To make sure a headset can handle lighter instrumental tracks, I use a combination of Final Fantasy XV’s Piano Collection soundtrack, Austin Wintory’s Transfiguration EP from Journey, Ace Attorney’s Gyakuten Meets Orchestra concert, and a light sprinkling of my Breath of the Wild: Sound Selection CD and the Bravely Default soundtrack. I also listen to regular bands and songs, including the likes of Turin Brakes, Queen, Maximo Park, a bit of David Bowie and the opening themes to space anime Knights of Sidonia and grim naked giant anime Attack on Titan, again testing for overall balance, clarity and general toe-tapping grooviness.
Making sure you’ve got the right aural setup for your gaming rig is absolutely vital to getting the ultimate experience, and a quality gaming headset has a massive part to play in the overall immersion of PC gaming. We’ve tested the latest and greatest from the top manufacturers in the land, from Turtle Beach headsets, Razer, HyperX, SteelSeries, Sennheiser, and more, all to help you figure out what the right set of cans is for you and the games you play.
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.
In terms of battery life, the Corsair VOID PRO RGB Wireless managed somewhere around 15-17 hours before it needed charging. Not quite as good as the Steel Series Arctis 7, but still pretty impressive. The bonus with the Corsair headset though is the fact that it comes with a fairly long (1.5 metre) USB to micro USB charging cable, which means that when it does run low on charge you can simply plug it in and keep on gaming.
As well as sounding great, the Audio Technica ATH-ADG1x also has an interesting design. Instead of the usual headband that sits on top of your head, this headset uses two pads that sit on either side of your head and thus don't squash your head or all your hair in a band shape. We found this had unusual results during testing that basically make us look like we were sporting a Mohican but also turned out to be incredibly comfortable.
Owning the EVO ZxR is like owning many things at once: a high quality USB sound card, 7.1 virtual sound gaming headset, and a wireless headphone of high audio quality. Not to mention all the technologies powering the headset such as an Active Noise Cancellation feature, NFC, Bluetooth, and all other goodies from Creative such as Dialog Plus, CrystalVoice, etc. It’s a headset packed with geeky goodies!
USB connections are the rectangular-shaped ports found on your computer. A benefit to using these is that they are completely digital, so failing a nuclear fallout (or accidental spillage on your machine/device) the signal should be perfect. Conversely to 3.5mm ports, your PC uses USB to connect everything from mice, keyboards and webcams to flash drives, audio interfaces and printers. This means you might not always have space to have everything connected at once. Bummer. The other downer to USB headsets is the fact that not every device has a USB port or if it does, it might not support audio output. For example, there’s no USB port on your phone or tablet and the ones on your TV don’t support audio output. This seriously limits the potential value of headsets such as the Sennheiser PC 373D, which although an amazing headset can ONLY be used at your computer.
Our previous runner-up pick, Kingston’s HyperX Cloud Revolver, is still a favorite amongst most of our testers due to its great mic and lively sound. Although not as neutral as the HyperX Cloud, it’s great for action games, and the auto-adjusting headset was popular with all but one of our testers. Only the fact that the Kraken Pro V2 delivers much the same audio performance and similar comfort at a much cheaper price bumped this one off our list of top recommendations.
Perhaps the most surprising thing about the audio performance of the Game One was just how staggering and hard-hitting its low frequencies were when necessary. Dying Light, for instance, is a particularly tactile game that mostly consists of the player thwacking zombies in the head with large metal pipes and other blunt instruments. Few headsets in our roundup came close to matching the visceral thuds the Game One rendered. In our Star Wars: Battlefront sessions, the thermal imploder bombs that occasionally wreak havoc on the battlefield felt and sounded as if they were cranked out by a good subwoofer.
The first major consideration is what gaming platform(s) you’ll be using with the headset, as the supported connection will differ from console to console. Modern headsets will connect via one (or more) of the following ways: Single 3.5mm, dual 3.5mm (one for headphone audio and one for mic), wired USB, wireless USB, or Bluetooth. Here’s a quick breakdown of which connection type is supported by each of the modern gaming platforms:
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!
But here’s the first problem. Just like on the ManO’War, the ear cups are round which, if you have big ears will be a comfort issue. Fear not though, loyal Razerians, oval-shaped ear cups are available…for a price. In terms of sound, the overall impression is good, edging out the previous champ in this bracket – the Corsair Void RGB. Definitely punching for its price, the Kraken’s 50mm drivers and design of ear cup do well at creating and delivering the lows. The mids and highs carry a certain level of clarity but start to muddy throughout the higher volumes. Everything is customizable inside of Razer’s Synapse suite though, meaning you can tweak ‘til your heart's content. Although the V2 Pro isn’t the flagship Kraken (that would be the 7.1 V2), the lack of RGB lights and artificial surround sound means Razer can deliver a real blow to the low/mid-range market. With great build quality, impressive sound and no gimmicks, it’s hard not to recommend paying the extra $20 and upgrading from the Logitech G430…Until we think about those round ear cups.
But I’m still replacing it. Why? Well, aesthetics are a huge reason. If you want an indication how Logitech’s design language has shifted in the past year or so, look no further than the G933 and G533. The G933 was all sharp angles and science fiction. The G533 on the other hand is sleek, professional, restrained. With a piano-black finish and soft curves, it looks like a headset made by Audio-Technica or Sennheiser or a more mainstream audio company—not necessarily a “gaming” headset. I like it.
For older models of telephones, the headset microphone impedance is different from that of the original handset, requiring a telephone amplifier to impedance-match the telephone headset. A telephone amplifier provides basic pin-alignment similar to a telephone headset adapter, but it also offers sound amplification for the microphone as well as the loudspeakers. Most models of telephone amplifiers offer volume control for loudspeaker as well as microphone, mute function and switching between handset and headset. Telephone amplifiers are powered through batteries or AC adapters.
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.
That's where so-called "true" surround headsets come in. These headsets are designed with multiple drivers to deliver a more realistic experience than that offered by the virtual ones which often just work with two (left and right) drivers. There aren't many true surround sound headsets about, but the Asus Strix 7.1 is one of them and it's the best from what we've seen.
The only thing bigger than the size of this beastly headset is its sound. Out of the box, the ManO’War 7.1 has a spacious mix, giving the upper register room to breathe on top of bombastic, rich bass. When connected to PC via USB, the 7.1 further enhances the size and space the headset’s drivers create. The result is a fantastic auditory experience.