The difference the best gaming headsets can make to gaming is incredible. Crystal-clear audio can help you pick up the sound and direction of enemy gunfire in Call of Duty: Warzone. Or perhaps you prefer to hear the bone-crunching guitar riffs as you rip and tear through demons in Doom Eternal. Whether you’re looking to gain a competitive edge in a first-person shooter or just want to improve your overall gaming experience, bagging a quality gaming headset should be high up on your to-do list.
There are a few points that you’ll want to consider when choosing a gaming headset. Price and sound quality are arguably the two most important factors, and we’ve taken both of these into account when picking our favorites for this list. Comfort is another thing you’ll want to think about, as constantly adjusting your headset—or remove it altogether—during longer gaming sessions isn’t where you want to be. Lastly, the majority of the headsets we’ve listed here boast built-in noise-canceling mics which are crucial for chatting with your teammates.
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 HyperX Cloud Alpha, for less than $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 Razer Thresher Ultimate.
Our list of the best gaming headsets has something for everyone regardless of budget. Alternatively, 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.
Best gaming headsets
Bearing the fruits of HyperX Cloud’s long legacy of excellence, the 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 and overall sound quality, though there’s very little separating the two models.
Read our HyperX Cloud Alpha review
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 10Hz-40KHz frequency response range—a spec that also makes the drivers sound great for everyday audio usage, though you will start noticing the difference in really compressed files. But 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 our SteelSeries Arctis Pro + GameDAC review
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The more recent Nari Ultimate might grab the headlines with its divisive haptic feedback feature, but 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.
HyperX manages to deliver one of the comfiest, most durable headsets on the market while still having crystal clear audio. The Cloud Orbit S uses audiophile-level planar magnetic drivers, which reads as cool as they sound. Essentially a rebadged Audeze Mobius headset, the Orbit S looks super-sleek and its giant memory foam ear cushions are extremely comfortable to wear for long stretches of use with out weighing your head down.
The stellar sound quality alone is worth the investment. You can easily use this as your everything headset for mobile, console, and PC play. Using Audeze’ Waves NX 3D sound tech, it tracks your head movement to simulate 7.1 surround sound and the results are impressive. Though, the software could be a bit overwhelming. It still doesn’t change the fact this is a great sounding headset with a reliable sounding detachable microphone.
Read our HyperX Cloud Orbit S review
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 our SteelSeries Arctis 7 review
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.
How we test gaming headsets
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.
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.