Whether 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, having a boomin’ sound system can help immerse you into 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 competing in multiplayer matches, a headset with a high-quality mic to communicate with your friends (and rivals) is a must-have. So stock up on energy drinks and call in sick, as our list of the best gaming headsets gets you ready to play till the early morning.
SteelSeries Arctis 7
Why should you buy this: It’s the best-in-class gaming headset for virtually every criterion.
Product Card: The Arctis 7 has the best mic, the best design, and the best sound of any headset we’ve tested.
Who’s it for: Those who demand performance, deep customization, versatility, and understated design.
How much will it cost: $150
Why we picked the SteelSeries Arctis 7:
Where do we start with SteelSeries‘ magnum opus, the Arctis 7? The highly flexible, crystal clear mic that rivals even some professional-grade audio equipment? Or how about the sleek, professional design that looks more like stylish over-ear headphones than a gaming peripheral? Or, maybe the unparalleled plug-in software that enables users to fine tune EQ and surround sound settings at much more granular scale than the competition.
Take your pick.
Sure, the DTS:X 7.1 virtual surround sound and robust software are only available on PC, but the Arctis 7 is compatible with virtually every console right out of the box, either through wireless USB or 3.5mm wired connection. And while those features make this headset a true no-brainer for PC gamers, console and mobile gamers can still take advantage of the headset’s excellent stereo mix and crystal clear microphone — not to mention it’s mature and classy look that can be customized to fit your taste.
The kicker here is that, while the Arctis 7 is our favorite, it’s less costly siblings Arctis 5 and Arctis 3 are virtually identical when it comes to performance and comfort, with the major differences coming from them being wired instead of wireless, and slightly different physical design. So should the Arctis 7 not be quite in your budget, there are two very capable alternatives that could easily hold this very spot on our list.
Best premium wired headset
HyperX Cloud Revolver S
Why should you buy this: The excellent-sounding Cloud Revolver S is the most versatile and easy to use headset we’ve tested
Product Card: “The Cloud Revolver S’ excellent sound quality is open to all gamers, regardless of platform”
Who’s it for: Anyone and everyone, provided a wired connection works with your setup
How much will it cost: $150
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 Cloud Revolver S’ 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.
Best Wired Surround Sound
Razer ManO’War 7.1
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 the gamer looking for big sound
How much will it cost: $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 some of the best on the market, its microphone is sleek, discreet, and yet outperforms most of the competition, and the sound it pumps out of its two, large ear cups is balanced. The only real limiting factor is its size, which renders it a difficult choice for mobile use. But what it lacks in portability is 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.
The best sub $100 headset for consoles
PDP Afterglow AG 9+
Why should you buy this: You’ll get a comfortable, great sounding headset without going broke.
Who’s it for: Those on a tighter budget
How much will it cost: $90-$100
Why we picked the PDP Afterglow AG 9+:
PDP’s Afterglow AG 9+ is a decent headset and one that manages to make an impression at the $100 mark. At that price point, there’s bound to be some minor shortcomings. Primarily, we find the aesthetic design to be a bit on the gaudy side, with programmable LED lights on the sides and almost cyberpunk look overall. The mic is also a point of compromise. It’s fine — it’s not going to win any awards — but its removable nature makes converting to a simple headphone configuration a breeze.
But with those caveats discussed up front, let’s talk about why the AG 9+ is on this list.
As mentioned before, the mic isn’t winning any awards, but the AG 9+ work well as just a pair of headphones, too, handling both music and gameplay well. The mix can be a bit top-heavy at times, but we find the AG9+ to be a great audio device overall. Unlike some wireless headsets, there’s little-to-no annoying wireless hum, which becomes especially welcome during quieter listening moments.
While the aesthetics are less than subtle, the build quality is top notch, providing a heft and sturdiness not normally found in headsets at this price range. We like the simple, smartly- placed volume and mic controls, too. Perhaps most importantly is the comfort of the earcups and headband padding, feeling more like soft fabric upholstery than thin leather or polyester. This makes wearing the AG9+ a comfortable experience, which is important given how long you’ll be wearing these. The AG9+ provide over 15 hours of battery life, which is an impressive charge for any wireless device.
There are models tailored for PS4, PC, and Xbox One(wired), so no matter what your console of choice this headset is available for you. At the $100 price point, there are few headsets as comfortable as this.
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 will it cost: $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- 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 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, 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 or several 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 that present a simpler and therefore more attractive aesthetic than most other headsets out there. While these are not necessarily groundbreaking, they make for nice touches nonetheless.
One decision we’re admittedly a bit less enthusiastic about 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 any of the other headsets on this list.
Best sub $100 wired headset for PC
Sound BlasterX H7 Tournament Edition
Why should you buy this: Few 7.1 headsets are as comfortable and affordable as the Sound BlasterX H7 TE
Product Card: “A great sounding virtual surround sound headset with a small and light design.”
Who’s it for: Those who need a wired headset, but can’t shell out for the super expensive models
How much will it cost: $99
Why we picked the Sound BlasterX H7 Tournament Edition:
The Sound BlasterX H7 Tournament Edition is a mouthful, but this headset has a more diminutive footprint than most of the others on this list, and we appreciate that. While it’s emblazoned with big, bold branding on the earcups and headband, the overall design is simple, standing in stark contrast to many other headsets.
The H7 also boasts a number of features and design qualities — specifically 7.1 virtual surround sound, memory foam padding, flexible EQ settings, and a solid mic — that you normally would have to spend a good deal more green to land from other competitors.
Most importantly, these headphones sound great. The 50mm drivers perform very well, outpacing much of the competition at this price point. Sure, there are many headsets that you can get for $99, but few have the breadth of features, quality of sound, and snug, comfortable fit you get with the Sound BlasterX H7 TE
How we test
Like we do for all the products we test, we put gaming headsets through the ringer. We judge based upon their audio performance, mic performance, wearability, and if necessary battery life and wireless connectivity. We play games of 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 and/or 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. Here’s a handy guide to decide which headset will be best for you.
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:
*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 unavailable as of the date of publication, but when it’s enabled it will be done through your smartphone’s mic via Nintendo’s smartphone app. The 3.5mm jack on the system only supports 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. Bluetooth headsets are compatible with only PC, PS4, PS Vita, and mobile devices. 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 when 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 rating, 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.
However, a gaming headset can provide a great entryway for those interested in streaming, podcasting, or making gameplay videos to get things up and running quickly and conveniently.