A good pair of headphones is an affordable upgrade to your sim racing setup that can make a surprising amount of difference to your sim racing experience. Whilst racers often rely on their visuals to determine where cars are on the track, having a good quality headset can help you pinpoint the location of cars around you to a surprising degree of accuracy, without having to take your eyes off the road in front of you.
The best headphones for sim racing are:
HyperX Cloud II
If you’re after a good quality pair of headphones that have a built-in mic, you can wear for hours on end without any discomfort, and won’t break the bank, then the HyperX Cloud II’s are what you’re looking for.
I personally used these for about two years and have had zero complaints about them. The microphone and the cable are detachable so they are easy to customize and plugin/out as you want.
The audio quality is great for the price and is what you would expect from any other gaming-style headset on the market. Similarly, the microphone is of about the same quality. Nothing to write home about, but more than acceptable for using in Discord or during races.
SteelSeries Arctis 7
The SteelSeries Arctis 7’s are more expensive than the HyperX Cloud II but if you’re after wireless connectivity so that you can get away from having wires all over the place then these are my recommendations.
Battery life on these is good, with up to 24-hours of use. You will want to make sure that you plug these in overnight though or when you’re not sim racing. Having to scramble to try and plug a cable into a headset when you’re mid-race because you’ve just lost audio is not fun, trust me.
If you’re after a pair of headphones that don’t fall into the ‘gaming’ category of headphones, but are wanting to stay within a similar price range, then the Audio-Technica ATH-AD700X is the perfect set of headphones.
The thing that sets these apart from the other headsets is that they are an ‘open-back headset which means that they are going to have a larger sound stage than what you are used to, but with the trade-off that they will leak more audio (i.e. people will be able to hear your audio, like speakers – but to a lesser extent).
AKG K12 Pro
I’ve added the AKG K12 Pro’s to this list as, in my opinion, they are one of the best headphones for sim racing. Unfortunately, the increase in quality does come with an increase in price, and you may need an external amplifier in order to run these are their full capacity. You will need to check the compatibility with these and require an amplifier for your own application.
These headphones are for the true sim racing enthusiast who is looking to get every last drop of realism from their sim racing setup. These are fantastic headphones not just got sim racing, but for anything audio-related and are highly recommended by many audiophiles.
Wired vs Wireless
This is a personal choice and largely won’t make a huge difference. Some things to consider though, include:
- How far you are from your PC/Console and if you can run a cable far enough
- Extra cords on you when you’re racing. This is especially annoying if you’re running VR.
- Interference with wireless signals and signal strength
- Batteries running out
Inbuilt Microphone vs Stand Alone Microphone
Just about all of today’s gaming headphones are going to have a built-in mic of some sort, but if you’re looking at not getting a pair of ‘gaming’ headphones and instead of getting a more traditional audio-focused pair of headphones, then you might have to think about what you’re going to do for a microphone if you’re planning on using voice comms during a race.
Personally, I have a more professional setup that I use for other applications that consists of an ElectroVoice RE320, Cloudlifter, and Yamaha MG10XU. There are obviously many other cheaper alternatives on the market, with many good USB options available.
If all you’re going to do is be on discord, or talk in the sim race, then I’d almost certainly think that a built-in microphone will be more than enough.
Open-Back vs Closed-Back
You may or may not be aware, but open-back headphones and closed-back headphones can make a huge difference to your sim racing.
- Open-back: wider sound stager meaning you can judge how close a car is to you by sound easier, however, they are loud. People around you are going to be able to hear what you are listening to so if you’re in a shared room or quiet area then you may want to avoid open-backs. They also let a lot of noise in from the outside so if you are in a noisy environment then they will do nothing to block out any sound.
- Closed-back is your traditional headphones. They prevent a lot of external noise from coming in, and people around you won’t be able to hear what you’re listening to but they have a smaller sound stage so the ability to use your ears to judge where a car is when you can’t see them, is not going to be as precise as open-backs.
In the end, it really comes down to personal preference. Closed-back headphones are what you are probably used to and are what 90% of the off-the-shelf gaming headphones are going to be.
Should I Get a Gaming Headset?
The term ‘gaming headset’ is pretty much mainstream now. They can offer an affordable option, but they can also offer some pretty average value, especially when it comes to the more expensive tiers.
At the end of the day, you’re better off getting a good quality pair of headphones from a company that specializes in audio equipment, if you have the choice. A lot of the time, you’re largely paying for the brand name when you see a ‘gaming headset’.
With that said though, I’ve currently had both gaming headsets and non-gaming ones. The HyperX’s that I’ve mentioned in this article represent good value for what is considered a gaming headset.
The time I would consider looking at gaming headsets again is if I wanted to use a built-in microphone. I currently have a standalone microphone that I use so this isn’t a concern for me at the moment, but may be something for you to consider.
There are a couple of factors to think about before you buy a headset for racing, but at the end of the day as long as you pick something that is of half decent quality, you will be fine.
I would recommend open-back headphones if you are able to use these in the environment that you’re racing in as they have the largest sound stage and make pinpointing car locations the easiest.
If you just want something that’s good quality, with an in-built microphone then have a look at the gaming headsets on this list. The ones that I’ve listed are going to be the best quality for the price, in my opinion, and are going to do a great job as all-in-one headphones/mic for all your sim racing situations.