Why Do Esports Players Use Earbuds and Headphones?

Have you ever wondered why on Earth do pro gamers wear two pairs of headphones at the same time? Is it for bragging purposes? As surprising as it may sound, the answer is no. It …

Have you ever wondered why on Earth do pro gamers wear two pairs of headphones at the same time? Is it for bragging purposes? As surprising as it may sound, the answer is no. It actually makes a big difference for them to wear an additional headset. Read this article to find out why.

Why Do So Many Esports Players Use Earbuds?

No matter if you’re a professional Esports player or a casual gamer, you have probably used earbuds for gaming at some point. You will also agree when we say that even though they are not the best headphones for gaming there are, they are among the most accessible ones. 

Yes, earbuds do not offer the sound quality, build and soundstage that headsets have, but they are easy to carry, easy to find, and even if the cable rips, you won’t worry too much. Most of us have earbuds from old smartphones laying around in every room. 

Long story short, why most players use earbuds for gaming is because they are easy to find, they are usually cheap and you don’t have to worry about losing or breaking them. They are far from the high-quality over-ear headphones that most esports players use over their earbuds though but they have their own advantages.

Why Do Professional Gamers Wear Earbuds?

Gaming earbuds were especially designed and balanced for esports players. They are not like your usual workout earbuds that are made to stay in your ear no matter how much you jump around and run. These kinds of earphones were made to be as comfortable as possible. Any serious player will agree that a gaming session can last anywhere from 15 minutes to all night. This is why earbuds have to be light and be able to fit into any player’s ear.

Additionally, gaming in-ear headphones were balanced to boost the sound that the gamers will find most useful. What this means is, after careful analyses, the producers realized whether a low, a mid or a high sound is most useful during a gaming session.

If you look at the graph below, you will see that the Razer Hammerhead True Wireless Pro has a bump where the High-Bass and Low-Mid sound is. This is usually where the shots and steps are heard during a gaming session. Not only that, but there’s also a rise toward the Mid-Trebble, as this is where all the metallic clicks and clanks are.

All of this is no coincidence. As you know Razer are among the biggest companies for gaming peripherals so they know what comes in handy and makes you a better player.

If you compare the earbuds made for gaming to reference headphones made for studio work, you will see some big differences. Reference headphones are balanced to reproduce sound as close to how our ears would hear it, as possible. This means that their aim is to have a straight graph. The downside to this, though, is that they are not going to be as good for gaming as the gaming earbuds. Here’s the graph of the Sennheiser HD600, which is a headset used by many music producers.

Why Do Gamers Use Two Sets of Headphones?

If you have ever seen a gaming event, you will have noticed that most players are wearing a second pair of headphones under their headset. There’s a good reason for that.

You probably know that at any NFL or NBA game, and any other live sports event, the noise levels are off the charts. It’s the same with esports. The crowd can get so loud that if the players only wear noise-canceling headphones, it won’t be enough. This is why they resort to wearing a second pair of headphones.

Gamers use the inner headset for game sound and team communication. Meanwhile, the outer headphones are used to block out all external sound and to play white noise. The external sound can be both an advantage or a disadvantage as the crowd can let a player know where the enemy is, or simply distract them.

Why Is Noise-Canceling Important?

Canceling out all the external noise can make the difference between a won and a lost round. This can be crucial for multiplayer shooters like Valorant, Fortnite or PUBG. In such games, an enemy’s step can let a player know where they are coming from and even stop them from going somewhere they don’t want to be.

Even though noise-canceling headphones have become fantastic at what they are designed to do (cancel noise), they are still far from perfect. The way active noise canceling works is, it uses microphones to hear the external noise and moves the drivers in the speakers in the opposite direction. This way the sound is canceled out.

Unfortunately, though, this works best with low-frequency and buzzing noises. A crowd at an esports gaming event is not only that. This is why pro gamers wear an additional pair of headphones for batter noise canceling. 

Are Two Pairs of Headphones Allowed?

Wearing two pairs of headphones is not only allowed, it’s also recommended. Many esports titles have a wide set of skills, characters and gameplays that most commentators know and talk about. If the participants in the gaming event hear any of that information it can be used to their advantage.

For this reason at many gaming tournaments, it’s in the rulebook that all players have to wear two pairs of headsets on top of each other. If players violate the rules, the team may be punished or even disqualified. 

Do Pro Gamers Use Two Sets of Headphones at Home? 

If players are not in a noisy environment, there’s no need to wear two pairs of headsets at the same time. It is actually better not to do it, as it will get uncomfortable and may cause damage to the players’ ears.

When gaming from home, most pro players use a gaming headset as it’s more comfortable than in-ear headphones. Additionally they offer a wider soundstage and can be a lot louder.

Headphones vs Earbuds for Gaming

After so much information you might be wondering what is the best headset option for you. Well, the truth is, both over-ear headsets and in-ear headphones have their pros and cons. It depends on your ears, the environment you’re gaming in, and of course, your preference.

Earbuds

Earbuds are the more affordable option when it comes to gaming headphones. Not only are gaming models more affordable, but you probably have a pair of decent earbuds lying around. A pair of old iPhone earpods are actually a great starting point if you want to try gaming with in-ears.

The biggest advantages, as we mentioned earlier, are:

  • The size of the headphones. In-ear headsets are tiny. You can take them anywhere with you or easily store them in a drawer. You can even leave them on your desk and are barely going to notice them.
  • The significantly lower price tag. Gaming earbuds are significantly cheaper than the over-ear headsets.
  • Decent sound quality. Even though the drivers (the bit that makes the sound) are much smaller than in over-ear headsets, some models still produce fantastic sound.

As you probably expect, in-ear headphones have a few disadvantages as well. 

  • Earbuds can get uncomfortable with longer gaming sessions. As this type of headsets go in your ear, they can get uncomfortable after wearing them for a few hours.
  • The soundstage is not great. Soundstage is known among audiophiles as the feeling of hearing sound from all around you. This means being able to hear exactly where each sound is coming from, and not having everything come from the same spot. Unfortunately as the drivers in earbuds are tiny, that’s not possible.

Over-Ear Headphones

Most gaming enthusiasts prefer over-ear headphones when gaming at home. They are not the prefered choice only because of all the marketing and advertising, but because they are better in many aspects. Here are a few advantages:

  • Over-ear headphones have fantastic soundstage. If you are gaming with a bigger headset, you are more likely to have a bigger soundstage and know exactly where your team and and your enemies are. This can be a massive advantage.
  • They are more comfortable. Any true gamer will know that there’s nothing more comfortable than over-ear headphones. They lay comfortably on your head and your ears are not going to hurt even with prolonged use.

Just like the in-ear headphones, the over-ear models have a few disadvantages.

  • They are much bigger. Over-ear headphones are significantly bigger than in-ears. This can be an issue if you’re not only going to use the headset at home.
  • Over-ear headphones are more expensive. You should expect to pay significantly more for a quality over-ear headset. 
  • Some models have a lot of sound bleeding. Some high-quality gaming headsets are open-back. This means that there’s no thick piece of plastic behind the drivers to stop your sound from going out. This is the price you will have to pay for a bigger soundstage.

Both

You always have the option of doing what professional esports players do and wear two pairs of headsets on top of each other. Though, we don’t recommend doing that if you’re not participating in a major esports tournament.

As we already mentioned, gaming tournaments can get very loud so most players believe the best they can do is wear two sets of headsets. This way they can cancel out most of the noise. You would only need this if you’re playing in a loud environment and need to hear every detail of the game. 

Wired vs Wireless Headset or Earbuds

Wireless headsets are fantastic for many users but pro gamers usually stay away from them. This is because of multiple reasons:

  • Limited battery life. Even though headphone battery life is getting better with each generation it’s still limited. This means that you will have to charge your headset once every few days or even more often. Even though some headsets have a battery that can last up to 30 hours, it’s still worth taking a look at wired options.
  • Latency. Latency is most easily explained as the delay between the sound coming out of the game to the moment it is produced by the headset. With wired headphones that’s around 5-10 ms but with wireless it can be as much as 200 ms. For  pro gamers this can be a deal breaker, as professional gaming needs to be very precise.
  • Audio quality. Even though wired headphones can have a higher resistance, most gaming headsets don’t. This means that they are pretty loud directly out of the 3.5mm jack. If that’s not enough for your needs, you can always get an external sound card that will make them even louder.

Unfortunately that’s not possible with wireless headsets. They have a built-in amplifier that helps the drivers produce a louder sound. While it’s just enough for most players, if you want more, you will have to invest in a new headset.

  • Durability. Batteries have a limited lifespan so your wireless headset is not going to last forever. Unfortunately most wireless headphones are built in a way that doesn’t let you open them and simply change the battery. When it dies you will have to get a new pair or use them as wired.

If wireless gaming headsets exist, there’s got to be a reason, right? Well there is, and not just one:

  • Easier to use with a second headset. As we already mentioned, most pro players wear earbuds and headphones on top of each other. This means that you will have two cables sticking out so that’s double the chance of having them tangle and limit your movement.
  • Freedom of movement. Two cables will significantly limit a player’s movement. That’s why wireless headphones could potentially be a good option for gaming tournaments. They would need to be low-latency and designed especially for gaming though.
  • No tangled cables. The biggest advantage of a wireless headset is the lack of cables. This means that you won’t be stuck untangling them after a long gaming session. 

What Are the Best Gaming Noise Canceling Earbuds for Gaming?

There are plenty of wireless in-ear headsets out there. Not that many are designed for gaming, though. We went through all the wireless earbuds and headphones that gamers use and made a list of the best in our opinion.

1. Razer Hammerhead True Wireless (2nd Gen)

You probably knew that we were going to start with a razer headset. There’s a good reason for that. The California-based company is among the biggest producers of gaming equipment out there. 

The second generation of the Razer Hammerhead True Wireless has all the goodies the first one did and more. It comes equipped with arguably the best active noise cancellation technology that eliminates all the distractions and a very low latency. 

Activating gaming mode lowers the latency down to 60ms which makes it perfect for an intense Fortnite shootout where you’re stuck against two or more enemies. Additionally, they have an ergonomic in-ear design with great in-ear fit, making them the perfect option for a long gaming session.

New Razer Hammerhead True Wireless (2nd Gen) Bluetooth Gaming Earbuds
  • Powered by Razer Chroma RGB: With 16.8 million colors and a suite of effects to choose from, bring out your style and stand out from the crowd.
  • Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) technology.
  • 60ms Low Latency Gaming Mode: Activate Gaming Mode to fire up the Razer Hammerhead True Wireless’ leading performance while gaming on Bluetooth devices.

2. HECATE by Edifier Wireless Gaming Headphones

The second best wireless gaming headset in our list. The HECATE earbuds come with a unique design and a fancy charging case that will make you stand out when gaming in public. 

They come equipped with active noise cancellation, which, while pretty good, doesn’t match the one in the Razer Hammerhead. Additionally they have a unique design with RGB lights that make them look epic in low-light environments.

The biggest downsides here is that for longer gaming sessions they can get uncomfortable and the higher price. 

HECATE by Edifier GX07 Wireless Gaming Earbuds
  • 【Unique Design】Unique appearance and cool flying wing door design with RGB lighting effects, soul of Cyberpunk.【Enjoy the game】Not only the appearance, but also the performance is excellent.
  • 【Latest Bluetooth Technology】Equipped with the latest Bluetooth 5.0 technology, which greatly improves the stability of connection, connection speed and connection range. 
  • 【Sensitive Tap Operation】Basic functions such as forward/backward, play/stop music, answer/end/reject calls, power on/off, volume control, etc. 

3. GamesPower Bluetooth Earbuds

The cheapest option on our list. These in-ear headphones come with a 5 hour battery life and a surprisingly low latency of just 48ms. They also have an ergonomic design that can remain comfortable for the entire duration of your gaming session.

The biggest downside here is the sound quality, that’s significantly worse than the other two models and the rather short battery life.

GamesPower Bluetooth Earbuds
  • Wireless Gaming Earbuds: Made of quality chip and premium materials, 48ms ultra low-latency, pure stereo sound effect let you immerse in music and game scenes.
  • Superior Clear Call and Dual Mode: Multi sensing, active noise cancelling bluetooth earbuds, built-in microphone, you can enjoy your phone call or music with this ture wireless earbuds in any noisy environment. 
  • 19Month Standby & 5 Hour Playback: This wireless earbuds is equipped with the latest battery integration technology, it can last for 19 months standby. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Do Some Players Wear a Third Headset?

If you have seen bigger gaming competitions you will know that some players wear a third headset around their neck. This is because, just like any other type of athletes, they have sponsorships with the bigger brands and have to show off their gear.

Are over-ear or in-ear headphones better?

This depends on your gaming style. If you usually play at home for longer periods of time, you should go for the over-ear option. 

If you are planning to use your headphones for more than gaming, you can go for the in-ear models as they are smaller but less comfortable. 

Final Word

Many pro gamers wear one set of wireless earbuds under a pair of over-ear headphones. This is so because they need superior noise cancellation that no current model can provide.

If you’re not a pro gamer, though, you don’t need to worry about buying a second pair. It won’t make a big difference over how you play and can actually make it more uncomfortable.

If you’re wondering what headset you should buy, head over to our Best 7.1 Surround Sound Gaming Headset and see which ones we really REALLY liked.

Asen's first contact with gaming was GTA Vice City back when he was a long way from PEGI 18. Years later, after completing countless story modes, pulling more all-nighters than he can count, and spending more time on FIFA than he'd like to confess, gaming is still a big passion of his. Not only that, but he's also fascinated by hardware and gaming peripherals. So much so, that he's become something of a walking encyclopedia about all things audio.

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