Trash Headsets Made Me A Horrible Counter-Strike Player And I Had No Idea

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Image: Valve.

This article is sponsored by EPOS.

I’ve always loved Counter-Strike. Whether it was the old days of 1.6, Source or Global Offensive, I’ve always found it to be the best and most rewarding competitive first-person shooter to improve at — especially when teaming up with a bunch of mates.

I’m nowhere near a great player. The older I get, the more my reflexes struggle. But I know how to be a good team player. Knowing the game, maps and strategies are just as important as lightning-fast aim.

But there’s one thing that improved my game so much I’m actually embarrassed it took me so long to discover it.

It was simply getting a good headset.

I always saw a headset as an unimportant peripheral. It’s probably why I punished myself with a $30 headset from Big W for so long. Since building my first gaming PC, I always valued a beefy graphics card before everything else. As long as I was getting those silky, high framerates, everything else was simply “meh, that’ll do”.

Without realising it, my game suffered. The directional audio in whatever cheap headset I was using was either awful or non-existent. Whenever I’d be the last one alive on my team, you could usually put money on one of my teammates saying “behind you … BEHIND YOU” before I choked. I just couldn’t get a handle on the direction the enemy was coming from.

I lost count of the times this happened. But after one particularly crushing loss — and one very angry teammate going to town on me — I decided it was probably time to get a better headset.

My god, it was like stepping into the light.

Suddenly, I realised why I could never ping where enemies were coming from and felt incredibly dumb for not realising it sooner. Don’t get me wrong, I still was and still am incredibly average (since various rank reshuffles, I’ve been stuck in Silver), but at least my clutch game is far stronger these days.

When it comes to headsets, directional audio works differently compared with a traditional 7.1 surround sound speaker setup. Surround speakers rely on speakers physically placed at different locations around the room, but it also uses the acoustics of the room and the distance between you and the speakers to carry the sound, all of which plays an important role in how you hear and interpret it. Headsets are essentially speakers placed right next to your ears, so they have to work differently in order to give the same effects.

Headsets offering directional audio can do so with multiple speaker setups for each ear, or virtually using one speaker for each ear combined with internal or external pre-amps and algorithms to artificially create the same effects.

More advanced units will offer greater advantages through customisation, like the EPOS | Sennheiser GSP 670 wireless gaming headset, which, paired with the EPOS Gaming Suite software, allows you to change and create EQ profiles based on what you’re using them for. You can even create profiles for individual games or genres like FPS, horror, RPG etc. If battery life is a concern, the EPOS | Sennheiser GSP 370 wireless gaming headset offers a whopping 100 hours of battery life.

“We have used our understanding of how human anatomy and the brain capture and perceive sound to create a sense of realistic immersion,” the company says. “If you are in an RPG and two characters are having a conversation to your right, with our surround sound technology the sound arrives at your right ear before it reaches your left ear – just as it does in the real world.” 

While the competitive advantages to great directional audio are obvious, grandiose single-player adventures will also benefit. And don’t get me started on how much more terrifying games like Resident Evil 7 are with a good headset.

Don’t be like me. If you’re using trash headsets, it’s time to upgrade. Your teammates will love you for it — and so will you.

Comments

  • Oh, absolutely. Sea of Thieves is spectacular for this – a good pair of headphones and I always know *exactly* where the skeletons are coming from.

    But, you don’t need a fancy gamer headset – Windows and XBox will do the surround sound virtualisation for you with any half-decent pair of headphones. Just find the ‘spatial sound’ setting. Windows Sonic is built in, or you can buy the Dolby Atmos for Headphones option for like $10. Works beautifully – even better than the ‘built in’ directional audio on my Astro headset.

  • First time through normal, later play through hard. But if there’s a harder setting than hard then usually no. Ultra violence is fun, Nightmare is not. I wouldn’t even consider Ultra Nightmare lol

  • I miss being able to wear a headset and have volume up loud enough for directions to matter. These days, I need to have my ears free to prioritize my partner in the same room, and prevent my game volume clashing with what she’s watching.

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