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Tech Explained: Gaming Headsets

Listen (yep, we went there), who needs wall hacks when you've got jaw-droppingly good crystal-clear sound? Seriously though, we don't take high-quality audio lightly.

Good to know...

Drivers

The speaker drivers are the round elements that many call the actual speakers. These typically come in a cone or dome shape and move back and forth to make the sound.

Speaker Impedance

Describes the amount of power needed to deliver high audio quality. The most common headset impedance is 32 ohms. The higher the impedance the more accurate and vivid the sound gets.

Speaker Sensitivity

Determines how sensitive the volume control is. Low sensitivity (86db) would require turning the knob more to increase volume whereas high sensitivity (110dB) would require less turning. In short, high sensitivity = louder volume.

Speakers / Connectivity / Microphone

Speakers

Audio Type

The audio type refers to the output method of the headset. The better audio, the more chance you have of pinpointing your enemies exact location. The most common audio types are;

Audio Type: 7.1 Surround Sound

Described as true surround sound. Uses multiple small speakers (7 to be exact) at different angles to output sound. Gives a true audio sound rather than appearing to originate directly in your head.

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Audio Type: 7.1 Virtual Surround Sound

Works by using 2 separate speakers (similar to stereo) however uses software and sound techniques which fools the brain into thinking the sound is coming from more than one direction. Perfect for pinpointing enemy footsteps on the map.

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Audio Type: THX Spatial

Described as advanced 7.1 surround sound. THX Spatial Audio improves upon 7.1 surround to add a realistic and immersive 360-degree audio-scape. In short it gives a more accurate and rich sound and immerses you in the gaming world around you.

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Audio Type: Stereo

Stereo audio means the headset has 2 independent channels which feeds sound to the left and right ear separately. This allows for distinct sounds to be played in either ear.

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Frequency Response

The range of bass, mids and treble the speakers can output. The first number represents the bass and the second represents the treble. 20Hz - 20,000Hz is the standard for headphones.

Connectivity

Audio Connection

The audio connection refers to how the audio signal is carried to the user. Or more importantly, how we connect the headset to the PC/Console. The 2 most common connections are 3.5mm Jack and USB.

Wireless Range

The distance you can be away from the receiver you can be and still have the headset work. This can be up to 30m for some headsets.

Battery Life

How long the charge in the battery lasts before needing recharged. Important for long gaming sessions.

Microphone

Polar Pattern

The polar pattern of the microphone refers to it's abilities on picking up sound. The patterns most commonly used are;

Polar Pattern: Omnidirectional

Picks up sounds from all directions with equal gain. Allows for greater flexibility in sound pick up as the user can speak into any part of the microphone.

Polar Pattern: Bidirectional

Also known as a "figure-of-eight microphone". It is known as this as it is great at picking up sound from the front and back, but poorly from the sides.

Polar Pattern: Unidirectional

Only picks up sound with high gain from a specific side or direction of the microphone. Great for team comms as it cuts out most background noise.

Polar Pattern: Cardioid

Picks up sounds well from the front and sides but poorly from the rear.

Polar Pattern: Super-Cardioid

Same as the cardioid microphone but have a much narrower area of sensitivity. Results in improved isolation and higher resistance to feedback. Sound rejection from the back is compromised so unwanted noises may occur such as having the mic positioned between the user and the keyboard, the clicking of the keys would be picked up by the microphone.

Frequency Response

The frequency response is the frequency-specific output sensitivity of a microphone. It details the relative output levels of the sound/audio frequencies a mic is able to reproduce. The standard for this is 20Hz - 20,000 Hz.

Sensitivity

The sensitivity of a microphone, put quite simply, relates to how well it picks up noise. Microphones on headsets typically range from 8 (less sensitive) to 32 (more sensitive) mV/Pa (-42 to -30 dBV/Pa). The higher the sensitivity, the easier it is for the microphone to pick up sounds.

Impedance

Microphone impedance describes the electrical resistance. This is measured in Ohms, and the standard value for headsets is around the 2.2k Ohms (considered medium impedance). In short, the lower the impedance the better the sound quality output.