Your Guide to Buying Surround Sound Headsets

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Your Guide to Buying Surround Sound Headsets

There are a number of benefits to using surround sound headsets for gaming. Most games include positional audio that allows you to track the movements of other players and non-player characters by the sounds that they make. This improves your awareness of the virtual world greatly and, as a result, improves your reaction times and gives you a competitive edge. Surround sound headsets are usually over-the-ear or ear cup models. They consist of double ear cups, one on each side, and tend to be noise isolating. This means that you cannot hear environmental sounds and game audio does not disturb those around you.

When buying a surround sound headset, several factors should be taken into account. It is important to understand the difference between virtual and true surround sound, and the advantages and disadvantages of each. Sound quality, comfort, the voice recording quality of the microphone, cables and accessories, compatibility, and cost should also be considered before choosing a headset. Surround sound headsets are available from computer, electronics, and gaming shops, and online from eBay..

True vs. Virtual Surround Sound

Two kinds of surround sound headsets are available: true and virtual surround sound. In true surround sound headsets, multiple speakers broadcast audio at different angles to create the surround sound effect. Virtual surround sound headsets feature two speakers that create a simulated surround sound effect through the use of sound processing. The table below offers a summarised description of the advantages and disadvantages of each type of surround sound headset.

Type of Headset





Multiple speakers used to create traditional surround sound

More accurate sound reproduction due to dedicated drives for each channel

Build quality can be inferior


Two speakers and sound processing used to simulate surround sound

More powerful and dynamic sound

Less expensive

Although true surround sound headsets initially offered quadraphonic sound, most contemporary models are able to reproduce 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound. With virtual models, the sound is usually processed in a mix-amplifier or preamplifier module. If you have a good quality stereo headset it may be possible to buy a stand-alone preamplifier and convert your existing headset to surround sound.

Sound Quality of Surround Sound Headsets

Sound quality is one of the most important features to consider when buying audio products. The best way to judge sound quality is to listen to the headset because the quality can be somewhat subjective. Check whether positional audio works. There should be no delay between viewing video and hearing the game audio.

If it is not possible to judge the sound for yourself, research the headset models available. Focus on expert and customer reviews of gaming-specific products as these have different requirements to audio headsets. Reading reviews from reliable sources gives you an idea of the advantages and disadvantages of particular makes and models.

Comfort of Surround Sound Headsets

Comfort is another important consideration, especially if the headset is worn for extended periods. These accessories tend to cup the ear, but since no two pairs of ears are identical, comfort is also somewhat subjective. If you have large ears or your ears generally do not fit under ear cup style headsets, be cautious when buying products online. If possible, try the headset on for comfort in a bricks and mortar stop to ensure that the ear cups do not press on your ears uncomfortably.

Some ear cup headsets can also become warm with extended wear; those with furry linings tend to be the worst culprits. As in the case with sound quality, researching comfort is essential, and customer reviews are an excellent guide to finding the right product. Some comfort issues may only become apparent after prolonged use. Other gamers who have been using particular types of headsets for some time may highlight issues that are not immediately apparent.

Microphones for Surround Sound Headsets

While it is important to focus on sound quality, the recording quality provided by the headset's microphone should not be overlooked. Recordings and voice transmission should be crisp and clear. Choose a headset with voice monitoring functions that allow you to hear what you are saying via the headset because this eliminates the need to raise your voice so you can hear yourself when talking. Look for in-line controls that allow you to adjust the headset's input and output levels. Additionally, a mute button is convenient as it allows you to silence your microphone mid-game without difficulty.

Most surround sound headsets feature boom-type microphones due to the way they are constructed. These microphones are easy to use, can be adjusted to a comfortable position with a minimum of fuss, and can usually be moved out of the way when not in use. If you are accustomed to playing with a different type of microphone or simply prefer an alternative design, look for a headset that features the type of microphone that you require.

Cables and Accessories for Surround Sound Headsets

Getting tangled in your headset cord is easier than most people realise. Ensure that the cord is designed to keep out of the way when you start playing. It should also be long enough to reach the gaming console from your favourite seat. Look for robust cable designs to prevent damage from wear and tear.

Wired surround sound headsets are the most popular choice because they tend to offer higher audio quality. If you decide on a wireless model, research your charging options, and whether batteries and chargers are included in the purchase. A stand can be used to store your headset safely between gaming sessions.

Compatibility of Surround Sound Headsets

Not all surround sound headsets are compatible with every console. Ask the seller or check the item's packaging to ensure that the headset chosen is compatible across a number of devices. These headsets can also be used when watching films or using a PC, so the more versatile the product, the better.

Cost of Surround Sound Headsets

High-end surround sound headsets can be expensive. True surround sound models tend to cost more than virtual surround sound versions. In addition, good quality stereo headsets can be converted to surround sound through the addition of a preamplifier. This is an excellent way to save money on a high quality system. However, it is not essential to spend hundreds of pounds on a headset. Many mid-range models offer adequate sound quality.


It is important to understand the distinction between true and virtual surround sound before shopping for a headset. The type of technology used affects sound quality and cost. True surround sound headsets make use of multiple speakers and use speaker placement to create surround sound. Virtual surround sound makes use of sound processing, usually via a preamplifier, to simulate the effect. True surround sound headsets tend to sacrifice on build construction to keep products affordable, but produce more accurate sound. Virtual surround sound headsets are sturdier in construction, have larger speakers, and tend to be less expensive than true surround sound models.

In addition to the surround sound technology, consider the sound quality of individual models. If it is not possible to test a set in person, check expert and customer reviews before buying. The headset should be comfortable when worn for extended periods, without pressing on the ears or growing too hot. The microphone should be in a comfortable position, easy to adjust, and should offer crisp, clear audio capture. Choose a wireless headset to minimise interference from cables or a headset with a cable that is long enough to allow convenient use. Take note of compatibility; choose a headset that can be used with a number of devices to improve flexibility. eBay sellers offer a wide range of surround sound headsets at competitive prices, making it easy to find what you need while staying within your budget.

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