In this edition of the 2021 GamingShogun Holiday Gift Guide series, we take a look at our top audio output-related gifts for that certain someone on your shopping list (or even just a “you gift”). This category is all about audio output, and that means we are looking at speakers, soundbars, headphones, etc.
Soundbars are a great category of speaker for home or office as they’re so versatile. Packed into a narrow, more portable form factor can be a wellspring of surround sound technology. With this being a very popular market, we thought we’d separate out our picks for both gaming and home theater sound bars.
The Creative Labs Sound Blaster Katana V2 ($329.99)
Creative Labs Sound BlasterX Katana soundbar was an excellent purchase back in 2019 (and still today), but Creative has taken the Katana to the next level with the Katana V2. Not only does it have Dolby decoding capabilities (although no Atmos support), it also has a plethora of connectivity options sure to fit in with your home entertainment system or office gaming computer ecosystem. The Katana V2 is capable of some powerful, room-filling sound and even has pre-set equalizer settings for a variety of uses (music, gaming, etc.). As a nice bonus, it also features some beautiful RGB lighting (which can be disabled if you’re not an RGB lighting fan – for shame).
Home Theater Soundbars
SAMSUNG 3.1.2ch Q700A Q Series Soundbar ($699.99)
Samsung’s 3.1.2 channel Q700A Q Series Soundbar is a monster of audio perfection. Not only does it support full Dolby Atmos and DTS: X decoding but, also, it has the option to pair up some additional wireless Dolby Atmos rear speakers for even more surround sound goodness. Its got a high price point but if you are desiring the utmost audio quality from your home theater setup and don’t want a discrete surround sound solution, you won’t be disappointed by the Samsung Q700A Q series soundbar.
The Creative Labs Stage 360 ($229.99)
Another Creative Labs soundbar graces this gift guide – this time, in the home theater category. No, it’s not the Creative SXFI CARRIER. It’s the CARRIER’s little, younger sibling, the Stage360. Costing a fraction of what the CARRIER does, the Stage360 features near and far-field virtual surround sound modes with Dolby Atmos support. It also allows users to connect up to two HDMI 2.0 devices and an additional device through the optical input. Despite the fact that it does not have a wireless subwoofer, its ample features make up for it in spades – especially at its hyper-reasonable price point.
EPOS H6Pro Open and Closed Acoustic Gaming Headphones ($179.99)
EPOS (the company that formerly made gaming headphones for Sennheiser) has been releasing some very good headphones this year. Our favorite of the bunch, and the one that earned a spot in this gift guide, is the EPOS H6Pro – both in closed and open-backed varieties (depending on what you prefer). Both variations of this set of wired headphones offer crystal clear soundstages (which actually sound amazing while just listening to music too) along with comfy padding for most head shapes. Something to note about the H6Pro headset is that it takes a lot from its roots and is not meant to be an ear-exploding bass-pumping experience. Instead, these were meant to provide as clear, natural sound as possible.
Razer BlackShark V2 Pro Wireless ($179.99)
Razer’s lineup of headphones seems to grow by the day and keeping up with them can be tedious. They have headphones for just about any platform or use case. For my money, however, the best gaming headset for your money is the Razer BlackShark V2 Pro. It’s super-comfy, features amazing passive outside noise cancelation thanks to its closed-back design, and supports THX Spatial Audio surround sound for elevating your intense gameplay sessions. Even better is that it supports both wired and wireless modes (using Razer’s HyperSpeed wireless connection).
Apple AirPods Max ($549)
Apple has come into their own as a headphone and earbud-maker and each iteration seems to improve upon what came before (except for those uncomfortable AirPods third generation – what were they thinking there?!?). The AirPods Max are stylish, lightweight, comfortable, and feature some crystal clear sound. With the addition of spatial audio with position tracking support, listening to your favorite playlist is like attending your own personal concert. In addition, this makes for some very satisfying movie-watching even from a small smartphone screen. You can even pair the wireless AirPods Max to your Apple TV – nifty!