Closed-back headphones restrict external noise entering and internal noise leaving your cans. The main benefit of this for gamers is that you are unlikely to hear any noises happening around you which could distract you from the actions. Another benefit for any late night gamers out there, is that you won’t be disturbing anyone in your house with Duke Nukem’s lude “Shake it, baby.” At 4am. A couple of potential cons with the closed-back design are comfort and sound quality. Due to the lack of airflow in and out of the cans, closed back (especially leather coated) headsets can get your head pretty sweaty, which after a while can become pretty uncomfortable. Secondly, because noise is trapped inside the cans it can sometimes create an unnatural sounding, or bottled up audio. This is entirely subjective so definitely worth checking out yourself. The best closed-back headset on our list is the HyperX Cloud Revolver S.
On the GameDAC you have access to a range of different settings that include equaliser pre-sets, Game/ChatMix levels, surround sound options, RGB illumination, mic sidetone and more. We like how easy these controls are to use and how simple it is to switch not only between Hi-Res audio and the other sound settings, but to adjust things like volume of the mic and the colour of the RGB lighting with ease.
The Elite Pro headset is a comfortable, good-sounding set of cans using Turtle Beach’s gaming heritage to great effect, and is now available in a PC specific design too. As a speccy nerd it also gets my vote because of its innovative ProSpecs Glasses Relief System – a simple system which creates temporary dimples in the ear-cups to stop them pressing your spectacles into your head.
Here at the Strategist, we like to think of ourselves as crazy (in the good way) about the stuff we buy (like pillows), but as much as we’d like to, we can’t try everything. Which is why we have People’s Choice, in which we find the best-reviewed (that’s four-to-five-star reviews and lots of ’em) products and single out the most convincing. While we’ve written before about the best gaming mouses and external hard drives, and our favorite virtual-reality headset, here we’ve found the best-reviewed gaming headsets on Amazon. (Note that reviews have been edited for length and clarity.)
In terms of sound, most of the Razer headsets that we’ve tested in the past have been quite bass-heavy, and the Kraken Pro V2 continues this trend. What sets it apart from its brethren is that it’s never overwhelmed by its own bass. We never noticed the distortion common to other Razer offerings, even when subjecting it to heavy explosions and raucous gunfire.
The result of this design is a superb audio quality that includes deep bass notes, a wide audio range and an excellent surround sound quality. We found this headset to joy to use when watching films, playing games and listening to music in equal measure. The only downside to this was we found that despite the quality of the audio, sometimes directional/positional audio was off and sounds we should have been able to hear in-game weren't there. Comparing this experience to other surround sound headsets, we found the SteelSeries Siberia 800 unfortunately lacking.
The SteelSeries Arctis Pro features premium drivers which the company claim are capable of delivering double the audio range of most standard headsets (at 40,000Hz). This has a number of implications in the use of this headset. Firstly, if you're a PC gamer this means that you can dive into the settings on the GameDAC (Digital Audio Converter) and switch over to Hi-Res audio. Doing this means the little control box then does the leg work and transforms sound into High-fidelity 96kHZ/24-bit audio. You can then open up Windows sound settings and see the full glory of the high-end audio.
Stereo simply means two channels, a left and a right, and is created with a pair of drivers. One in each ear cup. Surround sound, which in gaming headsets is almost definitely 7.1, refers to 7 drivers and a subwoofer. Now packing all those drivers into a headset isn’t always possible, so a lot of companies use their pair of stereo drivers mixed with some digital wizardry and recreate the impression of that sound. This is referred to as virtual 7.1 and is the case for 99% of the headsets in our list excluding the ASUS Centurion. Most either use Dolby virtual 7.1 surround sound or DTS Headphone:X surround sound.
Many wireless mobile headsets use Bluetooth technology, supported by many phones and computers, sometimes by connecting a Bluetooth adapter to a USB port. Since version 1.1 Bluetooth devices can transmit voice calls and play several music and video formats, but audio will not be played in stereo unless the cellphone or media device, and the headset, both have the A2DP profile.
The other drawback of its closed-back design is that the Custom Game isn’t as breathable as the Sennheiser, which means that it gets a bit warmer after hours of wear. Still, the spacious ear cups and ample padding were appreciated by all of our testers. As long as you’re not planning on wearing your headset for more than three or four hours at a time, comfort shouldn’t be an issue. Thankfully, the headset also feels as durable and well-built as its $200-ish retail price would suggest. And if you should happen to wear out or otherwise damage the padded headband, it’s easily replaceable, which is an appreciated feature that we don’t see nearly often enough.
So why is it number nine? And below the Razer? Well, it just doesn’t go above and beyond in any area aside from its cost. We know the A50’s from Astro cost an extra $100 more, but they are pushing boundaries with their tech. The 373s just do everything you’d expect from a well-established audio company selling wired headsets at high price points. On top of that, they are USB only, which pretty much limits them to PC use. So although a brilliant headset, we can’t give the 373s a place in our top five because they’re priced too high. Also, we’re all for understated design, but we can’t help but feel the 373s are teetering on the wrong side of dull. That said, if you want one of the best sounding, well built and most comfortable headsets available just to use on your PC...and money is no object…this is the one we’d go for.
The battery life is decent, rated at around 16 hours, which bore up during our testing. But one of my real bug bears is there seems to be no easy way to tell how much capacity is left in your battery – having a level indicator would be nice. The wireless connection, however, is strong and stable and the audio excellent, so they definitely get the win for us.
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.
Our only issue with the sound quality is the fact you are restricted to a 3.5mm analogue connection, which can cause sketchy feedback hums. You won’t notice it too much while playing, but content creators using a single audio channel in OBS/Shadowplay will definitely be affected. So, be aware. Although it’s not expected for the price point, we’re glad Corsair haven’t thrown a bolt-on virtual 7.1 feature in to the mix. That, coupled with the lack of RGB or clichéd gamer styling, tells us Corsair are trying to sell this headset based on its utility in an already overcrowded space. The HS50 is incredible value for money. It sounds awesome, is a pleasure to wear, and avoids all the gimmicks that usually turn us off. A digital connection would have been nice, and sure, a DAC (like the one on the Arctis Pro) would remedy this, but that extra cost negates the most attractive thing about the HS50.
At just $50, the HyperX Cloud Stinger provides surprisingly punchy audio and relatively plush comfort at a very reasonable price. Out of all the budget headsets we tested, this one had the best audio quality and felt the most comfortable for long gaming sessions. Since it uses a 3.5mm jack it's also a versatile cross-platform headset, but keep in mind its boom mic is not detachable, so you might elicit some stares walking down the street rocking out to your tunes.
Astro’s A50 is the wireless update of the company’s previous flagship, the Astro A40, and sports all the same hallmarks as its last-gen brethren — but we’re not complaining. If you can justify the dent to your savings account, the Astro A50 will grant you 5.8GHz wireless technology and virtual 7.1 surround sound within a solid, over-the-ear design. The headset’s unidirectional mic helps isolate your voice from ambient noise, and features an intuitive quick-mute feature. A selection of distinct EQ modes and cross-platform support further boost its appeal.