Gaming earbuds: for when you need to get a Victory Royale at home, and on the train to work! If you’re looking for high quality sound in a low profile that won’t hurt your Steam Wallet, then earbuds are the way to go. Many gamers are turning to these headphone alternatives to meet their audio needs because in 2018 earbuds are more comfortable, portable, and affordable than ever.
Whether you want a lightweight solution for total audio immersion at home, or the option to shout at your Fortnite teammates while riding the bus, gaming earbuds might be perfect for you.
20Hz - 20kHz
20Hz - 20kHz
20Hz - 20kHz
20Hz - 40kHz
20Hz - 20kHz
Best Gaming Earbuds (Overall)
These earbuds get you a huge amount of bang for a small amount of buck. They’re slightly too pricey to put in the “budget” category, but if you can afford it, the few extra dollars for added quality and features is worth it.
This buyer’s guide is focused on you gamers out there, and with that criteria in mind, the only logical choice for best overall would be the Mad Catz E.S. Pro 1. There are other earbuds in our list below that have specific features better than the Mad Catz, but no others that have all of the features all gamers might need, and a cost that nearly all gamers can afford.
Driver size doesn’t mean everything when it comes to determining sound quality, but the Mad Catz E.S Pro 1 comes equipped with the largest drivers on this list. Also important in determining sound quality (besides listening to them yourself), is the frequency response range, the materials used in the housing of the earbuds, and the physical and electrical dampening of the drivers done by the manufacturer (also known as “tuning”).
The Mad Catz feature a solid 20Hz - 20kHz frequency range, further allowing for a substantial presence of “highs” and “lows”, and while materials used in the housing and the tuning of the drivers is hard to determine through the item description, Mad Catz is a reputable brand-- so we’d give them the benefit of the doubt when it comes to a product at this price point.
But it’s the little things that really worked to tip the scale in Mad Catz’ favor with this product. The presence of a detachable boom mic and a mute button on the in-line controller are incredibly important to gaming, and also incredibly rare when it comes to “gaming” earbuds. Even earbuds hundreds of dollars more don’t have these features, despite being marketed for gamers!
Driver (per earbud)
20Hz - 20kHz
15Hz - 21kHz
20Hz - 20kHz
These earbuds miss some features, and excel in other-- if you’re on a really tight budget your dollar will go a long way with this product.
If you’re on a tight budget, like less than $10 tight, then it’s hard not to recommend these earbuds. For the price they offer sound quality and features that are more than you would expect, and are more than you get from competitors are this same price point. There are some features you’ll have to sacrifice, but every single penny you spend on these earbuds will be put to good use with this purchase.
The combination of the relatively large 11.5mm drivers (one in each earbud) functioning at a decent frequency response range, results in the “super bass” that the manufacturer touts and hundreds of positive reviews rave about. These earbuds have an in-ear design for sound isolation, and come with three different sized eartips to help achieve the perfect fit. They’re encased in a sleek metal housing that should be as durable as it looks, and have an elegant aesthetic overall-- so you can look good while gaming on the go!
Where these earbuds fall short is with their included microphone and their compatibility. The in-line mic may not pick up your voice as well as most gamer-communicators might need, and a mic mute button is also lacking. In addition, PC gamers will need to buy an additional adapter to split the cable into separate mic and audio outputs.
If you don’t game on PC and mic communication isn’t your first gaming priority, or if you want to use your earbuds for music as well, then the Betron DC950 is hard to pass up. Keep in mind that you can pick up a PC headset splitter for relatively cheap on Amazon too.
Runner Up (Budget)
For just a few dollars more than the Betron earbuds, you can get a few more gamer-oriented features and style elements with the Granvela G20’s.
The $5 extra you’ll spend compared to the Betron earbuds will buy you a good amount of gamer-related features, while still staying within a budget price point. While the Betron’s offer amazing bang for your buck when it comes to sound quality, the Granvela G20’s have the gamer in mind: they’re earbuds designed for gaming, not just earbuds that could suffice for gaming.
The drivers are smaller, but the frequency range is wider, especially in the low end, which will give you the deeper bass that reviewers of the product mention. The addition of a pair of memory foam eartips (in addition to 3 other ruber pairs) should not be overlooked, as this can really help with sound isolation and comfort. The microphone is also more sensitive than other budget-level in-line mics, and is thus better suited for gaming needs. To top it off: an adapter comes included, making theses earbuds compatible with all consoles, PCs, and mobile devices.
The gamer was clearly at the forefront of the design process when it came to these… They even match the look of much more expensive Razer products!
Honorable Mention (Budget)
These gaming earbuds are the only ones in the budget category with a detachable by-the-mouth boom mic and other unique gamer oriented details.
The Cimazhen e-sport earbuds tick all of the boxes for your gaming audio needs. Will these earbuds have the sound quality of product that is $10 more? No. But Cimizen does provide all the essentials for sound isolated gaming on the go, whether you’re playing on console or PC, or playing an RPG or competitive FPS.
Theses earbuds are basically the budget version of the Mad Catz (our overall pick), for when you just don’t have that extra $10 to spend (or you’d rather spend it on the game itself). So keep that in mind when considering this product. However the Cimazhen e-sport earbuds are exactly what you should buy if you want everything a gamer-on-the-go needs, at a price that won’t hurt your Steam Wallet.
Driver (per earbud)
20Hz - 20kHz
(2) 6mm Drivers
20Hz - 24kHz
18Hz - 22kHz
Razer is a popular gaming peripheral brand, and they live up to their reputation here with a solid product; but the price may be a bit inflated by the logo.
The Razer Hammerhead Pro V2 is a solid product that comes from a well known PC gaming oriented company. The company’s tagline is “For Gamers. By Gamers.” and many professional eSports players use their products. However, this solid reputation usually comes with a surcharge as well. This is indeed a quality product, but some of your dollars are going towards looks, logo, and fancy packaging.
This is the “V2” model indicating that this is the second version of this product, and that Razer has sought to make improvements on their first iteration. The company claims that this V2 model has been “thoroughly redesigned” with an emphasis on its body design and flat cables to better suit the on-the-go gamer.
There is one 10mm driver in each ear, which is technically smaller than some of the other earbuds in the budget category. But as you might remember from the “sound quality” section in the guide above, size isn’t everything when it comes to good sound. The materials used in the earbud housing are also important, which Razer claims are “optimized”, and the tuning (hard to tell without listening yourself) is also important-- which is why going with a reputable brand like Razer could benefit you. Also of note in the sound quality equation is the frequency range which is right at good 20 - 20,000 Hz.
We definitely recommend sticking with brands you know and love when it comes to electronics and sound equipment (if you’re not able to try the product out first-hand). And if you like Razer’s edgy gaming look, then this product just might be a no-brainer purchase for you. It’s too bad there aren’t any LEDs in these earbuds like most of their stuff!
Runner Up (Mid Range)
Compared to the Razer product on this list, GranVela shows us how much bang for your buck you can get when buying from a lesser known brand. The VJJB-V1S pack a lot of headphone in not a lot of price.
This is GranVela’s second appearance in our buyer’s guide because they offer an excellent price to performance ratio with their products. They’re not the best earbuds money can buy, but they just might be the best earbuds you can buy with this amount of money. That said, they do have points where they are lacking, and if one of those points is something that you value highly in your search for the perfect earbuds, then you may want to look elsewhere. Let’s get into the details.
Reviewers agree that the sound quality in the V1S is amazing for the price. The two drivers (four total) offer crisp clear sound throughout their wide frequency range of 20Hz - 24kHz. If you really crave deep, ultra hard kicking bass you may want to look elsewhere (and probably spend more). These earbuds are designed to be worn in-ear, and are effectively noise isolating thanks to shipping with 3 different sized silicone eartips
Where these earbuds may fall short for some buyers is in their lack of splitter for PC gaming, and in the quality of the microphone. The microphone is in-line (part of the cable) built into the controller that also works for pausing/playing music-- which are nice features to have if you also want to use your earbuds for general purpose things, but not if they’re strictly for gaming communication. For dedicated PC gamers this could be a deal breaker, but there is also the option of buying an adapter separately and still ending up with an overall solid price for this product.
Honorable Mention (Mid-Range)
These earbuds stand out because of their unique look, deep bass, and surprisingly sensitive in-line mic; but because they lack an adapter for PC, they’re our top pick for console gamers!
At this price point, really it’s hard to find anything that detracts from this product… unless you don’t like the look of it. And if you happen to be a PC gamer it’s not ideal with it’s lack of adapter. But, as we mentioned above, this is our number one choice for console gamers.
The sound quality is crisp and clear at all volume levels, and reviewers rave about the deep bass, even when comparing these earbuds to Beats! The manufacturer claims that the use of the wood in the earbud housing is not just for superficial purposes, but that it also enhances the sound due to the “natural acoustical qualities found in wood”. It’s hard to verify that claim without trying the product out, but the evidence is out there: violins, guitars, concerhalls, etc.
If wood is not your thing, then it may be hard to get around the aesthetic; but there are many different color options to choose from and wood, cable, and eartip color all change between color choices! Aside from the wood, the look is definitely one of quality and of a pricetag much higher than it really is. If you game on console only, or are a PC gamer who has a splitter already lying around, you should really check these out.
20Hz - 40kHz
40Hz - 18kHz
10Hz - 20kHz
As we enter into the high-end product category, driver size begins to matter a lot less (which you’ll notice in the gaps in our table above). This is because other sound influencing factors which are commonly absent in more inexpensive earbuds are now coming into play, like: the housing and the “tuning” of the earbud’s drivers. “Tuning” refers to the electrical and physical dempening of the driver and its enclosure.
Tuning gets pretty technical as it can be done in a plethora of ways, and it’s a feature that’s a lot easier to hear than to understand through text. So if one of these high end products piques your interest, we recommend trying them out before making your final decision. But this guide is still helpful in that you can’t go wrong with any of them!
Best Expensive Gaming Earbuds 2018
While significantly more expensive, these earbuds still offer the same excellent price to performance ratio as other more affordable products on this list.
1MORE’s triple driver earbuds would be our overall best pick, but this price point isn’t as accessible to most gamers. But, if you have more money to spend on earbuds, these are what you should spend it on, as you’ll get a lot of quality and features for every bit of the price tag.
The three speakers in these earbuds are just like a miniature sound system you might find in a car or an entertainment system: there is one main driver and two tweeters in each earbud. Theses tweeters add additional detail to the high range, while the main driver provides the mid range and deep bass. The frequency range is a whopping 20-40,000 Hz, the housing is aluminum, and the tuning of the drivers was done by a grammy award winning sound engineer.
These earbuds from 1MORE have a really impressive résumé. They are really impressive for mail-order electronics, where a solid chunk of the deliveries end up DOA through no fault of the manufacturer. To top it all off, these earbuds are the first ever in the world to be certified by THX.
Technically there are earbuds that offer specific features that surpass those offered here (we’ll get to those products next) but if you can afford it, and want a wide range of features, these are the earbuds to get.
Runner Up (Expensive)
Sennheiser is a brand you can generally trust to produce high-end audio equipment, and these earbuds are no different.
Even though I haven’t tried out these earbuds personally, I’m already inclined to trust its quality based on the positive reputation and experience I’ve had with Sennheiser products. However, this benefit of the doubt it something one should be wary about as quality can dip occasionally between products in an otherwise reputable brand, and at the very least, you’ll end up paying extra for a name brand when you could possibly get the same quality in another product for the same price. Let’s dig into the details.
The driver size for these Sennheiser earbuds is not listed (as is fairly typical with high end earbuds) and neither is the specifics of the materials used in the housing. We do know that the frequency range is a sizable 40 - 18,000 Hz, and that the reviews generally praise the range and the quality of the sound and sound isolation. Where reviews complain is in the durability, both in the cable and the housing of the earbud, which is why it’s especially disappointing that the materials used are not listed.
There is no detachable boom mic, although it’s not as much of a drawback for a mic to be position “in-line” within a controller in the audio cable when a high end mic like the one used. The mic is super sensitive and omnidirectional, and reviewers claim that it works well for their gaming needs despite the fact that it isn’t right next to their mouths.
It’s really exciting to see such a well know and professional audio brand’s foray into gaming tech, however I would've liked Sennheiser to be a bit more explicit with the details of their equipment. They seem to be relying on a lot of brand trust to sell this product; and I must say that this trust alone is one of the reasons why this product made it onto our guide.
Honorable Mention (Expensive)
These premium earbuds will satisfy the most luxurious of your gaming needs for years to come thanks to their extended warranty.
Remember when we talked about how other factors besides the driver are important to determining sound quality? And remember how we mentioned that you’d see much more emphasis on those factors in higher-end products? Well here is a perfect example of that. The drivers in the B&W C5 series (sounds like we’re talking about a car) are 9.2mm in each ear, but they’re “bespoke”, and contain a similarly bespoke transducer that produces “remarkable bass extension”. Also contained within the housing of the earbuds (which are partially made of tungsten-steel) is a semi-porus “sonic diffuser” to improve the overall quality and clarity of your audio experience.
The microphone is within the audio controller along the cable, but it is ultra-sensitive and is fully enabled for clear communication. Reviewers mention these earbuds as being great for dealing with sweat, and frequently refer to them as the “best” headphones they’ve ever had. The primary complaints had to do with durability due to normal use-- but thanks to the warrantee you’ll at least be covered for 2 years of gaming enjoyment.
Driver (per earbud)
20Hz - 20kHz
20Hz - 15kHz
20Hz - 15kHz
Best For Immersion
These relatively inexpensive earbuds offer noise cancelling technology and gaming features at a price that won’t break the bank.
If you need gaming earbuds with noise cancelling technology, this pair has nearly all the features you might need-- the only thing it’s missing is a splitter for PC gamers. While I hadn’t heard of this company prior to this guide, and the Amazon link for this item doesn’t have a lot of reviews, TaoTronics has a lot of other headphones for sale on Amazon and they’re mostly stacked with positive reviews. I noticed the same to be true for this specific pair of earbuds when I checked out listings for it on other web stores.
A large portion of those reviewers agree that the features perform as advertised; that the sound profile could use more bass, but that the 20 - 20,000 Hz frequency range drivers provide solidly enjoyable sound. If you’re not familiar with noise cancelling units, that 15 hours of functionality between charges is actually a very good amount of time. The $250 Bose earbuds that are coming up later in this list) have only 1 extra hour of battery life despite being $200 more expensive. The microphone in this TaoTronics unit is similarly the quality you would see in much more expensive products , and will serve you well for all of your gaming needs.
The TaoTronics also come with nearly all the extra goodies you might hope for: extra eartips, airline adapter, detachable ear hooks, and even a travel pouch— the only thing missing is the PC adapter. These earbuds really are feature-packed. If noise cancelling is what you’re after, unless you have hundreds more to spend or need a specific feature to be absolutely top-of-the-line, then these earbuds will give you excellent bang for your buck.
Runner Up (Immersion)
These earbuds are noise isolating, not cancelling, however they still end up cancelling out a significant amount of outside sound without the aid (and obligation to charge) of an ANC unit.
According to an independent and accredited laboratory these earbuds offer the highest noise isolation potential of all in-ear earbuds-- up to 42dB! That’s as much as many mid to high-end noise cancellation headphones, and no charging or cumbersome ANC powerpack required. Just to put that decibel level in perspective: average conversation noise is about 60 dB, someone mowing the lawn is 90 dB, and a loud concert is approximately 120dB.
But what about the sound quality? This unit sports an 8mm driver, but as I’m sure you’ve learned by now from reading this guide, that number doesn’t tell us everything. What’s contained within the housing of these earbuds is Etymotic’s proprietary “acoustic side-branch”, that “redistributes energy, smooths the peaks and compensates for weak highs,” resulting in a sound profile that competes with much more expensive earbuds. Reviewers agree, and their most common complaint is of the cable’s durability.
Included are extra eartips and extra filters that go behind the eartips to protect the drivers. And it’s easy to order more of these specially designed accessories from Amazon. Reviewers seem to so back and forth about the quality of the mic, and while it is definitely the weakest feature of this product, the mic is certainly sufficient for most gaming needs.
Honorable Mention (Immersion)
If you need to completely disappear into your game world and literally tune out the outside world, these earbuds are the best of the best for immersion.
The price of these earbuds makes them a bit hard to fit into this discussion. Coming in at nearly 250 dollars these earbuds are in a whole ‘nother level, a whole ‘nother planet, a totally different solar system! But, their price doesn’t change the fact that, if you can afford it, these earbuds are worth the purchase.
If you’re in a situation where ambient noise around you is constant, or you have trouble keeping your mind off of auditory distractions, the quality of noise cancellation these earbuds provide could be life changing. In fact, one reviewer describes their experience with these earbuds as such. He or she was persistently haunted by surrounding noise they had no power to control, and the Bose QuietComfort 20 was the only thing to provide respite and chance to focus.
These earbuds could give you ultimate gaming immersion if you can afford them. They’re the best of the best, and they have a price tag that matches.
There are many reasons why gamers might choose earbuds over traditional headphones:
like the fact that earbuds won’t mess up a cool hairstyle, or that earbuds allow you the portability to hear every nuance of your FUS ROH DAH on your Switch at the airport.
There are a few other reasons too. Let’s dig into “Why earbuds?” now.
Earbuds primary function for years, and the catalyst for their increase in popularity, is their portaility. That's why earbuds come shipped with our now ubiquitous smartphones, or why they give earbuds out for free on airplanes. They’re smaller, they’re less obtrusive to those around you, and their weight is particularly suited for many on-the-go activities.
Gone are the days when earbuds were the more painful option when it came to audio headgear.
Eartips, the soft thingys on the end of in-ear style earbuds, are engineered to be more comfortable than their headset counterparts, especially when it comes to long sweaty gaming session. Additionally, when using earbuds, those eartips are basically the only thing touching your head. Earbuds are free of heavy, bulky headbands and earcups.
When you’re trying to focus on making a big play in an FPS, or trying to avoid the sound of crunching cereal in the next room while questing, anything that helps immersion is incredibly valuable for gaming. And in-ear style earbuds can help with that.
Immersion allows for a deeper connection to the gaming world (no matter what type of game your playing), and achieving that when your on the go riding a train to work, waiting for the bus, or sitting in the back row during a boring lecture is a really nice.
All of the earbuds are on this list are designed to fit snugly in your ear canal. This factor alone allows for earbuds to naturally isolate their user from outside noise and distraction. Combined with the added feature of noise “cancelling” which we’ll get to later, earbuds provide a unique level of isolating immersion that is also extremely comfortable and unobtrusive.
Let’s not kid ourselves, price matters; that’s probably why you found your way to this list in the first place! No matter what your budget is, you want to make sure that for the quality and features you’re getting, the price is fairly matched. That’s exactly what we hope to do with the products and the information we’re providing here-- you’ve come to the right place! Let’s discuss the features you want to look for when choosing earbuds to better help you decide what you need, what to get, and what you should pay.
We touched on this in the “immersion” section above, but basically there are two ways that earbuds can separate you from the sound of the world around you to allow you to better focus on lining up headshots. Noise cancellation was originally developed to be used in headphones, but the same principle applies to earbuds. If you’d like to learn more about the history of noise cancelling technology follow the link here; and read on to find out how earbuds are uniquely geared for noise isolation.
As the name implies, this type of earbud will isolate you and the audio you’re listening to from the world around you by physically blocking external sounds from entering your ear. Just by being fitted properly in your ear, in-ear style earbuds will automatically offer some noise isolation. Some products will “isolate” better than other, as you can see in the product details above, but the shape and purpose of earbuds to be held snugly in your ear canal lends itself to noise isolation!
Some earbuds, depending on their design, quality, and the material used in those squishy tips, do a better job than others at blocking out external noise. If you think of the the white ipod/iphone earbuds that we’re all familiar with, those aren’t designed to fit in the ear canal-- they’re too large, and the material they’re made of is too hard. Both of which are things you want to look out for when choosing the right earbuds for you. A good noise isolating earbud is like an earplug with a tiny speaker in it.
Earbuds with this feature can cancel out certain sound around you by listening to the “bad” noise and then creating “good” sound waves of their own to counteract it-- thus cancelling the bad noise. Because of the design/purpose of them to fit directly in your ear canal, many earbuds are BOTH noise isolating and noise cancelling.
Earbuds equipped with noise cancelling technology actually have an additional microphone behind the speaker in the ear piece. This microphone detects the wavelength of incoming ambient noise, inverts that wave length, and then adds it to the sound being pumped into your ears. The result is a simulation of being in a much quieter place.
This noise cancelling feature works better on some ambient sounds than others. Things like occasional voices, the dog barking, or your wife yelling at you from the other room are all example of “noise” that isn’t easily counteracted by this technology. The feature works best on loud, consistent noise like the sound of a plane or subway. Another thing to note is that you’ll be paying extra for this tech, and an Active Noise Cancelling (ANC) unit will need to be attached to the earbud cable and charged periodically-- so keep that in mind!
This is one of, if not the most important feature when buying earbuds, and it’s also the most difficult to offer advice on via writing. Ideally you would be able to try out each of these products for yourself before you bought them to determine if there was enough bass, mids, or treble for your liking; but that’s not really possible-- and if you’re looking to spend less than $15, maybe it’s not really worth it either.
So, I’ll do my best to describe the details of the sound quality for you. What you should look out for are these keywords:
This is simply the more technical word for “speaker”. Drivers “drive” sound into your ear! It is commonly (and logically) assumed that the larger the driver the “better” the sound; but in reality, there’s a lot more to it. Technically, the size of the driver is just the diameter of the speaker diaphragm, and while a larger diaphragm will move more air with every blast of sound, this size is only one of many variables that go into determining the quality of the sound.
Driver size is not available for higher end products on this list because those earbuds feature other details that are much more meaningful to sound quality-- especially since a driver doesn’t need to be very big when it’s 1 inch from your eardrum! For the lower end products the size of the driver could matter more since it’s somewhat of an indicator of quality, but don’t let that number be the only thing you look at!
The frequency range (measured in Hz) basically tells you how low and how high of a sound a speaker can reproduce. The frequency range is the measure of how much bass, mids, or treble the drivers can pump out.
20 to 20,000 Hz is the average range the human ear can hear, although bassy sounds below 20 can be felt as well. The low end is something you want to keep an eye on when choosing the right earbuds for you, as better quality speakers can often produce lower frequencies than their competitors.
Despite what some might say, size isn’t everything-- especially when it comes to driver size. The materials used in the housing of the earbuds can affect their sound quality, as does the enclosure of the actual driver itself within this housing, and finally the “tuning” of the driver. That last feature is pretty nebulous, and is hard to discern without trying the earbuds out for yourself. Which is why when your purchasing medium/high-end audio products online, buying from reputable brands can go a long way.
An adapter might not sound like an important feature to look out for, but what this basically means is: will these earbuds fully function on my PC, console controllers, and mobile device? The headphone/mic input that is on PS4 and Xbox One controllers is just that, a single input, whereas on most PCs the headphone and the microphone jacks are separate-- meaning that you need an adapter that splits that one output from your earbuds into two.
While you may not need a mic for all of your gaming needs, we wanted all of our “gaming” earbuds on this list to have one. It’ll be up to you to decide how much of a priority a microphone is for you, and then to decide how clear, loud, and reliable you need the quality of this mic to be. The quality of the mics included with the earbuds on this list will vary.
This is another criteria that’s difficult to make a decision on over the internet. Earbuds have the potential to be much more comfortable than traditional headset, especially for long gaming sessions, because they are lighter, smaller and softer. Look out for things like the material of the eartips, how big they are, and if your able to replace them with new/larger/smaller ones.
Believe it or not, you may want to use the earbuds you purchase for something other than gaming! Earbuds lend themselves to many other activities where audio isolation is important, so keep that in mind. Other extras to note might be the cable length, the durability, warranty, color options, or other small “creature comforts” that can sometimes make a big difference if they’re enjoyed every day.
We hope you both learned a lot from this guide and are now better able to decide which pair of earbuds is right for you. Whether you’re a console or PC gamer, prefer RPGs or FPSs, or have a budget of $10 or $100, there is a product on this list that fits your need. Just decide which features matter most to you and go from there. And if you can’t decide which features are most important, sound like you need all of them!
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