The best gaming headsets of 2018

Hear your enemy before you see him with the best gaming headsets

dt best of 150 dishwashersWhether you’re playing from your couch, or getting up close and personal with your PC, a gaming headset has become a near necessity for gamers of any skill level. Sure, a boomin’ surround sound system can help immerse you in the action of your favorite games, but you can get a lot more bang for your buck with a top-notch gaming headset. And if you’re serious about multiplayer matches, a high-quality microphone to communicate with your friends (and rivals) is also crucial.

To help you on your quest (literally in some cases), we’ve picked out the best gaming headsets you can buy for any system. This list covers both major consoles, as well as PC and Nintendo Switch, so you can get your game on in style. If you’re looking for the best PlayStation 4 headsets or Xbox One headsets specifically, we have lists for those, too.

At a glance

Product Category Rating
SteelSeries Arctis Pro Best gaming headset overall 5 out of 5
HyperX Cloud Revolver S  Best premium wired headset 4.5 out of 5
Astro Gaming A50 Best premium wireless headset 4.5 out of 5
Razor ManO’War 7.1 Best premium wireless headset 4 out of 5
Logitech G533 Best wireless surround sound headset 4 out of 5
Corsair HS50 Best budget option for any platform In progress
SteelSeries Arctis 3 Bluetooth Best for Nintendo Switch In progress

SteelSeries Arctis Pro

The best

SteelSeries

Why should you buy this: It’s the best-in-class gaming headset by virtually every factor.

Who’s it for: Those who demand performance, deep customization, versatility, and understated design.

How much it costs: $180 to $330

Why we picked the Steelseries Arctis Pro

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.

Take your pick.

While the optional hi-res components (either the GameDAC with the wired version or the 2.4G Bluetooth receiver box) are only compatible with PC and PS4, the Arctis Pro is compatible with virtually every console right out of the box, either through wireless USB or 3.5mm wired connection. All players, regardless of platform, can take advantage of the headset’s excellent stereo mix and super-clear microphone — not to mention the fact that its mature design is customizable to fit your taste.

While it’s hard to top the Arctis Pro, even Steelseries’ more affordable Arctis models, including the Arctis 3, 5, and 7, are impressive alternatives, identical to the Pro in terms of comfort and only a modest step down in performance and features (the Arctis 7 was our previous top pick, in fact). There are wired and wireless versions of each of these headsets, and while they require the Steelseries Engine 3 software to use the surround sound and EQ features (meaning these features are PC-only), they still sound great even without these extras. So, should the Arctis Pro reside outside your budget, any of these Arctis models could compete for the top spot on our list.

Read our full Arctis Pro review

HyperX Cloud Revolver S

The best premium wired headset

Kingston HyperX Cloud Revolver S
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Why should you buy this: The excellent-sounding Cloud Revolver S is the most versatile and easy-to-use headset we’ve tested.

Who’s it for: Anyone and everyone, provided a wired connection works with your setup.

How much it costs: $120

Why we picked the Cloud Revolver S:

The Cloud Revolver S from HyperX is one of the most versatile headsets we’ve tested. It comes packed with three separate connection types — 3.5mm, dual 3.5mm, and wired USB — which, in aggregate, enable the headset to be connected to just about anything. This isn’t entirely unique to the Cloud Revolver S, but the headset takes things a step further by eliminating the need for any extra software or driver downloads, making it a truly plug-and-play peripheral. This integrated nature is especially important with the USB connection, which features a built-in sound card and a control dongle for features like Dolby 7.1 virtual surround sound and EQ settings.

The most important feature, however, is the brilliant sound performance. The basic, out-of-the-box stereo mix, which is the baseline regardless of connection type or console, is excellent, with a snug balance and punchy bass that enhances gameplay and music. The surround sound and EQ features — specifically the bass boost — only serve to further enhance the experience. The cherry on top is that the headset is extremely comfortable, with a sturdy design, plush padding, and an auto-fitting headband. Sounds like a winner to us.

Read our full Cloud Revolver S review

Astro Gaming A50

The best premium wireless headset

best ps4 headsets astro a50 headset lifestyle

Why should you buy this: It’s the Swiss Army Knife of wireless headsets.

Product Card: You get what you pay for with Astro’s high-class gaming headset.

Who’s it for: Gamers who want a wireless headset stuffed with features (and don’t mind paying extra for them).

How much it costs: $300

Why we picked the Astro Gaming A50: 

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.

The A50 does just about everything you’d want from a high-quality gaming headset, including extras like hassle-free wireless connection, long battery life bolstered by an auto-shut down feature that prevents wasting battery.

Those extra features are great, but they’re only part of the story. The real star here is the audio performance, and the A50 is one of the best (obviously), making games more engrossing and entertaining. The A50 is worth serious consideration by all audiophile gamers … provided you’re willing and able to shell out the cash.

Read our full Astro Gaming A50 review

Razer ManO’War 7.1

The best premium wireless headset

Razer Man O' War Gaming Headset review
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Why should you buy this: Razer’s ManO’War 7.1 is a versatile headset that meets the needs of console and PC gamers alike.

Who’s it for: The gamer looking for big sound.

How much it costs: $120

Why we picked the Razer ManO’War 7.1:

By most measures, Razer’s ManO’War 7.1 — the wired, surround sound-equipped version of its wireless model of the same name — is a fantastic headset. Its virtual 7.1 surround sound is among the best on the market, the sound it pumps out of its large earcups is balanced, and its microphone is sleek and discreet, and yet outperforms most of the competition. The only real limiting factor is its size, which renders it a difficult choice for mobile use. But what it lacks in portability, it more than makes up for in performance.

The only thing bigger than the size of this beastly headset is its sound. Out of the box, the ManO’War 7.1 has a spacious mix, giving the upper register room to breathe on top of bombastic, rich bass. When connected to PC via USB, the 7.1 further enhances the size and space the headset’s drivers create. The result is a fantastic auditory experience.

Read our full Razer ManO’War 7.1 review

Logitech G533

The best wireless surround sound

Why should you buy this: It’s got the best surround sound of any headset we’ve tested yet.

Who’s it for: Those who need pinpoint soundstage location and precision.

How much it costs: $150

Why we picked the Logitech G533:

Logitech’s latest headset, the Logitech G533, brings several impressive features to a solid, attractive design, most notably the DTS 7.1 surround built into the speaker. This wireless headset comes standard with some simple-to-use software that can control the equalizer settings and enable the surround sound. It just so happens to have the best surround sound staging we’ve used in a headset, bar none. Whether you’re playing a first-person or third-person perspective game, sounds emit within the headphones from the proper location, making navigating these virtual worlds easier. The headset also performs well with 2D games. Regardless of what kind of games you play, however, the G553’s sounds excellent thanks to its 40mm Pro-G drivers (we did notice some minor wireless hum when nothing was being played through the headphones but that was absent during gameplay).

The mic is equally good. We found voice capture with the mic to be clear, and we dig the minimalist design of the boom mic, which can be easily flipped up when not in use, or extended and bent for finding the optimal distance. As is often the case with Logitech gear, the headset has several neat idiosyncrasies, like a textured pad on the USB receiver for extra grip and internal “beeps” to inform you of volume changes, low battery levels, or mic enabling. It’s also, thankfully, devoid of any gaudy lights or “cool” decals, opting instead for a simpler and therefore more attractive aesthetic than most other headsets out there. While not necessarily groundbreaking, these are nice touches nonetheless.

One decision we’re admittedly a bit less enthusiastic about is the fabric used on the earcup padding, which we found scratchy and stiff during initial use. Then again, the padding is removable and washer safe, which isn’t something we can say about most of the other headsets on this list.

Read our full Logitch G5333 review

Corsair HS50

The best budget option for any platform

best gaming headsets corsair hs50 headset

Why should you buy this: It offers more versatility, better sound, and better mic performance than headsets that are twice as expensive.

Who’s it for: The budget-minded gamer.

How much it costs: $50

Why we picked the Corsair HS50:

Even if you’re looking to pay $100 or more for a headset, the Corsair HS50 is still worth a look. At just $50, it ranks as the most affordable option on our list. But don’t let the low price tag fool you. The Corsair HS50 headset routinely holds prominent spots on numerous best gaming headset lists — not just ours — and for good reason.

This sleek, minimalist headset has the versatility and simplicity that comes with a wired headset, but boasts excellent sound quality that rivals other headsets that cost two or three times as much. Because it’s a wired headset, you’ll be losing out on surround sound, but the stereo mix is strong enough that accurate positioning shouldn’t be an issue. The inclusion of a detachable mic adds to the HS50’s attractive-yet-unassuming design, and makes it possible for the headset to double as a quick pair of headphones, if need be.

Make no mistake, there are benefits to opting for a pricier pick, but the Corsair HS50 makes a strong case that more expensive isn’t always better.

Steelseries Arctis 3 Bluetooth

The best for Nintendo Switch

Amazon tech deals SteelSeries Arctis 3 All-Platform Gaming Headset

Why should you buy this: One of the best headsets around also cures the Nintendo Switch’s voice chat headache.

Who’s it for: Nintendo Switch players who want a fully-functional headset with great sound

How much it costs: $120

Why we picked the SteelSeries Arctis 3 Bluetooth

While we have dedicated lists for the best PlayStation 4 headsets and Xbox One headsets, we don’t have one for Nintendo Switch. There’s a reason for that: Using a headset with the Nintendo Switch can be a bit of a mess. Sure, you can plug in any pair of headphones (rather than a headset), or even sync up a Bluetooth pair, but the Switch’s lack of an on-console voice chat function renders the headset question moot — if you can’t use the mic, then why bother? In order to use voice chat at all, you must download an app for your smartphone. Then you’ll need to connect to both the Switch and your smartphone via a splitter. This can result in a tangled mess.

However, the Arctis 3 Wireless is one of the few headsets — wireless or otherwise — that simplifies this setup. The Arctis 3 Wireless can connect to up to two Bluetooth devices simultaneously, which means you can be connected to your Switch for gameplay audio, and your phone for voice chat.

That may sound complicated, especially compared to other setups discussed here, but your only other option is the Hori Splat and Chat headset which is, frankly, a nightmare. Unless you’re willing to sacrifice the chat function altogether, the Arctis 3 Wireless is your best option. Thankfully, it’s a quality headset, period, so it could be worse.

How we test

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.

For mic testing, we record clips of ourselves speaking in quiet and loud environments, both with any noise canceling or enhancements toggled on and off. We use the headsets over multiple days, wearing them while gaming, watching videos, or listening to music to test the veracity of battery life claims, as well as appraise their long-term wearability and comfort.

This list features both wired and wireless headsets in multiple varieties, which begs the question: Which design style is best? The answer quite simply comes down to your setup. The following is a handy guide to decide which headset will be best for you.

Platform

The first major consideration is what gaming platform(s) you’ll be using with the headset, as the supported connection will differ from console to console. Modern headsets will connect via one (or more) of the following ways: Single 3.5mm, dual 3.5mm (one for headphone audio and one for mic), wired USB, wireless USB, or Bluetooth. Here’s a quick breakdown of which connection type is supported by each of the modern gaming platforms:

Platform USB 3.5mm BlueTooth Dual 3.5mm
PC X X X X
PlayStation 4* X X X
Xbox One** X
Nintendo Switch***  X X  X
Wii U X
Nintendo 3DS X
PlayStation Vita X X
Smartphones X X
Tablets X X

*While most USB headsets can be used on PS4, many are specifically made for PC and will require drivers or extra software to enable features like surround sound, EQ settings, and even mic support in some instances. Because of this, some USB headsets will have limited functionality on PS4. For those wanting a USB headset on PS4, seek out headsets that list PS4 compatibility explicitly, such as the Cloud Revolver S

**Only certain wireless USB models are supported by Xbox One, such as the Turtle Beach Elite 800X. Be sure to confirm compatibility before purchasing. For 3.5mm headsets, newer Xbox One controllers have a headphone jack, while older versions may require Microsoft’s official 3.5mm headset adapter.

***Voice chat on the Nintendo Switch is handled through your smartphone’s mic via Nintendo’s smartphone app. The system’s 3.5mm jack, Bluetooth, and USB adapter connections only support audio out.

Wired vs. wireless

Both wired and wireless headsets have their pros and cons, and there are specific use cases that could make one or the other the right fit for your setup.

While wireless headsets are obviously more flexible when it comes to your connection to the source device, a major constraint for USB or Bluetooth wireless headsets is compatibility, as the table above shows. You’ll only be able to use USB wireless models with PS4, PC, and, in some select cases, Xbox One or Nintendo Switch. Bluetooth headsets are compatible with PC, PS4, PS Vita, mobile devices, and, conditionally, the Nintendo Switch.

Wireless headsets are best for large living room setups where you’re on one side and your console or PC is on the other.

That said, you’re going to get a lot more distance and freedom from a wireless headset, which makes them best for large living room setups where you’re going to be sitting on one side of the room and your console or PC is at the other. Keep an eye out for battery life ratin, as well. Most headsets can survive for at least a few straight hours of play, but there’s nothing worse than having to stop in the middle of an intense match to plug in your headset’s charging cable once the batteries are tapped.

Wired headsets, on the other hand, have more reliable sound quality and are more likely to have features like virtual surround sound (though this feature is pretty common on newer and more expensive wireless options). While constrained by wires, they’re free of the fetters of battery life.

They obviously work best for those who are going to be sitting right next to their PC or console, though many devices, including the Nintendo Switch system — as well as the controllers for Xbox One, PS4, and Wii U — all feature 3.5mm jacks, making distance less of an issue since these devices will be in your hands. Keep in mind the length of the connection cable if you’re connecting via 3.5mm to a PC, TV/monitor, or a sound system. In some cases, extensions or swapping for a new cable might be necessary to get the distance your setup requires.

Headphones and free-standing mic

The all-in-one nature of a gaming headset is a convenience, but a convenience that comes with trade-offs. Audio quality will be impressive on the highest-end headsets — as will the mic performance — but these are generally not made with extreme audiophiles or audio recording professionals in mind.

YouTubers, Twitch streamers, podcasters, and anyone else who requires the best possible audio quality may want to skip a headset altogether. Instead, we recommend pairing top-tier headphones with a free-standing mic (and, if you’re really after the best quality, a USB mixer). A setup like this is going to be exclusive to those using a PC — or at the very least those who do their editing and voice capture there — and is going to be a lot more expensive.

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