Best gaming headset: Five things to consider

Whether you opt for consoles or PCs, one thing you’ll need for serious gaming is a good, solid gaming headset.

Gaming headsets are one of the less-appreciated gadgets that make for a great gaming experience. If you’re playing multiplayer games and need to communicate with team members (or trash-talk opponents), you’ll need both solid audio sound quality and a crystal-clear microphone. Gaming headsets are also great for single-player games, as they can provide amazing sound quality without disturbing roommates or family. Heck, they can even be used for video chatting, something we’re all more familiar with. Finding the best gaming headset may look tricky, but we’ve got some tips that should help you with the task.

Things to consider when shopping for the best gaming headset

At its core, a gaming headset differs from other headphones because it has some kind of external microphone. These are typically on a boom, which can be moved around and adjusted for optimal comfort and sound quality. They’re also usually large, over-the-ear style headphones, rather than on-ear or earbud style. That helps to block out other noise, allowing you to get fully into the game, and it can also be more comfortable for long stretches.

Do you want wireless or wired?

The very way that you plug gaming headsets in is a little bit different than other headphones. You’ll find three main varieties: Bluetooth, wired, and wireless with a dongle. Bluetooth should generally not be used for gaming; it can be tricky to pair with some consoles, and Bluetooth sound quality can’t compare with the other options.

Wired headsets will have top-tier sound quality, but that’s one more thing to break—and we’ve all had the experience of a broken, split, or torn headphone cable. Look for a headset with a replaceable cable; these are standard 3.5mm cables, which you can find on Amazon or pretty much anywhere that sells electronics.

Best wired gaming headset: HyperX Cloud Alpha S – PC Gaming Headset

Ultimate Hook-Up

With a detachable audio cable, you can replace it if it breaks. Amazon

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This wired gaming headset scores killer reviews from Amazon, and it’s easy to see why. It boasts an aluminum frame for lightness and strength, it has a detachable cable, the microphone includes noise cancellation so background noise doesn’t mess with your conversation, and it has fantastic sound quality. If you’re concerned about comfort, it also has replaceable ear cushions, so you can pick the best one for your ears.

Best wireless gaming headset: SteelSeries Arctis 1 Wireless Gaming Headset

No Strings-Attached Greatness

With a steel-reinforced headband, this unit is sure to last. Amazon

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SteelSeries makes some of the best gaming headsets on the market, and the Arctis 1 wireless gaming headset is no exception. With a USB-C wireless dongle, you can get the benefits of wireless play without the downside in sound quality of Bluetooth; plus, the dongle is compatible with all manner of USB-C devices, including the Nintendo Switch, many Android devices, and the iPad Pro. It’s also much more subdued in its design than many gaming headsets, and you can pop off the boom microphone if you want to use it as just a regular set of headphones.

What consoles is the gaming headset compatible with?

Compatibility with gaming headsets can get a little tricky, especially if you’re buying them as a gift. Not all headsets are compatible with all consoles, and the last thing you want is a pair of headphones that can’t actually connect to the hardware you use to play games.

If you’re buying as a gift and you’re not sure whether they’ll be compatible, go for a standard wired set; every gaming hardware out there has a headphone jack. Otherwise, you look for compatibility within Amazon; you can even filter based on PS4, PS5, Xbox, PC, or any other system.

Best gaming headset with universal compatibility: Razer BlackShark V2 X Gaming Headset

Versatility Is Key

No need to worry about compatibility here—this will work with any device with a headphone jack. Amazon

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Razer is one of the most established makers of gaming accessories and hardware, and the BlackShark V2 X has absolutely stellar reviews. At only 240 grams, it’s very lightweight, but it has a plethora of features, including a volume knob on the headphones themselves, a 3.5mm jack for total compatibility, and the company’s TriForce 50mm drivers, for excellent sound quality. There’s some included software that nobody seems to like all that much, but you don’t really have to use it, and at this price, it’s one of the best bargains on the market.

Customizability means more comfort

Gaming can be hard, but the phrase “no pain, no gain” shouldn’t apply to your ears. Wearing headphones for hours on end can be absolute torture if they aren’t just right for your ears. The ears have tons of nerve endings in the cartilage that makes up their structure, and even mild pressure in the wrong place, or at the wrong angle, can be complete misery when endured for a long enough time.

Look for lightweight headphones to minimize that pressure. Another tip that might help is to look for headphones that boast replaceable ear cushions. Those are the actual bits of circular padding that go over the ears, and if a headset offers a bunch of options, you’re much more likely to find a pair that works for you.

Best gaming headset for customizability and comfort: ASTRO Gaming A50

Control Your Audio Mix

This high-end headset includes lots of customization options. Amazon

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Astro’s A50 isn’t cheap, but you get a lot for your money. The sound quality is impressive, and the product is noted for its comfort level. That’s helped along by how customizable it is: you can swap out the headband and the ear cushions to ensure that you’re getting exactly the right fit. The charging dock, too, is a nice touch. But it isn’t universally compatible; you’ll have to buy the set that works with a specific console.

How lightweight do you want your gaming headset to be?

Weight is tied in with comfort, and is just as important for ensuring that you can play long sessions without feeling as if there’s a helmet weighing you down. Being lightweight can really help, but it isn’t all about the raw number of grams that it weighs. You’ll also want to look for a balanced headset, so that the weight is evenly distributed over the headband. Even a lightweight headset can feel uncomfortable if all the weight is in one place.

You can look at the gram number to figure out how lightweight a gaming headset is, but some of the more comfortable ones aren’t necessarily the lightest; they’re just the best-built.

Best lightweight gaming headset: JBL Quantum 100

You Don’t Have To Look Like A Gamer

Thanks to a sleek, white design, this minimalist set looks and sounds great. Amazon

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At this price, the JBL Quantum 100 is a steal. And comfort is a major selling point here. The headset is exceedingly lightweight, at only 220 grams. The ear cushions are constructed of memory foam, just like nice mattresses, and coated with a synthetic leather. The boom mic is also detachable, a nice touch, and the sound quality is quite good. The microphone isn’t adjustable, which is a bummer, but this is a great budget option.

What kind of microphone will work best?

Microphone quality is essential for gaming headsets; after all, it’s one of the features that distinguishes them from other headphones. Typically, gaming headsets will have a removable, detachable microphone that sticks out from one of the ear cups, in front of the mouth. You want this microphone to be adjustable, so that you can make sure it isn’t too close or too far from your mouth.

Many higher-end headsets include noise cancellation, which is actually a bit of a mixed bag. It’s great for noisy environments, because it creates a background noise to drown out any environmental sounds, but it can also make the audio quality a little bit dull and muffled. Still, it’s a nice thing to have.

Best gaming headset microphone: Corsair Virtuoso RGB Wireless SE Gaming Headset

Clearly Own Your Opponents

A great all-around set, this unit also has a 60-foot range. Amazon

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This Corsair Virtuoso advertises “broadcast quality” microphone, and they aren’t kidding. The mic is omnidirectional, meaning it can input sound coming from any direction—front, back, sides, this mic doesn’t discriminate. It also has the option of going either wired or wireless, a great blend of both worlds. Reviewers say it can get a little hot after long sessions, but your mileage may vary.

Brands to know

Looking through an electronics retailer, you’ll find a million different brands, most of which you’re sure to have never heard of. Those no-name brands are a gamble: some of them come from the exact same factories as the big names, and will be high quality. Others may be flimsy, or have an annoying background hiss, or may be uncomfortable to wear. These brands make reliably great stuff.

HyperX

HyperX is actually the gaming division of Kingston, which is best known for making RAM and USB drives and other commodity stuff. But they also make some of the absolute best gaming headsets on the market, including the HyperX Cloud Alpha, which has been rated as one of the best, period. Their styling tends to be gamer-specific, with harsh, neon lines and logos. HyperX stuff is great at the mid-range, between $50 and $100.

Corsair

Corsair, like HyperX, is perhaps best known for their behind-the-grille computer hardware; this company also makes really good GPU cooling fans, if you need one of those. In the budget category, it’s hard to top what Corsair makes; they pack really good design into sub-$50 headsets. They’re noted for their build and sound quality, though you will be giving up a few high-end features. Their headsets may not have removable audio cables, for example, which is a feature we really like. But if you’re spending $30, it’s hard to argue too much.

SteelSeries

SteelSeries is a high-end gaming company from Denmark. They’re a great option at both the low end (their Arctis 1 headset is absolutely stellar at only $50) and at the more expensive end (like the $180 Arctis 9X). One nice element that SteelSeries brings is in subdued design. Some gamers really like the whole straight-out-of-The-Matrix, neon-RGB lights, angular design aesthetic, but many just want something a little simpler. SteelSeries headsets tend to be minimalistic, and can be worn out in public without screaming “I’m a gamer!”

Best budget gaming headset: What You Get for Under $50

You’d be shocked at what you can get at the very low end of the price spectrum. Almost every good manufacturer, has budget gaming headsets in this price range. Razer sells the Kraken X, which has great reviews for its super lightweight, comfortable design. The Corsair HS60 Pro boasts 7.1 surround sound, a noise-canceling microphone, and is compatible with just about everything due to its 3.5mm jack connection.

A final word on finding the best gaming headset

Gaming headsets can turn an ordinary gaming experience into something really special: totally immersive, with crystal-clear communication, and enough comfort to continue blasting away for hours without once thinking about the position of your earlobes. And there’s no need to spend a boatload; if you want to stay under $100 or even under $50, there are plenty of options out there that would make any gamer happy. All you need to do is decide which features your heart desires and you’ll be able to find the best gaming headset for you. Happy gaming!