The A10 has it where it counts though, which is to say it sounds great. We’re talking “great for a $60 headset,” of course, but still. The A10 delivers clean mids and a rich bass that comes close to mimicking the sound of Astro’s more expensive headsets and only falters in the details. Details, I might add, that most listeners probably wouldn’t even notice day-to-day. (Read our full review.)
We run the risk of appearing to be in the tank for Kingston, but even before I pointed out the brand of the HyperX Cloud Stinger, all of our testers agreed that it was the new budget gaming headset to beat. Unlike the company’s previous low-cost headsets, the Cloud Stinger isn’t just a neutered version of the original Cloud. This model includes a fantastic new lift-to-mute mic that sounds great, and it’s big enough to fit the largest of noggins comfortably for hours on end. Despite its all-plastic construction, the Cloud Stinger feels more solid and durable than many of its high-priced competitors. And while its sound isn’t as neutral or impactful as our pick’s, the results are far better than you might expect, with good detail, solid bass, and midrange that doesn’t sound nasal or quacky.
Steelseries’ premium headset is considerably more expensive than the Arctis 7, yet offers unrivalled audio quality and customisation in return. The Siberia 840 boasts a quietly understated design, rather than flashing lights and flair. Wireless support works perfectly with no pesky lag and the hot swappable battery system keeps you powered up at all times. Plus full Dolby 7.1 surround sound support means you get a truly immersive experience.
Our only gripe with this headset design is the sidetone appears to be constantly on and you cannot turn this off in Windows settings. This means you have to put up with the sound of your own voice coming back at you through the headset. We assume this is necessary due to the all-encompassing nature of the earcups otherwise you'll likely find yourself shouting, especially when playing louder games.
Perhaps the most surprising thing about the audio performance of the Game One was just how staggering and hard-hitting its low frequencies were when necessary. Dying Light, for instance, is a particularly tactile game that mostly consists of the player thwacking zombies in the head with large metal pipes and other blunt instruments. Few headsets in our roundup came close to matching the visceral thuds the Game One rendered. In our Star Wars: Battlefront sessions, the thermal imploder bombs that occasionally wreak havoc on the battlefield felt and sounded as if they were cranked out by a good subwoofer.
Not all telephone headsets are compatible with all telephone models. Because headsets connect to the telephone via the standard handset jack, the pin-alignment of the telephone handset may be different from the default pin-alignment of the telephone headset. To ensure a headset can properly pair with a telephone, telephone adapters or pin-alignment adapters are available. Some of these adapters also provide mute function and switching between handset and headset.
To make sure a headset can handle lighter instrumental tracks, I use a combination of Final Fantasy XV’s Piano Collection soundtrack, Austin Wintory’s Transfiguration EP from Journey, Ace Attorney’s Gyakuten Meets Orchestra concert, and a light sprinkling of my Breath of the Wild: Sound Selection CD and the Bravely Default soundtrack. I also listen to regular bands and songs, including the likes of Turin Brakes, Queen, Maximo Park, a bit of David Bowie and the opening themes to space anime Knights of Sidonia and grim naked giant anime Attack on Titan, again testing for overall balance, clarity and general toe-tapping grooviness.
With a frequency range more impressive than Tiger Woods’ love affairs, three EQ modes and Dolby’s virtual 7.1 surround sound, Astro have got it covered. On its default setting, the A50s produced one of the most immersive audio gaming experiences we encountered. The ‘studio’ setting gives a flatter EQ, allowing movies and music to be heard as intended, whilst the ‘pro’ setting reduced bass, allowing footsteps and other slight noises to be more distinguishable.
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.
This headset creates the most immersive audio playback on this list. Period. It has five pairs of drivers inside the ear cups, which inject ear popping audio directly into your cerebrum, while the noise cancelling tech reduces up to 90% of environmental sound. Which is probably more beneficial to everyone else in your house, to be honest. The provided amp is required to power these monsters, but they also deliver something that the SteelSeries Arctis Pro and Astro A50 can’t - true surround output. This allows you to hook your PC up to any other surround sound systems in your possession and get this party started.
Another issue for surround sound, aside from space for the actual drivers, is space within the ear cup to allow that sound to disperse proportionately and create the intended sound. Now this is where you need to be careful, because some headsets do it much better than others. More often than not this is dictated by price. If we’re being frank, surround sound is kind of gimmicky in headsets. Although enjoyable for single player games or movies, for any online or competitive play you will want to use stereo, as it creates a much easier sound to distinguish in a space as confined as ear cups. That said we’ve highlighted the surround sound achievers in our list, so if you’re unsure be sure to check that out. And if you want a more music-focused headphone, check out our list of the best high-end headphones of this year.
The new SteelSeries Arctis 3 and Arctis 5, which were designed to mimic the aesthetic of less flashy headphones, impressed us with their light weight, though not necessarily their build quality and high price. The Arctis 7, meanwhile, is priced very attractively for a wireless headset and gives the LucidSound LS30 and HyperX Cloud Flight some stiff competition, but in our tests we found its microphone frustrating, and long-term comfort was an issue.
Performance on games is more important than on movies or music: We looked first and foremost for usable representation of game audio more than realistic reproduction of music; we considered music performance only as a bonus. Only 18 percent of respondents to our initial survey said they cared how their gaming headset performed with music and movies at all.
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.
The Cloud Revolver S from HyperX is one of the most versatile headsets we’ve tested. It comes packed with three separate connection types — 3.5mm, dual 3.5mm, and wired USB — which, in aggregate, enable the headset to be connected to just about anything. This isn’t entirely unique to the Cloud Revolver S, but the headset takes things a step further by eliminating the need for any extra software or driver downloads, making it a truly plug-and-play peripheral. This integrated nature is especially important with the USB connection, which features a built-in sound card and a control dongle for features like Dolby 7.1 virtual surround sound and EQ settings.