The best wireless headset is the Steelseries Arctis 7, and it does the fundamentals better than any rival on the market. Wireless headsets have to be a little more persuasive than their wired counterparts to be worth the higher price. Battery life, charge time, and range are all considerations that might put some gamers off ditching the cables, but we think the Arctis 7 covers those bases so impressively that you’ll feel only the benefits of going wireless, rather than the concerns.
When we’re testing wireless headsets the most important criteria we look for are price, sound quality, and comfort, but it’s also important to have a headset you can use for long periods without its batteries impinging on the experience—either by running low after a short time and emitting that soul-punching beep every few seconds, or requiring that you stop using them while you charge. Ease of setup, signal interference/dropout, aesthetics and bonuses such as RGB lighting all matter, too.
We're currently testing a slew of budget models to find the best wireless headsets at other prices, and will have more recommendations in the near future. Looking for wired cans? Check out our guide to the best gaming headsets.
Fact: wired headsets hugely outnumber their wireless brethren. Why? Why hasn’t the technology that unshackles us from our machine rendered wired models obsolete? Well, historically, cable-free cans have had a number of drawbacks, some of which remain today.
One: battery charge time. Ever had a wireless headset run out of charge on you mid-game, bleating its pathetic warning tone at the exact frequency that makes you want to chew through your tongue? Then you can see why some might be put off by the idea of having to manage their charge level, and even cut sessions short if their headset dies.
Two: latency. Particularly in cheaper wireless audio gear, latency can fluctuate and lead to a distracting slow-down-speed-up auditory jerkiness in whatever you’re listening to as your hardware tries to keep pace. Distracting, and annoying.
And three: price. There’s always been a considerable premium thrown on the price tag of any wireless headset, because that receiver and rechargeable battery aren’t cheap to produce. The silver lining? Manufacturers know those first two problems are deal-breakers, and have invested a lot of resources into minimising them. So today, you mostly just have to worry about price. That hasn’t changed, because all that resource investment is expensive.
Testing wireless headsets
Many of the qualities you’re looking for from a wireless headset are the same you’d hope to find in any audio equipment—tone, build quality, and reliability leading the charge. As such we listen to each review model while playing different genres of game, listening to music, and watching movies with bombastic sound effects and surround mixes—think less Werner Herzog, more Chris Nolan. We also run a simple sine wave ‘swoop’ across the stated frequency response range (almost always the full 20Hz-20KHz these days), and in the case of surround headsets we’ll listen to positional audio tests like DTS Headphone-X test. There’s also our old favorite, the Virtual Barber Shop. YouTube’s compression does limit the overall sound quality, but it’s still a great way of separating the wheat from the chaff in surround sound earphones.
There are a few wireless-specific elements we need to test for, too: battery life, charge time, range and latency. The former is pretty self-explanatory, though in addition to an ‘everyday use’ battery life test we also run the headset at full volume to discover how quickly the charge drains under those conditions. To ascertain charge time, we… well, we charge the headsets and note how long it takes.
Range and latency are trickier to test in a scientific manner. However, having a good old walk around the house gives a good indication of range, and latency ultimately comes down to perception. With all that taken into account after several days of use, we’re in a good place to make the call on a headset.
Most of the big players in USB/3.5mm gaming headsets have a wireless option, but usually just one. As such the current market competitors list is a bit slim. The range expands when you look as far as console-specific wireless cans, but in the interest of ensuring full compatibility we’ve stuck to officially supported PC models.
Razer ManO’War: Earpads so thick and comfortable they could take the sting out of a long haul flight, and very impressive 7.1 surround sound. RGB lighting for those who want it, too. Ultimately, the sound’s not quite as impressive in a music listening scenario as our picks.
Corsair Void Pro RGB: The strange thing about Corsair’s Void headset design is that it’s not hugely comfortable when you first put it on, but over longer sessions it seems to melt away from your awareness and let you keep playing. The sound’s well-balanced but outmatched by Steelseries’ Arctis line.
Asus ROG STRIX : An unorthodox design intended to highlight its enormous 60mm drivers defines the ROG STRIX. While it might look a bit Angry Birds, there’s no denying the power of its low end or spaciousness of the virtual surround sound. However, the bass ends up being a shade too powerful for everyday use, and can easily muddy music.
Astro Gaming A50: Another candidate that missed out by a whisker for ‘best overall.’ Flawless sound, bomb-proof build quality, and a few minor niggles such as unpredictable battery life, and a strangely short charge cable.
The wireless end of PC gaming audio gear offers less choice than that of wired peripherals, but it’s still a big marketplace—and it’s populated by models with incremental improvements and price hikes from the same manufacturers. We haven’t tested every single model available, but done our best to seek out the cream of the crop. And from that cream, we’ve cherry-picked a) the absolute best options available right now, and b) a really odd, food-themed mixing of metaphors.
It’s also a marketplace that moves fast—so we’ll be keeping our eye on it and updating it as promising new models are released.
Some online stores give us a small cut if you buy something through one of our links. Read our affiliate policy for more info.