I’ve been tentatively in the market for a new headset for a year now. I’ve had the same Sennheiser PC 320 headset since about 2012 The sound quality was pretty good, and the mic quality was superb — unmatched by anything I could find. I needed to replace them because I have very sensitive ears, and they sit to far over my ears just enough that they would push on this little bump of cartilage and cause me significant pain after about 2 hours of wear.
I thought I might want to look at these “gaming headsets” out there. All I could find were overpriced heavy pieces of plastic. Everything in my price range was horribly reviewed, and I wasn’t about to drop $300+ on decent ones.
Going completely off the reservation, I decided to try something new: Headphones. Not a headset. Headphones. I’m glad I did, because I found the best pair of headphones I’ve ever worn.
Sennheiser HD 598SE
The Sennheiser HD 598 Special Edition over the ear headphones are simply magnificent. I feel like I’m wearing clouds on my ears. When I take them off, I still brace for the pain my previous headset brought, but it doesn’t come. I wore these for 6 hours straight and when I took them off my ears felt normal.The headband is padded leatherette, and the ear pads are an extra-padded velour.
No pain. Not sweat. Nothing. Just normal. That’s definitely new for me.
The audio quality is also phenomenal. I’ve used Sennheiser for the past 10 years, and I feel like my previous headset had good audio, but the audio here is superb. I’m not quite an audiophile where I will critique certain levels of bass or anything, but I’m an average user who can confidently say, “The audio sounds great!”
The 598SE features a removable cable from the headphones. You can see it there in the picture above. The cable can swap between a 3.5mm and a 6.3mm (2 cables, but an adapter is included anyway).
These are over the ears and “open back” which means they do not block out any sound. I have a HUGE peeve with headphones that block out sound. I hate that sense of hearing myself in my head. I hate the closed in feel. I want to hear what’s going on around me, and I always feel like the noise canceling ones are too tight and make my ears sweat.
My one critique is that the audio is LOUD. My previous headset had windows volume at 100 and I turned people on in Discord. The 598SE makes me turn Windows down to 15 and I still turn people and games down. Is that a good thing? I don’t know. Just be warned!
The Sennheiser HD 598SE will cost you about $148 on Amazon. I give these 5/5 stars and can’t say enough good things.
The Problem: Now I Needed a Mic
Looking for mic options, I felt even more overwhelmed. There are all sorts of options out there from desk mics like the Yeti to clip ons to various boom mic options. Nothing looked great. I didn’t want a desk mic because those really only work when you push them right up against your face. I prefer something attached to me, closer to my mouth and out of my way.
I picked up a Zalman ZM-Mic1 for $6 on Amazon and it was ‘okay’ but far from the quality I was used to. People said I sounded hollow, and quiet. I returned to the hunt. Then I found one of the best ideas ever…
ModMic from Antlion Audio
The ModMic is an attachable boom mic! It connects to pretty much anything a 3m adhesive pad can stick to. At first glance, it sounds a little janky. I thought to myself, “You mean I have to stick this thing to my new headset?” You don’t even realize it’s connected that way once you have it on, and the sleek design blends right in.
The mic is even detachable via a patented magnet clasp. You simply attach the little base (pictured right) to your headphones, and then the magnet snaps into place. What’s cool about the design is that you can ‘rotate’ the microphone up and down because of the interlocking teeth.
Cable management became my next concern, but the ModMic comes with little clips. I simply routed my cables together with the clips, and it’s almost as though there weren’t two cables.
Perhaps the most important question: How’s it sound?
I think it sounds perfect. Just like the mic on my old Sennheiser headset that I thought had perfect clarity. I have no complaints about the audio, and my friends on Discord say that I sound great.
There are two options for your mic with a ModMic: Omni-directional and Uni-directional. The ModMic 5 (just came out 2 days ago) comes with both options. Omni gives you a richer sound, but should be used on a decently quiet environment. An office or normal house space should be just fine. The Uni-directional version is noise-cancelling, but creates a somewhat less ‘full’ sound.
If you want the ModMic 5, it’s currently available on Antlion’s site for $69.95. Here’s my biggest critique: That’s just too much. That’s why I actually went with the ModMic 4, and chose to buy the Omni-directional version (without a mute switch) on Amazon for $49. I tweeted Antlion and they responded that there is no quality difference in the Omni-directional mic on the 4.0 compared to the 5.0. Saving $20+ (and having free one day shipping) was worth it to me, as I felt no need to have a mute switch or a Uni-directional option.
Although pricey, I give the ModMic 5/5 stars. It does what it’s intended to do, and it does it well. The design is innovative and solves the problem of having a great sounding mic on a perfectly comfortable pair of headphones.
Important: Use a USB Soundcard!
Never, ever, ever, ever ^10 just plug your headphones or mic into your motherboard. It simply can’t provide the amps, and there’s all sorts of interference and issues when you do. Your mic — even a good one — will sound like crap. Your audio quality will suffer too.
I use the Sabrent USB Sound Adapter. It’s $7 on Amazon, and it’ll change your life if you’ve never used one. There are plenty of options out there. You can just search Amazon or google for “USB Sound Card“.
The sound will not only come in clearer to your headphones, but your mic will sound better because this little guy will send like 3-4 amps to the mic to give it a better quality sound.
Finally I’m Happy with my Audio
So, after a year of hunting, I can finally say I am completely satisfied. My ears don’t hurt, my games sound great, and my mic is nice and clear for making videos and talking to friends while I game.
My total, all-in setup here ran me about $186. Feel free to share your setups with others who may be on the hunt for new headphones or microphone solutions.