Our Favorite Gaming Headsets
You need a good headset (or gaming headphones, if you prefer) for online gaming. Without one, you don’t have a reliable way to talk trash to your enemies, and your lexicon of expletives will stagnate. Oh, and you won’t be able to coordinate strategies with your friendly team or guild.
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.
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Wired vs. Wireless Gaming Headsets
Headsets can be either wired or wireless, with wireless models generally costing more. More important is that each gaming headset supports different system, handheld, and computer connections. For the PS4 Pro, Xbox One X, most mobile devices, and some computers, you can use Bluetooth for a wireless headset (the original Xbox One lacks Bluetooth support). Other systems require a different wireless connection, often with a separate base plugged into your console or computer.
Bluetooth has made great strides in the last few years, but proprietary wireless connections generally offer better audio quality and a stronger signal. Proprietary wireless connections are typically designed for only one console, or one console and a PC; you’ll have to choose between Xbox One and PS4 for most wireless gaming headsets.
If you game on the PlayStation 4, the Nintendo Switch, newer Xbox One models, or most handheld gaming devices, you can just plug a single 3.5mm headphone jack into the controller or system and start playing. The Xbox One works in a similar way, but if you have an older Xbox One gamepad you might need Microsoft’s Xbox One Stereo Headset Adapter to use a wired headset with it. Most headsets on this list can connect to your preferred system one way or another.
How We Test Headphones
If you want to use your headset with last-gen systems like the PS3 and the Xbox 360, you’ll need to see if the headset supports their own unique connections, or if adapters are available. PCs are the most flexible with gaming headsets, since they can work with USB headsets (which are generally only compatible with PCs), 3.5mm analog connections (though you might need a splitter adapter if your headset ends in just one plug), and often optical audio.
Do You Need Surround Sound?
Most high-end gaming headsets claim to offer some form of surround sound, but this isn’t accurate. The vast majority of surround sound headsets still use stereo drivers (often a single 40mm driver for each ear) to produce sound. The surround aspect comes from Dolby and DTS processing technologies that tweak how the headsets mix sound between your ears to give an impression of 360-degree audio. It’s an artificial effect that wouldn’t provide a true surround sound image even if the headset had individual drivers for each channel; there simply isn’t enough space for the sound to resonate to produce the impression of accurate directional audio. However, it can make things more immersive and improve your ability to track the direction sounds from left to right.
Gaming Microphones and Speakers
If you already have a favorite pair of headphones that either has a cheap inline microphone or no mic at all, consider the Antlion Audio ModMic 5 (pictured above). It’s a boom mic that attaches easily to your favorite pair of headphones, and can be removed when not in use thanks to a two-piece magnetic mount. You won’t get any of the gaming-specific features of dedicated gaming headsets with the ModMic (and wireless is right out), but it lets you use your beloved old cans for voice chat. Just make sure you have the right connection or adapter to use it with your preferred game platform.
If you prefer single-player games and live alone, you don’t need a headset at all. You can use speakers and enjoy the room-filling atmosphere, and shout into the inexpensive and mediocre monoaural headsets the Xbox One and PS4 come with. But the next time you’re in a deathmatch, raid, or capture mission, make sure you’re shouting into the boom mic of a good headset. To find the right one, check out our reviews below, then take a look at our 5 Easy Tips to Extend the Life of Your Headphones.
Pros: Excellent audio quality. Very clear boom mic. Solid, comfortable design.
Cons: Uses pinhole microphone instead of boom in Bluetooth mode. No USB sound card included.
Bottom Line: The versatile Kingston HyperX Cloud Mix works very well as both a wired gaming headset and a pair of Bluetooth headphones.
Pros: Solid, comfortable build. Excellent mic with Blue Microphones software adjustments. Strong audio performance with crisp highs. Lots of accessories.
Cons: Relatively weak bass. No phone controls on either cable.
Bottom Line: The Logitech G Pro X wired gaming headset combines a sturdy, comfortable design with a USB sound card loaded with customizable headphone and microphone settings.
Pros: Affordable. Comfortable. Two audio modes offer satisfying bass and balance for gaming and music.
Cons: Slightly fuzzy microphone. No wired connection option.
Bottom Line: The wireless PDP LVL50 is one of the best budget wireless gaming headsets we’ve tested, not to mention one of the few available for under $100.
Pros: Powerful sound. Sturdy, comfortable design. 7.1-channel surround sound. User-adjustable EQ. Excellent mic.
Cons: Heavy on bass by default. 7.1-channel surround and EQ tweaks are only available on PC.
Bottom Line: The Razer Nari Essential is a budget-friendly wireless gaming headset that will please PC gamers with its powerful audio performance.
Pros: Excellent audio quality. Comfortable. Lots of connection options. Two batteries with charging compartment in transmitter.
Cons: Expensive. Doesn’t feel quite as premium as similarly priced headsets.
Bottom Line: The SteelSeries Arctis Pro Wireless is a remarkably full-featured wireless gaming headset, with a handy transmitter with its own controls and display, and both Bluetooth and wired connectivity as backups.
Pros: Excellent sound quality. Light, sturdy design feels premium. Plenty of audio customization options through the Astro Command app.
Cons: Expensive for a wired-only headset. PS4 Slim users need an HDMI splitter.
Bottom Line: Astro Gaming’s A40 TR headset with MixAmp Pro TR is a high-quality wired gaming headset/amp combination that provides a very comfortable fit and excellent audio for a premium price.
Pros: Solid, comfortable build. Sturdy fabric-wrapped cables. THX simulated surround sound.
Cons: Somewhat weak highs.
Bottom Line: Razer’s Kraken Tournament Edition gaming headset delivers strong bass performance and capable simulated surround sound for $100.
Pros: Excellent audio quality. Solid, comfortable build. Bluetooth.
Cons: Expensive. Light on accessories. Awkward volume dial.
Bottom Line: Sennheiser’s GSP 670 wireless gaming headset feels comfortable, sounds terrific, and features Bluetooth so you can use it with your phone.
Pros: Comfortable, sturdy build. Balanced sound. Good mic. Extensive options through app.
Cons: Wireless through PC only. Bass isn’t particularly powerful. Waves Nx doesn’t track motion.
Bottom Line: The Turtle Beach Elite Atlas Aero wireless gaming headset offers a comfortable fit, good audio quality, and solid simulated suround sound for your PC.
Pros: Excellent sound quality with powerful bass. Sturdy, luxurious build. Bluetooth audio with included SuperAmp.
Cons: Less-than-stellar microphone. SuperAmp has few controls. Unreliable app.
Bottom Line: The Turtle Beach Elite Pro 2 is a fantastic wired gaming headset even if its SuperAmp accessory doesn’t add much to the total package.