Sounds design is often a forgotten element of gaming, and yet it can make the world of difference and add atmosphere, tension or general satisfaction if done right. But no matter how well a game’s sound designer does their job, if you rely on TV speakers or low-end headphones then chances are you won’t get to enjoy the best of what’s on offer.
One option that’s often overlooked is a decent set of speakers. While a decent spec headset will offer excellent sound quality there’s something to be said for the more roomy nature of speakers pumping sound into the room instead of being millimetres from your ears. The pioneer DM-50D-BT speakers are primarily designed for music production and DJ monitoring, but we were given the chance to hook them up to as many gaming devices as we could to see if they’d be a good option for some booming gaming.
As you can imagine from the BT part of the model name these speakers have Bluetooth connectivity on top of the usual DM-50D speakers, but don’t expect to be able to use that for your gaming. I tried to pair them with my PS5, before finding out the hard way that Sony don’t like the idea of third party Bluetooth devices and giving up. Fortunately my TV has Bluetooth audio as well, so I paired it with that but found that even with the latest version of Bluetooth there was a slight delay between the action and the sound, something acknowledged on the Pioneer website as an unfortunate side effect of Bluetooth. For gaming then, the wireless connection is pretty much off the menu. But for the sake of completeness I did hook up my phone to the speakers to test them out for their music capabilities and they sounded awesome. So while the gaming side of things doesn’t benefit from the Bluetooth, it most definitely works for digital music (I’ll briefly mention vinyl later).
So what options do we have to hook up our gaming kit then? There’s TRS and RCA inputs (handy for mixers and such, but not much use for your average gamer), but the most likely option is the 3.5mm port which will let you connect a headphone socket to the speakers via a male to male 3.5mm cable. Annoyingly my TV doesn’t have a headphone output either, so to get this fired up with the PS5 I needed to run a cable from the controller into the speakers. That’s clearly not a decent long term option to have a cable trailing across the lounge into the controller, so if you’re similarly short on connection options and want a longer term solution you’re looking at something akin to an HDMI audio extractor, which would be perfect for something like this.
But we’re connected, so let’s look at how they sound. Firing up F1 22 instantly showed off the range these speakers kick out, giving the F1 power units their customary mix of grunty growls and whiny electrical power. Running over the curbs gave some lovely bassy rumbles and the speakers gave a clear indication where the cars were around me with some crystal clear definition between left and right. So far, so good. Gran Turismo 7 was next, known for its more aggressive engine sounds and my god they sounded good. Every last little cough, growl and pop from the brutal engines inside the higher powered car came through with force and clarity. If you’ve ever played GT7 through a decent headset you’ll know the difference it can make, but having that fill the room around you is something else. Finally, and for something a bit different, I went for Horizon Zero Dawn. As a quieter game with stealthy mechanics, voice acting and that stunning soundtrack I wanted to see what kind of mix I got through the speakers, and I can tell you with no uncertainty that every last detail, every echoing machine in the distance, every footstep nearby… it all came through. It was fantastic, and hearing that gorgeous soundtrack under it all as well just sealed the deal.
So for gaming, once you get everything hooked up, they’re fantastic. Very much recommended and they make a genuine difference, not just to the sound but to how you play the games as well.
One last thing to mention though. A couple of years ago I got a record player, found that gaming soundtracks on vinyl was a thing, and a new obsession started. Playing Horizon made me want to try the soundtrack itself through these speakers, and as one of my favourite soundtracks that I own on vinyl I hooked up the speakers via the RCA connections to my amp and dropped the needle. You know that feeling when you think you’ve been enjoying something to its full extent and then realise there are better options out there? I was always happy with my setup. The speakers were the ones that came with the stereo and amp, and have always been fine, but having heard them through the Pioneer speakers it’s quite clear that’s as far as they went. Fine. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that these speakers are the best speakers on the market. They’re £200 for a start, which for what you’re getting is incredible value, but I’m sure spending five times more would get you something even better. But for both gaming and music, unless you’ve already got a decent set of speakers doing their finest work, these will be a brilliantly priced and worthy upgrade.
It’s a bit of a shame the connectivity doesn’t suit gaming as much as it could, but these aren’t gaming speakers. They’re not designed for purposes with HDMI pass-through or digital inputs. As such getting these to fire up with a console is a bit awkward, but if you’re gaming on a PC, have a TV with a headphone or RCA output, or want something to fill your lounge or bedroom with fantastic quality music, I can very happily suggest the DM-50D-BT speakers. It’s most definitely redefined how I should be hearing my games and music.