As a result, I’m currently limiting this article to gaming headsets ONLY at the moment. It sounds obvious from the title, but I’m sorry to say those after the best headphones for regular music listening or the best desktop speaker systems will have to look elsewhere. Instead, what you’ll find below is a list of all my current favourite headsets – ones I’ve tried and tested myself right here at Castle Shotgun. As with any kind of ‘Best’ list, none of this is set in stone – it will continue to change and evolve as I get new headsets in for testing, but for now, I hereby decree these to be the best gaming headsets available right now.
Although this is the PC edition of the headset, there are still other connections possible here. There's a 3.5mm jack included in the box that makes the headset compatible with consoles and mobile devices too. The result is a flexible headset that offers a great sound experience wherever you're using it. Though, the full unadulterated surround sound experience is limited to PC.
The sound is close to superb at this price range. You can find better, but it can be difficult at this level to find build quality to match. Sound is well-balanced, and the bass doesn’t tend to obfuscate the rest of the audio – a common symptom of gamer cans. For the most part audio remains consistent and clear from the 53mm drivers even at higher volume levels, too.
Sound quality is an essential consideration for any gaming headset purchase. While headsets often deliver stereo sound with a single speaker for each ear, many models feature additional speakers per ear cup to deliver a true, very impressive surround sound experience. Though it may seem like a no-brainer, comfort is also very important, since you may be wearing your headset for hours at a time. Look for headsets that have padded or foam headbands and ear cups. Many headsets with microphones include noise cancellation which helps the person you're competing with hear you by differentiating between your voice and background noise. And volume control may be important to your game experience, which is why many headsets include a separate control switch that adjusts in-game chat independently of game audio.
This headset uses the Razer Synapse software which offers masses of options including equalisation controls, settings for mic noise control, voice clarity, ambient noise reduction and lighting effects too. The lighting here is subtle and understated, unlike the majority of other RGB capable products out there. The Razer logo on the side of the earcups lights up nicely with tweaking available in the software.
Because DECT specifications are different between countries, developers who use the same product across different countries have launched wireless headsets which use 2.4GHz RF as opposed to the 1.89 or 1.9 GHz in DECT. Almost all countries in the world have the 2.4 GHz band open for wireless communications, so headsets using this RF band is sellable in most markets. However, the 2.4 GHz frequency is also the base frequency for many wireless data transmission, i.e. Wireless LAN, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth..., the bandwidth may be quite crowded, so using this technology may be more prone to interference.
Everyone knows us as huge Audio-Technica headphones buffs, and when it comes to high-end, this is as high as you can probably go when it comes to a headset worth looking at. If you have the cash, this is a game changer. Huge drivers at 53mm, their “core double air damping system (D.A.D.S.)”, an optional USB amp, deep bass and sweet highs to give you some top notch audio quality. The 3D wing-support system is extremely convenient for a comfortable fit, and the earpads help us out with that since they’re very soft. They’re so expensive because of the DADS structure (it’s a dual-layer housing structure built-in to the headset that dampens air to help with linearity of the audio — sounds fancy, but why not if you have the cash?). The microphone is also great with 100 degree range of motion. This thing is slick and worth the money if you’re up for dropping the cash.
The HyperX Cloud Stinger are an above-average gaming headset just below $50, so you don’t have to spend as much but you will have to make some sacrifices. They’re the cheapest of the HyperX line up so they won’t have the premium build quality and detachable microphone of the Cloud II or Cloud Alpha. They’re also not wireless like the Cloud Flight. But on the upside, their wired design has no latency and will work with controllers of both consoles.
Take a note of the ‘x’ at the end of the name of this Audio-Technica ATH-AG1x headset – that single character is important because there is also an ATH-AG1 headset. It was the forerunner to this updated version and was a set of cans which failed to build on Audio-Technica’s high-end aural heritage. Don’t mix up the two because you’ll be seriously disappointed and be missing out on one of the best gaming headsets around.
Coming in at $300, the headset is three times more expensive than most other options, but its audio quality is superb. We also liked its "MixAmp" feature, which is a toggle on the headset's side that you turn to find the perfect balance of chat levels and in-game sounds. The A50 provides 15 hours of battery life, a 30-foot wireless range, and Dolby Digital 7.1 Surround Sound. It comes in two configurations — a blue-accented one for the PlayStation 4 and PC, and another with green accents for the Xbox One and PC.
Virtual surround sound is by no means a bad thing. Yes, it’s not as good as proper 7.1 surround sound, but in some cases it can help make music feel more immersive and all-encompassing than regular stereo. However, poor implementations of it can often destroy any sense of intimacy or breathing-down-the-back-of-your-neck-style dialogue, and it can sometimes make your game audio feel like it’s been turned into one great big echo chamber, so don’t be fooled by what it says on the box.
And yes, SteelSeries maintains a place on the list, with the new Arctis Pro Wireless bumping its predecessor, the Siberia 800. Though the Astro A50 sounds better, this headset’s been a favorite of mine for a while—mostly because of its battery system. Rather than charging the battery in the headset, the Arctis Pro Wireless instead allows you to swap between two removable packs. One can power the headset for up to 12 hours while the other charges in the side of the base station. There’s literally no way you can run out of battery in the middle of gaming.
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.
This design means the SteelSeries Arctis Pro sits tightly on the head, while the deep earcups manage to successfully block out a lot of surrounding environmental noise. Though certainly not an active noise cancelling headset, it is one that reduces distractions significantly. We found that we were using mic sidetone settings here to be able to hear ourselves think while playing or listening to music if we had to talk to friends or family members, which is a testament to the quality.
A lot of what makes a great gaming headset will be down to personal preference, but what we were looking for was a product that struck a perfect balance between quality of design, value for money and features that gamers would love. To create this shortlist, we worked through a mass of PC gaming headsets (many of which are also compatible with consoles) to whittle down to a list of finalists that we're sure you'll love.
The SteelSeries Arctis 3 Bluetooth is an elegant solution to the Nintendo Switch's problem of requiring a separate mobile app for online chat. Thanks to the headset's Bluetooth and analog capabilities, you can be wired to your Switch for game audio while getting wireless chat from your phone or PC using apps such as Skype, Discord or Nintendo's own service. The Arctis 3 Bluetooth touts the same great sound and comfort as the standard Arctis 3, and makes for a solid pair of Bluetooth headphones thanks to its unassuming design.
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 Razer Kraken 7.1 V2 in Mercury White is a cracking headset offering from Razer. It's beautiful and sleek. There are a few niggles with the design, the lack of volume controls and the slightly questionable build quality being the main two. But for looks and audio performance, it's worth considering. It's also one of the more affordable virtual surround sound headsets on the market, so if you want something that performs, looks great, but doesn't break the bank, then this might be it
Where do we start with Steelseries‘ magnum opus, the Arctis Pro? The highly flexible, crystal-clear mic that rivals even some professional-grade audio equipment? How about the sleek, professional design that mimics stylish audiophile headphones? Or maybe it’s the headset’s plug-and-play peripherals that push hi-res sound and enable users to fine-tune EQ settings and surround sound at a much more granular scale than the competition — all without the need for extra software or downloads.