Some gamers simply love boosted bass, especially when playing shooters and other action-heavy games. If you fit that bill but find yourself disappointed by the fact that most bass-heavy gaming headsets also rattle and shake and distort far too easily, the newly redesigned Razer Kraken Pro V2 might be just what you’re looking for. The V2 delivers rich and robust bottom end and is also the most comfortable (and seemingly durable) Razer headset we’ve tested to date, especially with the optional oval ear cushions. While our testers preferred the more balanced sound of our top pick with a wider variety of games, the Kraken Pro V2 is a very compelling alternative if you want low end.
The first thing that strikes home about the Turtle Beach Elite Pro Professional headset is the build quality. There's a flex and bend here which allows it to fit nicely on your head. Incredibly deep leather earcups are supported by a large and comfortable headband which includes a tension adjustment system that allows you to tweak the way the headset hugs your head.
It sounds great, too. HyperX chalks it up to the Alpha’s dual-chamber technology, which separates bass frequencies from the mids and highs. That could be the case, or it could be a gimmick—I’ve discussed it at greater length in our review. Either way, the upshot is that the Cloud Alpha sounds as good or better than plenty of its more expensive competition, and with slightly more bass kick this time around. (Read our full review.)
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).
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.
Astro’s A50 is the wireless update of the company’s previous flagship, the Astro A40, and sports all the same hallmarks as its last-gen brethren — but we’re not complaining. If you can justify the dent to your savings account, the Astro A50 will grant you 5.8GHz wireless technology and virtual 7.1 surround sound within a solid, over-the-ear design. The headset’s unidirectional mic helps isolate your voice from ambient noise, and features an intuitive quick-mute feature. A selection of distinct EQ modes and cross-platform support further boost its appeal.
A bundled audio transmitter with OLED display delivers relevant information about your audio experience, such as volume, battery life, and audio source. It’s also used to charge the headset’s batteries. The Arctis Pro’s 40-millimeter stereo drivers deliver plenty of power, and the attached noise-canceling mic is retractable and does a good job at picking up your voice. We just wish the headset were a little cheaper and was compatible with the Xbox One.
We brought in the V-Moda BoomPro Microphone to go along with my V-Moda Crossfade M-100 over-ear headphones. We all found the sound performance to be good, although not especially fun with more action-oriented games. More important, this pair was far less comfortable than much cheaper alternatives after hours of gameplay, and the mic was disappointing.
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.
Every Arctis headset supports 7.1 Surround Sound, though the Arctis 3 and Arctis 5 also feature the more upmarket DTS Headphone audio protocol, and the Arctis 7 is the only model of the three that has steel alloy elements in its build. The 7 is compatible with every major gaming console and gaming computer. Unfortunately, the Xbox One only supports a wired connection with an included cable. We recommend the Arctis 7 for its impressive 15-hour battery life, extremely comfortable fit, and top-notch sound quality. Plus it's a lot cheaper than other wireless options, but sounds extremely good.
Design wise, the Alpha isn’t testing convention, incorporating the signature red and black colorway we’ve all come to expect from any gamer product released, ever. That said, the headbands high quality contrast stitching and embossed HyperX logo do well to compliment the minimalist design, resulting in something that might not match the Arctis range in terms of style, but could certainly teach the Sennheiser PC 373D (below) how to feel young again. And sound-wise, the Alphas deliver. The closed back design does well at isolating external noise, while the 50mm drivers take care of the rest. On par with the SteelSeries Arctis Pro, above, no other mid-range set creates the same clarity amongst the higher frequencies as the Cloud Alphas. Slight bass and mid boosts coupled with a lack of software again hints at the Alphas bias towards gaming, but music and movies still sounded superb. The detachable mic is a nice touch and pulls its weight in terms of sound quality, avoiding being too gainy, or conversely, too compressed.
Open-air dynamic gaming headset with advanced 53 mm drivers and improved 3D Wing Support system. Open-air design provides unrivaled sound quality, clarity and comfort. Built-in supercardioid gooseneck microphone for in-game communication with outstanding rejection of ambient sound. Equipped with 1.2 m (3.9') attached cable and 2.0 m (6.6') extension cable. Includes windscreen.
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.
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 Asus Strix 7.1 offers a fantastic surround sound experience with "true" surround sound delivered from 10 drivers that is as close to the proper surround sound experience as you're going to get without actually buying a full speaker setup. The quality of the audio is superb whatever you're doing and we found this headset to be comfortable even after hours and hours of wear.
You can tell HyperX mean business with this one. The headset is premium, with its high-quality, lightweight aluminium frame, fixed firmly to the closed back, memory-foam-lined cans. The headband creates enough tension for you to know where your money's gone, but not so much that a certain scene from Total Recall is likely to be re-created. No, not the one with the three boobs…
Many wireless mobile headsets use Bluetooth technology, supported by many phones and computers, sometimes by connecting a Bluetooth adapter to a USB port. Since version 1.1 Bluetooth devices can transmit voice calls and play several music and video formats, but audio will not be played in stereo unless the cellphone or media device, and the headset, both have the A2DP profile.
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.
Desktop devices using Bluetooth technology are available. With a base station that connects via cables to the fixed-line telephone and also the computer via soundcard, users with any Bluetooth headset can pair their headset to the base station, enabling them to use the same headset for both fixed-line telephone and computer VoIP communication. This type of device, when used together with a multiple-point Bluetooth headset, enables a single Bluetooth headset to communicate with a computer and both mobile and landline telephones.
The Audio-Technica Open Air (ATH-ADG1X) and Isolation (ATH-AG1X)—functionally the same headset, though the former is an open-back model and the latter is a closed-back version—were without question the most comfortable headsets any of us had ever tested. But they’re voiced to appeal to audiophiles, with lots of emphasis on high frequencies, which doesn’t play well for games.
The headset design includes glowing Strix owl eyes. These can either bit set to static, breathing or off, depending on your preference. This lighting is impressive and unusual, it's also very much the Asus flavour and we like it, but if you don't it's easy to turn off. After all, you're more likely interested in the sound than the looks of the headset you're using.
Yes, there are some lower priced headsets with sound quality that rival brand names, and cost four times less. But I'll bet the material used to produce them is faulty, and unreliable past a few solid uses. Are there other sacrifices are you willing to make for the sake of saving money? Well, are the headphones you want wired, or wireless? Is the headset noise-cancelling, or sound-isolating? Do they offer surround sound? Does it have a microphone? If the answer is yes to all of these questions, the higher the price will be, but in turn, the better quality that headset should be.
"Fantastic headset for the price! The earpieces are very comfortable and can definitely drown out the surrounding noise when you've got them cranked at full volume. The intuitive microphone design is great too. Before this I had the PS4 wireless headset and sometimes my wife would come in and not know whether I was in a chat or just listening to my game, and now she knows if the mic is up, I'm good to talk, and if it's down...it's game time!"
Like we do for all the products we test, we put gaming headsets through the ringer. We judge them based upon their audio performance, mic performance, wearability, battery life, and wireless connectivity. We play games featuring various sound experiences to ensure the headsets will sound great during frenetic action, as well as quieter moments. We also listen to non-gaming audio and videos, including a selection of music from various genres at differing bit rates to discern whether the headsets perform well outside of a gaming context.