Best bang for the buck gaming headset? Less than $100

Tengis

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I bought a Madkatz Freq 5 off someone here at Hardforum years ago. It ended up being my favorite headset Ive ever owned... the mic mute button and removable mic is a big plus. Ive been using them a long time and they are finally falling apart (4+ years).

Im looking at something like the Razer Kraken or one of the HyperX Cloud headphones. Thoughts? Anyone see any deals on either?
 

Morphes

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Hyper X's are decent, I wouldnt go with them but you can find hella good deals if you watch them. I think they were going for like $35 at one point this past month. Open back headphones are better for sound stage and imaging to tell where people are by sound, but you can hear the outside world and the world can hear you too.

Whats your price point?
Do you care about open or do you need closed?
Wireless or wired?


My recommendations:

SHP9500 + vmoda mic $90 (open, not a lot of bass) - My go to headset
Sennheiser PC37x $100 (semi open)
Philips X2HR + vmoda mic $150 (open, more bass than 9500 )

Currently using: Beyerdynamic DT990 Pro 250ohm + Mod Mic wireless - Also open, but they have a closed back version called the DT770


I used to use audio technica m50x with different pads, pretty decent, but wouldn't recommend it after using the 9500's for gaming


EDIT:

looks like the clouds are on sale, its pretty hard to beat honestly: 30% taken off at checkout according to reddit

https://www.ebay.com/itm/HyperX-Cloud-Gaming-Headset-Silver-w-in-Line-Audio-Control-RE-CERTIFIED/173554601984?
 
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Tengis

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Ordered the Cloud 1 - got them for like $34 lol. I struggled between the Cloud 1 and 2 because the 2 apparently has a better mic, but some reviews say the 7.1 stuff is just junk?
 

tungt88

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Just saw this thread ...

Kingston's HyperX line (except for the "wireless stuff") is all based off the Takstar Pro 80, a good bang-for-buck headphone a few years back.
Cooler Master took a page from Kingston's book, and based their MH751/752 off the Takstar Pro 82, which is (from all objective measurements) superior to the Pro 80. Like the Pro 80, the 82 is also a good bang-for-buck headphone.

I see you got the Cloud, but my recommendation for a closed-back "gaming headset" under $100 is the MH751, hands-down (it's $75 on Amazon).

Other options: Creative Aurvana Live! (aka CAL) for $50 (per Amazon) + a mic of your choice, or (if your budget is bigger) get the Philips Fidelio X2 ($99 on Amazon) + mic of your choice (VModa BoomPro or Antlion ModMic works well with them, as Morphes mentioned).
Neither are "gaming headphones" per se, but they are both tremendous values (I got the CAL a few days ago, and am loving everything about it).

Not too long ago, I'd have recommended the SHP9500s (and 2 years ago, I bought two pairs w/DACs as a wedding gift for my cousin and his newlywed), but the headphone market has gotten extremely competitive over the last 3-4 years, alone -- which (while annoying in terms of "keeping up" with new headphone releases) is great for the end-user,
as there are more and more new "bang-for-buck" headphones than at any time I can recall (much more slashed/reduced pricing as well, for the older good models).

I will note that precise "imaging" is much more crucial for FPS than "soundstage" -- you can have a really big (but artificial) soundstage that still doesn't really tell you where your opponents are, but the imaging is what really tells you positions/placement.
 

Archaea

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My recommendations:

SHP9500 + vmoda mic $90 (open, not a lot of bass) - My go to headset
Sennheiser PC37x $100 (semi open)
Philips X2HR + vmoda mic $150
Yes on SHP9500 and modmic. It’s my go to combination as well.

I recently bought the X2HR but its not worth $50 more. Its a tiny bass improvement.

I don’t think those Sennheisers you mentioned are in the same class. I’ve owned them and sold them right away. Gotta go to the high 500, low 600 series of sennheisers to match sound quality of the SHP-9500, and then you have the proprietary sennheiser cord to deal with and double the cost. Sennheiser is outdone by Phillips in my opinion and I say this as a two decade Sennheiser loyalists who only tried Phillips in the last year or so. (I have owned a dozen different sennheiser cans, but with SHP-9500 combo, I dont need to own any of my Sennheiser anymore. They just sit)
 

Tengis

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So far, my Kingston headset feels really quiet. Im updating drivers and going to mess with some stuff, but the volume level alone makes me want to sell them on Facebook marketplace.
 

Morphes

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Yes on SHP9500 and modmic. It’s my go to combination as well.

I recently bought the X2HR but its not worth $50 more. Its a tiny bass improvement.

I don’t think those Sennheisers you mentioned are in the same class. I’ve owned them and sold them right away. Gotta go to the high 500, low 600 series of sennheisers to match sound quality of the SHP-9500, and then you have the proprietary sennheiser cord to deal with and double the cost. Sennheiser is outdone by Phillips in my opinion and I say this as a two decade Sennheiser loyalists who only tried Phillips in the last year or so. (I have owned a dozen different sennheiser cans, but with SHP-9500 combo, I dont need to own any of my Sennheiser anymore. They just sit)

I was just giving some different options, the 9500's are definitely a fantastic value. As much as I like my dt990s the 9500's are what I would use if I was just trying to win. They just aren't as fun for everything else.
 

B00nie

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So far, my Kingston headset feels really quiet. Im updating drivers and going to mess with some stuff, but the volume level alone makes me want to sell them on Facebook marketplace.
Is it a USB headset or regular? If the latter, you just need a headphone amp. Your computer output is not powerful enough.
 

Tengis

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Is it a USB headset or regular? If the latter, you just need a headphone amp. Your computer output is not powerful enough.
I may order a cheap DAC from China and see how it goes.
 

Tengis

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Just realized my motherboard has a built in headphone amp if you plug into the front port. Headphones are an acceptable volume level now but it still just doesnt sound right. Will probably order the amp just for giggles since its so cheap.

The microphone is pretty bad too. The reviews are right; this thing is way too quiet and the quality is sub-par. I had to mess with microphone settings for half an hour to get it working acceptably, and it still doesnt work right in the in-game chat in Hunt Showdown.
 

Tengis

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Jeez. The microphone is so bad.

Modified my microphone and replaced the actual microphone with an Audio Technica ATR4600. Works 1000x better. Ive had this mic sitting in a box for at least 7 years. I used it with a carputer I built back in the day and havent touched it since.

Mic in the headset stock is garbage.

IMG_20191224_152717136_HDR.jpg IMG_20191224_153738976_HDR.jpg IMG_20191224_161310278_HDR.jpg
 

Tengis

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That's awesome, glad you got it working well!
I spent probably three hours installing different drivers and screwing with settings. Took about 30 minutes to swap out the mic. Im not sure how something mass produced like this can have such a terrible microphone... Googling shows its a widespread issue.
 

tungt88

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Yes on SHP9500 and modmic. It’s my go to combination as well.

I recently bought the X2HR but its not worth $50 more. Its a tiny bass improvement.

I don’t think those Sennheisers you mentioned are in the same class. I’ve owned them and sold them right away. Gotta go to the high 500, low 600 series of sennheisers to match sound quality of the SHP-9500, and then you have the proprietary sennheiser cord to deal with and double the cost. Sennheiser is outdone by Phillips in my opinion and I say this as a two decade Sennheiser loyalists who only tried Phillips in the last year or so. (I have owned a dozen different sennheiser cans, but with SHP-9500 combo, I dont need to own any of my Sennheiser anymore. They just sit)
IMO the CAL blows the SHP9500 out of the water in overall sound quality (SHPs win the comfort/durability contest, hands down). Used the SHP for a number of years; it was quite good, but then led me to a pretty serious headphone spending spree (not that I'm regretting doing so; it was great)!
I finally understand why Tyll and metal571 love the CAL so much -- they weren't wrong when they've been saying (for all these years) that at the $50 or so mark, it's (hands-down) the best bang-for-buck headphone out there, provided that you can be a bit careful with it (it's pretty fragile).

I also got the Fostex TR-70 250ohm open-back headphone (dynamic driver from Fostex) for $55 this past Monday -- surprisingly, not as bad as I thought (and heard, from what limited reviews were out there) it was (it's actually quite good), and wonderful for FPS gaming (nice soundstage/imaging).
Much more durable than the CAL, and supports the V-Moda BoomPro as well (although, due to connector, sound quality dips some when using the BoomPro, as opposed to using a standalone mic).

Next on my "hit list" are the LCD-1, LCD-GX, and some other stuff (possibly the X2 at some point).
 

Archaea

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IMO the CAL blows the SHP9500 out of the water in overall sound quality (SHPs win the comfort/durability contest, hands down). Used the SHP for a number of years; it was quite good, but then led me to a pretty serious headphone spending spree (not that I'm regretting doing so; it was great)!
I finally understand why Tyll and metal571 love the CAL so much -- they weren't wrong when they've been saying (for all these years) that at the $50 or so mark, it's (hands-down) the best bang-for-buck headphone out there, provided that you can be a bit careful with it (it's pretty fragile).

I also got the Fostex TR-70 250ohm open-back headphone (dynamic driver from Fostex) for $55 this past Monday -- surprisingly, not as bad as I thought (and heard, from what limited reviews were out there) it was (it's actually quite good), and wonderful for FPS gaming (nice soundstage/imaging).
Much more durable than the CAL, and supports the V-Moda BoomPro as well (although, due to connector, sound quality dips some when using the BoomPro, as opposed to using a standalone mic).

Next on my "hit list" are the LCD-1, LCD-GX, and some other stuff (possibly the X2 at some point).
I searched “CAL headphones” and came up with these:

https://www.amazon.com/Creative-EF0060-Aurvana-Live-Headphones/dp/B000ZJZ7OA/ref=mp_s_a_1_1?keywords=CAL.&qid=1577343140&s=aht&sr=1-1

this what you are saying you like better than shp9500?

I owned a pair of Creative Aurvana SE that shipped with my Creative Super X-Fi amp as an early adopter bonus:

upload_2019-12-26_1-11-54.png


upload_2019-12-26_1-10-20.png


They were cheap junk. I gave them two listening sessions and sold them. The CALs look dangerously similar? If we are talking about the same thing... well surely we cannot be.
 
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tungt88

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I searched “CAL headphones” and came up with these:
They were cheap junk. I gave them two listening sessions and sold them. The CALs look dangerously similar? If we are talking about the same thing... well surely we cannot be.
Yes, those are it, and they are better than the SHP9500 (from all objective measurements):

--------
CAL review & measurements: https://www.innerfidelity.com/content/creative-aurvana-live-classic-reincarnate-page-2
(review by the legendary Tyll Hertsens)

Another CAL review (from metal571):

**************

SHP9500 review & measurements: https://diyaudioheaven.wordpress.com/headphones/measurements/brands-philips/shp9500/
(review by solderdude of DIY Audio Heaven, another one of the big legends in headphone reviewing)

Another SHP9500 review (from metal571):

I have never tried the Creative Aurvana SE, but from what I've read, it's basically the CAL with more labelling (literally).
----------
Now, while sound quality (as per Harman target curve) is mostly objective, what you like (in terms of sound preference) is (of course) very subjective, so if you love the SHP9500, more power to ya! (I liked it a lot, too, when it first came out).
But, after having bought (and listened) to a ton of different headphones in the 3-4 years since I first bought the SHP9500, I believe I can say that (while it's still a pretty good bang-for-buck headphone) there are other options out there that are better (even much better) for the $100 and under market (especially so, if you go in the used markets).
It's why my personal pick in the "$100 and under gaming headset category" is the Cooler Master MH751 -- basically, everything I liked about the Sony MDR-1A/MDR-1AM2, with none of its drawbacks (same build quality, similar sound signature without the MDR's massive bass bloat, and a heck of a lot cheaper, like 2/3s cheaper).

Note: just found out about metal571's "retirement" from active headphone reviewing -- and that's a shame. He (along with solderdude of DIYAH) are (IMHO) the two best reviewers out there after Tyll called it a day.
 
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Archaea

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Phillips SHP9500 scores 4.6 out of 5 stars with well over 1000 reviews at amazon.

Creative CAL scores 4.0 out of 5 stars with 350 reviews.

your reviewers opinions on the CAL doesn’t match public sentiment and, preferences being subjective as you say, sure as anything don’t match my own. I really disliked the Creative Cans. They reminded me of a no name cheap $30 pair of headphones from name your favorite big box retail store. I heard nothing worthwhile from them at all. They felt cheap, they sounded cheap, they looked cheap, they were NOT impressive. I can’t imagine anyone liking them more than SHP9500. They seem to me the kind of headphone an inexperienced teenager buys for a first set and thinks they are good and measure beyond their level in the marketplace. (We’ve all been there). Maybe I had a bad sample set? Otherwise, they stunk.

I like, for reference, my Sennheiser HD-6xx, my HD595, my X2, my SHP9500, Bose IE2 and the only pair of closed cans I’ve kept over the years are my Sony MDR-v700dj - mostly for nostalgia purposes — not that the Sony are good compared to the aforementioned. I’ve tried, owned, and sold a lot of cans, using ebay as a cheap way to try used gear and resell using little (mostly years back) by far my favorite are open back. Creative isn't on the level with these others. Not even close - IMO. YMMV
 
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Tengis

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The Cloud headsets are pretty highly rated. It's hard for me to get behind general reviews/popular opinion. It's like trusting a random dude that can't change his oil to tell you what kind of car to buy.

My issue is that I'm a "bang for the buck" kind of guy. I don't think you always get what you pay for; just because something is expensive doesnt mean it's good.

Too many headsets nowadays layer on the bass because people think heavy bass "sounds good". Same with home theater equipment.
 

tungt88

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Phillips SHP9500 scores 4.6 out of 5 stars with well over 1000 reviews at amazon.

Creative CAL scores 4.0 out of 5 stars with 350 reviews.

your reviewers opinions on the CAL doesn’t match public sentiment and, preferences being subjective as you say, sure as anything don’t match my own. I really disliked the Creative Cans. They reminded me of a no name cheap $30 pair of headphones from name your favorite big box retail store. I heard nothing worthwhile from them at all. They felt cheap, they sounded cheap, they looked cheap, they were NOT impressive. I can’t imagine anyone liking them more than SHP9500. They seem to me the kind of headphone an inexperienced teenager buys for a first set and thinks they are good and measure beyond their level in the marketplace. (We’ve all been there). Maybe I had a bad sample set? Otherwise, they stunk.

I like, for reference, my Sennheiser HD-6xx, my HD595, my X2, my SHP9500, Bose IE2 and the only pair of closed cans I’ve kept over the years are my Sony MDR-v700dj - mostly for nostalgia purposes — not that the Sony are good compared to the aforementioned. I’ve tried, owned, and sold a lot of cans, using ebay as a cheap way to try used gear and resell using little (mostly years back) by far my favorite are open back. Creative isn't on the level with these others. Not even close - IMO. YMMV
The Cloud headsets are pretty highly rated. It's hard for me to get behind general reviews/popular opinion. It's like trusting a random dude that can't change his oil to tell you what kind of car to buy.

My issue is that I'm a "bang for the buck" kind of guy. I don't think you always get what you pay for; just because something is expensive doesnt mean it's good.

Too many headsets nowadays layer on the bass because people think heavy bass "sounds good". Same with home theater equipment.
What both of you are describing, is the need for "objective" reviews -- and that's what the reviewers I listed do (you don't have to agree with what they say, but they provide an objective point of view from which to help base your purchases from) -- for example, if Objective Reviewer A (who is a very reliable and respected reviewer) is known to prefer treble, and he really likes a "treble-y" headphone that has very little bass (and you like bass), then you can be reasonably sure to avoid his "treble-y" picks, especially since he'll definitely mention that fact. He'll also be likely to mention other areas that may be of interest to you, because said reviewer will cover other details, instead of neglecting to do "full coverage", or becoming little more than a "ad man" for whatever headphone he is talking about today.

For example, while I respect the power of public sentiment, it's hard for me to recommend most Beats headphones (which mostly have 4.5-5 stars on Amazon, with hundreds, if not thousands of "reviews"), simply because for the same (or lesser) price-points, there are better, much much much better, headphones in every category: comfort, sound quality (both treble and bass), and even looks ... this has been objectively proven many, many times ... Beats are an absolute triumph in terms of marketing, not engineering ... but who am I to speak against "thousands" of people, eh? That's where the "objective reviewers" come in ...

Otherwise, it all rapidly becomes "subjective", and anything from liking flashy looks, to following the crowd, to making up weird audio-fool terms, becomes acceptable (and super, super confusing), since there is no real way to compare.

IMHO it's quite telling that some of the most "subjective" guys in headphones (SBAF - Super Best Audio Friends) use measurements (usually based on Harman target curve) from time to time, because without them, there's no "measuring stick" for comparison.

I went with HardOCP years back, because they had some of the most accurate, honest "measurements/tests" for video cards/PSUs/other computer peripherals out there, with a specific emphasis on no BS, and I expect similar things from my headphone reviewers, which is why I recommended the reviewers above in my previous post.

Edit: DIYAH has a great little survey to help determine folks' preferences in terms of headphone review sites: https://diyaudioheaven.wordpress.com/about/subjectivist-objectivist-or-intermediativist/
(please note that a number of sites on his recommendations are inactive or no longer exist for serious headphone reviews, like [sadly] InnerFidelity ...)

Edit 2: Fun fact -- metal571 knows Zeos (of Z reviews), and has been over to his place to talk & listen to headphones, despite metal571 being very much an "objective reviewer", and Zeos very much a "subjective" reviewer; they seem to get along fine. It reminds me of Tyll Hertsens & his good relationship with Steve Guttenberg, and Steve had a lot of nice things to say about Tyll (on his YouTube channel) when Hertsens called it a day.
 
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Outlaw85

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fully honesty. I didn't read the other posts. I was at BB yesterday checking out this very thing.
The Logitech G935's were on sale for 99.99 and have pretty good reviews. My initial impression of them were pretty good. However, I was looking for fit/comfort, mic placement and sound. In that order.

While I know it's gimmicky, the Razer Nari Ultimates are also on sale for 130. The rumble cans are a unique effect that I recommend experiencing in the store. It can be turned off if you end up liking the set but not the rumble.


Over the ear headsets are a must IMO, especially for long duration use. Both of these are.

little more info based on my tryouts. Maybe 30min total spent with both sets.
G935- semi-cheap feel but sturdy and light. If you are familiar with the 930's, nearly identical. I liked the mic can be tucked away if you just want music. Sound quality in the demo was quite good and I could see myself enjoying it while playing some games. They were not over gripping but I didn't feel concerned they were going to fall off. I liked the vented foam surrounds as well. If they are like the 930s, my ears won't sweat lol.
-No real concerns here if they are anything like the 930's, just updated.


Nari Ultimate- Very sturdy feeling. While holding them, they are large and kinda heavy but that changes when they are on your head. I thought they were pretty light on my head. They had a comfortable squeeze that I could see wearing through a few hours of gaming/movies/work.
-Only real concerns here are if the ear pads are anything like the Krakens.. my ears will sweat if worn for longer a duration (1hr +). Yes, they claim their is the cooling gel ear pad... but they will warm up.. then what? They have a cloth face that touches your skin which is good, but the sides are the pleather that we all know and love... that flakes off after a while, it also doesn't allow for air flow.


I currently have the Razer Kraken Pros and Logitech G930.
 
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Eshelmen

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I can't state enough how much I fell in love with the Arctis 7 headsets.

The 2019 model is superb in nearly every way.

Amazingly comfortable for even a big head and with someone who wears glasses.

20 to 25 hour battery life

Super durable

Sound quality is kick butt imo

Microphone is pretty good for gaming

Constant updates to its software

If you can score these for around $100, you did good. MSRP is $149, but I've seen them jump down to $100 plenty of times.

I got mine with a free pair of leather ear cups and they're even better than the fabric ones.

While they're not for audiophiles and music lovers ( although they will be decent) they're overall a fantastic gaming headset.
 
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