Why Pros Use Earbuds AND Headphones

If you watch pro gaming tournaments with any regularity you’ve probably already noticed that players are often wearing both earbuds and headphones at the same time. Sometimes they’re even wearing a second headset around their neck, but why is that?

The explanation is fairly simple: the earbuds are playing the actual ingame sounds, while the headphones/headset that they’re wearing is a noise-reducing pair which is usually also transmitting white noise. Sometimes (but not always) pros are also wearing a third headset around their neck, which is mostly for sponsoring reasons, though sometimes they’ll use the mic on that pair for communication. This is all done to make sure no outside sounds (casters and crowd mostly) can reach the players so that there’s no chance of them picking up vital information from either the casters or the audience, and to ensure a relatively distraction-free playing environment.

KennyS and Ex6TenZ wearing the familiar setup at ESL Cologne 2018.
Source: 99Damage CSGO


The earbuds usually aren’t seriously specialized or extremely expensive earbuds. In most (if not all) cases players choose what they want to wear, and quite often they seem to go for a decent pair of mid-range earbuds, such as the Razer Hammerhead. As mentioned, the earbuds will take care of all of the ingame sound, so it’s not wise to cheap out here, but it’s also not necessary to go for super high-end audiophile products either. A LAN tournament is a very noisy environment, and combine that with the vibrations of the bass on the stage and the overall bustling atmosphere and it’s quite clear that you won’t be able to fully appreciate the subtleties of a high-end audiophile pair.

The headphones/headset

The earbuds that the pros are using on stage are consumer-grade earbuds, but the same can’t be said about the set of cans that they wear over them. These are quite often (high-end) aviation headsets, which are specifically designed to reduce the amount of outside noise that reaches your ears to an absolute minimum. In addition to outfitting the players with these noise-canceling headsets, events will usually also play white noise through the headset in order to further reduce the odds of the players picking up any crowd calls or sounds.

The ‘third headset’

Sometimes players will have a third consumer-grade headset hanging around their neck. This is mostly done to allow the team/player gear sponsor to display their products, or when there is no mic on the main noise-canceling headphones. Players will use the microphone on these third headsets to communicate with their teammates, but otherwise they serve no purpose.



Competitive/semi-pro gamer for over a decade now. Damn I'm getting old. Whenever I'm not gaming I like to write about games and hardware.

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13 Responses

  1. Miles says:

    Why don’t they just use the noise cancellation headphones for the game audio as well??? I mean I saw In one event that they were using Bose headphones… Which i believe has good sound clarity. Why use another earphones for the game sound???

  2. David says:

    What are the absolute best gaming earbuds that the pros use for CS-go. Price is no issue. I’ll gladly pay $500 for a pair of good earbuds. I want a built in mic. But if I have to buy separate mic, I can do that. I’ll be using these at home so the best is ok. I hate wearing headset on my head.

    • propeller says:

      hyperx cloud v2 best headset

    • BigChungusBigChanges says:

      you’ll have a hard time getting a good microphone on earbuds, but for gaming, most decent earbuds should do. Even razer’s tws earbuds have a super low latency mode for gaming, but even non-gaming ones will do you just fine. I’ve been using tin t2 pros without complaint. definitely buy a mic separate though. There is no best since sound itself is very much personal preference. If you want something by a gaming company I’ve heard great things about the hyper-x earbuds

    • Mio says:

      Razer Hammerhead USB-C ANC
      Want a cheap test? KZ ZSN

  3. Daniel Shnaydman says:

    Is there an advantage to using earbuds over a headset for game audio? If not, why do they not use the noise- cancelling headset for game audio instead of having earbuds, which some people (like me) find uncomfortable..

  4. FraggerFly says:

    I have a headset with mic but I don’t use that, I stead I use earbuds, but I want to set up both like pros, that is use earbuds for in game sound and headset mic for communication, how can I do it

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