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The best gaming headsets in 2021

The best gaming headsets for 2020
Hear every subtle detail with the best gaming headsets. (Image credit: Future)

The best gaming headset can make all the difference in your gaming experience. It can be the deciding factor in crucial life-or-death moments in multiplayer or competitive shooters and make you far more comfortable during marathon gaming sessions. It may be easy to see how much impact dropping an Nvidia RTX 3080 can have, but it's tougher to quantify what crystal clear gaming audio can do.

For any competitive PC gamer, a quality gaming headset is essential to the experience, allowing you to pinpoint directional audio and react accordingly easily.

Cut the cord...

(Image credit: Steelseries)

Best wireless gaming mouse: ideal cable-free rodents
Best wireless gaming keyboard: no wires, no worries
Best wireless gaming headset: top untethered audio

There are a few things to consider when choosing a gaming headset. Price and sound quality, of course—those are the biggest factors we weighed when picking our favorites for this list. Comfort is up there, too. Lastly, most of the headsets we've listed here include noise-canceling mics, which are crucial for chatting with your teammates. You want decent voice quality and a microphone that isn't pick up every single keypress on your mechanical keyboard.

Adding one of the best gaming headsets of 2020 to your set-up shouldn't cost the earth either. You can grab our top pick, the Razer Blackshark V2, for $100, giving you a sturdy headset with excellent sound quality. Alternatively, if you have the money to spare and want to go with a wireless option, you could do a lot worse than the HyperX Cloud Orbit S

Our list of the best gaming headsets has something for everyone regardless of budget. If you're determined to cut down on cord clutter, our guide to purely the best wireless gaming headsets may be more to your taste.

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Futre

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1. Razer Blackshark V2

The best wired gaming headset

Wireless: No | Drivers: 50mm Razer TriForce Titanium | Connectivity: 3.5mm, USB soundcard | Frequency response: 12Hz - 28,000Hz | Features: Detachable noise-cancelling mic, in-line cable controls | Weight: 262g

Restrained styling
Comfortable
Great audio
Great value

Dethroning the HyperX Cloud Alpha from the top spot wasn't an easy job. Razer's Blackshark V2 gaming headsets manages to do just that by offering killer audio quality, great price, and easy-to-use software. 

The 50mm TriForce Titanium drivers are designed with discrete ports to separate bass, mid, tremble tones from interfering with each other. The result is a richer sound and keeps it on par with HyperX's 50mm dual-chamber neodymium driver headset. 

The $100 price point is not a big financial ask for anyone who wants a quality gaming headset. The Blackshark V2 Pro's recent release gives players a wireless option though, $180 seems a bit steep.

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HyperX

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2. HyperX Cloud II Wireless

A well rounded, well-balanced wireless headset for game audio.

Wireless: Yes | Drivers: Dynamic, 53mm with neodymium magnets | Connectivity: USB Dongle | Frequency response: 15Hz-20kHz | Features: Detachable mic | Weight : 300g | Battery Life: 30 hours

Powerful but clear sound
Exceptional build quality
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HyperX

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Bearing the fruits of HyperX Cloud's long legacy of excellence, the Cloud IIs presents excellent sound and build quality with the essential features done well and no feature-flab inflating the price. This closed-back design's stereo soundscape is punchier in the low end than we'd usually go for. Still, the extra bass doesn't interfere with overall clarity—and frankly, in games and music environments, it sounds great. The 53mm with neodymium magnets 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 II design has always offered.

Best gaming keyboard | Best gaming mouse | Best gaming chair
Best VR headset | Best wireless gaming mouse | Best graphics cards 

Razer Thresher Ultimate

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3. Razer Thresher Ultimate

The best Razer headset on the market.

Wireless: Yes | Drivers: 50mm neodymium | Connectivity: USB wireless, 3.5mm analog | Frequency response: 12Hz-28,000Hz | Features: Retractable unidirectional mic, RGB, 7.1 Dolby Surround

Detailed audio
Comfortable
Quality wireless connection

The more recent Nari Ultimate might grab the headlines with its divisive haptic feedback feature. Still, while it looks the same, it has arguably weaker audio than the classic Thresher Ultimate. For our money, that's the best gaming headset Razer has created, and it's one we still use today.

I'd much rather have the detailed, robust audio of the Thresher's more aurally acute drivers than something that feels like you're being prodded in the side of the head every time an explosion goes off in-game.

The wireless connection is solid, the fit comfortable, the battery life decent—though not class-leading at around ten hours—and if you grab a pair of the optional pink cat ears off the Razer store, you can make them look just fabulous

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SteelSeries

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4. Steelseries Arctis 9X

The best wireless gaming headset for most users.

Wireless: Yes | Drivers: 40mm neodymium drivers | Connectivity: Wireless via USB, 3.5mm wired, Bluetooth | Frequency response: 20Hz-22,000Hz | Features: Retractable noise cancelling mic, DTS Headphone:X, 7.1 surround

Solid gaming sound
Comfortable 'ski goggle' headband
Great Mic 
Bluetooth 
Pricey
Weak Bass

We like best about the Arctis 9X because 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. The added Bluetooth compatibility means that you can use this headset on your mobile devices, too, perfect is you plan on gaming on your phone or tablet. 

The great battery life clocks in at over 20 hours out of the box; you can keep playing while you charge, too, simply by connecting the headset to your PC with a USB cable.

The 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.

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5. Razer Kraken X

The best cheap gaming headset with 7.1 surround sound.

Wireless: No | Drivers: 40 mm, with Neodymium magnets | Connectivity: 3.5mm analog | Frequency response: 12Hz-28kHz | Features: 7.1 surround sound, ultra lightweight

Cheap
Excellent 7.1 virtual surround sound
Comfortable

As a cheap alternative to the tricked-out Kraken, the Kraken X is a budget-friendly option that excels on PC for one simple reason—virtual 7.1 surround sound. Available via an app, this elevates the headset's already good audio thanks to superior depth, clarity, and definition. It also makes going back to the X's standard audio mode difficult. When you throw in enviable comfort and a stylish, understated design, this version of the Kraken offers tremendous value for money. There are niggles to dampen the party, of course (a non-detachable mic being chief among them), but you can't complain when you're getting excellent 7.1 sound for such a low cost.

Read our Razer Kraken X review.

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6. Creative SXFI Gamer

Best headset with surround sound

Wireless: No | Drivers: 50 mm Neodymium magnet | Connectivity: USB-C, 3.5 mm Stereo Input | Frequency response: 20–20KHz | Features: Positional Audio | Weight: 336g

Great price
Pretty good virtual surround sound
Low-key and comfy design design
Cumbersome software
Lack of wireless support
That red microphone light

The Creative SFXI Gamer headset is a good headset with a hilariously bad name. That being said, it shouldn't deter anyone looking for a great overall listening experience. The positional audio, aka Battle Mode, is perfect for anyone looking to immerse themselves into their favorite Battle Royales like Call of Duty: Warzone for less than $150. 

The 50mm neodymium drivers provide some good bass between both stereo and with surround sound modes. The microphone works well for competitive gaming (though that red light at the tip is infuriating) if you want to be heard loud and clear. 

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ASTRO

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7. Astro A03 In-ear Monitors

Best budget in-ear headphones for gaming

Wireless: No | Drivers: Dual Dynamic 5.8mm / 9.2mm | Connectivity: 3.5 mm Stereo Input | Frequency response: 20–20KHz | Features: Travel bag, 3 size Ear Tips | Weight: 260g

$50
Fun colors
Mic doesn't work on PC

If you're like most people, your only experience with in-ear headphones is frantically looking for the pair that came with your smartphone inside some junk drawer in an awful tangled mess when the battery on your wireless headset dies. We've all been there. 

The Astro A03 is a stylish pair of in-ear monitors that not only sound good but also cost only $50. A great alternative for folks who find the typical gaming headset too heavy and uncomfortable for long stretches of time. We also dug the lay flat tangle-resistant cabling because in-ear headphones are notorious for tying themselves into inexplicable knots in your pockets.

How we test gaming headsets

Stream machine

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Best microphone for gaming: make sure you're heard
Best webcams: be seen while you get your stream on
Best capture cards: lessen the load with a dedicated card

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 tires losing traction. It's often in Project CARS 2 where great headsets are separated from merely good.