In technical terms, a headset is a headphone attached to a microphone. Headsets can be a single-earpiece (mono) or a double-earpiece (mono/stereo). In the specific case of computer headsets, there are usually two connection types: 3.5 mm and USB. 3.5 mm. Headsets almost always come with two 3.5 mm connectors: one to the microphone jack of the computer and one to the headphone jack.
This lightweight and comfy design keeps your ears snug for long gaming sessions, and the large volume wheel on the earcup keeps the cable controller-free and as light as possible. The only downside to the headset is the immobile microphone, which could have benefitted from a removeable design, and ideally the rubberised mid-section swapped for some more malleable material as it currently adds very little in the way of adjustability.
We tried our best to find a headset with surround performance that impressed us, but for the most part, we weren’t able to. We tested one headset with multiple drivers in each earcup, plus a number of USB headsets with built-in Dolby, DTS, or Creative surround technologies (which create a surround-like experience using only two drivers, through a combination of delay and other audio processing).
Hi-Res audio isn’t the be all and end all for games at the moment (see our buying guide below for more info), but if you’ve got lots of Hi-Res audio tracks that you listen to at home or subscribe to services like Tidal, this could be a handy solution that meets both your home and game listening needs without having to buy a second pair of headphones.
For ease of use, there's a mic mute button and volume wheel on the headset's cable. This is always a welcome addition, especially when the design means you cannot easily fold the mic out of the way and there's no automatic muting for doing so. We did find the volume controls a little finicky, in that they were very sensitive and would suddenly deliver loud audio when we least expected it, but otherwise it's a great design that works well.
Only long-term testing over the next few months will reveal whether or not the Kraken Pro V2 is as durable as its lightweight aluminum frame makes it feel, but so far we have no real concerns there. One thing we all definitely loved, though, is the retractable nature of the headset’s mic. In terms of sound quality and volume, it’s pretty much identical to that of the HyperX Cloud—in other words, it’s good enough—and our online testers never reported hearing any sound bleed between the headset and mic.
The Razer Kraken 7.1 V2 is, as you might have gathered from the name, the second version of this headset. It's also another surround sound headset from Razer that offers an excellent audio experience in a beautifully packaged shell. This headset is available in black, gunmetal grey and mercury white. We felt that the white version was certainly the most appealing, unless you're the sort of gamer that likes to stuff cheesy crisps while you play.
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.
Okay, so Astro: The A50’s a few years old now, but still an excellent wireless headset. Astro’s biggest improvement with the latest refresh was the battery, overcoming a long-running weak spot and packing 12 to 15 hours of life—enough to get you through even a long day of gaming. Better yet, it features gyroscopes in the ears that detect whether you’ve set it down. It automatically shuts off 10 seconds later if so, and then seamlessly powers back on and connects to your PC when you pick it back up. Its base station also serves as a charger, a nice mix of function and beauty.
In addition, the HyperX Cloud performed admirably when we fitted it with its mobile adapter cable and paired it with my iPhone. Bass-heavy tracks such as Björk’s “Hyperballad” and Beastie Boys’ “3-Minute Rule” have nuances in the lowest octaves that most game soundtracks simply don’t deliver, and this Kingston headset proved to be more than up to the task of delivering them faithfully.
Battery life on this headset does appear to be a regular issue though, with battery draining in a short space of time. The SteelSeries Siberia 800 uses 1,000mAh Lithium-ion battery that SteelSeries claims is capable of 20 hours playback before recharging is necessary. During testing though, we found ourselves having to swap out the batteries more regularly than that. Therefore, with heavy use, you're unlikely to make it through an entire day if, like us, you're working and gaming on the same machine. Of course, most gamers won't be doing that, so might get a few days of gaming goodness out of it before the battery needs recharging.
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.
Interestingly, the SteelSeries Arctis 7 uses the same drivers as the flagship Siberia 800, so you won't be too surprised to hear that the audio quality on this headset is just as superb. The processing is slightly different though, this headset uses DTS Headphone:X 7.1 which delivers a pretty precise surround sound experience. In fact, we'd say the positional audio on this headset is superior to the Siberia 800, but still not as good as other headsets on this list.
Digital headsets: Featuring an integrated DAC (digital-to-analogue converter), digital headsets offer cleaner sound, higher volumes and software integration. USB-connected headsets will work on PC/Macs and PlayStation consoles, while optical-based headsets will work with Xbox and PlayStation consoles, plus PCs with optical ports either on the motherboard, internal sound card or USB sound card.
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.