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Best headphones for gaming in 2020

The best headphones for gaming in 2020
These are the best headphones for gaming day-to-day, for those who don't want a gaming-focused headset. (Image credit: Future)

When picking the best headphones for gaming, we're looking out for a couple of key factors. That starts with sound quality that's a match for the best gaming headsets, but we're also looking for headphones that can leave your desk and accompany you on your commute or keep you in the zone 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 a 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 and little else. But if you have a desk microphone, such as a Blue Yeti, then all you have to worry about is comfort and sound quality.

Best headphones for gaming

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1. Sony WH-1000XM4

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

It's rare seeing a pair of headphones that genuinely shine in almost every regard. But with the WH-1000XM4, 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, 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 WH-1000XM4 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. The battery does take a hit for this, but you can take solace in the fact that the WH-1000XM4 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

One of the most common misconceptions I hear among haters is that headphones don't have built-in mics. Yet, even the inexpensive AKG Y50BT 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 for their input quality. You buy them for their kickass audio out.

As they're made by world-renowned AKG Acoustics, known primarily for its professional audio equipment used in radio stations and jazz clubs, the Y50BT 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, 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. V-Moda M-200

The best headphones for music and gaming

Wireless: No | Speaker size: 50mm | Connectivity: 3.5mm wired | Frequency response: 5-40,000Hz | Features: Foldable stainless steel headband, noise isolating earpads | Weight: 290g

Great Compact Design
Lightweight
Clean, accurate sound

These pro-grade cans feature large 50mm drivers, have a wide frequency response of 5Hz to 40kHz that deliver excellent sound for music and, more importantly, gaming. Our favorite thing about the M-200 is the light, compact design. At only 290 grams, it’s the right candidate for commute, work, and play.

My only gripes are that the headset might fit a little too tight for those with big noggings (like myself) and the surprising lack of lightning/USB-C adaptor or cable for mobile devices. V-Moda sells a lightning cable for $100, which is pricey considering the headset itself costs $350.

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The best in-ear headphones for gaming in 2020

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1. Jabra Elite Active 75t

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

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. 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 75t 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

Slightly 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. 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. Beats Powerbeats Pro

The best earbuds for using on multiple devices

Wireless: Yes | Connectivity: 3.5mm wired, Bluetooth | Features: Charging case,

Clever controls
Easy Setup
10-hour battery life
Can pair with 10 devices simultaneously

The main reason we fell in love with the Powerbeats Pro is that they easily pair with just about anything. These fitness earbuds work well when paired with a gaming laptop, my cell, tablet, basically antyhing. The transition from commute or workout to gameplay is nearly seamless, which isn't always the case when trying to set up Bluetooth headphones.

The audio is well-balanced and not as bass-heavy as other Beats headphones. Though they does lack the oomph in the explosions department in games like Call of Duty: Warzone, it is helpful to make out little things like character dialogue without having to mess with any EQ settings.

The only downside is the charging case is bulky and doesn't fit comfortably in any pocket, so it ends up living in a bag or a permanent fixture on a desk. 

Hey folks, beloved mascot Coconut Monkey here representing the collective PC Gamer editorial team, who worked together to write this article!