As with all of our gamer peripherals, we rigorously test each headset before fully reviewing. If a device is compatible with different platforms, consoles as well as PC, then we’ll be sure to try it out on the lot. Wired or wireless, we check that the audio quality is good enough and that features such as surround sound support work as expected. We also make sure the mic clearly picks up your voice, even in a noisy environment, so your online pals can hear every zinger and sick burn.
"Works great for communicating over xbox live. Comes with the stereo headset adapter for controlling audio between game audio and party audio, as well as volume and muting controls. The separate adapter allows older xbox one controllers without the 3.5 audio jack to use headsets. The headset itself will work without the adapter if the controller is newer. Audio quality is good, and haven't had any complaints about my voice quality through the microphone."
As we've said before, the microphone quality of a gaming headset is clearly important for the modern gamer. The good news then is that this headset has a capable microphone that delivers a reasonable audio quality. As you'd expect it includes noise cancelling features which reduce the ambient noise from the surrounding environment to ensure you're heard clearly when you need to be.
3.5mm connections are the round ports found on not only PCs but also on phones, tablets, T.Vs, car stereos and pretty much anything else that emits sound. Except iPhones, because Apple suck. Anyway: the obvious benefit of having a 3.5mm headset is that you can use it on any of these devices. The Logitech G430, for example, is an average-sounding headset at an entry level price, but can be used on more devices than you can shake a stick at. The potential negatives are that because it’s an analogue connection, if the build quality isn’t up to scratch on either A) the headset or B) the device, it can affect the quality of the sound being sent by your mic or received by your cans. Another benefit of the 3.5mm connection being used on PC’s is that ONLY audio devices use 3.5mm connections, so you should always have room to connect. Not something that can always be said for the USB ports.
In addition to a fast processor and a clear display, gamers of every skill level recognize the need for great sound to get the rich, immersive gaming experience desired. Though similar to headphones, the best gamer headsets are different in two important ways. First, they have outstanding surround sound capabilities that add realism to the console- or PC-gaming session, providing the competitive edge needed to react instantly to even subtle sound cues, such as footsteps coming up behind you. And second, gaming headsets allow you to communicate with as well as listen to fellow gamers from around the world.
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.
There's a volume wheel on the earcup which allows for easy volume changes on the fly. This same button has another use too. Pushing in the volume button switches between EQ settings which as default include FPS competition, pure direct, movie theatre, clear-cut and bass boost. This allows you to change the sound quality settings easily depending on what you're doing and you can tweak further within the software.
If you’re seeking even better audio performance, a far better microphone, a more engrossing gaming experience, and superior long-term comfort, all of our testers agreed that the Sennheiser Game One remains the best pick for both audiophiles and hardcore marathon gamers. But you’ll pay about 50 percent more for it. Unlike most gaming headsets, the Game One has an open-back design, meaning that the earcups surrounding its drivers are vented, not solid shells. This design not only makes the Game One sound more open and spacious but also makes the headset lighter and cooler to wear for extended periods of time, though it does mean that people sitting next to you may be distracted by the sound of your games. Also, the headset really doesn’t reach its full sonic potential without a bit of extra amplification, so you need a good dedicated sound card or a headset amp.
The $99 HyperX Cloud II headset is the best midrange headset because it's the whole package. Not only does it do the job quite well by delivering punchy, ear-tingling audio, but it has awesome features other headsets lack and goes above and beyond what you expect from a headset for the price. For example, though it's a USB headset you can simply disconnect its cable from the included 7.1 surround sound dongle and connect it to any device with a 3.5mm jack, including an Xbox, PlayStation, Switch, or phone.
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.
You’ll also see a lot of gaming headsets claiming they can do 7.1 surround sound. In a traditional audio setup, a 7.1 system would require seven individual speakers and a subwoofer (the .1 bit). The kind of headsets we’re dealing with, however, will only ever have two speakers (one for each ear), so any headset that says it can do 7.1 surround is usually going to be doing it virtually via onboard software and its own internal algorithms.
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Most high-end gaming headsets claim to offer some form of surround sound, but this isn't accurate. The vast majority of surround sound headsets still use stereo drivers (often a single 40mm driver for each ear) to produce sound. The surround aspect comes from Dolby and DTS processing technologies that tweak how the headsets mix sound between your ears to give an impression of 360-degree audio. It's an artificial effect that wouldn't provide a true surround sound image even if the headset had individual drivers for each channel; there simply isn't enough space for the sound to resonate to produce the impression of accurate directional audio. However, it can make things more immersive and improve your ability to track the direction sounds from left to right.
But in sheer aural terms there is only one other wireless headset capable of matching the quality of the Thresher Ultimate. They maybe don’t have the tonal separation of the stunning HyperX Cloud Alpha, or the same super broad soundscape, but they still deliver incredible crisp, detailed sound. And even though it’s a Razer gaming headset the bass response isn’t overblown and doesn’t crush the highs or mid-tones. Where they do stand out is in the addition of Dolby Surround, accessible via a discrete button on the base station, and the easy on-ear controls.
If you’re looking for a competitive, lightweight and stylish alternative to larger headsets, the SoundBlasterX P5 is certainly the way to go. One of the best headsets we’ve ever tested.The maximum volume is enough to give you a headache, but when dealing with quieter audio sources, you’ll be thankful they’ve got the power you need. When maxed out, the sound is distortion free and still sounds nicely balanced, while the bass offers up a lot of detail without drowning out the rest of the mix.
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Also from Plantronics, the RIG Flex split us. I adored the sound and loved its build quality, especially for the price, and I also found it quite comfortable despite its small size. But Bethany absolutely hated the way the earcups fit on her ears. We felt the same about the RIG stereo gaming headset with mixer, but we all agreed that its connectivity arrangement was more of a fuss than most gamers would willingly put up with.
The Arctis is also extremely comfortable thanks to its lightweight alloy frame and Airweave fabric ear cups. Its adjustable elastic ski goggle strap means finding the perfect fit is dead simple. And the design is slick. So slick we wish we could wear them outside and make real people jealous. With its combination of USB and 3.5mm inputs the headset has more platform versatility than a gymnast and its retractable microphone really compliments the stellar build quality. For a wireless headset, the mic’s sound quality is top tier, and the wireless transmitter features the ability to play your audio through your desktop speakers as well. Nice!
There's nothing wrong with being on a budget. Some even say it's the wise approach to take. In the case of gaming headphones, it's better to invest, or else you're going to have to give up some aspects in order to spend less money. The biggest miss-out being, and arguably the most important, sound quality. Unless a headset in dipped in 14k gold, the reason the top-of-the-line contenders cost more than the rest, are because of their superior sound quality, usually.
Another term you’ll see accompanied by a smattering of numbers is sensitivity or SPL (sound pressure level). Essentially, this is a measurement of how loud a headset will produce sound at a particular power level. Now, it’s worth taking this stat with a pinch of salt as due to variance in power sources (amps, interfaces etc.) the measurement of sensitivity is not always a true representation of how loud the headset will sound for you. Also as sensitivity is measured in decibels per milliwatt and power from your PC (and every other electrical device on the planet) is delivered in volts, the methods used by companies to arrive at their value of sensitivity can be inconsistent, which doesn’t really help anyone in deciding whether or not a particular headset is right for them.
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.
Headsets come in a variety of styles, such as color, head mounting, and ear coupling. Since headsets typically have two ear pieces, there is usually a connecting piece between the ear pieces, which allows the user to mount the headset on their head. That head mounting can be on top of the head or behind it. Ear coupling provides more options, such as over ear (circum-aural), on ear (supra-aural), earbuds, and canal. Finally, headsets are also available in wired and wireless styles.
Most budget gaming headsets feature mostly plastic bodies and mediocre sound quality, but not the Corsair HS50. It’s a budget-friendly pick with a metal construction that both looks and feels premium. The headband and ear cups on the headset are on the larger side, mostly because of thick synthetic leather padding, but they're still super comfortable. There’s even a convenient volume dial along the left side of the headset, along with a mute button for the microphone. The noise-canceling microphone is removable, too, making the headset a travel-friendly pair that’s compatible with any game console, gaming laptop, and most smartphones.
Simply put: the Arctis Pro Wireless sounds spectacular. It features a naturally flat and well-balanced sound, accurate reproduction, and offers a vivid soundscape that makes for an incredible listening experience – good enough to make even a die-hard audiophile crack a smile. The microphone isn’t your run-of-the-mill unit either, and eliminates background noise exceptionally well.
“I have owned a number of Mpow products. They all have been good products at great prices. When I got them I found them comfortable and the audio surprisingly good for the price. However, the biggest surprise was the 7.1 [surround sound] audio. While gaming, I was surprised to hear gameplay all around me! I could pinpoint the direction of other players by sound. It’s amazing and something I had anticipated spending five times as much to experience! The headset is full over-ear and comfy. So far the spring-and-cable-adjusted sizing has worked perfectly and the audio is beautifully balanced for gaming.”
Like the other headsets in the Arctis range, the SteelSeries Arctis Pro features a bi-directional noise-cancelling microphone that's retractable into the body of the headset. This mic is also bendable and flexible, so it can be easily moved into comfortable positions or out of the way if you need to stuff something in your face while you're gaming.
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.
A robust frame houses comfortable leather ear cups and an astounding design that is as good to look at as it is to wear. Although the ear cups appear small compared to other headsets on this list, we still found them to offer a snug and comfortable fit. The only thing of note in terms of this design is the headband doesn't extend hugely which might be a struggle for large headed gamers, but not an issue during testing.
And you would be missing out on some valuable gaming-centric add-ons, such as the dual 3.5 mm 2-meter extension cable with in-line volume control and mic mute, plus the easily swappable leatherette and velour earpads. The HyperX Cloud also comes with a short adapter cable (dual 3.5 mm to single 3.5 mm) for use with mobile devices, as well as an airplane adapter and a cloth carrying case. And since it’s an analog headset, it works just fine with PCs, Macs, and consoles alike, although you will need an adapter (sold separately) for the Xbox One.
The available options for audio quality will vary depending on what device you're planning on using the headset with. On PC you can activate DTS Headphone:X virtual surround sound to make the most of your gaming sessions, but only if Hi-Res audio is turned off. On PS4 with an optical input you can enjoy the joy of Dolby 5.1 surround sound. There's a good mix of options here to adjust the sound to your own personal preference.
Specifications: Headphones 50mm diameter speakers Speaker Frequency Response: 20Hz - 20kHz, >120dB SPL @ 1kHz Condenser Microphone Frequency Response: 50Hz - 15kHz Cable length: 12 ft. (3.7m) In-Line Amplifier Headphone Amplifier: Stereo DC-coupled, 35mW/ch, THD <1%, Frequency Response: DC - 30kHz Bass Boost fixed: +6dB @ 50Hz Mic mute switch Maximum analog input level with volume control on maximum setting: 2Vpp (700mV rms) 3.5mm plug for line input
Regular Wirecutter contributor Brent Butterworth also helped me articulate a distinctive aspect of the Game One’s comfort. It doesn’t feel special the instant you put it on; the velvet earpads are nice, and the headset is notably lightweight, but it isn’t as cushy or soft as other headsets or headphones. The strange thing is that it feels pretty much the same after hours of use, even when you’re wearing glasses. Its comfort doesn’t degrade over time, as the comfort of so many other headsets does. The other consequence of the open-back design of the Game One is that it never gets too warm—it’s well-vented, allowing your ears to breathe.
Although a good gaming headset usually costs a little more than dedicated headphones that deliver equivalent audio performance, most gamers I spoke with in the past year or so expressed a preference for the convenience, the often-enhanced bass, and in some cases even the aesthetic of gaming headsets with built-in microphones and easy access to volume controls and microphone muting.
In-game audio comes through as crisp and clear as you might think. On one end, the insanity of a Battlefield 5 match will percolate perfectly, with explosions and gunshots ringing all around you. On the other, the epic music of 2018's God of War will be even more booming and entrancing thanks to the MMX 300. That clarity even translates to the microphone, so you won't have to worry about how clear you're coming in on your end.
It’s still a fair chunk of change, I’ll admit – especially for those in the UK – but the HS70 is an absolutely superb headset in its own right. It doesn’t have as many fancy features as the Arctis 7 or the battery life of the Cloud Flight (although its 16 hours of uninterrupted air time is still nothing to be sniffed at), but if you’re after something simple that gets the job done, feels great and doesn’t involve trying to unravel a million cables, the HS70 is the headset for you.
The headset’s design is…interesting, and like the G633 wouldn’t look out of place on the holodeck of your favorite star cruiser. But these aren’t meant to be pretty. They’re meant to be devastating, machines of inner ear destruction. The high price tag means you’ll also be destroying any chance you had of getting a mortgage, but owning a pair of these means being homeless never sounded so good. They are heavy too. Without the chunky cable connecting them to the amp, they weigh in at a whopping one pound. But when was being cool ever comfy? Outside of that, the provided software and amp affords massive customization and more presets than all the headsets on this list combined. So if you want the most immersive audio gaming experience available and don’t care about anything else, then these are for you.
On the upside, the USB dongle will work with most PCs and gives you access to the Turtle Beach Audio Hub for more customization and microphone options. They also have a good wireless range (especially when using Bluetooth), a decent battery life and a regular audio jack input that will work with console controllers, but they do not provide the right audio cable in the box.
This headset had way too many reviews (most positive) to not put it in here last. It’s worth looking at because of the feedback from others (can always trust a headset that has 2k+ reviews). It’s another budget-friendly pair that gives you average specs: 40 mm drivers, decent frequency range, pretty good microphone and audio quality, and a pretty nice look (in our opinion). Take a look at it and read the reviews yourself, it may convince you go with our last pick. Engadget’s SA-708 review rated them very positively.
Kingston’s newest model, the HyperX Cloud Alpha, resulted in the most heated debates among our testers of any headset in the roundup to date. The Alpha is based on our top pick, the HyperX Cloud, but its earcups have been substantially modified with dual chambers that tune the bass and mid/upper frequencies separately. The result? Undeniably better bass performance than the original Cloud. The problem? The Alpha is also significantly heavier and hotter than the original Cloud, making it much less comfortable during marathon gaming sessions. If you’re looking for comfort and bang-for-the-buck, we still like the original HyperX Cloud. If you want some extra bass kick and a better microphone, we recommend upgrading to the Cloud Revolver, which might be a little heavier than the Alpha, but still manages to be more comfy (especially for larger noggins) due to its self-adjusting suspension headband and roomier earcups.
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.
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.
"But wouldn't that look weird at a coffee shop?" you ask. Yes it would, so HyperX has designed with a boom mic that can be easily unplugged and removed. It also features replaceable earcups in case the oval ones that come with it don't fit your ears, and it also includes a swank mesh bag to stow the whole kit in when you travel. Put all these awesome ingredients together and you have one righteous headset at a sweet, sweet price.