Bruno Ferreira, managing editor and sysadmin
A nice pair of headphones
I'm a big fan of good sound, but night-time recording or gaming aren't activities that lend themselves to the thumping volume of a speaker system. What you need is a proper pair of studio-grade headphones, like the $150 Beyerdynamic DT-770 Pro or the $140 Audio-Technica ATH-M50x. Either of these pair o'cans has a closed back (my personal preference) and sound quality that will blast any overpriced vegetable-branded set out of the water. There's a reason why studio engineers worldwide trust either of the models above with their recordings.
An arcade joystick
Fighting games have seen a resurgence of sorts over the past few years. The Street Fighter franchise is going strong, and us PC gamers can now finally play Tekken 7. Me, I never really stopped playing them, as I have a collection of emulators that fill my old-school beat'em up needs just fine. Although it's perfectly feasible to play fighting games on a keyboard, it's hard to pull off certain moves and not very enjoyable altogether. Enter an arcade joystick.
Buying one of these things used to be an exercise in either frustration or expense, since sticks would tend to fall on two categories: cheap and nasty, or nice and expensive. Thankfully, it's much simpler these days. Most beginners will be happy with either the Mayflash F100 ($40, for those with smaller hands) or the Mayflash F500 ($90, for larger gerbil paws). Either of these sticks is quite solidly built and easily moddable with aftermarket parts (we just know you'll upgrade sooner or later). The higher-end model has extra functionality like rumble and a headset port.
A nice HOTAS set
Contrary to what you may be thinking, HOTAS is an acronym, not a way to type "hot behind." It stands for Hands On Throttle And Stick, and references (at least) a joystick-and-throttle set for playing flight or space sims. Both those game types have become popular in the past decade after being ignored for most of the late 90s and early 2000s. Fans of War Thunder and Elite: Dangerous, for example, are legion.
While you certainly can get some serious bits of kit (as is the case with anything involving "simulation"), there are affordable choices that will let you punch holes in enemy planes instead of in your bank account. The Thrustmaster T.16000M FCS HOTAS is one of those. The joystick has Hall-effect magnetic sensors and exchangeable parts for ambidextrous operation. Meanwhile, the throttle is suitably big and has configurable resistance. Gifting a HOTAS set would often be an expensive proposition, but the T.16000M goes for a reasonable $107. There's also a version with a pair of rudder pedals for $160.
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