I have no idea how to set up a home theater system. There are so many speakers and so many cables and they never seem to have the right kind of plug. I don’t want to spend that much time thinking about how I watch TV or how I hear the videogames that I play. I just want to spend that time watching TV or playing the videogames that I play. Technology should be simpler.
That’s why Sennheiser’s U320 headphones have rarely left my head the last few weeks. These phones with a high-quality built-in mic are marketed for games, and it’s certainly a better set than the Xbox 360 pack-ins or the two different Sony-branded PlayStation 3 headsets I’ve used. And they work well for the Wii U, too, even though there’s no mention of Nintendo’s weird little system on the U320’s packaging.
Setup is simple: just stick the U320’s USB plug into the console’s USB slot, and then connect the red and white RCA plugs into the TV’s stereo output jacks. It’s slightly more complicated if you use component cables for your consoles or if your TV doesn’t have stereo outputs, but you don’t have to be some kind of Marconi to get these things working. I mean, they’re headphones—how complicated can they be?
These comfortably designed cans (the pros call headphones “cans”) deliver crisp and clear stereo sound, with a special emphasis on the bass. Sound is more crucial to games than ever before, now that every damn game feels the need to talk to us, and strapping these speakers tight against my earholes helped me catch nuances I had otherwise missed when depending upon the impotent speakers of my cheap HD TV.
Sometimes headphones give me a headache. That’s not necessarily because of the volume (which, yes, I probably keep a little too loud) but because of the tension of all that plastic bearing down on my head. I’ve worn the U320s for hours at a time without any discomfort. And the microphone attachment nails the appropriate degree of firmness—it’s easy to adjust, and once adjusted is always perfectly poised mere inches from my mouth, ready to instantly relay my valuable commentary to my friends and teammates. And the audio quality over the mic is crisper than I expected.
Crucially the U320 also works perfectly fine for my regular TV viewing regimen. I’m pretty much always up later than my wife, and now when the Braves are on a West Coast tilt I can watch until the final out at full volume without bothering her. Even our dog, who barks if I make a sound louder than a sigh, can snuggle up quietly in his bed without hearing anything from the TV.
The U320 works for PCs and Macs, too, but Sennheiser has an even better option for computer games. The PC363D has many of the U320’s strengths, but also outputs in 7.1 Virtual Surround Sound. It offers the full depth and richness of sound of a complicated Surround Sound set-up in a single pair of headphones, and again with a superb built-in microphone. And just as the U320 is an excellent choice for TV viewing, the PC363D is the best set of phones I’ve used for listening to or making music on my computer. Either set would be a smart addition to your gaming setup.