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If you’re undecided about whether you need headphones or a headset, you’re not alone. At first glance, the two may seem very similar, but there are some differences between them. Before choosing the right one for you, it helps to understand how these two products are different.

Let’s take a closer look at what makes headphones and headsets unique and how they compare.

What Makes Headphones Better?

There is one area where headphones reign supreme: sound quality.

If you’re mostly concerned with sound quality, closed headphones are the way to go. Generally, they have higher quality audio drivers because they’re more meant for listening to music than communicating with people on the other end of the connection. Headphones will feature active noise cancellation, blocking out ambient noise, and will play back music in stereo sound.

Gaming headsets have ramped up the sound quality significantly with most providing great quality when it comes not only to listening to music, but also hearing your teammates strategize or your enemy’s footsteps creeping up behind you. That said, they aren’t designed to produce true-to-life sound. Gaming headsets are designed for, well, gaming. While a good set of headphones can make you feel like you’re listening to a symphony in person, you probably won’t get the same experience from a gaming headset. The real question, though, is whether that’s the experience you’re looking for in the first place.

What Makes a Headset Better?

Without a doubt, headsets are superior when it comes to the quality of the microphone.

The biggest difference between these two items is that a headset has an attached microphone and headphones do not.

Note that this does not mean that headphones do not have a microphone. Most of the modern headphone designs do have microphones, but they’re integrated seamlessly into the design. That means that they’re less bulky and more practical to wear when, say, commuting to work or working in a library. But the sound quality from an integrated microphone on a set of headphones is not as good as the attached microphone on a headset. A pair of headphones with an integrated mic is good for a phone call, but it’s not ideal for long gaming sessions or even important meetings when clear communication is key.

What makes headset microphones superior? For one thing, they’re more comfortable. When the mic is attached, it sits close to your mouth so you can speak normally without having to worry about being hard. You might think that this would be a bit distracting or even annoying, but when you don’t need the mic, most headsets allow you to easily move them out of the way when you’re not using them.

Headset microphones are usually better at noise-canceling, too. When you’re using headphones with an integrated microphone, you have to worry a little more about background noise, even if you’re using a pair with noise-cancellation. The voice pickup on a headset mic is much more reliable and makes it easy for people on the other end of the connection to hear what you’re saying.

How to Choose

There are a few things to consider when deciding between a headset and headphones, but the main thing to think about is how you plan to use them.

Many people think that there’s no difference between a good pair of headphones and a gaming headset, but that’s not the case. If you’re looking for something to use for gaming, you want a headset or headphones that are specially designed for gaming. On the other hand, if you want amazing sound quality whether you’re listening to music or streaming your favorite movies, headphones are the best choice.

If you want something that you can use outdoors, headphones are the practical choice. You don’t want to wear a headset while you’re taking a walk and it may be a little awkward for commuting. On the other hand, if you take a lot of calls while you’re driving and don’t like the quality you get from syncing your smartphone to your car, there are headsets available that only cover one ear and aren’t as bulky.

Comfort matters, too. Here are the top things to consider:

  • Headband. Basically, the heavier the headset or headphones, the more padding you need. Lightweight options are generally comfortable enough that you don’t need a lot of padding because they don’t put a lot of pressure on your head. You should also ensure that the headband is adjustable to make sure you get a perfect fit.
  • Weight. When you’re thinking about weight, you should also consider how you’re going to use them. If you’re planning to play marathon gaming sessions or spend hours in a recording studio, lightweight headsets and headphones are essential. The good news is that most modern products are made using lightweight materials because manufacturers understand that lightweight headphones are much more comfortable.
  • Earcups. Cushioned ear cups are also essential when you’re planning to wear your headset or headphones for an extended period. Memory foam ear cups are great, but they can get a little warm. Look for something with cooling gel or breathable materials to help.

Headset vs Headphones: Which Is Best?

Which is the better of these two products highly depends on how you plan to use them. If you need something with good sound quality and an excellent microphone, a headset is the better option. If you’re more concerned with how they sound, go for a good pair of headphones. There are a lot of great options out there no matter what you’re looking for. You’ll find basic headsets that are ideal for taking hands-free calls, gaming headsets with improved sound quality, and headphones with updated mics to improve communication. Before you choose, take some time to think about what you really need, then use the information we gave you to determine which is the best option for you.


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