Gaming Headphones Buying Guide – Which Massdrop Headphones Are Right For You (M220 Pro, PC37X, K7XX or HD6XX)

I love Massdrop! Sure, not every deal they offer is a “deal”, but I’ve saved money on quite a few items and discovered and bought a few more. My favorite, though, are their exclusive collaborations with other companies where they do a slight cosmetic change on a popular product, often improving upon the original and always offering it at a big discount. These collaborations are now called Massdrop Made.

Probably the most popular Massdrop products are their headphones. If I remember well, they started with 3 variations of Fostex headphones, offering them in 3 different wood finishes. Now the Massdrop Made Audiophile page is very well populated with some fairly serious offerings in the DAC, amp and headphones department. In fact, it’s great place to update your gaming audio hardware.

In this article we’ll examine their headphone offering and try to elaborate on why some deals might be better than others (for you). Even though I think you can’t really make a mistake with any their current offers, some of the headphones do offer better value and performance when talking about gaming.

Right from the start, I am going to exclude all IEMs from our review as I consider the over-the-ear phones to be the traditional gaming phones. Furthermore, we won’t consider Massdrop’s Fostex TR-X00 headphones, which at more than $400 might be above the budget for most gamers (even though they are great) and we haven’t had them here in the office (maybe in a future update?).

Massdrop x AKG M220 Pro ($49.99) – Best Budget Gaming Headphones

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AKGs M220 Pro are a great deal at $50. They are a big step above any of the cheap gaming-branded plasticky stuff from China for both gaming and music. I would honestly not consider any headphones for less than $50. If that is above your budget, save a few months more and then buy the M220 Pro.

Really, for $50 you can’t go wrong with these phones. They are lightweight with comfortable cups and won’t bother you even during long listening sessions. They will sound OK right from your PC headphone jack or smartphone and can only improve with a DAC/amp combo (something like the Dragonfly).

M220 Pro’s sound is well balanced and neutral with good soundstage width. The sound is clear, especially in the high ranges and they only lack a bit in terms of dynamics and micro details. Still, plenty there to allow you to enjoy gaming and music and be quite content.

They are based on AKG studio model phones, so their signature is flat and they can lack a bit of bass and punch. You can find cheaper headphones that sound more “fun” right out of the PC jack, but they won’t offer the build quality of the M220s or the sound improvement when adding DAC/amp in the chain.

Also, keep in mind that they are open-back phones (like the rest in this guide), so people around you will be able to hear what you’re listening to.

If $50 is all you can afford, these phones are a no-brainer. You can stop reading here as the next headphones are all over $100!

Massdrop x Sennheiser PC37X ($119.99) – Best Pure Gaming Headset

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The Sennheiser PC37X are made for gaming and you can tell. They are super comfortable (clamp pressure can be adjusted), include a mike for player chatting and have a well-balanced sound that won’t give you ear fatigue during long sessions.

If you need a quality headset with a mike and you plan to use it mainly for gaming, it tough to beat the PC37X. They are a step above the M220 Pros in sound quality and you’ll be happy with them while gaming, listening to music or watching movies.

Sennheiser is a proper audio company, not a “gaming” company, so these will beat anything Logitech or Corsair can throw at them in the sound quality department. By investing a bit more in a DAC and amp you can take them even further.

Compared to the AKG M220 Pro, you get a mike and a fuller, more engaging sound (especially with a DAC/amp) that will offer you more enjoyment in gaming, music and movies. These improvements come at more than double the price, though. However, if you can reach to them, they are well worth it.

Massdrop x AKG K7XX vs Sennheiser HD 6XX: Which is the Better Headphone ($199.99)

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The K7XX and the HD 6XX are two of the most popular products on Massdrop. Both are inspired/based on two bestselling headsets, the AKG K702 65th-anniversary edition and the Sennheiser HD650. Of the two, HD650 has a much bigger resume, and is considered by many people as one of the stages in a headphone/audiophile journey. Up to a few years ago, many head-fiers identified themselves with either being a HD650 or a HD600 guy/girl and that would immediately bring to mind the sound signature that person prefers.

I am not going to waste words (or paper) on the specs; you can find them on their pages if that means something to you. Both headphones are great and an amazing value. The quality you get from both for the money was unimaginable just a few years ago. In fact, when the HD650 and AKG K702 anniversary first came out, both of them were priced at more than $600!

What you get here above the other two phones is better dynamics, micro and macro details and the ability to hear separate instruments in complex music passages. However, paying for these phones over the PC37X is only worth it if you are ready to invest in a DAC/amp combo or separates. The minimum I would recommend putting aside is an additional $200 on top of the price of the headphones. That can net you a nice second-hand separates or a decent combo that will show some of the potential of these phones. While a DAC/amp would undoubtedly also improve the two cheaper headphones in this guide, it is a must for the K7XX and the HD 6XX.

Without a decent DAC/amp, the K7XX can sound harsh, thin and sibilant, lacking in bass and giving you sound fatigue. The HD 6XX on the other hand can sound dull and lifeless, micro details veiled and lacking in dynamics. You’ll wonder why someone would pay $200 for this, and either sell them or give them away. And both of these phones deserve better.

Sure, you can first get the phones and then save for the DAC/amp, but only after adding them in your audio chain can you really hear their true voice.

Which is the Better Gaming Headphone?

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Now, while both are great phones, they are not equal. First, you have to understand that they were made for music, not gaming, and they have different ideas how to present music to you. The HD 6XX excels in the midrange, especially with voices and timbre, while K7XX is more about space, soundstage, extension and sparkle in the highs. These differences will bring different sound qualities to the fore.

So which headphone is better for gaming? That would entirely depend on what games you play!

For competitive gaming, a sound signature that is free from mid-bass muddiness and strong sub-bass, has a clear midrange, with a spacious soundstage and great imaging, works best. Things that can distract you from focusing on the tactical and locational cues are not helping. Additionally, a competitive gaming headphone needs to have a good micro detail retrieval that is well-suited to surround processing (telling front from back, high from low). These attributes fit the character of AKG K7XX better than they do HD 6XX.

However, if you predominantly play RPGs, strategy games or other games where ambience and emotion is more important than precise tactical awareness, I think HD 6XX trumps the AKGs. I remember preferring Witcher 3 and Warhammer: Total War with the Sennheiser on our office setup which includes a $1000+ DAC and a $400 amp (pic below).

I also liked HD 6XX better for music and movies, too. For example, when listening to Haley Reinhart on Postmodern Jukebox’s Creep and Seven Nation Army, her voice was smooth, colorful and playful, while K7XX rendition was slightly thinner and harsher making me fiddle with the volume knob and never finding the right level. My notes also show I preferred the HD 6XX for male voices.

Please note that the differences between the phones aren’t that great and are a result of my whole sound chain not just the phones. In fact, I can see how someone with a different system (or ears) may actually prefer the K7XX.

For example, once I removed the DAC and amp from the chain and plugged the phones directly into an Asus DX sound card, the situation changed and I, overall, preferred the AKG K7XX for games AND music.


Now let’s try to make some sense from this for potential buyers.

If you mostly play first person shooters which use positional audio and being able to hear and correctly locate enemies’ footsteps is the most important aspect of sound for you, go for AKG K7XX and don’t look back.

Furthermore, if you are looking for a plug-and-play headset predominantly for gaming, the AKG is also a better bet – it can provide you with a great sound quality at a lower price point that HD 6XX, when you factor in the DAC/amp.

However, if you need a headset for gaming, music and movies, don’t mind spending a bit more on a suitable DAC/amp and cables and aren’t afraid of a bit of modding, the HD 6XX is a better deal.

You see, the magic of the HD650 has always been in its scalability, and so is for the HD 6XX. If you haven’t heard a modded HD 650 on a $10k tube amp, you can’t even imagine the potential this headphone has. At that level, the difference between a HD 650 and HD 800 ($1400+ phones) becomes a matter of taste and what music you are listening to.

Even the AKG K7XX can be more of a headphone than many people need. If you just need a good set to enjoy your games and enhance you PC media-consumption experience, they are a great choice. Grab a cheap DAC/amp combo and plug them in – simple as that.

On the other hand, if you see the purchase of headphones as the first step in an audiophile journey, if you plan to invest money in DACs and amps (and then sell them to get even better ones), the HD 6XX would be my pick. It’s a headphone that is infinitely moddable: change of cables, damping, coin mod etc. To see what is possible, check this SBAF page for HD650. Because of this, it’s a headphone that will still stay with you, an old pal, relevant even when you get headphones 3-4 times more expensive.

And this is where I’ll leave things stand.

Sound can be a very personal experience. I’ve made my pick, what about you?

We look forward to your experiences with these headphones in the comments below.

About Robert Nakagawa

Robert was born in Akihabara, Tokyo, which of course meant he can never escape his geekiness. He spends his time installing mods for Skyrim, getting zeroed on GoT: Conquest and running the Editorial staff at Gaming Guide. He loves RPGs and strategy games.

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