Real gaming headsets are truly made to fit gamers’ needs and to gain an edge over the in-game competition. They have more directional sound to tell where other players are around you, include more options and are more comfortable to wear for longer periods of time.
There are so many different kinds of gaming headphones available that you may be tempted to just use regular music headphones. But don’t give up your search for the best gaming headset, because we’ve got you covered whether you’re after the best console or PC gaming headset, a wireless headset, or anything in between. With this complete gaming headset guide you will no longer be the victim of those quiet footsteps sneaking up behind and knifing you in the back.
Choosing the Best Gaming Headset
- Compatibility. Gaming consoles and headsets use different languages to talk to each other. What this means is that headsets will only work with specific gaming consoles. In general, if your headphones don’t match your console, you’ll notice a large audio/video delay where action and audio are supposed to be synchronized. Sometimes no sound will be heard at all.
It sounds complicated, but, a good gaming headset should tell you which consoles it will work with. Make sure you check the headset’s compatibility before you purchase. But if you make a mistake, just remember that adaptors are usually available.
- Stereo or Surround Sound. With more first-person games being played than ever, accurate positional audio is extra important. True surround sound using several speakers is the best way to accomplish this but fitting several small speakers into one earcup isn’t possible. Luckily someone created virtual surround sound.
Virtual surround sound sends the game’s audio to a processor, and through the magic of electronics, where stereo sound transforms into surround sound.
Stereo tends to be clearer because it doesn’t have the extra manipulating, but that’s not really a problem if your main concern is hearing everything around you.
- Power Source. All of the extras on gaming headphones – microphones, and processors – make them huge power hogs. Although you won’t have to worry about keeping them constantly plugged into an electrical outlet; you will want to make sure that you have the proper connections and accessories to keep them fully charged. I can’t imagine anything more annoying than burned out headsets interrupting gameplay.
Power sources have lots of variation. Some headsets need batteries, others are rechargeable, and some even have a combination. For example, ones that are capable of chatting may be powered by USB but have an additional cord connected to the gamepad.
- Analog or USB. Wired gaming headsets either plug into the small round 3.5 mm jack or the device’s USB port. Headsets that plug into a traditional 3.5 mm microphone or headphone jack are called analog. Headsets that plug into the small rectangular jack like a flash drive are called USB.
They each produce and process sound a bit differently so they often do sound different to the listener. Generally though, the differences are minor.
Most good gaming headsets that come with analog plugs include a USB adapter. And even if an adaptor isn’t included in the box one can be easily purchased separately. This potentially allows them to be used on more devices, but the sound quality can be somewhat weakened. The adaptors also tend to be a bit bulky and may get in your way.
5 Best Gaming Headset Reviews
The G4ME ONE secured our top spot for best gaming headset because it is one of the few products that appeals to the audiophile and the gamer at the same time.
Its cloth earpads keep your head and ears comfortable after several hours of gameplay without sweating and sticking to them like the synthetic materials. The flexible mic is easily positioned. And the volume controls are within easy reach, on the right earcup.
Game sound and chat sound are perfectly clear. Additionally, Sennheiser has really nailed the equalization on this one.
G4ME ONE is primarily a PC gaming headset so it requires adaptors to use with most game systems. But the superb sound is worth the extra work.
This updated version of the #1 Best Seller HyperX Cloud Gaming Headset couples great sound with customization gamers truly love.
Out of the box the Cloud II allows you to choose between cloth or faux leather ear cups, and between stereo or surround sound at the push of a button. Its detachable microphone is a cool touch as well for those times you’re not playing with friends.
It’s conveniently USB-powered for PCs and Macs but easily switches to the 3.5mm plug if you’re more of a PS4 or Xbox One type of person.
The virtual surround sound feels accurate; we were able to easily pinpoint the direction of sound effects with it turned on. The equalization is balanced. Bass tones like explosions didn’t drown out vocals or high-pitched effects.
Cloud II is great for the gaming enthusiast who wants a completely immersive game experience with lots of options.
The SteelSeries H is an outstanding wireless headset for gaming because it delivers unmatched sound customization and excellent battery life.
H comes with built-in presets that optimize the balance between sound effects and vocals. They’re conveniently located on the earcup and changed with a simple wheel design. A flick of the wrist is all you need mid-game to hush loud players and concentrate on background noise, or alter the soundscape so you can hear something in the distance.
The dual battery system means you’ll never lose function in the middle of a game. Each rechargeable lithium-ion battery is housed inside the transmitter and can be instantly swapped. But with batteries that last 20 hours we don’t think you’ll have to switch them very often.
The H by SteelSeries is perfect for extended-play gamers looking to cut the cord but maintain accurate customizable sound.
Sometimes simple is all you need, and that’s where the Ear Force PX22 hits the spot.
The USB-powered, PX22 is equipped with the options gamers desire: independent game and chat volume, variable bass boost, flexible omni-directional microphone. And does so without a bunch of extra buttons, and without sacrificing sound quality. Its stereo sound is clear with the highs and lows where you’d expect them in game play. Vocals were consistently clear as well no matter what background noise was happening in the game.
The PX22 is compatible with nearly every gaming system, and a solid product for budget-conscious gamers.
The X12, also USB-powered, is compatible with one of the most popular gaming systems; its in-line amplifier, and light-weight comfort make it an easy choice for one our best gaming headsets.
These offer balanced, clear stereo sound out of the box but the inline amplifier makes the experience even better and easier to control. The small plastic box located about 12 inches from the headset includes controls for the master and chat volume, the bass boost adjuster, and a mic mute switch. Finetuning our sound has never been easier.
The fabric headband and memory foam cushioning stay in place during extended game play. We were pleasantly surprised that our ears weren’t overly sweaty from the cushions.
The X12 is another good option for gamers who want top-notch sound without the hefty price tag.