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Best headphones for gaming 2020

The best headphones for gaming for 2020
(Image credit: Future)

When picking the best headphones for gaming, we're looking for sound quality that, for the price, matches or beats gaming headsets, as well as stylish and comfortable builds. We're also looking for headphones that can leave your desk and accompany you on your commute or at the gym. For the most part, it's a smooth transition as most of these headphones can connect to your PC and other devices via Bluetooth or 3.5mm cable. 

While premium headphones tend to be comfier than your typical gaming headset, they do lack the features you'd find in a headset for gaming. For starters, the microphones (if they have one) aren't on par with their gaming counterparts since they are mostly designed for taking phone calls. But if you have a desk microphone, such as a Yeti, then all you have to worry about is comfort and sound quality, 

On the top of the list is the Sony WH-1000XM3 due to its top-notch noise-canceling, which is perfect if you work in a loud office setting and you don’t want to hear about Karen’s ski trip. The Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 headphones, meanwhile, are a stylish, wired option with a smaller frequency range. If you prefer in-ear headphones for day-to-day activities, the Jabra Elite Active 65t is the best around.

Best headphones for gaming

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1. Sony WH-1000XM3

The best headphones for gaming overall

Wireless: Yes | Speaker size: 40mm | Connectivity: Bluetooth, 3.5mm wired | Frequency response: 10Hz-40,000Hz | Features: Digital noise cancelling, Alexa compatibility, built-on touch controls, ambient sound function, USB-C fast charging, 30-hour battery life

Best-in-class noise cancelling
Extensive battery life
Bluetooth is dodgy

It's rare seeing a pair of headphones that genuinely shine in almost every regard. But with the WH-1000XM3's, Sony has created an indisputable winner, a categorically top-notch set of cans whose only shortcoming is the absence of 2.4GHz Wi-Fi connectivity, something we hardly ever see outside of the gaming market. They do have Bluetooth, though, so as long as you have a smart TV, an Nvidia Shield, a gaming laptop or a Bluetooth-capable motherboard, you should be set for the reclusive world of active noise canceling. 

Unlike other noise-canceling headphones, the XM3's use an unusually silent QN1 HD noise-canceling processor. In our testing, we found it was able to keep out most sounds, even on the crowded New York City subway. While the battery does take a hit; as a result, you can take solace in the fact that the WH-1000XM3's last 30 hours fully charged. After 10 minutes of being plugged in via USB-C, Sony claims they can deliver pristine high fidelity sound over five hours. And, to top it all off, volume and playback commands are touch-based. Goodbye forever, inline controls.

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2. AKG Y50BT

The best headphones for gaming on a budget

Wireless: Yes | Speaker size: 40mm | Connectivity: Bluetooth, 3.5mm wired | Frequency response: 20-20,000Hz | Features: Detachable 4-foot audio cable, 20-hour battery life, adjustable headband

Unfettered sound
Excellent value
No active noise cancelling

One of the most common misconceptions I hear among haters is that headphones don't have built-in mics. Yet, even the inexpensive AKG Y50 BT has a mic built into the right ear cup, letting you trash talk teammates and opponents alike as you play video games for enjoyment online. Given that it doesn't extend outward, the mic quality isn't the best, but you don't buy the AKG Y50BT's for their input quality. You buy them for their kickass audio out.

As they're made by the world-renowned AKG Acoustics, known primarily for its professional audio equipment used in radio stations and jazz clubs, the Y50BT's exhibit clear sound through their state-of-the-art 40mm sound drivers. Moreover, they offer a battery life upwards of 20 hours, lasting nearly as long as the Sony WH-1000XM3's, albeit for a fraction of the price. If you've ever wanted audiophile headphones without basically setting your wallet on fire, these are for you.

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3. Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 Over-ear

The best headphones for gaming the old-fashioned way

Wireless: No | Speaker size: 40mm | Connectivity: 3.5mm wired | Frequency response: 16-22,000Hz | Features: Foldable stainless steel headband, noise isolating earpads

Vintage design
Premium audio quality
Wired only

Forget all that stuff I said about sound quality earlier. The real reason to buy the best headphones for gaming over a still-decent gaming headset is that they look damn good. Imagine, if you will, an evening spent indoors, sipping aged bourbon, listening to The Smiths, and donning this classic-style pair of cans. For anyone who doesn't want to deal with the hassle of Bluetooth, the Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 Over-ear headphones are incredible. But they're more than just a pretty face.

On the inside are a couple of 40mm drivers, with 18 Ohm transducers engineered by Sennheiser itself. Though you might expect the stainless steel headband to be a massive obstruction in the way of portability, they're easily foldable, meant for being tucked in a duffel bag somewhere safe during travel. Should the unfortunate occur, and you're left with a ruined pair of headphones due, the company offers a two-year warranty on the Momentum 2.0's. And, since versions exist for both iPhone and Android devices, you can count on them working with your phone too.

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The best in-ear headphones for gaming 2019

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1. Jabra Elite Active 65t

The best in-ear headphones for gaming overall

Wireless: Yes | Connectivity: Bluetooth | Features: Five-hour battery life, included charging case, IP56 sweat and dust resistance, customizable EQ, Jabra Sound+ app compatibility, four microphones

Comfortable in-ear design
Long-lasting battery
Doesn't have GPS tracking

Chances are, you're not always playing games. For most of us, gaming is a hobby rather than a lifestyle. The rest of our time is devoted to commuting, working, going to the gym, cooking, cleaning—activities that are undeniably enhanced while wearing the best in-ear headphones for gaming, the Jabra Elite Active 65t's. Instead of doubling down on audio engineering and extraneous features, the Jabra Elite Active 65t prioritize two things: longevity and comfort. 

That's not to say the sound quality is bad, per se. These buds brandish a frequency response range of 20-20kHz, rivaling that of our crowd of much larger best wireless gaming headsets. Exclusive Bluetooth connectivity makes them a tough sell for gaming, but with the proper adapters in tow, you won't have a problem setting them up. Everything about the Jabra Elite Active 65t screams ease of use, including the customizable EQ found in the optional Jabra Sound+ app.

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2. Bose SoundSport Wireless

The best in-ear headphones for gaming and exercise

Wireless: Yes | Connectivity: Bluetooth | Features: Bluetooth and NFC pairing, active EQ, voice prompts, sweat and weather resistance, six-hour battery life, Bose Connect app compatibility, included nylon carrying case, microUSB charging, inline controls

Impeccable sound
Durable construction
No USB-C
Lacks charging case

Cheaper, and perhaps more resilient than the Jabra Elite Active 65t, are the Bose SoundSport Wireless in-ear headphones, the runner-up in our final rundown. These bad boys have a longer, six-hour battery life; however they don't benefit from the extension of a charging case. Instead, the SoundSport Wireless buds are tethered to a rubber string, one that conveniently wraps around your neck during idle moments of concentration, whether those take place while gaming or working out is your call.

Leveraging Bose's own 'StayHear+' tips, the SoundSport Wireless earbuds stay in your ears, a welcome departure from the disposable, ill-fitting Apple AirPods and as for the pairing process, connecting the Bose SoundSports to any device is just about as effortless as connecting your iPhone to a pair of AirPods. Again, Bluetooth capabilities are required, but it doesn't take an expert to get them working with even the most archaic PC builds. 

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3. Klipsch R6i II

The best in-ear headphones for gaming with a cord

Wireless: No | Connectivity: 3.5mm wired | Features: 10-19kHz frequency response range, 18 Ohm impedance, inline controls

Compelling price point
Eardrum-shredding sound
Limited compatibility

We get it. Bluetooth, on a PC, is annoying as hell to configure. However, all the best computer speakers and gaming keyboards have 3.5mm audio passthrough. You have no excuse to pass up on the Klipsch R6i II wired earbuds. The best in-ear headphones for gaming with a cord in my experience, the R6i II buds are somewhat essential on paper. After all, they're known best for their unbridled performance. Emitting sound at a 10-19kHz frequency response range, few earbuds come close in terms of raw horsepower. 

That said, bear in mind the kind of connection you have on your phone before snatching these up. Behind us are the better days, when the 3.5mm audio jack was ubiquitous. Now you'll more than likely find yourself forking over a bit more for a Lightning or USB-C adapter. And at that point, you must ask yourself, is it even worth it? Don't get us wrong, and the Klipsch R6i II's are the best sounding wired earbuds on the market right now. But you're still better off future-proofing with a cable-free model. Might we suggest one of the above?

Jorge Jimenez is a Hardware Writer from the enchanted lands of New Jersey. When he's not filling the office with the smell of Pop-Tarts, you can find Jorge streaming bad games with his dog or binge-watching an irresponsible amount of Law & Order: SVU.