As our time in Battlefield 3 winds down and we look forward to Battlefield 4, many of us are spending our time re-evaluating our gaming equipment. Which console should we pre-order; should we buy a new video card; should we build an entirely new PC? For some, the question that does not get asked is, “should I get a new set of headphones?”
A good headset can be important in Battlefield. DICE works exceptionally hard to make the sounds you hear in game amazing and relevant. With the right headset, you might just hear that guy sneaking up to swipe your tags. Unfortunately, this is a part of our gaming that sometimes receives little attention. We simply use what we already have available, be it the simple flimsy headset that came with our console, cheap PC speakers, or even a set of iPhone earbuds. When I first built my PC a few years ago, I purchased an inexpensive headset with built-in mic for about $12-15. FPS gaming was relatively new to me, and these allowed me to hear the game without bothering others in my house and become immersed. Little did I know, they did not provide the sound quality and detail my opponents could hear, such as from what direction my gun was firing.
I became curious and did some research a couple years ago, at which point I found my current headset: a discontinued Turtle Beach model (Ear Force HPA2) that has multiple speakers in each ear to provide extremely realistic surround sound. Upgrading to these was an amazing improvement: I could hear directional sounds; I had control over the various sound levels, such as bass; and the sounds became more real and immersing. The sound quality of this setup is amazing. However, I believe a downside to this set is the added weight of multiple speakers. I will also note that I occasionally get line noise (a whiny-buzzy interference-type noise), which seems to have mostly corrected by turning down the system sound and turning up the in-line amplifier volume. This headset has done very well for me, though it is hard not to be tempted to get something new for BF4.
With that in mind, I have spent a little time looking into new headsets. I have noticed that multi-speaker headsets are very uncommon, which makes me wonder why: is it the cost; the weight; or maybe it is no better than Dolby surround? When I do get another headset, I will likely consider a lighter Dolby surround set, such as the Turtle Beach Ear Force DP11. It offers Dolby surround and an in-line amplifier, where you can make adjustments on the fly. The overall sound on my Turtle Beach headphones is amazing, so I would expect the same from this set. However, the bass is strong on mine, and sometimes overwhelms the other sounds. I do not know if that is a factor of the multi-speaker setup, or if it is an attribute of Turtle Beach headsets.
Of course, many on this site might be a little reluctant to consider Turtle Beach, considering their marketing with COD. Following a similar thought process (and looking into slightly more budget options), I also found the Plantronics GameCom 780, which appears to have great reviews, a lower price, and offers 7.1 surround (my current set is only 5.1…though will I really notice the difference?). Definitely a set to consider.
If you wish to spend a little more, consider the Audio-Technica 700X Audiophile headphones. These are currently on sale at Amazon for nearly $50 off the list price. According to reviews, the bass in these is light, so you may need some form of equalizer to amplify the bass, if you want your explosions to rumble a bit more. However, because of the strong mid- and high ranges, these should allow for a much better detection of footsteps, etc. The downside is that these are not a gaming headset, so you would need a separate microphone, but that can be addressed inexpensively with something like this Zalman clip-on. Now, I believe these are stereo headphones, but I know a lot of gamers use and love stereo headphones. I cannot say if stereo or surround is truly better for FPS gaming.
If you are still using an inexpensive headset, consider an upgrade. It certainly enhanced my Battlefield experience. Though it did not make me a better player overnight, it did help to more clearly hear from what direction the action is coming, as well as increase my immersion in the game dramatically. I have so much more fun in Battlefield being able to truly enjoy the quality sounds DICE put in and trying to use them to my advantage. Of course, it is up to you do research and determine whatheadset will work best for your preferences; I am merely sharing what I have found thus far in my research. The links above are merely suggestions to start your journey. If you already have a set you swear by, please share. Maybe you’ll help someone find the set they cannot do without.