Microphones on gaming headsets suck and that needs to change
I'm exhausted by reviews of great headsets with awful microphones.
I don't use a gaming headset anymore. It's not that I don't like them, there are some that are just incredible. The Razer BlackShark V2 is still my favorite, despite having been launched some time ago now. But I don't get anything extra from a gaming headset over a regular pair of headphones.
Why is that? Because the microphones on these things all suck. All of them. If I go back through my own history of reviewing gaming headsets, almost all of the time the microphones just don't sound good. I'm tired of saying "it'll manage for game chat but you can't create any content with one" or words to that effect. "Decent" should not be the upper echelons of quality.
Given how many streamers and YouTubers are sponsored by headset makers, you would be forgiven for thinking that a gaming headset is a brilliant investment. But for most of us, it isn't. You could buy a better pair of headphones for the same money, and be able to leave the house without looking like you have Princess Leia's infamous side hair attached to your head. It doesn't matter how good the audio from them is if the microphone is awful.
And that needs to change.
Gaming headsets are poorer value than headphones overall
The idea of using a gaming headset is that it should be your one-stop shop for all of your gaming. Get great game audio in your ears, and chat with your friends at the same time.
But the microphones just sound garbage. If I'm playing with someone using a gaming headset for their audio input, half the time it's unintelligible. There shouldn't be a necessity to have a dedicated, external microphone just to have serviceable voice input.
Some are better than others, of course. But on the whole, why even bother? It makes me sad because headsets like the BlackShark V2 really are nice. But what purpose does it serve over spending the same or less on a really nice pair of headphones?
I use my Audio Technica M50x headphones for everything. Music, gaming, podcasts, anytime I want good audio on my PC I plug them in. They're my favorite headphones, they're comfortable and cost the same as a decent mid-range gaming headset. If I need to talk, I might as well use the in-built microphone on my laptop, because it's about the same quality as a gaming headset. In some cases, better than.
RGB isn't a feature worth paying more for. Nor are any other gimmicks. Granted, there are some good features that will help you enhance in-game audio, but surely for the price, we're paying for gaming headsets the microphone quality ought to be a priority.
But it never is.
Make better microphones, PLEASE
Here's an example of what I mean. Below is a sample from the Razer Barracuda headset which, at launch, cost $160. On the face of it, a great headset, with an awesome design and excellent sound. But the microphone was built into the earcups and this is the result.
Just terrible. Is that what you'd want if you were spending $160?
Even worse is our recent review of the Alienware 720H, another $160 gaming headset. Something so good that same review said it would be perfect save for one big problem. Can you guess what that problem is?
The microphone. Hear for yourself.
In both of these examples, to get even just decent quality audio from your microphone you'll need to buy a dedicated one. Even something like the Razer Seiren V2X can be had for under $100. But that then takes your total spending even higher. So why bother with a headset and not just get some good-quality headphones?
And this is where my rant leads. I'm tired of getting awesome-sounding, feature-packed, supremely comfortable, feature-packed gaming headsets with terrible microphones. Either make them worth using, or just stop. Please, for the love of god, stop putting awful microphones on these things.
Saying the same bad thing in every review is tiring, and it makes the whole idea of having a gaming headset a little pointless. Please, PLEASE, make your microphones better. I know I'm not alone.
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Richard Devine is a Managing Editor at Windows Central with over a decade of experience. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently, you'll find him steering the site's coverage of all manner of PC hardware and reviews. Find him on Mastodon at mstdn.social/@richdevine