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- Gaming headsets can elevate your gameplay with dependable voice chat and immersive audio performance.
- A great gaming headset can be wired or wireless, but it has to be comfortable and it has to work reliably with your platform of choice.
- Thanks to its wireless multi-platform support, lightweight build, and straightforward setup, the Astro Gaming A20 Wireless Headset (Xbox Edition) is the best gaming headset you can buy.
As the video game industry continues to grow, more and more people are gaming online via PS4, PC, Xbox, and the Switch. But, not all online gaming setups are created equal. For the best multiplayer experience with seamless teamwork, exciting competition, and plenty of fun, you’re going to want a gaming headset. Of course, supporting comfortable, immersive audio and facilitating convenient voice chat requires a bit more than any old pair of throw-in earbuds. To get the most out of online multiplayer gaming, buyers should invest in a reliable over-ear headset model with a microphone.
Being a former game designer, I can remember getting to use my first decent gaming headset way back when working on the multiplayer for “Transformers: War for Cybertron.” At the time, it was five versus five, but with both teams donning Turtle Beach Headsets (as opposed to just yelling at each other across the room), the added ability to coordinate and dominate was a true eye-opener.
Since then, gaming headsets have come a long way. These days, we are no longer forced to use proprietary bundled mono headsets. Instead, 3.5mm ports with stereo and microphone support abound. This means that everyone can plug in, hear better, communicate better, and be more comfortable — all while hopefully alleviating noise pollution for everyone else in your home or office.
With a platform in mind, a purpose-built gaming headset is one of the smartest upgrades you can make. It’s one area in gaming where big players, like Sony and Microsoft, are content to let an array of headset-focused companies provide their own solutions, and that means lots and lots of options.
As an ex-developer, current gamer, and known headset guy, I’ve put together the following guide to meet today’s gaming needs and beyond. We’ve got wired and wireless headset solutions with a range of budgets in mind, as well as specific platform demands (cough, Xbox One) accounted for. We’ve selected our picks based on a number of important factors, including compatibility, comfort, durability, performance, and usability. A headset that lags in any of these key areas is not worth having, though durability tends to be the X factor.
Through hands-on testing and research, our picks represent the best gaming headsets you can find right now. Save for one model, I personally own and currently use every headset on this list. You might say that this list includes the gaming headsets that I would not want to live without, or would not hesitate to re-acquire if the need arises.
Here are the best gaming headsets you can buy:
- Best gaming headset overall: Astro Gaming A20 Wireless Headset (Xbox Edition)
- Best wired gaming headset: SteelSeries Arctis Pro + GameDAC
- Best budget wired gaming headset: HyperX Cloud Stinger
- Best wireless headset for the money: SteelSeries Arctis 1 Wireless
- Best audiophile gaming headset: Sennheiser Game One
Updated on 04/23/2020 by Brian Hoss: Completely revised the guide for 2020 with new buying advice, as well as updated formatting and pricing. Added Astro Gaming A20, SteelSeries Arctis 1 Wireless, and Sennheiser Game One.
The best gaming headset overall
The Astro Gaming A20 Wireless Headset (Xbox Edition) checks every important box for a quality headset while still being wirelessly compatible with Xbox One, PS4, and PC.
As a long-time console and PC gamer, I have a love and respect for wires, cables, and simple connections as ubiquitous as a 3.5mm audio jack. But, even I have to admit that wired and analog connections don’t necessarily appeal to all, and as supported features, they are being systematically removed. Fortunately, excellent wireless headsets are a thing right now.
One such headset, the Astro Gaming A20 Xbox Edition, is a headset so good, so useful, so enjoyable, and so easy to live with, work with, and game with, that I have not one, but two of them in my employ. That’s right, I like using the A20 Xbox Edition with the Xbox One X in my home theater so much that I picked up another A20 to move back and forth between the PS4 and Xbox One in my office.
Yes, it works perfectly as a wireless headset for both Xbox One and PS4. It has no wired mode at all, but it also has wireless support for the PC. It’s light, comfortable (better than any other Astro Gaming headset for a start), offers good battery life, can stand up when set down, and has a subdued style. All the important controls are featured on the headset itself, with further customization available via an app on the PC. Though the A20 is technically a stereo headset, it does support surround sound on the Xbox One and PC via software like Windows Sonic.
More than that though, it’s easy to use. The smaller than a puck transmitter connects via optical and USB to the console, and that leaves the headset to be as easy to use as a controller. One button powers it off and on, and occasionally it needs to be charged via micro USB. The volume wheel, Game Audio button, Chat Audio button, and EQ Mode buttons are all there on the right earcup to help dial in an optimal sound mix which can be further refined via the Astro Command app on PC. The boom mic flips down and stays in place, and then can be flipped back up to mute and stay out of the way. Astro uses a flexible, often imitated but never really duplicated mic design, and the A20 is the most satisfying to flip up and down yet.
The A20s have been smartly designed for today’s AAA games. They are not overpowering nor are they audiophile status; rather they just work great at delivering wireless stereo goodness along with voice chat.
Pros: Works wirelessly on Xbox One, PS4, and PC, lightweight, comfortable, good battery life, flip to mute, has game/chat balance controls on headset
Cons: Has to be turned off after charging and unplugging, transmitter requires optical and USB, PC software use is a near must for the best performance
The best wired gaming headset
SteelSeries has put its best foot forward with the Arctis Pro + GameDAC by pairing its balanced sound, smart mic, and lightweight headset with a quality DAC for incredible performance on PS4 and PC.
When gaming on console or on PC, there are two fundamental aspects that envelop us. One is accessibility. That is the whole reason why consoles like the PS4 or Xbox One exist. Likewise, that is why digital game services like Steam exist. It’s all about making games readily available, and getting us in and playing quicker with less fiddling. The other fundamental aspect is customization. We seek to tailor our experience, and can now pick our platform, our game, tweak our controls, our loadouts, and even adjust the most minute game settings right down to the amount of film grain or the size of cutscene subtitles.
The SteelSeries Arctis Pro + GameDAC was made with both of these fundamental aspects at its core. It’s an end-to-end wired solution on the PS4 and PC for delivering the best audio quality for games and chat, as well as strong microphone performance — all while allowing the player to feel comfortable in whatever their play environment is for as long and as often as they choose to play. Both the Arctis Pro headset and the wired GameDAC sidestep as much of the comprising on-board audio solutions of the PS4 as possible, while still letting the user dial in their auditory experience.
As its name implies, the GameDAC emphasizes the audio quality of the included ESS Sabre DAC, but doesn’t neglect an equalizer, chat/mix control, or a surround sound option via DTS Headphone:X v2.0 technology. And paired with it, the Arctis Pro headset is itself a success where the rubber meets the road. That is, the headset features the best suspension headband, best 40mm drivers, and the best bidirectional noise-canceling retractable mic that SteelSeries has produced to date. If that wasn’t enough, the total package even carries hi-res audio certification.
While this is the only headset on our list that I do not currently own myself, the SteelSeries Arctis Pro + GameDAC has received many positive reviews from various publications, including a 9/10 from PC Gamer and a 4.5/5 from TechRadar. For an end-to-end wired headset solution for PS4 or PC, the SteelSeries Arctis Pro + GameDAC stands alone.
Pros: All-in-one wired high quality game audio and chat solution, DTS Headphone:X surround sound
Cons: Expensive, no Xbox One support, proprietary main headset cable
The best budget wired gaming headset
The HyperX Cloud Stinger is the ultimate distillation of everything important in a wired headset, and it has a price that is tough to beat.
To be sure, the majority of first-time or repeat headset buys happen right around the price point where the HyperX Cloud Stinger lands. The Stinger is a wired passive stereo headset with 50mm drivers, a flip down boom mic, swivel ear cups, a volume slider on the right ear, and a fixed in-line volume control.
It’s suitable for connecting to PS4 controllers, Xbox One controllers, the Switch, laptops, tablets, smartphones, and most anything modern with a 3.5mm jack. Unlike many nicer and more expensive headsets, the HyperX Cloud Stinger isn’t impedance hungry. This means it remains comfortable with the jack of a PlayStation DualShock 4 controller, but does still have some headroom for improved performance with a better source.
When it comes to HyperX and its headsets, the company’s important reputation was built on a foundation lined with the imperfect but still stellar HyperX Cloud. The design of the Cloud was not a HyperX original, but it made such waves and was so influential that HyperX can boast of more than a loyal following. With the Cloud Stinger, HyperX has taken almost everything that made the Cloud great and put it in a lighter, more essential, and more original package.
The build of the Stinger is light but solid, and the headset is comfortable while having a sedate look. It’s a purposeful headset that should satisfy the majority of users looking for something wired to connect right to the headset jack. When HyperX made the Cloud Stinger, it made sure that anyone trying to dip their toes into gaming headsets would have a quality option.
Pros: Good build quality, comfort, and sound at an affordable price, swivel to mute mic, on-ear volume control
Cons: No mesh ear option, fixed cable, no color options
The best wireless headset for the money
The SteelSeries Arctis 1 Wireless makes impressive wireless performance affordable for all PS4, PC, and Switch users while maintaining a wired option for anything else.
SteelSeries newest headset, the Arctis 1 Wireless, is something of a refined joy that truly signifies that great wireless performance in an all-around good package can be had on the PS4 and PC. And in this case, there’s more. The small USB-C dongle is also compatible with the Nintendo Switch and even some smartphones (including my LG V40), and that means better than Bluetooth (lag free) 2.4GHz wireless audio.
Let’s start with the drivers. The Arctis 1 features speaker drivers taken from the main Arctis line, which includes several nicer and more expensive headsets. This helps the Arctis 1 have well-tuned sound out of the box. The mic is also excellent, with performance so good it’s likely to draw compliments from fellow players. It’s a detachable mic, so it can be put away should the user want to use the headset as a mobile one. The mic performance would be the headset’s signature feature except that the battery life is also incredible. In fact, the battery is the best of any gaming headset I have ever used. It’s rated at 20+ hours, and boy, does it last.
On the downside, the Arctis 1 Wireless does lack wireless support for use on the Xbox One. And yet, since the headset retains a 3.5mm jack and cable, it can be used on a Xbox One (or other devices) in wired mode. That extra bit of functionality is a handy feature, and it doesn’t seem to make the headset bulkier, heavier, or more expensive.
Instead, it remains a comfortable headset with fabric pads, a light build, and a dark SteelSeries look. It comes with three cables: Micro-USB for charging, 3.5mm to 3.5mm for wired use, and a quite necessary USB-C to USB-A cable for hooking up to the PlayStation 4. The headset EQ, sidetone, and mic sensitivity can be adjusted via the SteelSeries Engine app on PC, but the headset itself has no way to adjust game/chat balance. On the PS4, that means having to adjust game volume at the game settings level.
Pros: Painless wireless support with good sound, strong mic, USB-C wireless support for Switch and smartphones, excellent battery life
Cons: No chat/game mix controls on headset, headset and mic don’t sit well when not being worn, Xbox support is wired only
The best audiophile gaming headset
The comfortable, open design of the Sennheiser Game One headset offers the high quality sound performance most audiophiles crave while gaming, provided the source is right.
Combining a gaming headset with audiophile performance is tricky. The audio punch that we seek when we game isn’t necessarily the same tuning we’d enjoy when delving into our cultivated discography. And often, the microphones on certain audiophile headsets just don’t impress. Furthermore, many lovely sets of headphones have different amp needs to ensure good behavior.
Fortunately, I’ve found the Sennheiser Game One to be one of my favorite headsets in all aspects. Beyond the name, what really gives it that audiophile feel is the open-back design. Open-back headphones are known for their sublime audio performance, and this design allows the ears to breathe more. With that said, open-back headsets are prone to sound leakage, so they’re not ideal if you have someone sitting within a few feet as they are sure to hear everything you hear.
The heavy duty boom mic doesn’t merely look serious, it delivers — as I can attest since it’s my choice for gaming while having a sleeping newborn in the next room. Likewise, the headset contains a volume wheel on the right ear, a satisfying click to mute function in the mic, and a delectable composition of fabric, padding, and shape to achieve maximum comfort. The cabling is detachable, and this is really helpful when choosing between a long split cable on PC or a short combined cable on console.
While the comfort, feel, and quality are ever-present, to get good (or even great) sound performance via the audio and mic pick-up, a dedicated source such as a MixAmp or GameDAC is required. With that in mind, we recommend pairing the headset with an Astro Gaming MixAmp Pro TR.
Pros: Open-back design, comfortable, good mic, fabric pads, won’t break the bank, on-ear volume wheel and flip to mute mic, detachable cable
Cons: Needs a Mixamp rather than controller jack for optimal performance, will leak sound
How to pick the best gaming headset
Wireless versus wired support: Determining whether you want a wireless or wired headset is one of the first decisions you’ll have to make when choosing the right gaming headset for your needs. Wireless headsets offer an untethered feel that wired headsets can’t provide, and thereby can be more comfortable and work better in many situations, such as gaming around pets or sitting across the room on a couch. Wireless headsets tend to use a 2.4GHz signal in order to avoid the audio lag associated with Bluetooth headsets.
With that said, since many home Wi-Fi networks also use 2.4GHz, a smaller home (like an apartment) that’s saturated with a bunch of different Wi-Fi signals can be problematic for a wireless headset due to the interfering signals. If interference is an issue for your setup, then a wired headset solution is probably a better choice. Wired headsets also don’t require charging, and are generally easy to use on anything with a headset jack. But, if you’re using a wired headset with a controller, like on the PS4, the controller’s batteries are going to drain faster, and the audio could be subject to dropouts.
Platform support: With gaming spread over PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and even tablets and smartphones, it’s important to know which platform you plan to primarily use your headset with. Though most wired models tend to offer simple compatibility across different devices, platform support is especially important to keep in mind when choosing a wireless headset.
The Xbox One, in particular, only supports specific wireless headsets. Meanwhile, the Switch has a headphone jack on the console but not on the Joy-Cons or the Pro Controller. Pay close attention to the connection specifications and platform compatibility details listed by the manufacturer in order to ensure that the headset you choose has the necessary wired or wireless connection options for your devices.
Comfort and build: A good headset should be comfortable to use for hours on end, but that comfort will be influenced by both the ambient temperature and the size of a user’s head. These factors are nearly as important as the design of the headset itself. Generally speaking, if a headset does not feel comfortable to wear after a few gaming sessions (around two hours each), then it’s likely a poor fit. The more durable headsets tend to use stronger materials, but that means that they’re likely to be heavier. On the other hand, plastic headsets are lighter but more fragile.
Ease of use: Many headsets include design features and adjustment options that make them easier to use. Being able to at least control the overall volume as well as mute the headset is pretty much a must, as these controls tend to not be included readily on most console hardware. Some headsets, such as the PlayStation Gold, use dual hidden mics to pick up chat while minimizing other sounds. This is a more comfortable choice for the wearer, and will allow for effective chat audio. With that said, I have continually found that boom mics, which extend down toward your mouth, provide a more consistent chat experience for all parties.
Surround Sound: One attractive feature that is pretty common in nicer gaming headsets is surround sound. This effect is usually done by processing sound to the left and right drivers to simulate the effect of sound coming from multiple directions. Though not true surround sound in the strictest sense, simulated effects on headsets tend to be more effective and enjoyable than the simulated surround sound modes offered on many TVs.
In addition to surround sound options included with certain headsets, both the PC and Xbox One have an array of virtualization solutions (like Windows Sonic) available to offer surround sound on any headset model. Of course, it should also be noted that regular stereo sound is still quite good on many platforms, including PS4 and Switch. Stereo sound also tends to be less laggy since it isn’t as processed as surround sound.
Price: The occasional headset user should be very happy with a model in the $50 to $150 price range, but if a headset is being used every day, then it becomes more difficult to expect years of use out of cheaper models. Keeping a headset off the ground and away from incidental damage can help, but frequent users can expect their headsets to wear out a bit faster than their controllers.
Headsets that cost $300 or more usually include more features, some of which can help extend their lives, such as replaceable earpads and even batteries. Even so, if a frequent gamer can’t keep from wearing out a $100 headset in less than a year, it’s likely that a $300 one won’t fare much better. So, even higher quality headsets require mindful use in order to ensure their longevity.
Check out our other gaming gear guides
Video game consoles are next-level awesome these days. Of all the consoles out there, the PlayStation 4 Pro is our top pick for most gamers. A great game library, 4K Ultra HD output, compatibility with popular streaming services, VR capability, and an excellent gamepad make this console the best plug-and-play system out there. The Xbox One S, the Nintendo Switch, and the Xbox One X are also all excellent consoles.
Though there are many impressive gaming laptops on the market, the Alienware m15 offers the best price-to-performance ratio of any model you can buy. It offers a fantastic balance of features, design, and value. In addition to the Alienware M15, we’ve also selected an assortment of other gaming laptop recommendations to suit all needs and budgets.
The Nintendo Switch is a popular and versatile console, but your Switch gaming experience can be made even better with the right accessories. Our recommendations for the best Nintendo Switch accessories include controllers, a microSD card, a power bank, headphones, and more.
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