When it comes to new video game technology, graphics are usually the focus. That’s sure to be the case as the game industry gears up for the launches of Sony’s PlayStation 4 and Microsoft next Xbox for fall 2013. But a large part of any entertainment experience is sound. With video games, sound is especially important as surround technology can actually help players hear which direction enemies are coming from. There’s a reason pro gamers wear those headphones when they’re at eSports events and when they’re alone at home. Headphones fully immerse gamers in these virtual worlds. Below are five great ways to hear the best games of 2012 and beyond. These headphones are of various price points for any consumer, and they’re a small sampling of what’s out there in the tech world — but a sampling I’ve been able to test on my own.
Astro A50 Wireless Headset, Astro Gaming, $300 – Skullcandy’s gaming division, Astro Gaming, is a mainstay at eSports events and one of the most popular brands with gamers. The A50 Headset is its latest offering, and it comes with a complete package. Everything from the headphones stand, which looks like it’s out of a Terminator movie, to the Dolby 7.1 Surround Sound, is state-of-the-art. These are very comfortable headphones. And wireless is the way to go with any gaming gear these days. Everything you need for the ultimate gaming session is packed into this case, including three unique EQ modes for differentiating Hollywood movies like Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter from shooters like Borderlands 2. Recharging your headset is a snap, too. If you have the money, this is a sound investment.
Call of Duty: Black Ops II Ear Force Tango, Turtle Beach, $300 – With Treyarch’s Call of Duty: Black Ops II raking in over $1 billion, fans of Activision’s shooter can pick up a copy of these limited edition headphones. Part of a full line-up of licensed COD headphones, the Tango boasts Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound, which is delivered through Dual-Band 2.4/5GHz Wi-Fi so gamers can pinpoint the direction of every gunshot and footstep. Turtle Beach headphones are prominent on the eSports circuit around the globe, and for good reason. These wireless headphones come with specific audio presets and voice prompts from developer Treyarch, but they’re also fully customizable for gamers to get the perfect sound. Fans of COD will likely want to flaunt these, but Turtle Beach has an entire line of non-licensed headphones available, as well. Beats Executive, Beats by Dr. Dre, $300 – For those who are looking for a more professional look while gaming on the go or at home, these sleek matte silver and black Beats Executive headphones offer solid surround sound and decent noise cancellation. These comfortable headphones are great for long flights with PS Vita or tablet gaming at 30,000 feet or intense Halo 4 War Games battles at home. Since separating from Monster, Beats has done a great job of establishing itself as its own brand. That “b” is well known by most consumers these days. And these wireless headphones are a step in the right direction to provide a better option for more gamers out there – for music, gaming and other entertainment. One gripe is the use of AAA batteries (which last about 25 hours) instead of a rechargeable battery, but maybe next time. These headphones aren’t my first recommendation for gamers, but they worked fine on the games I tested them on (Assassin’s Creed III, Halo 4, NHL 13). Tracks HD Anthem; Sol Republic, $150 – Anyone who watched the Olympics saw Michael Phelps with Sol Republic headphones on outside of the pool. Phelps used this brand of headphones to prepare before each swimming event. A portion of the proceeds from sales of these new red, white and blue headphones, which feature V10 HD Sound Engines, will go to the Michael Phelps Foundation. The all-time Olympic record medalist is a huge gamer. You can see my interview with him here, talking about his Kinect for Xbox 360 game Push the Limit. These days he’s likely using these headphones for music and gaming, which is something you can do too. With the lower price point, these headphones offer solid sound for portable gaming. PDP Afterglow Wireless Universal Headset; PDP, $90 – I’ve always been a fan of TRON and these unlicensed, affordable wireless headphones look like they’re straight out of that movie/video game universe. They’re not for everyone, but for those on a budget, these headphones pack a lot of great sound (and cool neon lights) for the money. There are three audio modes to choose from: Pure Audio, Bass Boost and a surround sound- like Immersive Audio mode. With the lower price point, there’s no Dolby, and the sound here is noticeably less impressive than the more expensive headphones on this list. But for its budget price point, these headphones bring games to life for decent bursts of time in great fashion. They work with any gaming system or PC out there, as well. Battery life is about 10 hours.