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Communication is a matter of life and death in gaming, and the best gaming headsets make sure you're never out of the loop with your team. Beyond just chatting, the right gaming headset can offer a truly immersive audio experience that rivals most standalone speaker setups.
Besides audio quality, you'll also want to make sure your headset fits comfortably. But beyond the simple aesthetic virtues, you'll want to make sure that your headset is also compatible with whatever system you're intending to use it with. Some headsets are universally compatible or offer Bluetooth connectivity making this less of an issue, but can still present an issue if you're unprepared.
We've outlined some of our top picks below, but if you're not sure where to start, make sure to check out our guide to types of headphones.
Top-notch audio fidelity
Sennheiser’s Game ONE gaming headset continues the long tradition of superb quality and sound that’s expected from the Sennheiser name. The Game ONE is compatible with PCs, Macs, smartphones, and tablets, as well as gaming consoles that have a 3.5mm audio port. The white plastic with red and black trim design offers a unique look that’s super lightweight (just 11 ounces).
The XXL-sized ear cups offer velvet ear pads that fully encompass the ear offering excellent comfort for extended gaming sessions. Sennheiser’s original transducer technology allows for (50-ohm) exceptional sound clarity and accuracy. The noise-canceling microphone automatically mutes when it’s raised and volume control is located on the right ear cup. With cross-platform capability, exceptional comfort and great sound, the Game ONE headsets are an outstanding choice.
Robust build quality
7.1 surround is a bit of a joke
Cable isn't detachable
When it comes to sound quality, compatibility, and features at a reasonable price, you won’t find a better gaming headset than the HyperX Cloud series from Kingston. Compatible with PC, Mac, PS4, and Xbox One (with adapter) it can satisfy all of your gaming needs. It is also surprisingly light in weight, too, and the memory foam headband and ear cushions mean it is comfortable over long gaming sessions.
The real appeal here is how it performs, though. The noise-canceling Team Speak certified microphone lets you communicate with perfect clarity, and the headphones 53mm drivers deliver stunning sound quality. The Kingston HyperX Cloud II Gaming Headset is easily our pick for best overall headset regardless of the platform you intend to use it on.
Solid overall sound
Flimsy build quality
Uncomfortable for glasses wearers
For a solid lower cost multi-platform headset alternative, the Turtle Beach Ear Force Recon 50X is a solid choice. It is compatible with PS4, Mac, mobile, PC, and Xbox One controllers with the 3.5mm jack (introduced in all controllers after July 2015) out of the box, and with older XONE controllers via the stereo headset adapter sold separately.
Turtle Beach is an established brand that knows what it’s doing when it comes to sound, so the microphone and headset audio quality are great for the price range. The overall construction is a little thin and flimsy, however, and might not hold up over the long term. As long as you take care of them, however, you won’t find a better multi-platform gaming headset at this price.
Surround could be better
Affordable, stylish, and designed with compatibility in mind, the Turtle Beach – Ear Force Recon XO One Amplified Gaming Headset is the best gaming headset you can get for your Xbox One console. The lightweight and comfortable gaming headset makes for optimal long gaming sessions and is designed with robust audio clarity for any gaming situation.
The Turtle Beach – Ear Force Recon XO One Amplified Gaming Headset features an adjustable boom microphone for an in-game and online chat that can be removed when listening to music or watching movies. It boasts powerful high-quality 50mm speakers, so players can hear every crisp and fine-tuned in-game audio sound, from low-frequency enemy footsteps to booming fiery explosions. Its audio controller allows for multiple adjustable sound options such as bass boosting, microphone mute and more. There’s never a compatibility issue either, as the headset works with all Xbox One controllers and works with any device that uses a 3.5 mm connection.
"Compatibility is key with gaming headsets, not every headset is going to pair with every device. Always read the fine print on your headsets compatibility before committing." — Ajay Kumar, Tech Commerce Editor
Excellent virtual surround sound
Sleek, understated design
Good battery life
Surround sound only compatible with Sony consoles
Lacks fine-tuning audio options
The PS4 is natively compatible with most gaming headsets, but that didn’t stop Sony from developing its own set that are arguably the best option for the system overall. The PlayStation Gold Wireless Stereo is actually fairly inexpensive for a wireless gaming headset, and the fact you can use it with PS3, PS4, PC, PS Vita, and mobile (and even Xbox One via the adapter) make it a surprisingly good value.
Sony didn’t just stop at making the hardware, though, and has actually gone above and beyond to make downloadable custom sound modes created by game developers to specifically tune the audio to enhance the audio of the most popular PS4 games. The design is also very cool, with a hidden mic built into the headband rather than needing to have a long boom like most headsets. The only complaint most users have is a somewhat flimsy build quality, but like we said above, take care of it and it should serve you well.
"With gaming headsets, mic clarity is just as important as audio quality, and while integrated mics can offer a far more discrete form factor, they often suffer from drastically reduced audio clarity. Boom mics are often your best bet for crystal clear audio." — Alice Newcome-Beill, Associate Commerce Editor
Cooling ear cups are an excellent touch
Decent audio quality
No way to fine-tune audio
Handband lacks a precise fit
HP’s OMEN Mindframe gaming headset is a feat of engineering. These headphones are the first to include technology that actively cools your ears as you play, which is a great feature for gamers who live in hot climates or frequently endure hot ear cups during marathon gaming sessions.
HP’s so-called FrostCap Technology uses thermoelectric coolers to transfer heat away from the aluminum plates near your ears. The result is a pair of ear cups that actually feel cold to the touch. If you download HP’s Omen app on any Windows computer, you can control the level of cold, ranging from low, medium, and high. The app can also control the lighting settings on the headset.
With a suspension band and mesh earcups, too, HP has taken additional measures to make sure the headset has a comfortable fit. They also offer 7.1 virtual surround sound. (Note: as of now, there's no option to turn off surround sound.)
Dual wireless connection
Console and PC compatible
Headband may be uncomfortable for some
Need Xbox smartphone app to use with Xbox One X consoles
The SteelSeries Arctis Pro is the best choice for a wireless gaming headset. Whether you primarily play PC or console games, this headset makes every game sound incredible. The dual speaker drivers have a frequency range from 10 to 40,000 Hz and utilize DTS Headphone:X 2.0 virtual surround sound for a more immersive experience. It features dual wireless technology: 2.4G wireless lossless audio for console or PC gaming and Bluetooth connectivity to use with mobile devices.
The included receiver station doubles as a mixer unit and sports an OLED screen for easier reading of setting choices as well as a 40-foot range to give you the freedom to move around your game room or home. The frame of the headset is made of a steel and aluminum alloy for strength and durability while remaining lightweight. The adjustable headband is in the style of ski goggles for a truly custom fit. The retractable mic is bidirectional and cancels out background noise so your in-game chat is always clear. You get two batteries with this headset that allow you to keep one charged while you play to give you almost endless playtime.
Long battery life
Real-time mic monitoring
No Bluetooth connectivity
If you're looking to stick to a more reasonable budget when shopping for a wireless gaming headset, check out the Turtle Beach Elite Atlas Aero. This headset features a metal headband for durability and strength. The frame is also foldable for easier storage when not in use or while travelling. The ear cups feature memory foam cushions for long-lasting comfort. The 50mm speaker drivers use Waves Nx 3D audio software to give you a virtual surround sound listening experience so you can pinpoint enemy footsteps or other audio cues to give you that extra edge in your games.
The on-ear controls are remappable with the Control Studio software. You get four audio equalizer presets: bass boost, treble boost, natural sound, and vocal boost. The adjustable microphone cancels out background noise for clear chat and gives you real-time monitoring so you don't shout down your teammates. The rechargeable lithium-ion battery gives you up to 30 hours of playtime.
7.1 CH virtual surround sound
Mod kits available
Custom audio controls
Not compatible with PS4 Slim consoles
The Astro Gaming A40 TR headset comes packaged with a mixer amp to give you ultimate control over your game and chat audio. The amp features both a volume dial and a knob for balancing your game and chat audio so you can make changes on the fly without needing to tab out of your game. It also features a button to choose from custom equalizer settings and to toggle the Dolby 7.1 channel surround sound effect. With a customizable stream output function, you can tweak your audio for streaming to get professional quality sound without expensive equipment.
With available mod kits from Astro, you can turn your mic and headset into a noise cancelling set for even better audio quality. The headset itself weighs just over one pound and features a highly adjustable headband, making it comfortable enough to wear during even the longest of marathon gaming sessions. The headset is compatible with PS4, Xbox One X, and PC and can easily be swapped between a computer and console connection for cross-platform gamers.
On-board memory for EQ settings
Surround sound and Blue Vo!ce software only work on PC
May be uncomfortable for those with larger heads
The Logitech G Pro X headset is another great option when looking at sound quality in a gaming headset. This model is built with DTS Headphone X 2.0 7.1 channel virtual surround sound to help you pinpoint audio cues like gunshots and enemy footsteps. It is also built with Blue Vo!ce technology for the boom and in-line microphones. The Blue Vo!ce software gives you the ability to add a noise reducer, compressor, or limiter to your game and chat audio for superior audio quality.
The USB external sound card gives you plenty of control over your equalizer settings, and the on-board memory lets you store a five band EQ setting for quick game start up. The frame is made of steel and aluminum for lightweight durability. The headset comes with noise isolating memory foam ear cups with either faux leather or breathable velour for extra comfort. It also comes packaged with a travel bag to protect your headset from damage while in storage or travelling to tournaments.
They say talk is cheap, but for those looking to spare no expense with their gaming headsets its tough to go wrong with the universal compatibility and long-term comfort of the Sennheiser Game ONE.
Our expert reviewers and editors evaluate gaming headsets based on design, audio quality, mic functionality (when applicable), and features, including software. We test their real-life performance in actual use cases, from Discord chat to calling out enemy squad positions in Apex Legends, and we test them on every compatible platform. Our testers also consider each headset as a value proposition—whether or not a product justifies its price tag, and how it compares to competitive products. All of the models we reviewed were purchased by Lifewire; none of the review units were furnished by the manufacturer or retailer.
Alice Newcome-Beill is an avid gamer and has previously written for PC Gamer and PC Mag. She regularly uses the Kingston HyperX Cloud II for its comfortable and robust build.
Resident tech commerce editor, Ajay Kumar, spends more time with gaming headsets than most editors put together. Regularly logging several hours a day in chat heavy games like Borderlands 2.
Alex Williams has five years of experience writing about wearable technology like fitness trackers as well as video games. Alex also has worked with front end web development and UX design.
Taylor Clemons has three years of experience reviewing and writing about consumer tech and video games. She also has experience working in e-commerce and product management, curating products for customers across categories like homewares, outdoor/camping, and decor.
With the growth of streaming culture and the fact that gaming has become a precision performance industry almost as much as it is a hobbyist industry, gaming headset technology has taken major strides in recent years. While the actual gaming platform you’re using and the interface you use to control the games is arguably most important, the sound platform is a close second. Without detailed, immersive sound, you’re leaving a lot of the gaming experience on the table.
When it comes to buying a gaming headset, though, much like other gaming peripherals, there are lots of considerations you’ll have to make. Is your budget completely open, or do you have to make some concessions? Are you hoping to party up and play competitively, meaning you’ll need the best mic possible, or are you simply looking for a comfortable way to hear your games better than you ever have? All of these questions lead to very different priority sets, and they’re important places to start.
In this guide, we’ll rundown all the features you might find when exploring the gaming headset market, from microphone clarity and audio quality to fit, finish, and design. While there are some important audio and technical terms we’ll have to define, this guide will aim to focus on your feature priorities, rather than a detailed exposé on specs, because what’s most important here is that you know what kind of headset user you’ll be.
With the exception of earbuds and non-gaming headsets (we’ll get into those in a later section), there are really two main camps of gaming headsets. Some manufacturers opt for a sleek, understated look sporting a single dark color that looks a lot closer to regular consumer over-ear headphones. The rest of the market really leans into the gaming aesthetic—sharp edges with bright pops of color and usually some sort of geometric pattern. Many headsets also offer an RGB lighting option so you can get your headset to sync up with your other peripherals.
This category, admittedly, is an aesthetic one and doesn’t have a major effect on the performance of your headset in-game. As such, we wouldn’t recommend paying any extra for flashy design features unless that’s important to you, or unless you’re a streamer appearing often on camera. In short, if you aren’t going to have people watching you while you game, the aesthetic design of your headset isn’t super important because you aren’t often wearing these headphones outside of your home.
The feel of the headset is probably the most important concern regarding its physical construction. That makes sense, because gaming sessions can continue long into the night, especially if you’re playing an immersive game or playing competitively. The first factor in the comfort department is the actual materials used in the headphones. Most high-end models will use a leather-esque covering and memory foam to craft the plushest-feeling earcups. Sometimes manufacturers will extend that foam to the headband to ensure that any contact with your head has a plush layer. On the budget side of the market, you’ll tend to sacrifice a bit in this department, as affordable brands will use firmer foam swathed in cheaper-feeling material.
The other aspect of comfort to consider is the breathability of the headphones. This is admittedly difficult to gauge until you wear a given pair of headphones for a long period of time, so reading reviews can be a major boon. SteelSeries, for example, is known for providing really substantial headsets with great-feeling foam, but they tend to be somewhat stifling in the airflow department. That’s a general statement of course, and every user will have different tastes, so if possible, we recommend testing out the headphones before fully deciding on them. One final note on the breathability point: if the headphones do allow airflow so your ears don’t overheat, this likely means that the sound isolation suffers, ultimately diminishing some of the audio quality.
As a category, gaming headsets tend to be bulky, sporting a substantial build. They’re a lot like professional studio headphones in that way. That owes mostly to the fact that gaming headsets are by and large an at-home product, very rarely taken with you on the go. With portability not being a concern, the size doesn’t need to be terribly sleek and therefore, headphones in this category tend to be built like tanks.
That doesn’t mean all models are created equal, though, so it’s important to keep a few things in mind. First, pay attention to the material of the earcups. While soft-touch coverings and delicate memory foam make for cozier listening experiences, this material does tend to fray and break down more easily over time. So if you’re prone to being rough with your headphones, you might want to go for more durable foam. This also goes for the headband, as the adjustment mechanism is one of the first things to loosen up over time. Finally, the most delicate part of a pair of headphones is its cable. We recommend a headset with a cable that detaches from the headphones so you can wrap the cable separately when storing the headset and, on the off chance that the cable crimps or frays, you can just replace this part rather than the entire unit.
There are some unique features that relate to gaming headsets specifically, but before we get into those, it’s important to outline some of the basics of headphone technology. For our purposes here, the frequency spectrum and the speaker drivers are the key things to understand. Scientifically, humans can only hear sounds between 20Hz and 20kHz (bass through treble). Some headphones will offer a larger frequency range, but that doesn't mean you can hear frequencies outside the range. What it means is that the headphones can adequately produce the full sound spectrum without being pushed to the limits. Some will also prioritize certain frequencies over others. This is important for gaming because it means that the lowest sounds (the rumble of a car engine or distant explosions in an FPS game) and the highest sounds (light leaves rustling in an RPG) will be portrayed with plenty of detail.
The drivers in a pair of headphones are just the speaker cones that live inside each ear cup. In general, gaming headsets tend to feature drivers that are just a couple inches in diameter. The bigger the driver, the better that driver is at producing powerful lows and mids. Gaming headsets also use the isolation of the foam surrounding your ears and the larger ear cup construction to also bolster bass. You aren’t going to get quite the power that you’d get if you were running an external speaker or a subwoofer, but these drivers are leaps and bounds better than the tiny drivers found in earbuds.
If you’re opting for a USB-connected headset, they’ll feature a built-in digital-analog converter (DAC) and a dedicated amp. This helps the headphones sustain their power, and also gives oomph to whatever EQ and digital processing that the manufacturer has included. In the case of gaming headsets, this processing tends to be a net positive because it’s been done specifically with gaming in mind. This way panning and positioning are enhanced, specific parts of the spectrum that are common in gaming are bolstered, and you even have some software options of your own to tailor to the type of game you’re playing.
One gimmicky addition in this category is “surround sound” technology. We want to be clear here: with very few exceptions, all headphones that advertise surround technology are using digital processing and audio tricks in the headphones to approximate surround spread. Normally, surround sound requires at least 5 speakers to actually send sound to your ears from multiple directions, whereas headphones only feature two speakers. Many manufacturers, like SteelSeries and Turtle Beach, use clever tricks to help fake surround sound, and a lot of them can be effective in some games—but it isn’t true surround sound. If this is important to you, you’ll likely have to spend a bit more.
Think of the microphones on gaming headsets as improved versions of the microphones on your phone or earbuds. Gaming microphones are generally very directional and very focused on the part of the spectrum where human speech is heard. As a result, these headphones are better at isolating speech and leaving out as much background noise as possible. This is one category where the more money you spend, the better the mic tends to be at excluding background noise. It’s important to note that because of the heavy isolation and processing in headset mics that focus on noise isolation, your voice will sound very sharp and focused—not nearly as full and bassy as it would on a true broadcast microphone.
Bluetooth headsets make up a large part of the market, and we’ll get into their strengths and weaknesses in the next section. But before we leave the topic of sound quality, it’s important to understand how Bluetooth codecs work. Codecs are the protocol that your specific Bluetooth device uses to transfer the audio and data from its source. The most common codecs are SBC and AAC, and they also happen to be the ones that compress your sound files the most. This is important to keep in mind, because no matter how lossless your source audio is, when it’s transferred via SBC and AAC you’re getting data levels much more similar to mp3 files. If lossless audio is your goal, you can get the closest by opting for a better codec, like Qualcomm’s aptX.
Modern Bluetooth devices will mostly use the latest two versions: Bluetooth 4 or Bluetooth 5. Version 4 gives you about 33 feet of range from your source device and is perfectly capable of maintaining a connection in low-interference areas. Bluetooth 5, on the other hand, nearly doubles that range. Most of us don’t live in 60-foot rooms, so you might think this is overkill. But think of it this way: the more range your headset allows for, the stronger the connection will be even at closer ranges. If you have a lot of Bluetooth devices or thick walls, Bluetooth 5 will be slightly more reliable. Additionally, version 5 also allows for two simultaneous host devices, meaning that it’s easier to seamlessly switch back and forth between sources.
The two standard connections for wired gaming headsets are a USB output and a 3.5mm jack. It’s not just a matter of output jacks, though—these two connection methods imply fundamentally different methods of data transfer. 3.5mm headsets are a little clearer, as they simply plug into the combination headphone jack on most computers, laptops, and gaming consoles. It’s important to note that a 3.5mm jack is the simplest way to use a headset during console gaming, and it’s virtually the only way to use a headset on the Nintendo Switch.
USB-connected headsets tend to use bus power from the PC, and will ultimately bypass the soundcard on your computer. This is great if you’re using a PC where the soundcard is a little lackluster, but it does mean that you might have to download an external driver for the headphones to work. This usually also means that there are a separate DAC and amp in the headphones, typically providing more powerful sound and better control.
Most gaming headsets feature standard on-board controls including mute capabilities, a volume knob or slider, and sometimes some additional utility buttons. When you get higher on the price scale, you’ll start to see external remotes built into the wire, or even standalone desktop control services. The latter usually also contain the built-in DAC and amp, and allow for easier control of the headphones right at your fingertips. These external control surfaces can be a bit cumbersome though, so if size and footprint are a concern, go for a model that features this I/O on the headset itself.
Because Bluetooth headsets aren’t quite as prevalent in the gaming world as they are in the broader consumer audio space, battery life may not be a huge concern. Many high-end gaming headsets will offer around 20 hours of use on a single charge, though you can find much higher battery life on some models. Considering you’re likely using the headset at home, it isn’t a huge deal if you need to quickly charge up during a session (just make sure it’s a headset that still lets you operate it while it’s charging).
The other concern on the battery front might be a little unexpected. If your headset uses USB bus power, you’ll need to make sure that you keep an eye on the battery of your gaming platform if you’re using a laptop. Because gaming can be such a CPU-intensive activity, adding an extra device that pulls power from your computer will further shorten its battery life.
While you won’t find quite the astronomical dollar amounts that you’ll see on high-end audiophile headphones, there is still a pretty wide range of prices in the gaming headset market. In general, we don’t recommend buying a budget pair of gaming headphones for any less than $50—when you get below that threshold, you start to really sacrifice build quality and audio performance. On the higher end, you’ll pay between $200 and $300 for a nice set of headphones, featuring plenty of features and solid performance.
Razer: It’s no surprise to see a gaming staple like Razer here (we even have a dedicated roundup of the best Razer headsets). The Kraken series of headsets goes really well with most of this brand’s keyboard-and-mouse combos. If that’s your setup, it’s an easy way to get a quality headset that also keeps your aesthetic.
SteelSeries: This brand offers a wide variety of price points to choose from, from entry-level products all the way to excellent high-end models. SteelSeries is also known for really solid USB-powered headsets with decent DACs and amps.
Turtle Beach: You’ll likely find the best bang for your buck with this brand. While many of these budget headphones aren’t exactly the cheapest around, the brand does provide the best product for those prices, but you’ll also find headphones from this manufacturer topping best-of lists from time to time.
Logitech: A computer giant like Logitech is a safe bet when you’re buying any sort of PC peripheral. While the gaming products this brand offers aren’t always the flashiest, or the best performing, you’ll find a lot of value across this company’s offerings.
Corsair: This is another brand that is very comfortable in the budget end of the price range, and the HS series in particular gives you a ton of features and a great build quality for under $100.
Sennheiser: The audio stalwart has its hands in a lot of different segments in the headphone market, from high-end audiophile products to workout earbuds. The gaming headset section of Sennheiser's catalog is a little limited, but you can find some great options that also double as great pairs of music-centric headphones.
Many high-end headphones already come with cases and pouches, but if your pair didn’t it’s smart to get a neoprene pouch or a padded storage case to keep your investment safe. Because many gaming headsets come with their own very specific design aesthetic, you might also consider matching the headset to your gaming mouse and keyboard. If you go for a Razer headset, this is easy because you can get clearly matching options in both categories. If not, you can still go for peripherals that also feature RGB lighting arrays to fully deck out your gaming setup.
While there aren’t quite as many options for gaming headsets out there as there are Bluetooth earbuds and consumer headphones, there are still plenty of choices to wrap your head around. If you want something that really enhances your PC gaming experience, feature-rich and with plenty of power, you’ll be shelling out a couple hundred for a USB-powered gaming headset. If you’re looking to save money while still stepping up your game, there are tons of 3.5mm models that will work across PCs, consoles, and with mobile devices. Like everything in the tech world, this is all a trade-off, so be sure to consider all the variables before making your purchase.