Over the past few decades, headphones have evolved from being a low-quality device designed to keep the sounds of your gaming console out of the ears of your parents to being high-quality accessories that are mandatory for gaming. Not only do gaming headsets provide exemplary sound quality on par with surround sound setups but they are also an integral part of gaming culture, used for purposes such as talking to your viewers while streaming on Twitch or communicating with your teammates in an online game of Call of Duty. To get the best possible headset that lines up with your gaming needs, you’ll need to consider many different factors.
What Makes a Good Gaming Headset?
One look at the gaming headset section of your local electronics store or favorite online retailer will likely become quickly overwhelming, with 100s of choices to choose from at one time. Before you even start to browse the selection of gaming headsets at retail, the first thing you need to do is decide the primary purpose of your gaming headset. For example, if you’re primarily going to use your headset for console games, choosing a headset that confers benefits to PC gamers is only going to result in you wasting your money on features you can’t use. Likewise, selecting a headset with the wrong type of connector, such as choosing a headset that uses a 3.5mm headset jack when your PC doesn’t have those connectors available, could leave you with a headset you can’t even use.
After determining how you are going to use your gaming headset, there are seven different categories you need to look at when buying a gaming headset:
- The quality of the microphone
- The design of the headset
- Wired vs. wireless
- Surround sound
Below, we’ll cover each of these categories more in-depth to give you an idea of what to look for when shopping for a gaming headset.
How Important is Comfort?
Whether you play to play for one hour or all night, comfort is one of the most important things to consider when choosing a gaming headset. It’s also the most personalized category, as what one gamer finds comfortable, another may find irritating. However, one factor remains constant: The lighter the headset, the more comfort it will provide. After a few hours of use, a bulky headset is going to cause neck, scalp and ear discomfort no matter how comfortable the headset’s cushions are.
There are three main styles of gaming headsets: headphones that rest in the ear, headsets that fit around the ear or headsets that completely encapsulate your ear. Unfortunately, no one style is the best, as each gamer has their personal preference. If possible, attempt to try on a variety of different headset styles before purchasing one, imagining what they would feel like after a few hours of use. Keep in mind that what feels comfortable for the first few minutes may not feel comfortable after four or more hours.
If you’re buying a gaming headset to augment the sounds of your single player games and don’t plan on communicating with other gamers, you can safely skip this section. In fact, by choosing a gaming headset without a microphone, you can save a couple of extra dollars.
If you do plan on doing a significant amount of streaming or online gaming, probably the most important aspect of a gaming headset is the quality of the microphone. Choosing a gaming headset with a low-quality microphone can leave your voice sounding distant, muffled or barely audible. Look for gaming headsets that provide features such as high-end noise cancellation for a clear vocal sound and adjustable boom arms that let you reposition the mic.
What Design of Gaming Headset is Best?
Gaming headsets fall into one of two different design categories: open or closed. With the open style of gaming headset, you’ll notice small horizontal openings on your headset’s pads, and with the closed style of gaming headset, the pads are solid. Whether you choose an open or a closed design boils down to how much isolation you’re looking for while gaming.
An open gaming headset design provides ventilation to your ears, keeping them from getting too dry while still letting you hear slight noises around you. The closed design, on the other hand, sacrifices the ventilation for total isolation: You won’t hear your surroundings at all with this headset design. Competitive gamers prefer a closed design to give them an edge during eSports matches while most casual gamers prefer an open design so they can still hear their surroundings.
Wired Vs. Wireless
When talking about any gaming accessory, eventually the choice between wired or wireless is going to come up. Which technology you decide to go with ultimately depends on which gaming device you’re going to use with your gaming headset.
Console gamers will likely prefer a wireless headset, as their gaming console is often 10 or more feet away from the couch. As most wired gaming headsets have short cable lengths, a wireless gaming headset is the best option unless you plan on placing your gaming console on your coffee table. However, you trade convenience for a heavier headset and one that needs recharging every few hours.
PC gamers will likely prefer a wired headset since they are likely near the area where they plan on plugging in the headset. Wired headsets provide a slightly better audio quality than wireless headsets and, for the small cost of being physically attached to your PC via a cable, you also get a lighter headset and one that doesn’t require batteries.
Is 7.1 Surround Sound Necessary?
If you can afford the additional costs associated with a 7.1 surround sound gaming headset, it is absolutely worth purchasing one. While a stereo headset can still provide a great sound, nothing beats the immersive quality of a 7.1 surround sound gaming headset. Being able to accurately pinpoint an enemy on the battlefield in a first-person shooter will give you an edge while a 7.1 surround sound headset will make gaming soundtracks sound better than ever. In many high-end gaming headsets, the 7.1 surround sound is superior to what you’d hear from even top-rated surround sound standalone speakers.
Whether you’re planning on traveling with your gaming headset or never taking them out of one room in your house, durability is an important factor to consider. After all, who wants to spend money on a product that will just fall apart in a few months time? While you can take a guess at the durability of a gaming headset just by looking at the materials used in its construction, the best way to determine durability is to find reviews by other gamers who have used a particular headset for an extended length of time. Durability is also where high-profile manufacturers come into play, as top-rated manufacturers like Turtle Beach and Sennheiser have a reputation for providing gaming headsets that stand the test of time.
Are Branded Headsets Better?
Occasionally, you’ll see gaming headsets that include unique branding, such as a limited edition Call of Duty gaming headset. If you see a gaming headset you like, look for the non-branded version unless you love the brand; as licensing these brands is an expensive process, the manufacturers often pass the costs down to the consumer in the form of a higher MSRP. Many times, you can find the non-branded version of a gaming headset for $20 to $30 cheaper than the branded one.
10 of the Best Gaming Headsets Available
Below, we’ve selected 10 of the best headsets in eight categories, ranging from the best gaming headsets for consoles and streaming to the best gaming headsets in particular price categories. No matter which type of gamer you are or what you want to use your gaming headset for, you’re guaranteed to find at least one headset you love in the list below.
Budget Gaming Headsets
If you’re looking for an entry-level budget gaming headset, the Turtle Beach Ear Force Z11 PC Gaming Headset is a perfect choice. While this headset doesn’t feature all the bells and whistles of the more high-end headsets, it does include features such as in-line volume controls, 50mm speakers, a high-sensitivity microphone and angled speakers. Unfortunately, while this device works on PCs and laptops, the 3.5mm headphone jack means it won’t work with most newer gaming consoles such as the Xbox One.
The Plantronics RIG Flex Gaming Headset is the ideal headset for gamers who are looking for a low-cost headset to start streaming. This stereo headset outputs sound without any distortion while the headphones themselves offer bass enhancements so you can not only hear but feel the explosions on the battlefield. While the microphone doesn’t cancel outside noise, it still transmits your voice adequately, letting you try your hand at Twitch without making a huge monetary investment.
Budget 7.1 Gaming Headsets
The Sentey GS-4731 7.1 gaming headset shows that you don’t need to spend a significant amount of money to get 7.1 surround sound. This headset will connect to any PC with a USB slot and is compatible with both newer operating systems such as Windows 10 and legacy operating systems such as Windows Vista. The Sentey GS-4731 gaming headset provides deep bass while the closed design of the headset means you can hear your enemies from miles away thanks to the total isolation. The Sentey GS-4731 gaming headset puts an emphasis on comfort, with the premium comfort headband letting you wear this gaming headset for hours on end without any pain or discomfort.
Logitech has a reputation for providing some fantastic gaming accessories, and the Logitech G430 981-000536 Dolby 7.1 Surround Sound Gaming Headset is no exception. This budget 7.1 gaming headset offers the following features:
- Dolby 7.1 surround sound
- A lightweight design
- A folding mechanism for storage purposes
- A noise-cancelling boom mic
- In-line sound controls
- Compatibility with both the PlayStation 4 and Windows PCs
If you’re a gamer on a budget and have a preference for high-quality sound, this is one of the best budget 7.1 gaming headsets available.
Budget Wireless Gaming Headsets
The Kotion B3505 Wireless Gaming Headset is a great entry-level headset for wireless gaming, featuring a sturdy design that can take a drop or two and come out unscathed. Not only is this gaming headset compatible with the PC, but it will also work with the iPhone, iPad and an assortment of other tablet devices. The enhanced noise reduction found in the Kotion B3505 Gaming Headset makes it an excellent choice for professional gamers while the multifunctional keys let you power off the device with the press of a button. If you’re worried that the low price of this wireless gaming headset means low quality, you’ll be glad to know that the 50mm magnetic neodymium driver helps pump out high-quality audio that is comparable to gaming headsets twice the price.
If you’re looking for a budget wireless headset for your gaming consoles, you won’t find a better choice than the HUHD 2.4Ghz Optical Wireless Gaming Headset. This wireless gaming headset is compatible with the PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 and Xbox 360 along with the Xbox One, provided you have the appropriate Microsoft adapter. The battery in this headset can last up to six hours before it needs a recharge, with the microphone being fully detachable for those times when you just want to game by yourself.
The Best 7.1 Surround Sound Gaming Headset
If you’re looking for the best 7.1 surround sound gaming headset, then you want the Turtle Beach Ear Force Stealth 450. This top-rated 7.1 surround sound headset is 100 percent wireless, with no external wires on the headset at all.
The Turtle Beach Ear Force Stealth 450 uses proprietary technology to deliver clear sound that lets you pinpoint the location of any enemy on the battlefield. The Variable Mic Monitoring technology enables you to hear your voice in the headset, letting you know the volume of your voice the second you begin speaking. The best part about this headset is the 15-hour rechargeable battery, letting you play all night without needing to stop to charge the headset.
The Best Wireless Gaming Headset
It’s no surprise to see a Logitech product show up as one of the best headsets around, and the Logitech G933 Artemis Spectrum RGB 7.1 Surround Sound Gaming Headset exemplifies everything that makes this company great. These features are just a sample of what this stellar wireless gaming headset offers:
- 7.1 surround sound and Pro-G audio
- A noise-cancelling microphone that folds up when not in use
- 12 hours of battery life on a single charge
- The option to plug the headset in and transform it into a wired headset
- Compatibility with both PCs and gaming consoles, including the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One
- The ability to customize the lights on the headset
- Programmable keys
- Made from comfortable, lightweight materials designed for long gaming marathons
With this many features packed into its sleek frame, it’s clear why the Logitech G933 Artemis Spectrum RGB 7.1 Surround Sound Gaming Headset is the best wireless headset available.
The Best Headset for Consoles
With compatibility for both the PlayStation 4, the Xbox One and a handful of older consoles, the Razer Kraken Pro Analog Gaming Headset takes home the award for the best headset for gaming consoles. This headset has more going for it than just looks, with a lightweight frame that makes it perfect for long gaming marathons.
This headset provides high-quality sound thanks to the large 40mm neodymium magnetic drivers, making everything from deep bass to high-pitched sounds come through in crystal-clear quality. The noise-cancelling boom mic lets you issue orders to your teammates without any distortion while the in-line controls let you quickly adjust the volume in the middle of battle. When you need a gaming headset that is as powerful as the gaming consoles you want to pair it with, there is only one choice: the Razer Kraken Pro Analog Gaming Headset.
The Best Headset for Streaming
Ask any Twitch streamer what the hardest part of their job is and you’ll hear one resounding answer: the long hours. To become successful on a streaming service, you need to spend hours at a time playing games and interacting with your viewers, making a comfortable gaming headset a necessity. The HyperX Cloud II Gaming Headsetis the best headset for streaming thanks to its memory foam ear cups, lightweight construction and padded headband. The tangle-free braided cables will allow you to move around while you stream while your viewers will have no problem hearing your voice thanks to the noise-cancelling microphone. With the HyperX Cloud II Gaming Headset specializing in both comfort and voice chat, it’s easy to see why it’s the best headset available for streaming.
As long as you choose a headset that fits your needs and meets your criteria in areas such as durability, quality and comfort, you’ll have made the right choice. Each of the 10 headsets listed in this buying guide is the best in their class, providing a sound experience that you need to hear to believe. Prepare yourself for some all-night gaming sessions, as you’ll likely want to replay all your games again with your new gaming headset!