Monday, April 12, 2021

Best Gaming Headset 2020: The Top Wired and Wireless Gaming Headsets

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We often think about the quality of our gaming experiences in terms of resolution, frame rates, and how high we’re able to dial our graphics settings. But, as important as what we see through our gaming monitors is what we hear through our headphones. Few things can ruin an experience as deeply as bad audio. An overly compressed video might still be watchable if the audio is clear, but try watching a clear video with audio that’s clipping or out of sync and it may be a different story. Matters are only worse in games, where a bad audio experience can hurt your ears with sounds that take a sudden turn toward explosive or enemies that you can’t hear until it’s too late.A quality pair of gaming headphones can help ensure these audio issues won’t be a concern of yours. The best headsets will use quality materials to deliver crisp and clear audio, whether that be over a wired or wireless connection. And, some will even offer custom equalizers and surround sound so you can really tune your audio experience for an edge in gaming. We’ve rounded up the best gaming headsets from budget to premium and wired to wireless, so you can find a quality headset and leave audio concerns behind. If you’re browsing in the UK, click here to find out where you can go to find the best gaming headsets.

TL;DR – These are our picks for the Best Gaming Headsets:

1. HyperX Cloud Orbit S

Best Gaming Headset

Our Pick

HyperX Cloud Orbit S

On Newegg

For a long time, the Audeze Mobius (read our review) was our favorite gaming headset, but it’s finally been dethroned by the HyperX Cloud Orbit S (read our review) since it can do almost everything we loved about the Mobius but for a lower price. This headset is still pretty pricey at $329, but its sound quality is unparalleled.

Unlike all the other headset on this list, it uses planar magnetic drivers that bring audiophile-quality audio to the gaming masses. What’s more, Waves NX adds another dimension of directional sound by introducing head tracking into the equation. For example, if you hear something off to the left you can turn your head slightly in that direction for clearer sound.

On top of all that the HyperX Cloud Orbit S features top-notch materials and a premium design, and it’s comfortable, and can be used for a lot more than gaming. Thanks to an included 3.5mm audio cable as well as USB-A and USB-C cords, you can pretty much plug this headset into any platform and enjoy the rich audio only planar drivers can deliver.

Just be aware than the head-tracking features will only work on the computer and your experience may vary depending on which PC game you play—for example, the HyperX Cloud Orbit S will make Battlefield V sound amazing but it won’t do much for Phoenix Point. If money is no object, and you want the best headset for gaming, look no further.

2. SteelSeries Arctis 1

Best Budget Gaming Headset

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SteelSeries Arctis 1

On Amazon

The Arctis 1 might be on the bottom rung of SteelSeries headset family but you get the same 40mm drivers as found on the company’s highest-end offering. That means you get the same expansive sound stage from SteelSeries’ $160 gaming headset in a pair of cans that only costs $40. That said, it’ll take extensive equalizer balancing to get the same exact sound profile as the Arctis 1 is bass heavy out of the box.

Another thing you’ll love about the SteelSeries Arctis 1 is how breathable the earcups are. Combined with the cushy headband, and this is a gaming headset you can wear for hours. Since it uses a simple 3.5mm jack, you can use it on every platform from the PC to the Nintendo Switch. Also if you prefer something wireless, this gaming headset comes in such a version for $99.

3. SteelSeries Arctis 7X

The Best Wireless Headset

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SteelSeries Arctis 7X

On SteelSeries

SteelSeries just keeps making its Arctis 7 headset better. It was good to start, it got upgraded in 2019, and now the SteelSeries Arctis 7X (see our review) raises the bar again. Although, this time it’s not just one headset. In fact, there is an Arctis 7X and an Arctis 7P. They’re fundamentally the same headset, though one is targeting the new Xbox Series X and the other is targeting the new PlayStation 5. That said, we really recommend the 7X, as it also supports the PS5 and PS4 while the 7P doesn’t support the new Xbox.

Looking past the platform specifics, the Arctis 7X features a strong wireless connection using a USB-C dongle and delivers strong audio with the 40mm drivers that we already loved in the earlier headsets. The SteelSeries Arctis 7X headset still offers a comfortable design with breathable ear cushions and a “ski google” headband the distributes its pressure well. There are plenty of extras as well, such as surround sound support on Xbox and Windows, an improved 24-hour battery life, multiple connectivity options, and a special dial dedicated ChatMix. All this makes for a wireless gaming headset that earns its place at the front of the pack.

4. Corsair HS70 Pro

Best Budget Wireless Gaming Headset

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Corsair HS70 Pro

On Amazon

Corsair had a winner on its hands with the Corsair HS70 (read our review), but it’s made those wireless headphones even better with the Corsair HS70 Pro. Better still, it didn’t even increase the price of the headphones. The Corsair HS70 Pro offers latency-free wireless for some serious gaming without going over $100, making it the best wireless gaming headset you can get in the price range.

It delivers excellent sound from its 50mm drivers, and even has support for 7.1-channel surround. With a 16-hour battery life, you’ll be able to enjoy the Corsair HS70 Pro’s capabilities through long weeks of gaming without needing to plug it in to charge all the time. That all just gets better when factoring in the plush memory foam ear cups, and the inclusion of metal in the construction of the headset. From sound quality to build quality and comfort, the Corsair HS70 Pro deliver on it all.

5. Corsair HS35

Best Ultra Affordable Gaming Headset

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Corsair HS35 Gaming Headset

On Amazon

We’ve all been enjoying some pretty great $50 gaming headsets for a while now, but Corsair has lowered the price floor even further to $35. With the Corsair HS35 (read our review) being so, so cheap, you might expect audio from this gaming headset to be of potato quality, but it’s more than serviceable for users on a budget.

Rather this Stereo headset delivers a fantastic sound stage, which makes it perfect for hearing enemies move around you. That said, the heavy bass and poor overall aural balance of the Corsair HS35 makes it a poor choice for listening to anything but game audio. Still, that’s what it was made for and it has a great, Discord-certified microphone for talking to your online teammates.

6. Astro A40 TR + MixAmp TR

Best Wired Gaming Headset

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Astro A40 TR + MixAmp Pro TR

On Amazon

Astro is one of the biggest and oldest names when it comes to gaming headsets and you’ve probably more than likely seen your favorite Esports stars wearing them at competitions. The Astro A40 TR (read our review) is one of the few gaming headsets comfortable enough to wear all day. This headset’s design might not have changed for the last few years, but it still has fantastically breathable ear cups and a perfectly balanced headband, which neither pinches on your ears or weighs down on the top of your head.

Although you could plug the Astro A40 TR directly into any device, you’ll want to jack in through the MixAmp Pro TR. See the MixAmp Pro TR is the real heart of this gaming headset that unlocks Dolby Audio 7.1 and the ability to change your equalizer settings. Astro’s new mixing console has also been redesigned to be a little easier to use this time around with two separate volume and chat mix wheels. We’ve featured the PS4 version of the Astro A40 TR above, but there’s also an Xbox One variant as well

7. Audeze Penrose X

Best Audiophile-Quality Gaming Headset

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Audeze Penrose X

On Audeze

If you were enticed when you saw the Audeze Mobius a couple of years ago and then saw HyperX’s take on the design with the Cloud Orbit S, which ranks among the best headsets we’ve ever used, then you’re going to love the Audeze Penrose X (read our review). This gaming headset is nearly identical to the aforementioned headsets, but it takes a lot of what there was to love about them and makes it a powerful wireless experience.

The Audeze Penrose X still offers the 100mm planar magnetic drivers that power the incredible audio experience seen on those other headsets. It doesn’t come with any surround sound features or Waves NX head-tracking tech, though you can use digital surround sound sources with the headset. But, for that tradeoff, you get a gaming-worthy, 2.4GHz wireless connection. You also get support for a 3.5mm wired connection and Bluetooth, which you can use at the same time as the other wireless connection. The Penrose X is made to support the latest Xbox consoles, but Audeze also offers the Penrose for PlayStation and Mac support, though Bluetooth and wired connections make either headset capable of broad compatibility.

8. JBL Quantum One

Best Surround Sound Gaming Headset

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JBL Quantum One

On Amazon

Why settle for just one type of surround sound? The JBL Quantum One headset (read our review) may be pricey, but it has a lot to offer in the sound department, including JBL’s QuantumSPHERE 360 technology as well as DTS Headphone X: v2.0 surround sound. The latter is a high-quality digital surround sound that can make your game worlds and movies feel that much more engrossing. QuantumSPHERE 360 is a bit more involved, and actually takes into account the position of your head, so you can turn your head in the real life and all the sounds around you will shift to maintain their relative position.

It’s not just nifty surround sound, but also precise, as the Hi-Res certified 50mm drivers offer excellent sound and a 20Hz-40kHz frequency response range. The JBL Quantum One also offer great flexibility, with options for both a USB and a 3.5mm headset connection available (though the latter will limit the headset’s capabilities). The JBL Quantum One even includes active noise cancelling to help you focus on only the sounds you want to hear. And, to top things off, there’s customizable RGB lighting on each ear cup.

9. Razer Nari Ultimate

Best Haptic Gaming Headset

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Razer Nari Ultimate

On Amazon

If you ever wanted an extra kick from your audio, the Razer Nari Ultimate (read our review) might just be for you. This gaming headset throws in haptic feedback that literally kicks you in the ears whenever there are bassy, low-end sounds—such as a punch or kick, gunshot, or explosion. The Nari will also use vibrations to punctuate some surprisingly subtle sound effects like shooting a web line in Spiderman, but music-based and rhythm games are the best things to experience with this headset. While getting kicked in the ears might sound like it would get old pretty fast, the extra pop of this gaming headset is thoroughly entertaining everytime.

In terms of pure audio quality, the Razer Nari Ultimate is also one of the only gaming headsets to support THX Spatial Audio, which is supposed to give us beyond 7.1 surround sound. Spatial awareness is amazing on this headset as you feel and hear bullets whizzing by you. Although THX Spatial Audio only works with gaming PCs, you can still get great directional audio with generic surround sound on the PS4.

10. Turtle Beach Stealth 700 Gen 2

Best Xbox Series X/S Gaming Headset

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Turtle Beach Stealth 700 Gen 2

On Amazon

For a great pair of headphones that are ready for the next generation of Xbox, you’ll want the Turtle Beach Stealth 700 Gen 2 (read our review). These headphones don’t require any awkward solutions to set up, since they support Xbox Wireless for direct pairing with your console. That also means you won’t have to take up any of the Xbox Series X or S’s USB ports for these headphones.

On top of supporting a wireless connection to the Xbox, the Turtle Beach Stealth 700 Gen 2 can connect to a wide variety of other devices using Bluetooth. And, they deliver audio from both connections at the same time, letting you keep up with the news or stay in a Discord channel over Bluetooth while you get your game audio from your Xbox. On-ear controls will let you easily manage the audio coming in from different sources, so you can crank up your teammates in case they get hard to hear over the intense firefights in your games. And, thanks to a 20-hour battery life, you’ll be able to enjoy the clean game audio these can deliver without having to recharge every day.

11. Sony Pulse 3D

Best PS5 Gaming Headset

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Sony Pulse 3D Wireless Headset

On Amazon

If you’re lucky enough to have picked up a PS5, you’ll want to ensure you can make the most out of the capabilities of the Tempest 3D audio engine, and the Sony Pulse 3D (read our review) is the headset to do it. This wireless headset is designed to connected seamlessly with your console for latency-free, high-quality audio pumped out of 40mm drivers. Since the headphones were designed with Tempest 3D audio in mind, you can be sure you’re getting the intended surround sound experience in your PS5 games.

The Pulse 3D headset goes beyond just PS5 Gaming. It also works with PS4, PC, and Mac wirelessly. Plus, with a USB-C or 3.5mm audio cable, it can also support a broad range of other devices. The fact that Sony sells the headset for just $100 makes it quite a strong offer.

12. Logitech G Pro X

Best Streaming Headset

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Logitech G Pro X

On Amazon

When it comes to streaming, having a good mic can be more important than your quality game audio. However, if you don’t want to go through the trouble of finding the best microphone for streaming, the Logitech G Pro X (read our review) is a great all-in-one solution with a microphone designed for broadcasting and booming surround sound to boot.

The Logitech G Pro X incorporates some of Blue legendary microphone technology to capture clear, natural and isolated recorded voice. Additionally, you can use the Blue VO!CE software to auto-tune your voice with presets making it a great option as a microphone for streaming and podcasting. As just a plain gaming headset, the Logitech G Pro X is no slouch either. It generates huge, concussive audio, but doesn’t sacrifice higher frequency sounds to achieve this.

Where to Get the Best Gaming Headset in the UK

You definitely need a quality gaming headset if you’re looking to take your favourite hobby even remotely seriously. Thankfully, every headset we’ve picked out on this list is also available across the pond in the UK, so take your pick.

What to look for in a Gaming Headset

When you’re shopping for a gaming headset there are a few key specs you should look out for.

The first is the size of the drivers, which follows the rule of bigger is better. Drivers are the internal mechanism inside headsets and headphones (or really any speaker) that ultimately create the soundwaves you hear by vibrating back and forth in response to an electrical current.

The larger the driver, the more air they can move to not only to make louder sounds, but it also allows them to produce a wider, more nuanced range of frequencies—which happens to take us to our next specification.

Frequency response is another important spec, and it’s the range of frequencies the headset can reproduce. On the low-end, most gaming headsets hit a minimum of 20Hz and a maximum of 20,000Hz. As you go from the bottom of the range to the top, sounds go from a low thud to a warm, steady hum and finally a piercing screech.

While on the hunt for a gaming headset, you’ll likely find more than a few promising 5.1 or 7.1 channel surround sound, which are both designed to give users a more immersive audio experience. 5.1 surround places speakers directly in front of you, front right, front left, back right, back left and adds a subwoofer to relay bass. 7.1 surround gives you the same setup as 5.1 surrounds, but it adds two more speakers to your immediate right and left.

Dolby Atmos and DTS Headphone:X (2.0) are two specially branded types of surround sound you’ll also likely encounter. They both essentially do the same thing of adding positional audio for effects for objects like say a plane flying over or a bomb falling from the sky above you.

Now while surround sound on a headset is cool, it’s not exactly the same as having a real multi-speaker surround sound system. In fact, almost 99% of gaming headsets employ virtual surround sound—which is to say they’re faking it with mathematical algorithms. There are very few gaming headsets like the Razer Tiamat that actually come with the individual drivers necessary to create a real surround sound environment.

But just because the surround sound you hear on a gaming headset is fake, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t enjoy it or doubt its ability to create an immersive environment.

The fact that surround sound can be virtualized also means you can get it on any gaming headset even if it only has two channels. On Windows 10 you can download the Windows Sonic for Headphones app and get 3D spatial audio from even the most basic set of stereo headphones.

More Expert Tech Roundups

Kevin Lee is IGN’s Hardware and Roundups Editor. Follow him on Twitter @baggingspam
Mark Knapp is a regular contributor to IGN and an irregular Tweeter on Twitter @Techn0Mark



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