The quality of the game you’re playing and the processing power of your computer, will play a big role in determining your gaming experience. But one often overlooked consideration is a decent gaming headset. It’s especially important if you plan on getting the best out of dynamic multiplayer games, where you’re just as likely to chat to friends as you are to use your headset as a strategic tool to help you win.
As you’d expect, there’s no shortage of gaming headsets out there. We know you don’t want to wade through the many options only to settle on one that doesn’t live up to the hype. That’s why we’ve done all the heavy lifting for you by highlighting the best gaming headset models, whether wired or wireless.
We’ll keep updating our chart below as we review more products and find even better headsets. To see the criteria we use to test each product and some helpful buying advice be sure to read our post scrip explainer below our list.
1. SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless – Best dual-purpose wired/wireless gaming headset; Best overall
- Great quality audio
- Dual wireless functionality
- Lots of software options for personalization
- Quite expensive
- Active Noise Cancellation won’t block out all external sound
Best Prices Today:
$379.99 at SteelSeries |
Not Available at Amazon
You have to nit pick very hard to find any flaws with this premium headset that offers the versatility of 2.4GHz Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless connectivity, as well as a wired connection. In wireless mode, it delivers crisp sound in 44.1kHz/16-bit standard resolution at up to 40ft from your computer. But if you want to enjoy a richer sound you can also plug it into a GameDAC controller that lets you access a higher 96KHz/24-Bit Hi-Res audio. The GameDAC also lets you switch between your PC and Xbox One or Xbox X/S at the press of a button—which saves you the hassle of buying separate headsets for your consoles.
Active Noise Cancellation and 360 Degree Spatial Audio technologies also boost the headset’s audio experience, the standout of the two being the latter, which uses 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound tracks to accurately reflect the direction of sounds. The SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless also has the finest software support I’ve seen for a gaming headset, allowing you to choose from among 23 pre-made EQ presets designed for games like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Fortnite, Dota 2, Forza Horizon V, and Call of Duty: Warzone, to name just a few.
Read our full
SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless review
2. HyperX Cloud Alpha — Best wired gaming headset
- Fully removable cabling and smarter inline control placement
- Excellent audio quality
- More expensive than the original Cloud, with fewer accessories
- Upper audio range can be a bit muddled
Best Prices Today:
$59.99 at Amazon |
99.99 at HyperX
Cloud Alpha is a chip off the old block in HyperX’s Cloud series, combining comfort with impressive audio quality. The impressive sound comes courtesy of a dual driver chamber design that separates out bass notes from mids and highs—ultimately producing a clearer, smoother output.
The Cloud Alpha’s earcups are the secret sauce behind its comfortable feel. These generously padded cups sit tightly on your head but without squeezing your temples, so they’re perfect for long gaming stints where you can forget you’re wearing them. In our PCWorld review we were impressed by the fact that you can fully remove the HyperX Cloud Alpha’s cables in the event they break, rather than having to buy a whole new gaming headset.
Read our full
HyperX Cloud Alpha review
3. Astro A10 — Best budget wired gaming headset
- Rich bass for a $60 headset
- Flip-to-mute microphone
- Very durable
- Narrow soundscape sometimes leads to muddy audio
- Plastic, plastic, plastic
- Colors aren’t very eye-catching
Best Prices Today:
$34.99 at Best Buy |
$49.99 at Adorama |
$59.99 at Amazon
If your budget only stretches to $60, the Astro A10 is your best bet for sound quality, delivering clean mids and a rich bass that’s almost as good as more expensive Astro headsets. It sports a flip-to-mute microphone, a luxury among gaming headsets and usually reserved for higher-end models.
All pros considered, the Astro A10 is still an entry-level headset and has a few cons; except for the material covering the cups, it’s entirely made from plastic and the rather boxy earcups won’t be to everyone’s taste. Still, if you’re not picky, these things shouldn’t bother you too much.
Read our full
Astro A10 review
4. Cooler Master MH752 — Most comfortable
- Unbelievably comfortable
- Clean studio sound
- Minimalist branding and aesthetic
- Cheap construction
- Microphone input isn’t subtle at all
- Needs some EQ love to reach its full potential
Best Prices Today:
$79.00 at Amazon
The MH752 is modelled after Sony’s Studio Headphones, and although its thin padding doesn’t look particularly comfy, this design ensures its light weight virtually eliminates jaw tension or crown pressure in the wearer. For that reason it tops our PCWorld chart for the most comfortable gaming headset.
Sound-wise the MH752 is perfect for those that like to sit and tinker with EQ. Bass and high notes roll from its earcups with a quality you’d expect to hear in a more expensive unit. The MH752’s dongle also adds 7.1 Surround capabilities producing multi-directional sound in games.
Read our full
Cooler Master MH752 review
5. Logitech G Pro X — Best microphone
- Beautiful throwback look
- Outperforms headsets two or three times the price
- Fantastic microphone, with lots of software-side options
- Wired headset
- Built-in controls feel cheap
- A bit tight until it breaks in
Best Prices Today:
$99.99 at Best Buy |
$99.99 at Dell Home |
$99.99 at Logitech G
A while back Logitech acquired the microphone manufacturer Blue, which explains why we found the Logitech G Pro X’s mic to be so capable in our PCWorld testing. Although not physically that different from other mics, it benefits from Blue-branded software support in Logitech’s G Hub app, including presets that make it sound convincingly like a desk microphone. Suffice to say, if you record ‘lets plays,’ that could be a real asset.
As well as sporting an exceptional microphone, the G Pro X is one of Logitech’s best-looking headsets, its flat-black leatherette headband, metal forks, and pill-shaped earcups exude a retro aesthetic reminiscent of the golden era of 1940s broadcasting.
Read our full
Logitech G Pro X review
6. Astro A50 Wireless — Best wireless gaming headset
- Charging cradle is smaller and still very unique
- Switches to the more reliable 2.4GHz band (finally)
- Comfortable and durable
- Middling battery life
- Poor noise isolation
Best Prices Today:
$299.99 at Amazon |
299.99 at Astro
Although expensive, the Astro A50 is dependable, providing decent sound over a quick 2.4GHz wireless connection. The audio drivers located in the A50’s earcups deliver strongly through the mid-range so the A50’s sound is warm and punchy in games and while listening to music.
While previous Astro wireless gaming headsets have featured large chunky charging cradles, the A50’s is quite compact so it takes up much less space on your desk. The cradle also has a built-in display so that you can tell which EQ profile you have selected, or whether you have Dolby or stereo modes switched on.
Read our full
Astro A50 (2019) review
Logitech G935 — Best mid-range wireless gaming headset
- Leatherette is a classy change from the G933’s sports mesh
- Hidden microphone and dongle storage are great features to have
- One of the best-sounding headsets at this price
- Still bulky and boxy compared to the competition
- Mediocre battery life
- Very little noise isolation
Best Prices Today:
$129.99 at Amazon |
$129.99 at Best Buy |
$129.99 at Logitech G
At $170, the G935 is a mid-range gaming headset, costing half the price of some premium headsets. Yet its generous feature-set includes a few high-end luxuries. They include a folding boom mic, dongle storage compartment and stylish leatherette earcups. These features somewhat make up for features like its boxy design and mediocre battery life.
It also excels in the audio department, with its 50mm drivers providing a deeper, more authoritative bass presence than you’ll get from the 40mm drivers in some mid-range wireless gaming headsets. Add to that easy-to-use controls, and it’s easy to see why the G935 is an excellent option for gamers on a budget.
Read our full
Logitech G935 review
How we test gaming headsets
Because no two gaming headsets are the same, the PCWorld team puts each product through a thorough testing protocol. We analyze everything from how comfortable and durable they are, to how they perform in games and the software support they get via their manufacturer’s apps. Here’s a list of the main categories our testing criteria fall under:
- Design and comfort: You’ll spend an awful lot of time wearing a gaming headset, so it’s vital that it feels comfortable. Here we look at design features that either add or subtract from your overall comfort experience—features like a headset’s shape and weight, how well it fits on your head, and the amount of padding in the earcups. But design also plays a big role in a headset’s functionality, so we also look at how adjustable the band is, and how accessible the controls are.
- Audio quality: There’s no point owning a headset with comfortable leatherette earcups if it can’t muster a decent sound. That said, PCWorld reviewers do a lot of listening to get an overall impression of a headset’s audio quality. We take notes on the clarity of the sound, how well the headset produces pitch, and in the case of wireless headsets, how much signal interference there is. Our listening is guided by what we know about the headset’s hardware or software. For example, if a headset has Active Noise Cancellation (ANC), we’ll investigate how well the headset can isolate sound and block out noise. We also test the microphone, listening for muffled sounds, static, robotic noises, and any echoes—all signs there could be a problem.
- Software support: With audio technologies getting ever more complex, gamers have more tools at their disposal than ever via headset apps. Technologies like Hi-Res audio, Spatial Surround Sound, and Parametric EQ all spring to mind, which is why we look closely at the kind of software support on offer.
How to choose a gaming headset
Connectivity: Wired versus wireless, or both?
Historically, gamers have mostly chosen wired headsets over wireless ones. That’s because until recently, wired headsets were considered much better at delivering fast and secure audio signals than wireless headsets. Nowadays, thanks to the adoption of faster 2.4GHz Wi-Fi band technology, wireless headsets can also transmit audio signals very quickly and with minimal interference.
Consequently, if you’re a casual gamer and not too fussy about the very miniscule risk of your audio dropping out, a wireless headset should be completely fine for your gaming needs, the main advantage being you’ll get tons of extra mobility while still being able to listen to your game’s audio—something you don’t get when you’re tethered by wires.
Admittedly though, if you’re a serious gamer or esports player, you may still want to avoid that small chance your wireless signal will suffer some degree of loss or interference—even if that’s less likely than ever. If the stakes are high, a wired set will provide a little more surety that you won’t miss any crucial game moments, which could make all the difference in a closely contested match.
If you can’t decide, there are headsets now like the SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless now provide both wireless and wired functionality in one easy unit and can switch between these modes in less than a minute. These headsets can cost significantly more, so be willing to pay for the privilege.
Device compatibility: What ports will I need?
Another thing to consider is which devices you might want to connect to, since wired and wireless headsets have different compatibilities. For example, most wired headsets connect to your computer via a USB-C connection but unlike many wireless units, some also have 3.5 mm audio jacks, so they tend to be compatible with a broader number of devices—like smartphones, gaming consoles, and tablets.
Wireless devices on the other hand, connect to your device via a USB-C dongle or Bluetooth connection, which does narrow the number of devices you can use them with to either those that are Bluetooth compatible, or that come with USB-C ports.
Comfort: Why it’s a non-negotiable
While you can possibly do without fancy styling, you should never buy a headset that’s going to cause you discomfort. That’s because even a small amount of force or abrasion from wearing your headset can be extremely unpleasant and result in neck pain, rash, cranial pressure or worse.
A huge consideration here is how your headset fits on your head and ears. Granted, you won’t always have the opportunity to try them on, it pays to look closely at PCWorld product reviews where our reviewers have done the wearing for you and have summarized how they feel, even after extended periods of time with them on.
You should also pay close attention to product descriptions for the features that indicate that a manufacturer has made comfort a priority. Things you’ll want to tick off your check list are:
- The headset has a flexible band to minimize pressure and that the band is height adjustable to fit your ears.
- There is sufficient padding on the earcups and the material is hypoallergenic so it won’t cause skin irritation.
- The earcups are easily rotatable—since this will ensure they move with your head as it moves.
If possible, you should avoid headsets that are excessively heavy, or tightly fitting, since the added weight and clamp force will undoubtedly cause problems. When it comes to comfort, the more premium headsets tend to do better, so again it can be a matter of paying more to get more.
Build quality and styling: What to look out for
Although wear and tear is an inevitable result of using a gaming headset, some will stand up to the rigors of gaming better than others simply because they’re made from tougher stuff. Ideally you’ll want a gaming headset that has a metal frame and headband for durability, since plastic ones break quite easily. Metal bands also look more premium, so it’s a win-win.
Cushioning for the headband and earcups can be made from leather, velour, pleather, or foam. Leather and pleather (fake leather) look and feel luxurious. They also tend to be the most resistant to wear, but these materials aren’t very breathable and can cause sweaty ears during long gaming sessions. Foam is the opposite in that it’ll keep your ears cool, but disintegrate quicker. Sitting between the two, velour keeps your ears relatively cool but tends to be fairly resistant to wear and tear.
That’s more of a general rule than an absolute. If you do prefer a material other than velour you can buy anti-sweat or abrasion-resistant covers for your headset’s earcups which will help them last a little longer.
If your headphones do succumb to wear and tear, some manufacturers offer the option of purchasing and swapping out damaged parts. Replacing your earcups can refresh your headset’s look and feel. But having a headset with replaceable cabling can actually save you from having to buy a whole new set if the cabling wears right through.
Noise isolation: Its importance for sound quality
How well your gaming headset isolates noise makes a big difference to its sound quality. This is especially the case when you’re playing first-person shooters (FPS), where external noise can make it more difficult to locate the direction of sounds, like the footsteps of approaching enemies. In marketing materials, manufacturers will often use terms like Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) and Passive noise isolation, but these terms mean quite different things. Here’s a quick definition of each:
- Passive noise isolation: How well a headset can block out external noise just by forming a physical noise-blocking barrier over your ears.
- Active Noise Cancellation: A technology incorporated into your gaming headset that actively blocks or filters out ambient noise so the sound you hear is the clearest it can be.
If possible, you’ll want a headset that sports both passive noise isolation as well as ANC, since these noise-blocking technologies both have individual benefits. Passive noise isolation tends to be better at blocking out higher-pitched sounds, whereas ANC is more effective at blocking out lower-pitched sounds—like background noise and the sound of traffic. How well ANC and passive noise isolation work can be hugely different between headsets, so it’s worth doing your research to find a headset that makes the cut.
Surround sound: The secret weapon of pro gamers
Of all the technologies that come packed into gaming headsets, this one provides arguably the best tactical advantage for gamers. Headsets with surround sound utilize spatial audio technologies like Dolby Atmos to create a soundscape through 360 degrees. Multiple speakers deliver the sound at different positions in each earcup, telling your brain its precise location in your games.
If you play FPS games like Overwatch, Fortnite, or any of the Call of Duty or Battlefield games, this can have real-time benefits, like being able to hear players sneak up on you from behind, or pinpointing the direction of grenades rolling towards you, so that you can react accordingly. It’s the kind of technology that takes a bit of getting used to, but when you do, it can be a real game changer.
Headsets with surround sound technologies tend to be expensive, so if they’re out of your price range don’t worry too much. Most headsets also come with decent stereo, which will still do a good job relaying the general direction of sounds.
Why is a microphone important?
Most games use either in-game chat or external chat apps like Discord, so a decent microphone is a must-have. Mics in gaming headsets tend to come in two flavors: hyper-cardioid, that pick up the sound directly in front of them, or omnidirectional, that pick up sound from different directions.
If you plan on using your headset just for gaming, a cardioid mic should do the trick, since you can use it to chat to folks in your game and then move it away from your mouth to chat to others in the same room. If however, you plan on also using your headset for say, work meetings as well as gaming, an omnidirectional microphone will better pick up the sound of both you and your colleagues talking. Additionally, if you plan on using your mic as a pair of headphones, you’ll need to make sure your headset’s mic is detachable.
The sound clarity and ease-of-use of your microphone is also important. We suggest looking out for features like noise cancellation and sound dampening for a better-quality sound experience. For convenience, an automatic mute button is useful when you want to quickly block out any sound from your end.
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