Some games are just best experienced in isolation with one of the best gaming headsets money can buy. Audio is so crucial to single-player immersive experiences and online battle royales now that the best gaming headsets offer truly wonderful experience. Sometimes even better than a combination of the best computer speakers paired with the best microphone for streaming and gaming.
Now that living, shared-world games like Anthem and The Division 2 occupy much of our time, owning the best gaming headset is pivotal for unhindered audio enjoyment as well as clear-as-day communication. You want comfort to play for long sessions, detailed audio to pick up on in-game audio cues, surround sound to pinpoint enemies, and a quality microphone to communicate clearly to your friends and teammates. The audio qualities can be attained by a range of cans and drivers you'll see on this list, where as the latter is usually catered for by boom mics, detachable or retractable. So, if you're on the prowl for the best gaming headset, you're in the right place. Some are wired, some are wireless. But all have been approved by a dedicated team of hardware testers and reviewers here at PC Gamer.
1. HyperX Cloud Alpha
A well rounded, well-balanced headset for game audio
Wireless: No | Drivers: 50mm dual chamber neodymium | Connectivity: 3.5mm analog | Frequency response: 13Hz-27,000Hz | Features: Detachable noise-cancelling mic, in-line cable controls
Bearing the fruits of HyperX Cloud’s long legacy of excellence, the newest Cloud Alpha presents excellent sound and build quality with the essential features done well, and no feature-flab inflating the price. The stereo soundscape in this closed-back design is punchier in the low end than we'd usually go for, but the extra bass doesn't interfere with overall clarity—and frankly, in games and music environments, it sounds great. Each 50mm driver's dual chamber design is intended to give low, medium and high frequencies space to resonate without interfering with each other, and you do get a sense of that while listening to them.
Elsewhere it's the usual impressive build quality, generous padding, clear mic and high comfort levels over longer play sessions that the Cloud design has always offered. The inline controls are the only exception to that rule—they feel flimsy by comparison to the rest of the package. We recommend the Alpha over the Cloud II (only just) because of the better frequency response range, although there's very little separating the two models.
Read the full review: HyperX Cloud Alpha
2. Steelseries Arctis Pro + GameDAC
The high-end gaming headset that does it all
Wireless: No | Drivers: 40mm neodymium | Connectivity: USB, optical, 3.5mm analog | Frequency response: 10Hz-40,000Hz | Features: Retractable noise-cancelling mic, DTS Headphone:X 2.0, RGB
High-res audio is on the up thanks to lossless streaming from Tidal et al, and games such as Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus offering full support. The Arctis Pro GameDAC makes full use of that crystalline high-res sound with a 5Hz-40KHz frequency response range—a spec that also makes the drivers sound great for everyday compressed audio usage. So, if you're planning to use a gaming headset for watching videos and TV on your PC, or music, this is a great choice.
The GameDAC itself is a combination of a digital-to-analog converter that takes the strain away from your CPU, a preamp, and a control center. With a press of its button and a roll of the dial, DTS Headphone-X surround can be enabled or disabled, chat/game mix tweaked, and EQ settings perfected. The subtle ring around each earcup on these cans ticks the RGB box without ruining the overall aesthetic. Our only reservations with the GameDAC model are that it requires an adapter for smartphone usage, and that its cables feel cheaper than a $250 headset should.
Read the full review: SteelSeries Arctis Pro + GameDAC
3. Razer Nari Ultimate
The best Razer headset on the market
Wireless: Yes | Drivers: 50mm neodymium | Connectivity: USB wireless, 3.5mm analog | Frequency response: 20Hz-20,000Hz | Features: Retractable unidirectional mic, Lofelt L5 haptic drivers, THX Spatial Audio, cooling gel-infused cushions, RGB
No matter where you stand on the polarizing debate of haptic feedback in games, we have to applaud its first proper execution in a gaming headset with the Razer Nari Ultimate. Showcasing the company's new HyperSense technology, this headset—which feels like you're wearing a pair of subwoofers on your head—is best experienced for yourself. Sure, there's an expensive point of entry, but it really is worth the money.
Since it features a wide gamut of haptic frequencies rather than just one static mode of vibration, the Nari Ultimate exhibits one of the most true-to-life rumble sensations we've ever experienced. And because support for it isn't programmed at the software level, every game is compatible. But it's more than just haptics. In fact, the sound quality on the Nari Ultimate is a considerable improvement from Razer's phonic endeavors of the past. Unlike the bass-heavy Kraken series cans, this one adds a healthy balance of highs and mids to the mix as well. The wireless connection is a rock-solid one, and the overall comfort of the headset is excellent.
Read the full review: Razer Nari Ultimate
4. SteelSeries Arctis 9X
The best gaming headset for multiple platforms
Wireless: Yes | Drivers: 40mm neodymium | Connectivity: Xbox Wireless, Bluetooth, 3.5mm analog | Frequency response: 20Hz-22,000Hz | Features: SteelEngine 3 compatibility, ClearCast retractable bidirectional mic, 20-hour battery life, Windows Sonic support
In most cases, you'd be right to assume a console-specific headset would be trash on PC. An exception to this rule is the SteelSeries Arctis 9X, a self-proclaimed Xbox headset that admittedly works great on everything. To be fair, chances are, you'll need an Xbox Wireless Adapter to use it with your PC, unless you have a Bluetooth card occupying one of your PCIe slots. But once you secure one of those, the Arctis 9X is a perfect fit for the platform agnostic.
It has Bluetooth and 3.5mm analog, so you can use it with your smartphone and other devices. All this functionality is made better by the promise of a 20-hour battery life which, in our testing, proved to be accurate. And because it uses the same 40mm drivers and nylon ear cushions as the company's other acclaimed headsets, you can trust the SteelSeries Arctis 9X's consistent sound quality and comfort. Our one complaint is that while its creators flaunt its bespoke, portable design, none of us would be caught dead wearing these in public. Keep the flashy headband and retractable mics at home where they belong.
5. Steelseries Arctis 7
The best wireless gaming headset for most users
Wireless: Yes | Drivers: 40mm neodymium drivers | Connectivity: Wireless via USB, 3.5mm wired | Frequency response: 20Hz-20,000Hz | Features: Retractable noise cancelling mic, DTS Headphone:X, 7.1 surround
What we like best about the Arctis 7 is that you can easily forget it’s a wireless model while you’re using it. There’s none of the muddiness or audio artifacts that have historically ruined the party for wireless headsets—it sounds just as good as the best wired models we’ve tested at this same $150 price range. The extraordinary battery life clocks in at over 20 hours out of the box, and after almost a year of heavy use that figure’s hardly dropped off. You can keep playing while you charge, too, simply by connecting the headset to your PC with a USB cable.
The Arctis range’s distinctive ski goggle headband is really effective at keeping the weight of the headset away from your head, and even after playing for hours we’ve never felt it digging in. After a year of daily usage, the headband does slacken which makes for a looser and slightly less comfortable fit, but the bands themselves are replaceable and sold for under $15 on the Steelseries online store. A functional but slightly quiet and muffled mic is the only chink in its otherwise formidable armor.
Read the full review: SteelSeries Arctis 7
6. Creative Sound BlasterX H6
A brilliant gaming headset that can turn its hand to all media
Wireless: No | Drivers: 50mm neodymium drivers | Connectivity: USB, 3.5mm wired | Frequency response: 20Hz-20,000Hz | Features: ClearComms detachable mic, detachable mesh earcups, 7.1 virtual surround sound, three built-in EQ profiles, RGB
Enjoying something of a renaissance and resurgence, Creative have busted out some quality products in recent times and one of the best is the Sound BlasterX H6 headset. It’s a midrange, USB-connected headset that does everything pretty darn well. From design, to microphone, to companion software, we really like this headset. It’s got a stylish and pleasing design, based in black and metal—while the cups have an illuminating RGB circle on them—and it feels very solid and secure when you’re wearing it. The thick-cushioned ear cups are a joy to wear, cutting out background noise just by their design, and overall it’s easily passable as an everyday, all-media headset.
Inside, the 50mm drivers provide excellent audio, particularly for games. The quality of the sound, down to minute audio details is excellent, and the surround sound is seamless. No matter what we played when we tested it, the H6 took in its stride and presented it beautifully. This extended to all other media types, and it provided an immersive experience watching movies or listening to music and podcasts. In its price range, it’s one of the best we ever tested, and it easily gives those much more expensive headsets a run for their money.
Read the full review: Creative Sound BlasterX H6
7. Logitech G Pro
A great budget gaming headset for esports
Wireless: No | Drivers: "Hybrid mesh Pro-G" neodymium | Connectivity: 3.5mm analog | Frequency response: 20Hz-20,000Hz | Features: Detachable mic
Logitech designed these cans with the help of esports athletes with a view to stripping away all the fat that’s usually found in gaming headsets, leaving a lean package of high-performance essentials. Generally the G Pro achieves that: there’s not a flame decal or RBG lighting strip in sight, and that functional aesthetic is matched by a barebones feature set. Looking to complete your RGB hellscape? You don't get that here.
The design is so barebones, in fact, that it might take some by surprise: there’s no virtual surround, and only a mic mute and volume scroll wheel by way of controls. We like the overall sound produced by the drivers, even if it’s a bit more pronounced towards the low end than we’d normally choose. If you can live with that, though, you get an otherwise attractive package with no unnecessary flab for under $100. It's a comfy, sturdy headset too, so you know it'll last for years.
Read the full review: Logitech G Pro
8. Turtle Beach Recon 200
An excellent budget option that is best for shooters
Wireless: No | Drivers: 40mm neodymium magnets | Connectivity: 3.5mm analog | Frequency response: 20Hz–20kHz | Features: Flip-up mic, always-on bass boost, compatible with Windows Sonic
If you're after quality but on a restricted budget we’d definitely recommend trying put the Recon 200 from Turtle Beach. Walking the line of quality and price excellently, you'll get great sound enhanced by a meaty Bass Boost feature, and a terrifically clear mic for comms. It's not got the same quality in seamless surround sound that dearer sets have, but it's good for the price and will be assisted greatly by what it presents to your ears. clear mic. That always-on Bass Boost hints at what the Recon 200 is best for—shooters—and it really shows with war noises and weapon sounds particular good and enjoyable.
The mic is not detachable but it's incredibly reliable and solid, with voices carrying through clearly. The design is a bit basic and its no hot-looker, but its solid and sturdy, though it isn't that comfortable during longer play sessions, so that's worth bearing in mind. It's definitely a gaming headset so don't look at it for your go-to, everything headset—that's not what it is for and it knows it too (in a good way).
9. Razer Kraken Tournament Edition
A fantastic all-rounder, with THX spacial surround
Wireless: No | Drivers: 50mm neodymium | Connectivity: 3.5mm analog | Frequency response: 12Hz-28,000Hz | Features: Detachable noise-cancelling mic, in-line cable control
Yes, it's another Razer headset. But love or hate the gaming peripheral company, the Kraken Tournament Edition offers superb value for money, with an audio quality that rivals headsets that are double in price. While the solid frequency response of 12Hz-28KHz offers a rich sound range, the real secret here is the THQ spacial audio, which can be toggled on and off via the in-line controls. Off, it's perfect for single player adventures as the headset's regular audio handles all ranges extremely well (although, it occasionally favors bass, which is ideal for action but less good for speech). On, the THX spacial audio gives you a genuine edge in online shooters, helping you pinpoint sound wherever it comes from.
But it isn't all about the sound. The headset's earcushions are cooling gel-infused, which does make a big difference on longer gaming sessions. And while the headset isn't as tough as the likes of the HyperX Alpha, it's still well built and easy to use. The retractable mic is convenient and effective for chatting to friends, and you can easily mute it via in-line controls if necessary. Sure, it's wired, but comes with a decent length of cable. And yes, that green color it comes in is nasty, but it's also available in understated black too. All round, a lovely gaming headset perfectly suited to PC play.
How we test headsets
We recently put more than 60 different headset units through a $50,000 testing setup to produce empirical data we could use to quantify our picks. We'll endeavor to make use of that HATS setup again in future, but we haven't given up on good old-fashioned testing by ear.
Each headset that we test we use daily for at least a week. We record a sample of our voice in Audacity and compare it to previous recordings from other models, then head to Discord to get some feedback from our friends on how we're sounding.
During that week, we aim to test each headset in a number of different game genres—shooters, battle royales, and racing games make for particularly good testing scenarios, since the former tends to test the low-end and reveal muddiness and distortion, while PUBG et al are great for positional audio tracking. Finally, good racing sims feature a very particular mix designed to help you hear brake lock-up and tyres losing traction. It's often in Project CARS 2 where great headsets are separated from merely good.
It's not just about gaming, though: we wear the headsets while we work, listen to music, watch distracting YouTube videos people send us, and everything else that crops up while we're at our desk. Finally, we compare a few lossless music tracks by listening through our BeyerDynamic DT770s and then the test sample. The 770s have a really flat EQ that makes them great for music production and critical listening applications—hearing another headset immediately after them really brings EQ peaks and dips into focus.
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