"I’ve had this headset for five months now and I couldn’t be happier. Comfort is a major influence in my purchases and I was at first worried about the circular earcups, as they tend to press against my ears and cause cartilage cramps. But these are hefty, big enough that they surround my ears no problem. They are also incredibly light, so no having to worry about them tiring your head out.
But perhaps more important for the purposes of this guide, I’ve been a hardcore gamer since 1980. I’m primarily a PC gamer these days, although I do dabble in consoles from time to time (when a new Gran Turismo game is released, for instance, or for the occasional round of Worms). And whether I’m playing massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs), strategy games like Civilization VI, shooters like Doom, or the latest version of Magic: The Gathering, chances are good that I’m logged in to my private Ventrilo chat server, either to coordinate group attacks or to chew the fat with my gaming friends and guild mates. Granted, I’ll probably never break the personal record I set back in October 2011, when I played Rift for 24 straight hours during an Extra Life charity event, but I tend to spend at least 15 to 18 hours per week wearing a headset.
This lightweight and comfy design keeps your ears snug for long gaming sessions, and the large volume wheel on the earcup keeps the cable controller-free and as light as possible. The only downside to the headset is the immobile microphone, which could have benefitted from a removeable design, and ideally the rubberised mid-section swapped for some more malleable material as it currently adds very little in the way of adjustability.
Although they're made from plastic, the A50’s don’t feel cheap, thanks to innovative design and great build quality. The new dock/wireless transmitter doubles as a wireless charger (very nice) and Astro have added an accelerometer in the headset which tells the battery when you are/aren’t using it. This enables the headset to sleep when not in use, which, when combined with the 15 hour battery life, alleviates the main gripe with wireless headsets: the battery life. The ear cups are open-backed and made from a soft fabric, which really adds to the comfort. Their modular magnetic design means you can swap them (and the headband) out for others available via the MOD kit. Astro’s shortcomings, and we mean short, start with the slightly over compressed mic. We definitely preferred the mic on the Arctis 7 and even the Cloud Alpha. Our other gripe was that although the Command Centre software is useful, it was far too complicated for the casual user. It’s a high price, but those who can invest will not be disappointed. This is next-gen stuff.
YouTubers, Twitch streamers, podcasters, and anyone else who requires the best possible audio quality may want to skip a headset altogether. Instead, we recommend pairing top-tier headphones with a free-standing mic (and, if you’re really after the best quality, a USB mixer). A setup like this is going to be exclusive to those using a PC — or at the very least those who do their editing and voice capture there — and is going to be a lot more expensive.
They obviously work best for those who are going to be sitting right next to their PC or console, though many devices, including the Nintendo Switch system — as well as the controllers for Xbox One, PS4, and Wii U — all feature 3.5mm jacks, making distance less of an issue since these devices will be in your hands. Keep in mind the length of the connection cable if you’re connecting via 3.5mm to a PC, TV/monitor, or a sound system. In some cases, extensions or swapping for a new cable might be necessary to get the distance your setup requires.
The first major consideration is what gaming platform(s) you’ll be using with the headset, as the supported connection will differ from console to console. Modern headsets will connect via one (or more) of the following ways: Single 3.5mm, dual 3.5mm (one for headphone audio and one for mic), wired USB, wireless USB, or Bluetooth. Here’s a quick breakdown of which connection type is supported by each of the modern gaming platforms:
The Razer Thresher Ultimate packs everything you could want in a wireless headset. It's supremely comfortable, it sounds great and it has a 16-hour battery to last through a long day of gaming. The headset's 7.1 surround sound makes it easy to hear enemies coming, while its handy on-ear controls allows you to effortlessly balance game and chat audio. It doesn't hurt that the Thresher is one of the slickest set of wireless cans around, with stylish PS4 and Xbox One variations and an included receiver stand that'll make the peripheral look great sitting next to your console.
Shopping for gaming headphones is typically a very different experience than when looking at normal headphones for a commute or for office use. Gaming headphones tend be flashier and bulkier, with less thought given to portability or critical listening and more emphasis given to the microphone quality and active features. We’ve tested over 225 headphones and 107 wireless models and below are our top 5 recommendations for wireless gaming headsets.
If you already have a favorite pair of headphones that either has a cheap inline microphone or no mic at all, consider the Antlion Audio ModMic 5 (pictured above). It's a boom mic that attaches easily to your favorite pair of headphones, and can be removed when not in use thanks to a two-piece magnetic mount. You won't get any of the gaming-specific features of dedicated gaming headsets with the ModMic (and wireless is right out), but it lets you use your beloved old cans for voice chat. Just make sure you have the right connection or adapter to use it with your preferred game platform.
“The first thing to know is that I am rough on headphones. I am a college student and play Xbox for a few hours every night. These headphones have been with me for months, and I would be more than happy to buy another set if they broke today. They travel well, and have made multiple trips back and forth between home and school, packed in a backpack without space for the original box. I can clearly hear game sounds I have never heard before, and I have been told my voice sounds very clear in party chat.”
For in-depth thoughts about the Razer Tiamat 7.1, see the section above about surround sound. We also tested the Tiamat 2.2, and we all found that headset to be way too bass heavy; all of us had concerns about its build quality, as well. I found myself unable to spend much time with the original Razer Kraken Pro or Kraken 7.1 Chroma at all—in both cases the earcups weren’t very comfortable, especially with glasses, and the bass was overwhelming, sloppy, bloated, and indistinct.
Gaming headsets are much more than standard headphones. They differ in a number of ways and are designed to ensure that every gamer has everything they need for comfortable, immersive gameplay. Gaming headsets are lighter and feature ultra-soft ear cushioning that allows you to play for longer in comfort. Most headsets also feature multicoloured LED lighting so you can personalise your gaming experience and match your customised gaming set up. Multi-system compatible, they’re also built to deliver stunning sound quality whether your playing via PC, Xbox 360, PS4 or PS3.
While wireless headsets are obviously more flexible when it comes to your connection to the source device, a major constraint for USB or Bluetooth wireless headsets is compatibility, as the table above shows. You’ll only be able to use USB wireless models with PS4, PC, and, in some select cases, Xbox One or Nintendo Switch. Bluetooth headsets are compatible with PC, PS4, PS Vita, mobile devices, and, conditionally, the Nintendo Switch.
The lightweight build encases 50mm drivers capable of an impressively broad 10 – 40,000Hz frequency response – far and away beyond what any non-audiophile headset on our roundup can produce. They live up to the expectation, too. The headset offers rich and crisp sound which is plenty capable of producing solid bass without sacrificing a complete soundscape of more than acceptable mids and highs along the way.
Next up is Hellblade, where I sit back and listen to the internal voices whirling around inside Senua’s head during the game’s opening boat sequence. Since Hellblade uses binaural audio techniques (which uses two microphones to accurately measure the distance between your head and where the sound’s coming from to create a proper 3D, 360-degree soundscape – try these examples with a pair of headphones on to see what I mean), this is a great test of how a headset can be immersive and create a fully-believable sense of place. I listen to see how up close and personal the main narrator can be, as well as how the other voices come and go and titter around the periphery. If a headset can make my spine tingle (as some of them have), this is a good sign.
While the optional hi-res components (either the GameDAC with the wired version or the 2.4G Bluetooth receiver box) are only compatible with PC and PS4, the Arctis Pro is compatible with virtually every console right out of the box, either through wireless USB or 3.5mm wired connection. All players, regardless of platform, can take advantage of the headset’s excellent stereo mix and super-clear microphone — not to mention the fact that its mature design is customizable to fit your taste.