We primarily relied on two PCs for testing: a custom-configured Maingear PC, which is built on an MSI Z97-G45 gaming motherboard with an integrated headphone amplifier, and a highly upgraded Frankenstein machine, which started its life as a Dell Inspiron 560 and whose onboard sound performance can best be summed up as pretty average. We also added Creative’s Sound Blaster E5 high-resolution USB DAC and portable headphone amplifier to the mix just to ensure that any power-hungry headsets had sufficient amplification. For USB headsets, we relied exclusively on direct back-panel USB connections rather than routing through hubs.
With the rising popularity of multiplayer games like Fortnite, PUBG and Overwatch, having a good gaming headset can sometimes make the difference between a clutch, well-coordinated last-minute victory and crushing defeat. A typical, wired headphone may give you good enough audio for gaming but may lack a compatible microphone and chat support to plan a winning strategy with your teammates. The right gaming headset should work with most of your consoles, be comfortable enough that you don’t have to take them off mid-game and ideally be wireless with enough range, so that you can comfortably game from your couch.
If you're familiar with the ASTRO A40, specifically the MixAmp, the charging cradle sports a similar setup. Connect to your system with the USB and optical cable to feed out the audio to the cradle which, in turn, sends it out to the headset. There's also a spare USB input that acts as the charging port for when the headset is sitting in the cradle. Just be aware that each headset will only work with the specified system, so the Xbox One edition will not work on PS4. While not the biggest thing, it's something to keep in mind since more and more headsets are becoming platform agnostic.
It goes without saying that when choosing a gaming headset, sound quality is king. Why else upgrade if not for better quality audio? Value for money is also important: we’re sure hearing Adele singing live in our living room would sound better than on CD, but we very much doubt we could justify singing to the note of her six figure fee (plus we only really know that one song…and just the chorus).
It’s worth noting, though, that this is only the case with PC and PS4 platforms. For Xbox and mobile devices, you have to use the included 3.5 mm audio cable, and that does disable the headset’s chat functionality. Since we’re only really concerned with PC performance for the purposes of this guide, that wasn’t an issue, but it’s still worth noting.
These large round ear cups are designed to be comfortable and pleasant to wear, but they also give space to house the large 53mm stereo drivers. These drivers are where the action happens. They're designed to deliver an audio experience that's unparalleled and indeed, we were impressed with the quality of the sound coming of these cans. They open your ears to new sounds you might not have otherwise noticed in games and music and we couldn't help but be impressed with the quality of the sound, no matter what we were doing.
Logitech has announced the G533 Wireless Gaming Headset, a model designed solely for use with Windows PCs. It has a noise-cancelling, foldable microphone, as well as volume controls on the left earcup, and it uses Pro-G audio drivers. Logitech claims the headset has a 15-hour battery life and a wireless connectivity range of about 49 feet, but we have to test those things ourselves. The G533 is available now, and we hope to add it to our next update.
As mentioned, this is a stereo gaming headset. This means there's no account for virtual or "real" surround sound with this design. You can, of course, opt to use Windows Spatial Sound settings or try out Dolby Atmos for gaming as additions to fill that void. Surround sound is not the target of this headset though, it's intention is to deliver an immersive and impressive audio experience during your gaming sessions.
Next, I record myself talking for a bit in Audacity to see how its microphone performs, and I also try to wear the headset for as long as possible to see how comfortable it is over long periods of time. Admittedly, a lot of headsets tend to struggle in this area for me, as I’ve either got a head that’s secretly shaped like a Minecraft block underneath all my hair, or every headset manufacturer on the planet has a mysterious grudge against me and they’ve collectively designed each of their headsets to only last for about 30 minutes before they start to press down and pinch the top of my head. Obviously, the longer I can wear one without this happening, the better.
We also tested the HyperX Cloud II, Kingston’s updated version of our top pick, which features a USB sound card, surround-sound processing, a slightly superior microphone, and better padding on the headband. If you’re a laptop gamer without access to good analog audio jacks, it’s a smart buy. For most people, though, none of those enhancements justify the extra price.
SteelSeries' line of gaming headsets consists of a wide range of models — Arctis 3, Arctis 5, and the Arctis 7, which is a much more affordable wireless option than the Arctis Pro models we previously mentioned. The Arctis 7 feature a sleek design, high-quality audio drivers, and exceptionally comfortable ear pads and headband pieces. The latter is self-adjusting and inspired by the elastic bands found in ski goggles — you can even accessorize the headset by swapping headbands.
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.