The 10 Best Gaming Headsets
This wiki has been updated 28 times since it was first published in May of 2015. Communication and teamwork are often the difference between life and death on the digital battlefields of today's advanced multiplayer games. Along the way to defeating the enemy and taking home the MVP trophy, you'll have to issue a few orders and talk some trash, and the right gaming headset will help you hear all the action. There are great options available for all budgets. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
August 23, 2020:
One important thing we want to note is that you can probably find gaming headsets that cost less; they'll come from no-name manufacturers and they might actually work for a while, but you'll notice a massive difference just by upgrading to some of the most affordable models we've listed. For what it's worth, the main reason - aside from aesthetics - to get a gaming headset instead of a standard pair of headphones is the boom mic. If you don't plan on talking to any teammates or playing multiplayer games in general, we'd recommend looking at a pair of more traditional headphones but with active noise canceling. While they aren't actively marketed to gamers, we've found that for single-player titles, they provide considerably more immersive and overall better sound than game-centric headsets at similar prices.
That said, you'll probably notice that we have a favorite manufacturer. The HyperX Cloud Alpha S is a really great all-around wired choice, and the HyperX Cloud Flight S is a modern wireless option. Incidentally, wireless gaming headphones have come a long way recently, and are finally as reliable and lag-free as they need to be for successful use. The HyperX Cloud Stinger Core is the brand's most affordable line, and it comes in a standard inexpensive model, one with simulated 7.1-channel surround, and one with wireless connectivity. The there's the HyperX Cloud Orbit S, which is quite costly, but also the first planar magnetic cans intended specifically for gaming that won't break the bank. Their drivers are actually produced and tuned by audiophile giant Audeze, who makes an incredibly expensive gaming headset called the LCD-GX that's for only the most serious enthusiasts.
Of course, there are other manufacturers worth considering. The Razer BlackShark V2 is known specifically for its microphone quality although it's a great choice all around, the EPOS Sennheiser Game One has a distinct focus on high-fidelity audio thanks to its well-known and experienced designers, the Turtle Beach Stealth 600 is great for Playstation fans, and the Astro A10 is sturdy enough to withstand getting tossed on the floor at least a few times, in case you ever happen to rage quit.
March 27, 2019:
One of the most critical aspects of online multiplayer gaming is the teamwork required to come out on top. If you want to hear and be heard with incredible accuracy, a headset is absolutely the way to go. Of course, a gaming headset isn't quite the same as the pair of headphones you'd use to listen to your music collection. You won't find any planar magnetic or electrostatic drivers, but you will find a couple options from audio heavyweights, most notably Sennheiser. Their GSP 300 is reported to have a broadcast-quality mic, and as such, would be a good choice for anyone who streams a lot. Their Game One, on the other hand, is an all-around high-performing unit, and it sounds as good as many music-focused headphones, if not better.
The LucidSound is another that employs top-quality drivers, although it's mostly suited to those with smaller ears or heads than average. The Arctis 7 features excellent audio fidelity in a wireless package, in large part because it uses 2.4-gigahertz wireless transmission, as opposed to the Bluetooth used by everyday wireless cans, which takes advantage of a compression algorithm that can noticeably reduce sound quality.
Comfort, for that matter, is one of the most important parts of a gaming headset. In that realm, you'll find that HyperX's Cloud series often shines above the rest, and their newest, the Alpha Cloud9, may be the best-fitting yet, for a wide range of head shapes and sizes. Their Revolver model features a suspension-style headband that some users find to fit very well. And if you're on a budget, it would be hard to do better than their Stinger offers incredible bang for the buck. And if you're a professional gamer, consider the Victrix. It's awfully pricey, but it features a 4-microphone noise cancelling system, and does a great job at drowning out noisy, competitive environments, so you can focus on winning the game.
Audeze LCD-GX If you're not familiar with the world of audiophile headphones, the price of this headset might shock you, but it's actually on the low end of what high-end collectors pay for truly premium cans. This model incorporates some of the most impressive technology that the world-famous manufacturer has to offer, and they're great for critical listening and studio mixing in addition to playing games. audeze.com
To See The Future, First, See The Past
Communications technology has come a long way since the Pony Express, and Game of Thrones-style homing pigeons.
Communications technology has come a long way since the Pony Express, and Game of Thrones-style homing pigeons. And while online video game conversations might not be the exemplar of successful communication between human beings, the rate of technology behind them certainly hasn't slowed down a bit.
The original non-gaming headset was invented in 1910 by a Stanford student named Nathaniel Baldwin and was, unfortunately, a bit of a failed design. The headset was a commercial failure, at least at first. Nobody could see why large numbers of people might want to buy them, mostly because there was little to no demand for them.
Then came the war, which flipped everything on a dime. World War I came into spotlight, and it was quickly realized that American fighter pilots had no means to communicate with one another. There was not a single headset among them. It wasn't until Uncle Sam ordered a bulk of them did Baldwin's brainchild get a chance to stand on two legs.
One of the oldest audio equipment makers, Plantronics, got their start selling headsets to pilots. Back then in the 1960s, they were extremely cumbersome to the point that no one wanted to wear them. It wasn't until a couple of astronauts got together to create a smaller, lightweight version.
But, if you stop to think about it, we're already in the future. It's hard to deny that the recent developments, and future possibilities in virtual reality technology are exciting. With big money from the likes of Facebook and Google now committed to the enterprise, virtual reality is suddenly becoming more than the pipe dream of some indie developer working out of a garage.
While virtual reality headsets mark how far headsets have come, one has to admit that such technologies still has a ways to go. Even despite the advances made since the computer flight simulators of the 1980s, it's likely that a few generations of tech will be necessary to, as they say, "work out all the bugs."
Virtual reality, of course, represents a new kind of headset–a headset with a component that simulates the visual field. The technological development comes at a cost, however: being immersed in such a headset can cause severe motion sickness. It perhaps gives pause to consider that such things were the science-fiction dreams of many who lived not more than fifty or a hundred years ago…though lightsabers are still forthcoming.
What Makes A Gaming Headset, A Gaming Headset?
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.
They want something specific, that does specific things very well.
The headphones function to convert sound by way of a soundcard, from digital (computer) to analog (headset). USB headsets connect to the computer by way of USB, and so sound conversion occurs in the headphones themselves or in a control unit. Inside the ear cups is where the magic happens. This is where the drivers live, and drivers are to headsets as gasoline is to vehicles. The larger the driver, the better sound will be produced.
Many of the differences between gaming headsets have to deal with comfort, or cosmetics as opposed to function; and anyone looking for in-depth reviews is already past the point of merely looking for a general something to fulfill a general function. They want something specific, that does specific things very well. The point is that the base technology to communicate through video games, to immerse oneself in a virtual experience, and to do so simultaneously with remote players is already here.
Sacrifices That Come With Being On A Budget
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.
Yes, there are some lower priced headsets with sound quality that rival brand names, and cost four times less.
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.
The more features a headset offers, the more money they're going to cost. And if you're a gamer, those specs, or lack thereof, can be a game changer, pun intended. The morale of the story is, to truly improve your gaming experience, invest in a great pair of headsets. Cheap is not always better, and this is certainly the case here.