The Xbox One Stereo Headset is perfect for the Xbox One owners who want to rep Xbox pride in every aspect of their gaming life. Thankfully, it's also a reliable headset for Xbox gamers who may also be on a budget. It still delivers solid audio for the gamers who need some extra boom out of their headset. Given the $59 price point, it won't deliver the insane quality of premium ASTRO headsets, but it still outperforms most headsets around the same price.
Other than the patterned headbands, the design of the SteelSeries Arctis 7 is one of the more subtly designed headsets on our list. This headset has a clean design, with no garish RGB lighting that makes it easily usable as normal headphones as well as a gaming headset. The retractable microphone also tucks neatly out of the way when not in use, so it's as brilliant to look at as it is to use.
If you game on the PlayStation 4, the Nintendo Switch, newer Xbox One models, or most handheld gaming devices, you can just plug a single 3.5mm headphone jack into the controller or system and start playing. The Xbox One works in a similar way, but if you have an older Xbox One gamepad you might need Microsoft's Xbox One Stereo Headset Adapter to use a wired headset with it. Most headsets on this list can connect to your preferred system one way or another.
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.
Battery life on this headset does appear to be a regular issue though, with battery draining in a short space of time. The SteelSeries Siberia 800 uses 1,000mAh Lithium-ion battery that SteelSeries claims is capable of 20 hours playback before recharging is necessary. During testing though, we found ourselves having to swap out the batteries more regularly than that. Therefore, with heavy use, you're unlikely to make it through an entire day if, like us, you're working and gaming on the same machine. Of course, most gamers won't be doing that, so might get a few days of gaming goodness out of it before the battery needs recharging.
And while we do think the soundstage isn’t as good as that found in models like the HyperX Cloud Revolver S, the audio quality is still phenomenal. It feels natural, balanced, and clear, without overcooking any one element. The model we’ve linked to here is the base headset, but if you want, you can shell out an extra $70 and pick up SteelSeries’ GameDAC - a high-end audio converter that is geared towards gaming. We don’t think it makes a huge difference - it’s overkill for most people, and doesn’t give a dramatic improvement on the base sound - but it’s nice to have the option. And when you consider just how good - and affordable - this headset it, it’s hardly surprising we’ve ranked it so highly. There is also a wireless version, but we think it's way too overpriced for what you get; if you can deal with a lone wire, this offers excellent value.
Compared with the results from its larger siblings, the Cloud and the Cloud Revolver, the overall tonal balance of the Cloud Stinger isn’t quite up to the same standards. In our tests the bass wasn’t quite as rich and impactful, and the treble exhibited a comparative lack of smoothness that two of our testers described as “slight harshness.” That said, this slight edge to the higher frequencies wasn’t as bad as what we heard from some other headsets costing considerably more.
We’ll likely be accused of playing favorites with this one, but after thorough testing in which only one of our testers was aware of the brands involved, we all agreed that Kingston’s new HyperX Cloud Stinger is the clear choice for gamers looking to spend $50 or less on a new headset. Compared with most budget headsets, the Cloud Stinger is surprisingly well-built and comfortable thanks to its cushy headband and relaxed fit. In our tests, its audio performance was noticeably better than that of anything else in its price range, thanks to its beefy 50 mm drivers and well-balanced sound. Our testers also went gaga over the Cloud Stinger’s new microphone, which is a substantial upgrade over the mic of even our top pick: Not only does it sound better, but also you can mute the mic just by raising the boom into the vertical position. This design does mean that the mic isn’t removable, which has long been a selling point of our top pick, the original HyperX Cloud, but the mic is especially sturdy, and it stays locked in place and out of the way when not in use.
A bundled audio transmitter with OLED display delivers relevant information about your audio experience, such as volume, battery life, and audio source. It’s also used to charge the headset’s batteries. The Arctis Pro’s 40-millimeter stereo drivers deliver plenty of power, and the attached noise-canceling mic is retractable and does a good job at picking up your voice. We just wish the headset were a little cheaper and was compatible with the Xbox One.
The design is pretty out-there on this one. Two giant owl eyes emanate from each ear cup, on a Pan’s Labyrinth vibe. Combine that with the amazing bass response these kick out, and things going bump in the night could well have your neighbors calling the police. ASUS claim the dual antenna feature provides a faster response time than Bluetooth, and although we can neither confirm nor deny this statement, we can confirm that the signal never dropped.
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.
We buy our own products and put them under the same testing methodology so that you can easily compare them. Unlike most websites, we do not get our products directly from the manufacturers, which means our units aren’t handpicked and actually represent what you would buy yourself. We spend a lot of time comparing the products side-by-side to validate our results and we keep them until they are discontinued so we can continually go back and make sure our reviews are always accurate.
Make no mistake about it, though, this is probably too much bass for games that rely on atmospheric music or have a lot of dialog. While all of our testers loved the effect with big dumb action games like DOOM, we found that the deep bass tended to make dialogue in games like Battlefront 2 a little too chesty, and it did no favors to orchestral game soundtracks, like those of the Civilization games. Tweaking the EQ settings in the Razer Surround Pro software helped a lot, and also brought out a good bit more detail, but access to that feature does add another $20 to the cost of the headset.
When you’re shopping around for a new headset, you’ll first have to consider what kind of functionality you need. First up, do you want to go wired or wireless? We love the freedom that a Bluetooth headset offers, although not all platforms support them and you’ll have to remember to keep them charged. Meanwhile wired devices often deliver more premium sound quality. And if you grab a digital pair with a built-in DAC, that’ll take the pressure off your motherboard for producing crisp, clean-sounding audio.
The Audio-Technica Open Air (ATH-ADG1X) and Isolation (ATH-AG1X)—functionally the same headset, though the former is an open-back model and the latter is a closed-back version—were without question the most comfortable headsets any of us had ever tested. But they’re voiced to appeal to audiophiles, with lots of emphasis on high frequencies, which doesn’t play well for games.
Your choices range from basic wired earpieces and boom mics you can pick up for $20 at a drug store (or are included with your game console), to expensive, simulated surround sound, e-sports-oriented, wireless over-ear headphones available at enthusiast sites. You should get the one that fits your budget and needs. You don't need a ton of cash for a solid headset; about $50 can get you started if you don't want to jump into high-end features and connection options.
For mic testing, we record clips of ourselves speaking in quiet and loud environments, both with any noise canceling or enhancements toggled on and off. We use the headsets over multiple days, wearing them while gaming, watching videos, or listening to music to test the veracity of battery life claims, as well as appraise their long-term wearability and comfort.