Gaming headsets vs computer speakers: which is best for you?

Gaming headsets vs computer speakers
(Image credit: Future)

There is no such thing as “better” when it comes to gaming headsets and computer speakers,. The only thing that matters is which one is more appropriate for you. After all, each one comes with its own advantages, which we’ll explore here, and the one that’s most ideal for you depends greatly on your own needs.

Think about what you need from your listening and possibly chat experience. If you only play Call of Duty and like to berate your opponents, then a headset will always be the better option. But, not everyone is the same. Some people might prefer leaning back on the couch or gaming chair and taking in the glorious soundwaves of a turned-up 2.1 or even 5.1 sound system, whether they’re gaming or catching up on Netflix.

While we would suggest investing in both a good quality gaming headset and computer speakers, that’s not feasible for everyone. Even if it is, this article might help you decide which one you want to prioritize. After all, you can always splurge on a Razer Barracuda Pro when you want a heightened audio experience and get a cheap speaker solution like the Creative Pebble Plus for more casual listening or vice versa.

The features of headsets vs the features of speakers

Besides the actual form factor, the feature set might be the biggest, visible departure between headsets and speakers. Gaming headsets, after all, come stock with a built-in mic. It doesn’t matter if you splurge or go with a budget headset like the Corsair HS65, it will come with a mic. Of course, not all headset mics are made equally but you’ll still be able to chat with friends around the world while gaming no matter what you choose.

Gaming headsets often also come with features like virtual surround sound, background noise rejection and sidetone control for the mic, and sometimes even unique if seemingly gimmicky ones like haptic feedback.

Computer speakers, by and large, are much more stripped down in what they offer. None of them come with microphones so you’ll have to buy one separately. Not that you can use them anyway as mics tend to feedback when put in front of speakers. Their feature sets typically amount to connectivity options like Bluetooth and USB connectivity and possibly a control puck to adjust volume and switch between inputs as you’ll find on the Logitech Z407

Of course, you will find one or two that offer something that doesn’t exist with headphones and that’s physical and real surround sound. The SteelSeries Arena 9, for example, does just that thanks to its six-speaker setup. No spatial audio or virtual surround sound compares or is as immersive.

Gaming headsets and computer speakers sound different

A young gamer holding a gaming headset in their hand

(Image credit: Shutterstock / Parilov)

The actual aural experience between headsets and speakers is different, even if it’s not apparent on the surface. Headsets, and all headphones by extension, only need to fill the few inches of space between the drivers in the ear cups and your ears with audio. And, the audio goes directly into your ears. Speakers, on the other hand, will typically sit a few feet away at the very least and the sound that they emit will bounce around your room so that you’re not only hearing the audio directly from the speakers but all the reflections of that audio as well.

This has a sizable impact on what you hear. With headsets, you’re hearing the audio without any coloration from outside whereas, with speakers, you’ll also hear the room you’re in. That means that headsets will sound a bit clearer and more detailed while speakers will have more space to their sound. Of course, you can always employ virtual surround sound to add some artificial space to what you’re hearing but it’s not the same. Also, the sound from speakers isn't just hitting your ears but your body. So, when you turn up a set of speakers with a subwoofer, you actually feel that rumble when something explodes or there’s an ominous low sound that indicates danger in that horror movie you insist on watching alone.

You’ll also experience the soundstage of a headset’s audio inside your head while speakers will make it seem like the audio is right in front of you. And, if they’re good speakers, the audio will seem to float in that space between you and the speakers.


When it comes to comfort, not wearing anything on your head always wins out. Peripheral manufacturers have gone to great lengths to make headsets more comfortable by using cooling-gel-infused memory foam and breathable fabric. So, you can wear a headset for quite a while without issue but at some point, your head will need a break from a foreign object clamping onto it. That’s not even considering that some very esteemed headsets come with a tight clamping force that can be painful to wear for long periods.

If you don’t need to worry about waking up roommates or having access to a mic and want your ears to breathe freely, then speakers will always be the better choice. That said, if you’re not wearing them like it’s a job, a few hours of headset use won’t be an issue. And, with all the padding headsets come with, they might even offer a plush experience as you’ll find on something like the Turtle Beach Stealth 700 Gen 2.

Other considerations

Logitech Z407

(Image credit: Future)

There are a couple of other things to keep in mind. If you don’t want to disturb family or roommates, you’ll have to turn your speakers down which will affect your own listening experience, not to mention loud sounds like explosions will still pop out. Headsets will naturally keep that audio isolated so that you can hear whatever you’re listening loudly and clearly without disturbing anyone else. If this is a big consideration, then headsets are the better buy.

You’ll also want to consider what kind of footprint you’re ok with. Headsets are going to be much smaller than most computer speakers and can be tucked away when not in use. Of course, some speakers, like the aforementioned Creative Pebble Plus and Logitech Z407 have surprisingly small satellites and won’t take up much room on your desk. You just need to set aside some floor space for a subwoofer.

Gaming headsets vs computer speakers: which is best for you?

The answer to this question boils down to what you want from your audio devices. Gaming headsets have a clear advantage when you want a mic to chat as you won’t have to buy one separately, not to mention using a mic with speakers often creates feedback. They also offer a bit more detail with their listening experience and won’t wake your roommate with a virtual explosion at three in the morning.

Speakers, on the other hand, will always win in comfort since you won’t have to wear anything to use them. And, they offer a listening experience that’s more holistic since you can feel the sound at loud enough volumes. In a way, it’s a more immersive experience.

James Holland

James Holland loves audio gear! So much so that he covers all the ins and outs, good and bad for Tech Radar and T3. Where does that so-called expertise come from? Not only is he a lifelong music-lover but he also works in the music industry and is a musician. When not testing headphones or listening to music, he loves to travel, rage at the latest PC games, and eat off-the-beaten-path but not too off-the-beaten-path food.