Today’s home gaming systems are absolutely incredible. They feature stunning graphics, offer vast software libraries full of fun games, and provide endless hours of entertainment. Best of all, today’s systems let you connect to other players online for head-to-head action. These so-called net games are made all the more attractive because you can actually talk to other participants as you play — as long as you’ve got a Microsoft unit and an Xbox 360 headset, that is.

Some gamers might think that the Xbox 360 headset is the least of their worries. In fact, many probably just use the cheesy set that comes bundled with some versions of the main system. Sure, that particular Xbox 360 headset is fine in that it allows you to communicate with fellow players, but that’s about all it does. The connection is occasionally spotty, and sometimes the thing doesn’t work at all. Plus, it’s obvious that Microsoft didn’t spend a ton of money on these headsets. They’re cheaply made, and their performance is about what you’d expect from a freebie.

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But if you really want a complete gaming experience, then you should invest in a high-quality Xbox 360 headset. There are several third-party designs on the market that would be worth checking out. From reading some user reviews of these other headsets, I’ve learned that the number one feature to look for when buying an Xbox 360 headset is the sound quality. When you use top-of-the-line headphones, you’ll discover that you’re now able to pick up lots of ambient game noises that you weren’t even aware of before. This can give you a crucial boost when playing first-person shooter games where stealth is tied to success.

How much does a good Xbox 360 headset cost? It really depends on the model you select. If you go with a wireless unit with a sleek and stylish design, you could end up spending more than $100. If you go for a mid-range product that provides better sound clarity than the original, but isn’t the best on the market, you might have to part with $30 or so. Some people wouldn’t be willing to part with that kind of money just for headphones, but if you’re serious about gaming, then investing in a high-quality Xbox 360 headset is a no-brainer.

No matter which model you decide to go with, I recommend buying your Xbox 360 headset online. You’ll almost certainly get a better deal at a web store than at Best Buy or EB Games, and you can use the savings towards extending your Live Gold membership.

If you don’t think the headphones you use can make a difference in how you play video games, try out a buddy’s pair before you go ahead and buy. I bet you’ll never want to go back to the cheap ones again!