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.
Larger drivers have been known to produce lower bass frequencies, however, the quality of the driver and its enclosure is more important than its size. Now this information is not always available, but companies such as SteelSeries often use the same drivers across multiple headsets, so a quick google will often tell you how good a certain driver is. A good example would be the SteelSeries Arctis 7, which uses S1 speaker drivers which are also found in their $300 headsets. Not bad for a $150 purchase.
Open-back headsets come with the opposite pros and cons. You'll be able to hear any noises going on around you and if you have the volume cranked too loud, anyone in the house will hear whatever it is your cranking. Open-back headsets are generally more comfortable as they get less hot due to the ventilation and sound tends to comes across more naturally. Personally we prefer open-back due to comfort and sound quality, however it’s completely subjective, with pros and cons varying significantly across different models. You should also be aware that some headsets that look open-back often aren't; just because it has a grille doesn't mean it's open. Perfect example: the AUDEZE Mobius, AUDEZE are known for their open-back headphones, but this isn't one of them, even thought it looks it. We'll be testing a pair soon - at the time of writing, they're super new, and a review model is currently on its way to us!
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.
The HyperX Cloud Flight boasts an incredibly lightweight and comfortable frame, which, combined with up to 30 hours of battery life, results in a cozy wireless PS4 headset that you can truly wear all day. The Flight also delivers rich, accurate sound for competitive and immersive games alike, features a crisp microphone, and touts slick LED earcup lighting. The USB-powered Flight offers easy plug-and-play compatibility with any PS4, and doubles as a great PC headset.
The HyperX Cloud Stinger redefines what you should expect from a $50 gaming headset, offering a sturdy design, incredibly comfortable earcups and convenient on-ear audio controls. The Stinger's 3.5mm connection makes it ideal for consoles and mobile, though there's also an included headphone/microphone splitter if you want to use it on PC. It doesn't hurt that the sound quality is pretty good. If your budget is tight, you won't be cutting many corners by picking up a Stinger.
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.
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At the moment, there aren’t many viable solutions for in-game and voice chat with the Switch because Nintendo has gamers download a smartphone app for voice chatting. This means that the audio of your friends talking is separate from the in-game audio. To remedy this and combine the two audio streams, Nintendo sells a headset and adapter that comes with a trio of 3.5-millimeter aux cables. One cable goes from the Switch's headphone port to the dongle, one runs from your smartphone to the dongle, and the last one connects the dongle to your headset. It’s very complex, so we recommend just holding off until Nintendo releases a better headset — or an update that allows wireless headphones' microphones to work.
The Custom One Pro Plus was a crowd favorite thanks to the ability to tune its bass performance on the fly without resorting to software equalization. We liked, but didn’t love, this pair in tests for our best over-ear headphones guide. Out of the box, however, our pair’s mic cable had a short in it, causing the sound to cut out if the cable wasn’t positioned just right. Judging from owner reviews, this problem is disturbingly common.
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.
We also tested and compared with the Asus ROG Centurion, which is the flagship model and theoretically the new and improved version but found some issues with the microphone on some models which caused serious communication issues. Asus offer settings recommendations and tweaks for improving that quality, but we found that even then it didn't compare with the Asus Strix 7.1.
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.
Of all the headsets we tried, the Razer Tiamat 7.1 created the most convincing surround experience, which didn’t surprise us since it includes five distinct drivers in each earcup: a 30 mm front-channel driver, a 30 mm center-channel driver, 20 mm surround and surround-back drivers, and a 40 mm low-frequency effects driver. Still, the surround-sound experience wasn’t entirely convincing, and the Tiamat 7.1 failed to create a satisfying front soundstage.
The best examples are the 7.1 surround sound and 3D audio. The surround sound will provide a rich audio experience to help immerse you in whatever game you're playing. The 3D audio will bump up the quality on select PS4 games by providing directional differences in sound. The best example of this is on PSVR, where the sound adjusts with your head movement.
All our testers liked the Turtle Beach Elite Pro. It’s comfortable, with a hard-hitting, visceral sound, and it boasts a solid mic. The problem is that if you want to get the most from this headset, be prepared to be nickel-and-dimed half to death on accessory upgrades. If you already have a powerful headset amp, you might consider the Elite Pro, but just know that the box doesn’t even come with a pink-green 3.5 mm audio splitter.
After a combined 200 hours of testing over the course of nearly two-and-a-half years, including listening to 10 new models this year, we still think Kingston’s original HyperX Cloud is the best gaming headset for serious PC gamers. The HyperX Cloud offers the best mix of audio performance and comfort for the money. It’s beautifully built and comfortable on a wide variety of heads, and its sound quality holds up against some of the best dedicated headphones in its price range. You won’t find a more neutral-sounding and versatile gaming headset unless you’re willing to spend at least $40 or $50 more.
But as much as I’ve been rather blown away by the audio quality I’m not such a fan of the overall design. The wing support concept is a little too wacky for my tastes and means the headset doesn’t feel like it’s sat too securely on your head. There’s no real headband, just two tensed paddles which rest on top of your bonce. It’s definitely comfortable, and I’m not saying I want my headphones to have a vice-like grip on my skull, but a robust brain-cuddle is certainly more reassuring.
“This is simply the greatest headset I’ve owned so far, and many reviewers say they are the best-sounding headphones orientated toward gaming. They surprisingly have a decent mic as well and have good noise cancellation in the mic. I also have owned Turtle Beach, Corsair, and SteelSeries headsets, but none of them even get close to the quality of this one. The sound is very crisp, and since these are open-ear, soundstage and distancing are nearly perfect.”
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.
Gaming headphones feature an over-ear design on almost all occasions in order to better accommodate their massive audio drivers. Higher-end offerings will help you take your gaming experience up a notch by offering support for DTS and Dolby Surround Sound standards, but we've also highlighted headsets that still sound superb without breaking the bank. We've sorted the best from the rest to find the best-sounding and most comfortable headsets available, and included picks for the PC and every major gaming console.
Those strange design notes aside, the Audio-Technica ATH-AG1x is one of the most impressive-sounding gaming headsets I’ve used. There is an open back version – the ATH-ADG1x – which I was expecting to sound even better, but I have to say this closed back version is my still personal recommendation. They’re easy to find Stateside, but can be a little tricky to track down online in the UK, so it’s worth checking out the actual Audio-Technica site first.
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.
Well, it’s not the price, that’s for sure. Its MSRP is $100 / £90, but you can find easily find it for considerably less on a regular basis. Roccat has aimed this straight at the HyperX Cloud Alpha’s price point, and it hits the nail right on the head for price and performance in that bracket, and easily breezes past the competition if you find it for a good deal less.
They have audio and mic support for the PS4 and Xbox One when plugged into the controllers and negligible latency since they are wired. Unfortunately, they won’t be as convenient for gaming as the wireless options on this list. Also, their build quality does not look or feel as durable (or as premium) as the similarly priced HyperX Cloud II, although they have a slightly better performance overall.
The other option worth looking into is Windows Sonic for Headphones, a free feature included in the Windows 10 Creators Update released in 2017. While not quite as convincing as Razer Surround, Windows Sonic does add a nice sense of space to games, and also allows for more precise positioning, which we very much appreciated. Windows Sonic can also be upgraded to support Dolby Atmos for Headphones for around $15. We found the latter to sound slightly more processed and unnatural, but if you want to try it out, there’s a free trial available.
“I am loving these headphones. They are very comfortable even in gaming sessions lasting 12-plus hours. The audio quality even when using Bluetooth is very impressive. The thing that has impressed me the most about these has been the battery life. I believe they advertise 40 hours per charge with about a one- to two-hour charging time, and honestly they deliver. I try to charge them when I go to bed, but frequently forget to plug them in and they still keep going even after a couple days of forgetfulness.”
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 up with a list of best gaming headset recommendations is always fraught with difficulty. What might be super comfy for one person might be absolute agony for another, and trying to find one that suits your own musical tastes, be it ultra bass-y or a more moderate, tempered kind of approach, is another challenge altogether. As such, lists like this are always going to be highly personal based on the person testing them – which, in this case, is yours truly who prefers a more balanced kind of sound and has always struggled to find something that doesn’t give me a headache after 30 minutes of use.
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 are some of the deepest and most comfortable earcups we've seen on any gaming headset we've tested. This design not only reduces the pressure on your ears from the drivers (as they're not resting on your ears) but allows delivery of a comfortable and all-encompassing sound as you game. These cups also include a cooling cloth on the inside which stops your ears from sweating and helps maintain that superb comfort.
If you don't baulk at the price (as it's over £200), then the SteelSeries Siberia 800 should certainly be a consideration. In terms of wireless gaming headsets, this one is the cream of the crop. It's packed full of features, including cross-platform support for Xbox360/One, PS3/PS4 and mobile devices, as well as analogue, optical and USB inputs for PC that allow you to take advantage of the Dolby Digital and virtual surround sound processing power inside the box.
Unusual among gaming headsets, the HyperX Cloud relies on a pair of 53-millimeter drivers, rather than the traditional 40 mm or 50 mm size. In our tests it didn’t suffer from the bass problems that so many of the other headsets did. With large explosions, heavy gunfire, and other hard-hitting action, it never left us underwhelmed, nor did it distort or egregiously overemphasize such low-frequency sounds.
One final caveat: The Game One reaches its full potential only with extra amplification, so it’s not the best pick if you game exclusively on consoles. When powered by the onboard analog audio output of my wife’s computer, it sounded good enough to become her favorite headset by far in terms of audio performance, and it was even better with the onboard sound card of my computer, although we had to crank the volume quite high. It didn’t reveal all of its nuances or its powerful bass capabilities until we connected it to the Creative Sound Blaster E5 DAC/amp with the amp’s high-gain mode engaged. In other words, the more power you give the Game One, the better it sounds, so if it seems like the right headset for you, consider adding a dedicated sound card or an external amp to your gaming PC.
The small control center features an OLED display and lets you tweak everything about the headset with simple, intuitive controls. It's a slick way to handle making adjustments, and the audio output is stellar as well. On top of that you have a super-premium design that's exceedingly comfortable, customizable, and just feels perfect. The fit and finish are top-notch and it even has RGB lighting (which you can turn off).