“What Headset Should I Buy?”

Sennheiser 161's featuring the "cushion" earcups

My friends, guild members, and even complete strangers, ask me all the time what headset they should buy. Nothing is more important than a comfortable headset — nothing!  I’ve decided to write a quick blog post so that I will always have something to link back to with pictures, descriptions, my personal thoughts, and where to buy the headsets I recommend.

I have tried the $20 cheap ones that fall apart when you sneeze, and I’ve tried the $39 flavors from places like Best Buy.  They’re uncomfortable, have poor sound quality, and people think you’re talking into a wind tunnel or tin can.

I finally found Sennheiser headsets after browsing the internet, and I’ve been a loyal customer for the past seven years.  I bought my first pair when World of Warcraft launched.  This was a time when I wasn’t in school and wasn’t working, so I needed a headset that I could wear for an unfathomable amount of time.

Why Sennheiser?

  • Comfort! It feels like I’m wearing clouds on my ears.  I can wear them for 15+ hours (Don’t ask) and forget they are even on my head.
  • Audio Quality – For the price, it doesn’t get better.  I’m not an audiophile, but I really do not even notice the difference between using these and using a soundcard.
  • Microphone Quality – I come through clear, people can hear me, and the noise cancellation is more than sufficient (albeit some sounds will get through on all the headsets I have tried.)
  • Production Quality – They’re sturdy, resilient, and made to last.  Mine have taken a beating… I used to not take wiping in raids very well, okay?
  • Price – The two choices I recommend below are very affordable and are practically a steal for what you get.

Which Sennheiser Headsets do I recommend? Read on to find out.

I can recommend, from using them personally, two different Sennheiser Headsets.  It would have been just the one pair (PC 151), but an unfortunate accident occurred (chair, cord, yanking… bad) forced me into buying a new pair.

Sennheiser PC 151 (Best Price Linked)

MSRP from Sennheiser: $79.95
Amazon – $40.99
Newegg – $59.99
Best Buy – $59.99

Sennheiser PC 161 (Best Price Linked)

MSRP from Sennheiser:$119.95
Amazon – $68.86
Newegg – $89.95
Best Buy – $89.99

Sennheiser PC 151 featuring teh foam earcups. See important note below!

The best price is clearly at Amazon, but you can find very close deals when they go on sale at places like Best Buy.  At the time of writing, Best Buy’s website says they’re having a sale and the 151’s are $40.99.  Look for sales and you could score.

What’s the difference between the PC 151 and PC 161?  The only major difference that I noticed is the earcups.  The PC 161’s have “XXL” size cushions and, according to the tech specs, “Open Aire speaker system.”  I’d say the difference is very, very minimal on the sound quality, but I do prefer the 161’s larger ear “cushions.”  Both headbands have more of a U shape instead of the circular shape. This helps prevent squeezing of the temples for a sturdy but more relaxed fit.

Both of these headsets use the 3.5mm stereo jack plugs.  This is a turn-off for some people.  I personally use a USB adapter for mine that has a built-in soundcard. I feel the sound quality is excellent.  If you’re looking, here’s a good USB soundcard adapter that comes highly recommended.

A very important note: Some places offer the 151’s with a different texture on the earcups.  I recommend you try to get the fabric feel instead of the foamy feel. Both are comfortable, but my personal preference leans towards the fabric cushions.  I’ve heard some people prefer the foam since it breathes more.  To each his own.

As I said earlier, I’ve used Sennheiser for seven years and I plan to buy another pair of 161’s when this pair I’ve had for 5 years finally wears out (if it does).

If you have any questions, I’m happy to try and answer them.

  • I went through an identical process then asked my erstwhile WoW Guildies for help, with the exact same end-result: Sennheiser PC 151 from Amazon (£35 here though I got both my pairs for under £30).

    I am on my 2nd pair as I fell victim to a fairly common issue on headphones that one ear speaker can fail prematurely: usually the one where the lead attaches as you snag it accidentally with your arms, feet and in my case chair legs – I’m clumsy and gangling.

    If you do get these – be careful and keep your guarantee info handy!

  • Corsair Vengeance 1500 (or HS1). Corsair stands behind their products. They are a much better choice.

  • I think the “cloth” material makes a huge difference. The Fatal1ty set I have is cloth and its great but the Logitech set I bought sorta recently is kind of fake leatherish and isn’t very comfortable.

    I’ll have to look at the 161s when I finally decide my monitor’s webcam mic isn’t sufficient.

  • I’ve used a Sennheiser 165 USB from 2006 to 2010 and I really liked the cloth ear thingie, but it lost its “grip” and became a bit loose on my head.

    I’ve replaced it with a Plantronics Audio 476 USB which is much lighter and works even better for someone wearing glasses than the Sennheiser.

  • Are these stereo, 5.1, 7.1? I couldn’t see it in the item description.

    I love my G35’s from Logitech. They just released a new driver that makes them sound even better.

  • @Epiny: The 151’s are definitely stereo, but I’m not sure about the 161’s since I swear I get some pretty good surround sound with them. It might be one of those sound tricks you can enable in games, but it feels 5.1.

  • The Sennheiser website starts off the product description with “The PC 161 stereo multimedia headset is….” so I’m thinking stereo.

    The Sennheiser models that are closer to the size and shape of the G35 are the PC350 and PC360. They are a lot more expensive than the logitech though.

  • Yes Sennheiser is a great brand, great for both Skype & vent. I bought mine from newegg.com a few years back for $60. It is the only brand that didn’t make my ears hurt after a long dungeon run/Skype conversation.

  • Something else to remember is Fry’s will now match online prices. A friend went in last week and showed them a mouse on newegg.com and they matched it.

  • Stereo headsets will do surround/positional audio to a certain extent if you have either a decent sound card or like Keen has a decent USB adapter/sound card. The USB connections simulate surround while sound cards generally produce “real” surround.

    @Krig

    Using the Sennheiser PC 350s myself and they are well worth the price if you’re going to spend a little extra money. I wouldn’t touch the G35s if I had any choice in the matter. Lots of negative reviews about quality overall.

  • The cushions on the PC350 look like the ones on my creative arena headset. Its a closed system and shuts out every other sound..can barely hear myself talk. I prefer open air which is what the PC360 is.

    Maybe Ill break out the creative set to try them with BF3..

  • Oh, I totally agree about the open air. I’m going to amend my previous comment. I’d want the open air and I prefer hearing myself talk. (That sounds totally narcissistic)

  • Keen is right. Sennheiser is just good. I have exactly this headset, and it’s awesome. The only problem I had in the beginning is that it was a bit tight (guess I have a large head?). I just put a stack of CD cases between the earpieces for a couple of nights, and all was fine.

    Sennheiser make awesome headphones too. I’ve been using the same one since the 90ies, and it’s just very good quality. They aren’t cheap, but they’re worth the money.

  • I’ve gone through a silly number of headsets in the past few years.

    The Turtle Beach pair had the best sound quality by far, and fit well. Too bad one of the speakers started bouncing around and killed them. Also the mic quality is just eh.

    I’ve had two fairs of Fatality MKII, and that is my current headset. For the price they have great sound quality, nail surround sound, and the mic is really good. They fit well too.

    I also have a Plantronics (sp?) set, the GameCom. It’s a bit light on sound quality, but the mic is good and they are very comfortable. Don’t remember where they fall in terms of price.

  • Keen I dont know how you are with headsets. Me personally Ive spent as much as $140 and as little as $10, I go through them no matter the cost about 2 per year. The microphone is always the first to go on my headset and I guess its because I move the mic up and down all the time. I think the longest ive ever managed to keep 1 in working order is about 8 months. In fact I jsut purchased a Microsoft Silverlight edition a few months back and so far its holding up but we’ll see lol.

  • I’m somewhat of an audiophile and have the same requirements as you Keen regarding comfort. While Sennheiser headsets are pretty damn sweet (most recording studios use Sennheiser headphones during mixing afaik), I find them a tad bit pricy for my taste.
    I’ve been VERY happy with my Steelseries 5Hv2.
    Cheaper than Sennheisers of the same quality.
    Great sound (for gaming, music is good but not high-end).
    Very comfy!!!
    Mic is great according to friends on VOIP.

    I’ll prob be buying another pair when these give up on me, but might go for the USB version next time.

  • I agree. When I was raiding for hours and needed to be on Vent the comfort of a headset becomes number 1 priority (or maybe number two after mic quality if you’re raid leader).
    I’m from Australia and would not buy Sennheiser due to the rampant price discrimination we see in Australia for their gear. It’s outrageous to find great deal online will not ship to Australia (at the distributors request) and Australian dealers cannot even get close on price. Aussies are stuck paying a huge premuim for their gear. My personal recommendation is the Razer Carcharias. Another priority for me around this price point is durability and a bit of steel holding things together is much better than plastic. I’ve had headsets (plantronics if I remember – but plenty of their stuff is good) in the past that needed to be tossed out after the headband broke due to plastic stress – maybe my head is too big 🙂

  • Surprised no one has mentioned wireless headphones in this conversation. Personally its a must have – I am always tripping or pulling on the damn usb cables, and like the freedom of getting up and grabbing a beverage while still taking part in the conversation. The Creative HS-1200’s are what I use. The sound and mic quality are both fantastic, and the unit itself is light. Battery life is a little weak(about 3hrs). The only real complaint I have is the incredibly short charging cable (32″) which requires placing the wireless receiver (where the charging cable originates) strategically close to your body. But the mic volume, power, mute, ect. are all on the headphones itself, and the mic is flexible and folds back up against the headset to turn it off.

  • Like coppertopper I am a wireless convert. I recently purchased a Logitech G930 7.1 surround sound headset and they are great. There is definitely a difference in richness of sound over my previous 5.1 Turtle Beach (wired) AK-R8 set. Those still function well enough, but the smaller plastic bits holding them together finally broke beyond repair and so they had to be replaced. The mic was never that great on them either. After lots of looking around I decided on the Logitechs for a variety of reasons, but the biggest reason was the wireless and it is GREAT! No more tripping over headset wires or missed conversations for me!

    I can walk anywhere in my house and the sound still comes through crystal clear even through multiple walls and the floor (like when I’m downstairs getting another beverage). The G930s also have three programmable G-keys, and though the Ventrilo Push-to-talk is still bugged, other functions like controlling music playback (play/pause, next track, etc.) works like a charm. Battery life is good too, as I can game for 8+ hours on one charge. They need to patch the software (truly Logitech’s biggest shortcoming, because many of their peripherals I have owned have been rock solid) to provide all of the functionality as advertised for Vent, but otherwise I am VERY happy with the G930s.

  • Pulling out my old taped up and glued WoW gear from storage made me realize that it is a good time to upgrade my equipment, so I have been investigating reviews and prices for gaming headsets and mice.

    This is a surprisingly good deal for a highly rated headset and DSS (Dolby Suround Sound) 7.1 bundle. It is a BestBuy exclusive (even if on the Turtle Bay website it lists for $130 you are redirected to BestBuy) and is currently on sale for $80 (plus tax of course), which is $30 off!

    I think the X11 was bundled like this to make way for the X12 replacement; a similar X12 DSS bundle sells for $120. It is sold as being comparable to the X41 (a higher end wireless RF model also with DSS) which sells for $150.

    It is also cool that it is designed to easily interface with the XBOX and take advantage of separate chat channel volume.

    The only disadvantages are that it cannot be mailed (store pickup only), there is sales tax, and you will have to buy a USB optical cable adaptor if your sound card doesn’t have an optical output.

    Here is a thorough review from a pretty dedicated gamer:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m3ztCm6Nbrw

    …and another one from a younger cockier dude:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2a4RkoPfLE4&feature=related

    Here is the info from the Turtle Beach website:

    http://www.turtlebeach.com/products/xbox-gaming-headsets/ear-force-dx11.aspx

    Tis the season to get your game on!

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