Separate Microphone vs Using a Headset | Pros and Cons Of Each

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  January 9, 2021

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There are several reasons why you might need to invest in a microphone in addition to your headset.

Whether you work from home, record podcasts, stream, or spend lots of time gaming, your tech gear determines the audio quality of your recordings, conferences, and game experience.

As you set up your audio system for optimal performance, you have to decide whether to buy a headset or a separate microphone.

These are the two options, but they are both different, even though they have a similar price point. The mic is by far the superior audio device.

You could already be using a headset for gaming or making video calls for work, but when should you buy a separate microphone vs. just use your headset?

Should I use a headset or a separate mic

The quality of your headset’s audio is not as good as you would get from a separate dedicated microphone because the small mic in your headset cannot register all of the frequencies correctly.

This means your listeners don’t hear you in crystal clear audio. So if you’re serious about recording your voice, you will want to buy a separate mic.

Suppose you’re interested in podcasting, vlogging, and probably even live streaming games, or doing anything where you’ll be recording your voice to use in creative work. In that case, you’ll want to look into a separate mic.

I’ll explain the differences between the two and tell you why they’re both suitable options, especially for gaming and work, but why you should invest in that separate mic if you want the best audio quality.

What is a separate microphone?

If you want to record a podcast or stream your best games, you need a high-quality microphone so everyone can hear you loud and clear.

A microphone is a separate piece of audio equipment that plugs into your computer.

There are two types of mics: USB and XLR.

USB Mic

A USB mic is a smaller microphone that you plug into your computer’s USB port.

It’s great for gamers and streamers because it ensures you are heard in the gaming realm as you yell out those instructions for your teammates.

It’s also handy if you want to discuss important projects with your work colleagues because the sound quality is much better than what you get with a headset.

XLR Mic

The XLR mic, also known as a studio mic, offers the best sound quality, but it comes with a hefty price tag.

If you are a singer or musician, you want to use an XLR mic to perform and stream high-quality audio. Even podcasts sound much more professional if you record with an XLR.

Next to the mic’s connection type, there are two main types of microphones: dynamic and condenser.

Dynamic Mic

If you are recording in your home, you want to use a dynamic mic, which effectively cancels out background noise and is suitable for non-studio spaces like your living room or busy offices.

Condenser Mic

If you have an insulated recording studio, the condenser mic offers the best audio quality.

It needs to be connected to a power outlet, so you can’t move it around, but the recording’s depth will surprise you.

These mics have the widest frequency response, which means superior sound for your recordings.

When it comes to sound quality, the headsets are no match for a good plug-in mic simply because the sound is much clearer through the mic.

Headsets are continually improving, but for serious streaming and recording, the full-sized plug-in mic is still superior.

Best Microphones

When choosing a microphone, the major factor to consider is the mic’s polar pattern.

When you record, the sound gets picked up in the polar pattern, which is the area right around the mic.

There are three main types of polar patterns, and they pick up the sound around them at various angles. This has a direct effect on how much sound is recorded.

As you record your voice, you want to use a mic with extended frequency response, like the Audio-Technica ATR2100x-USB Cardioid Dynamic Microphone (ATR Series), because it isolates the sounds you want to record and blocks out the outside noises.

Most mics are omnidirectional, which means they pick up the sound by listening in all directions.

Some mics pick up the noise in a hyper-cardioid pattern, which just means that the mic listens to sound in a narrow and selective area just around the mic. Therefore, it blocks out sounds coming from other directions.

Most gamers prefer a mic with LED metering like the Blue Yeti, which allows you to check your voice level for optimal sound.

For more options, check out my in-depth review of the condenser microphones under $200.

If you live in a particularly busy neighborhood with lots of outside noise, such as a major road, you might consider a mic with a noise-canceling feature.

It ensures your audience can’t hear background noises and your voice takes center stage.

Also read: Best Microphones For Noisy Environment Recording.

What is a headset?

A headset refers to headphones with an attached microphone. This type of audio device connects to a phone or a computer and allows the user to listen and talk.

The headsets fit tightly but comfortably around the head, and the small mic sticks out near the side of the cheek. The user speaks straight into the headset’s built-in mic.

The mics are mostly unidirectional, which means they pick up sound from one direction only, hence the inferior sound quality compared to studio mics.

If you plan on podcasting and recording your voice, you want to switch from a headset alone to a separate mic because the audio quality is almost incomparable.

After all, you want your audience to hear your voice, not the headset mic buzzing.

Headsets are most popular with gamers, especially streamers, because they can hear the other players and communicate back to teammates.

A headset is convenient because it allows the user to have their hands free to type or play.

Gaming headsets are customized for the gaming experience and designed with comfort in mind, as many players spend long hours wearing the devices.

A good headset is fine for gamers and daily Zoom calls, but it’s not nearly as useful for voice recording because your audio is less qualitative.

Headsets are also widely used in the tech support and customer service industry because it allows the operator to talk to the customer while typing.

Best Headsets

As I mentioned before, headsets are not exclusively for gaming.

With more and more people working from home, headsets are essential gadgets for successful conferences, meetings, and Zoom calls.

The main aspect to look for when buying a headset is comfort.

Headsets must be light enough, so they don’t wear your head down, especially if you’re using them for hours on end.

The material of the ear pads should be soft, so it doesn’t irritate your ears.

As well, the headband should be thick, so it fits on your head correctly, ensuring comfort.

Gamers have different needs compared to those working from home.

Gaming is an immersive experience; thus, the headset must offer specific features.

These include:

The gamer needs access to adjustment levels and easy to reach control buttons.

Compared to microphones, most headsets are a bit cheaper, like the Razer Kraken, which has a cardioid mic that reduces background noise.

Separate Microphone vs Using a Headset: Pros & Cons

Depending on what you want to use the gadget for, you need to weigh the pros and cons of both gadgets.

Pros of Headsets

The headsets also have their advantages of course, such as:

Headsets don’t require any other extra equipment. The user plugs it into the USB port to start talking and streaming.

The headset is worn on the head, and the microphone is close to the mouth, so you have your hands free to use the keyboard or controller.

A headset does not pick up most of the keyboard noise. In contrast, the studio mic picks up many of the keyboard strokes so others can hear them through your internet phone service.

Most headsets are quite efficient at cutting out background noise, so all people hear is your voice.

Pros of Desk-Mounted / Separate Mics

As I previously mentioned, when your task requires high-quality surround sound audio, the mic is the best option.

A dedicated mic can help you record higher quality audio and ensure your voice is heard loud and clear.

There are several reasons why you should choose a separate mic over a headset:

Separate Microphone vs Using a Headset: Our Final Verdict

Both headsets and desk-mounted mics are suitable options if you like to play games with your teammates.

But, if you record podcasts or music, you’re better off with a high-res studio mic.

For work, teaching, and Zoom meeting, the headset can do the job, but you’ll always risk transmitting keyboard noises and buzzing sounds.

Therefore, we recommend the standalone mic, which has a wider frequency response and offers superior sound.

If you are looking for a recording device for church, check out: Best Wireless Microphones For Church.

          Joost Nusselder, the founder of Neaera is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new equipment with guitar at the heart of his passion, and together with his team, He's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2020 to help loyal readers with recording and guitar tips.

Check me out on Youtube where I try out all of this gear:

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