal here is to give you the options with the best results, even if your budget is low.
The Difference between “Semi-Open” and “Open-back” designs
Semi-open is dampened, and allows some sound to pass through. The advantage here is that the “spatial sound” is much more intuitive. I/E, footsteps coming from the right sound like it’s coming from the right, left from left, and so on. The downside there is that it will leak to others around you; they are able to hear what you hear.
Open back takes it to a new level, further enhancing the spatial sound stage, but they are essentially two-way speakers. For gaming, if you have no worries about leaking sound, Open back is typically the way to go. But for streaming? It depends, actually.
Streamer specific concerns with open back designs
As stated, Open back designs act like speakers, but offer the widest sound stage possible. The big drawback is that your mic might pick up that leaked sound and introduce some echo, especially if there is a slight disparity between the sound synchronization between the game and the headphones output.
As you might imagine, that can be problematic. Though, if you have a GTX or RTX card, using RTX Voice may help to deal with that issue on the fly. No guarantees there though, as we have not tested this particular scenario, merely brainstormed it into existence.
If this is a concern for you, my recommendation is to go with the Semi-Open or Closed-back options on the list. Just be aware that Semi-open may also have this problem, though to a lesser degree.
A note on Ohms
We are going to be going over some technical terms ahead, so if you need a refresher, this should help you along the way.
What are Ohms anyway?
Ohms are a measurement of resistance within an electrical circuit. This is a particularly important value for audio equipment designed to work with professional audio gear. The reason a high resistance is needed is that these mixers and interfaces tend to supply a very high voltage to the audio equipment.
Here’s an example: Trying to run headphones with a 32-ohm resistance to a mixer that can power 600 ohms headphones will likely cause the drivers to literally vibrate themselves to pieces, potentially melt, and blow your eardrums to next year in the process. However, trying to run a 600-ohms pair of headphones for a smartphone 3.5mm amp, and you won’t be able to power them to any useful volume.
Incidentally, the Ohms value has a slight effect on the overall audio quality, with higher numbers tending to sound “better”. This is because it is less sensitive to noise in the amplifier.
Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro 80-ohms, The Best headphones for streamers with no Mixer or Audio Interface
If you do not yet have a fancy XLR mic or are using a USB mic, then this would be the best option for you. I am referring to the Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro 80-Ohms variant, a closed-back design.
This is actually the same pair of headphones that I myself use, though I use the 250-Ohms variant that I run through my Behringer UMC 204HD. I can honestly say that I’m a Beyerdynamic fan now. They are amazing!
- Literally, the most comfortable pair of headphones I have ever used in my life.
- Blows my old Logitech G933’s sound quality out of the water
- Near-Zero sound leak, no worries about your mic picking up sound from it.
- (Could be a con) Excellent noise cancellation. I literally could not hear my nephew 3 feet away calling me with moderate volume.
- The Cable is hardwired into the headphones. Unless you are handy with a soldering iron, we recommend taking extreme care of the wire for long lasting use.
- The contact point that goes into the drivers are made of plastic, while the band itself is metal. It certainly feels like it will last, but just try to not drop them often.
- Closed-back design reduces the depth of the audio a bit
- No swivel of ear cups
If you plan to opt for higher than 80-ohm headphones, you will need an audio interface or Mixer. Just a heads up. If you plan to use these headphones with your phone, you will have the best result from 32 ohms as it will be sufficiently powered (I/e, loud enough to hear).
HyperX Cloud Alpha S, The best headset for a new Streamer with no mic
If you do not have a microphone yet, your best bet would be to buy a headset rather than headphones. Headsets come bundled with an attached mic, so they are the most cost-effective means of getting a mic and getting started.
In Particular, the HyperX Cloud Alpha S has some features that imitate the more expensive options that involve a Hardware Mixer, such as an audio balance toggle switch. While this is not a perfect substitute for faders, it is nice to have.
The quality of your audio when starting out isn’t a major factor, as long as your audience can clearly hear you, a headset is perfectly fine.
- 7.1 Virtual surround (though we prefer it off in most cases.)
- Game balance/Chat Balance buttons
- Audio quality is fairly good with a wide frequency response: 13-27000 Hz
- Bear in mind, you won’t hear past 20,000 Hz, but you’ll feel it. It’s hard to explain…
- The microphone is Detachable, so you can remove it when you upgrade to a standalone desktop mic.
- The sound is boosted in the bass, rather than a flat response curve. This means EQing it will be a bit tougher, though not impossible.
- Could be a pro, though. Depends on your taste.
- Faux Leather ear cushions. These things fall apart in a few months, and cause the headphones to move if you get sweaty.
HyperX has worked themselves up to be one of the most widely recognized brands for gaming gear, and for good reason. The quality of their headsets has constantly been pushing the boundaries of audio standards for gamers. With that being said, they are not gamer exclusive. Streamers can just as easily take advantage of their gear, and begin their journey.
If this headset is too much to swing, pretty much any headset that HyperX makes is pretty decent quality, so feel free to browse within your budget.
Audio Technica M50X – A Solid offering with a Detachable cable
These headphones are in the same price range as the Beyerdynamic DT 770’s we listed above, but have the added benefit of a detachable cable. While not as comfortable as the DT 770s, they are still one of the best headphones within this price range.
Many voice actors actually prefer these over the DT 770’s for on-the-go, as they fold in on themselves. This makes them easy to transport and allows them to fit snugly in a smaller carrying case. Add the detachable wire, and you have a tiny, mess-free experience.
- Great Audio
- Fold away design makes it easy for transport
- Detachable cable
- Great Noise Isolation from noisy environments
- Fairly neutral response curve.
- Leather backing makes it slide easy on your head if you get sweaty (According to a friend)
- Somewhat excessive clamping force. This becomes less of an issue as they break in. (According to a friend)
Now a bit of a disclaimer. I have not personally used the M50X’s. This made the list purely on the huge following that they have, and from second-hand recommendation by a few friends who have used them.
Logitech G933, a handy headset to hear audio from multiple sources without a mixer
The G933 is the headset that I used for over 4 years, and it served me well within this time. A notable feature of this headset is the fact that it was capable of accepting both a wireless signal and two wired signals simultaneously without assistance from additional hardware.
For me, this meant having my WiiU audible through my headset while playing Breath of the Wild, while listening to Spotify and chatting with friends on Discord. It was a very nice thing to have on multiple occasions. Plus it had RGB! Everybody likes RGB, right? RIIIIGHT???!! (I turned that off effective yesterday. Kills your battery time.)
- Decent Audio Quality
- Very handy simultaneous listening from multiple inputs
- Comfortable to wear
- Wireless range is Very good.
- Battery lasts about 12 hours at first.
- Decent directional audio in 7.1 (Only available in Wireless mode…)
- Heavy! Will leave a nice dent in your scalp for long sessions
- Heavy! Don’t drop them, they are full plastic, and the hinge broke on my first pair after dropping them.
- Low Clamping force. Slid off my head easily a few times. Caught them most of the time…(See above)
- Battery lasted less than 5 hours before I retired them.
- Had serious issues with not taking a charge, (flashing red led) needed to unplug the battery, then plug in the charging plug, then re-connect the battery when fully depleted.
- Bulky – The wireless design coupled with the quick-access plates resulted in a lot of extra girth to these headphones.
Despite all of the Cons, these were the best headphones I had ever used prior to falling into the audiophile rabbit hole. The simultaneous listening of multiple devices being the biggest factor of my praise. The 7.1? Dodgy at best.
But if it’s good enough for me for over 4 years, its good enough to be here on this list.
The best Overall Headphones for streamers – Beyerdynamic DT 880 Premium 250-Ohms
We enter the final, and best option for under $400 those who have the equipment necessary to handle them. The Beyerdynamic DT 880’s are quite possibly the best option for streamers and content creators who deal with audio. And they don’t break the bank in the process!
They only have a very minor sound leak, which is easily managed by proximity to your mic, and vst noise cancellation, so it’s really a non-issue.
- Legendary sound quality
- Same comfort as the DT 770’s, which is to say extremely comfortable
- Ability to hear yourself a bit better than the DT 770’s, allowing you to speak more naturally. If you have a mix knob where you can monitor your voice and output, moot point
- No Detachable wire.
- Same contact point flaw with the DT 770’s. The peg that connects to the driver is plastic, with the band being metal.
- No Swivel earcups.
- Doesn’t make me breakfast in the morning.
With that being said, there is a 600-Ohms variant, but unless you know for sure if your hardware is capable of driving these, you may want to steer clear of those. I know my Behringer UMC204HD has no chance to aptly drive those, that’s for sure.
Honorable mention – Sennheiser HD 650
We didn’t include the Sennheiser HD650 in our 5 to pick from because their price exceeded what we’d recommend spending on a pair of headphones meant from streaming. With that said, these are widely considered one of the best audiophile headphones under $600, so if audio is important to you, then these will serve you well. Just make sure you aptly pair it with something like the Schiit Magni 3+ to get the power it needs.
They are Open-back, so they leak a ton of sound, so be aware of that when making a purchase decision. Good luck with your streaming endeavors, and thanks for reading!