Best Gaming Headset - The Ultimate Guide
If you want to become the best you can be at pretty much any game you'll want to take any advantages you can get, and sound is definitely one of those. A lot of people are still playing with a subpar headset (or even just regular monitor or PC speakers) and that can definitely put you at a disadvantage if you're playing against people with a good quality headset.
Sound is important in all of our analyzed games, and while it's a bigger factor in some games than it is in others it's never a bad idea to invest in a proper audio setup. Having the ability to precisely pinpoint where your enemy is coming from by their footsteps alone almost feels like cheating from time to time, so a good audio setup can and will win you games.
We've gathered our analysts and we came up with a list of five of the most used headsets in our analyzed games. In this article we'll briefly go over their features and functions, and in the second part we'll give you five carefully selected additional picks so that you can find the right product for you, no matter what you're looking for.
What makes a headset good for gaming
The advantages of getting a good gaming headset are pretty obvious: you'll not only get better (positional) audio which will help you decide fights before you've even seen the enemy, but it's also much nicer to be gaming for hours on end with a headset that's comfortable for you.
There's also the fact that, if you want to be effective in any game that requires even a modicum of teamwork, you will want to have a microphone. It's possible to just get a pair of good quality headphones and buy yourself a separate mic to go with it (many streamers do this) but those setups usually aren't very mobile, and the increase of mic quality that you get with that (these external studio-style mics are usually better than the small mics you find on a headset) isn't worth the lack of portability and convenience for most people, so the majority of gamers spring for a combo headset.
Something that you often read online is that gaming headsets simply aren't worth the money because of the 'gamer premium' and while that might be true for some headsets (though you can find overpriced products in every product category) we find that this particular genre of peripherals has been really improving over the past couple of years. The products in this article are all seriously good at what they're supposed to do, but we'd be amiss if we'd say that you need to get a 'gaming' headset for gaming. If you're someone who is gaming behind their desk for the vast majority of time it's perfectly possible to go for a headphones + external mic combo.
Regardless of that: this is an article about gaming headsets, so it's going to be primarily about those, though we did add a headphones + mic combo further down in the article if you're interested in that.
Top 5 Headsets for Competitive Gaming
In the first part of this article we've listed the five headsets that are most popular with our analyzed professionals. We'll give you a brief rundown of the features of each product, as well as give you some information on the standout features and why it could be the headset for you.
When looking at the most used brands we can see that pro players clearly prefer HyperX. That's in large part due to their ubiquitous Cloud II headset (around 75% of HyperX users are using the Cloud II) but it's got to be said that HyperX produces great quality headsets at a very competitive price point with little to no superfluous features so we're not really surprised to see them so high up the list.
Behind HyperX we see what is perhaps the odd one out in this list in the form of Sennheiser. They're not a traditional gaming-focused brand at all, but they are a very respected audio company that started making dedicated gaming headsets a while ago so it's no surprise that gamers appreciate their phenomenal sound and mics.
A more traditional trio of brands rounds out the top five, but it's clear to see that they have some catching up to do.
MOST USED MANUFACTURERS
1. HyperX Cloud II / Alpha
If you visit any random gaming forum asking for recommendations on a good gaming headset you'll probably get at least some answers that mention the HyperX Cloud II. Despite the fact that this headset is a couple of years old already it's still very much the industry standard. It's currently being used by just under 20% of all of our analyzed professionals. Those numbers are bonkers, but they are well deserved.
The Cloud II is simply a great and extremely reliable gaming headset. It comes with interchangeable ear cups, a detachable microphone, Virtual 7.1 Surround Sound, a comfortable memory foam headband and they even include an airplane adapter. The sound quality is great for the price, and the mic is more than capable of transmitting your calls clearly. All of this is housed in a well-built and sturdy product, and while it might not have any super advanced features (there is a USB controller on the cable that lets you toggle 7.1 and change audio and voice volume however) it doesn't really need those.
If you're looking for a great quality gaming headset that does exactly what you want it to do without any feature bloat or crazy features then you'll definitely want to go for the Cloud II. It's the industry standard for a reason.
Note: we also included the Cloud Alpha in the count, as that is a nearly similar headset. The Alpha offers slightly better sound and mic quality but doesn't have 7.1 Virtual Surround and it doesn't come with additional velours ear cups.
2. Logitech G Pro X Gaming Headset
For the pros
The Logitech G Pro X is the successor to the massively popular G Pro headset, and it brings with it a couple of improvements.
Just like its predecessor, this is a headset that looks very subtle, but it packs a mean punch underneath that (extremely comfy, might we add) exterior. For starters you've got the Blue VO!CE technology, which gives you a myriad of options to make your voice come through as naturally as possible so that your friends and/or your audience can hear what you're saying without any worries.
The sound itself is great too. Yes, it has DTS HEADPHONE:X 2.o technology but even without that it gives you a great sound that you can also tweak thanks to the EQ in Logitech's software. In a nutshell: it's all there. If you're looking for a no-nonsense headset that's tailor made for gamers with a very sturdy yet comfortable frame and a fantastic microphone then you should look at the G Pro X. We're very impressed by what Logitech has managed to put out with this headset.
3. Sennheiser GAME ZERO
The audiophile's choice
Sennheiser isn't that well known in the gaming world, but they've been working with audio since the middle of the last century so we should expect their products to sound pretty great.
And that they do; Sennheiser's GAME line is a favorite with the pros (click here for our review of the GAME ONE) not because of the insane RGB strips and myriad of features that this headset offers, but because of the sublime sound quality and phenomenal mic.
If you want just about the best sound quality you can get out of a gaming headset you should look towards Sennheiser. Their experience in this field really allows them to shine on this front, and with the GAME ZERO you get a comfortable no-nonsense and lightweight design that doesn't offer that many features (you can mute the mic by moving it upright and you've got a volume control wheel on the right) but does deliver in spades when it comes to the most important qualities of a gaming headset: sound and comfort.
The mic on the GAME ZERO is also one of the best headset mics around, so when it comes to audio quality this is one of the best options on all fronts.
4. ASTRO A40
Make it yours
As you've probably been able to tell, the first two entries in this list have been pretty straightforward as far as design and features goes, and the Astro A40 is the first headset that breaks that mold a bit.
It definitely has a more gamer-oriented aesthetic to it and that becomes even more apparent when you look at the customization options for this product. You can swap the ear cushions, head band, and mic and you can even get custom speaker tags to really make your A40 unique. None of that has any impact on the actual performance of the product whatsoever, but luckily it's not lacking on that front either.
The A40 offers a comfortable wearing experience and a pretty great sound quality to boot. It often gets advertised along with their MixAmp Pro which lets you select from a bunch of EQ settings and do the usual stuff such as tweak chat and game volume, toggle Virtual Surround, and change the general volume but if you want said MixAmp you'll have to cough up quite a bit more money since it's not included by default.
The A40 on its own is definitely a very reliable and well-performing gaming headset though, so there's no real need to go for the extra MixAmp unless you really need those functions.
5. SteelSeries Arctis Pro
There's always an exception to every rule, and this time said exception comes in the form of the SteelSeries Arctis Pro. Whereas other headsets in this article have been pretty basic when it comes to aesthetics and functionality the same can't be said for the Arctis Pro. At all.
It comes with DTS Headphone:X v2.o Surround Sound, retractable microphone, and fully programmable RGB illumination. The Arctis Pro not only delivers on paper, though. The sound quality that it offers is one of the best in the business, and the microphone can also roll with the best. If you're looking for one of the best premium gaming headsets you can find you've got to consider the Arctis Pro, that's for sure.
Much like with the ASTRO A40, the Arctis Pro can also be bought with an extra controller element. In this case that's SteelSeries' GameDAC (DAC stands for Digital to Analog Converter) and that'll allow you to tweak the chat mix, mess around with EQ settings, and all of those pretty things. You don't need that GameDAC, as the Arctis Pro is a damn fine headset on its own and the GameDAC can make the whole thing a lot bulkier and less mobile, but the option is there if you like those sorts of things.
Best Headset for Competitive Gaming - Conclusion
Most of the headsets that are on this list share more than a few similarities: they're simple, reliable headsets that focus on performance and comfort over dazzling looks and features. That makes perfect sense to us: your headset is going to be resting on top of your dome for the vast majority of the time that you're using it so it doesn't really matter how it looks.
There aren't any wireless headsets that made it to this list which could have something to do with the fact that setting those up in a LAN environment can be quite a chore, though the HyperX Cloud Flight and Sennheiser GSP600 are both steadily rising through the ranks, and both of those are wireless. Don't be afraid to spring for one of those if you want that HyperX or Sennheiser design philosophy and quality in a wireless package.
Another thing we notice here is that all five headsets are closed-back (which means that the ear cup is completely closed off, as opposed to an open-back design where there are openings in the shell of the ear cups) and that might have something to do with the fact that professionals are often gaming in noisy environments. A lot of people like an open-back design better when it comes to sound quality but a commonly known disadvantage of that type of design is that it allows more outside noise to leak in, so this is another factor to consider when buying your next sound upgrade.
Most of the entries in our pro list are pretty similar so in the interest of offering our readers a guide that's as complete as possible we've been taking a look at some of the other products that see usage in the pro scene. These extra staff picks are in no particular order, but they should nicely fill out this list regardless so that there's an option in here for everyone, regardless of budget and requirements.
Sennheiser GSP 550
Best sounding gaming headset
Sennheiser is a very well regarded brand in the audio world so it's no surprise at all that they've managed to convert their audio expertise to great gaming headsets.
The GSP 550 is one of their newest efforts and if you're asking us it's one of the best products to go for if you're after a high fidelity audio experience. It's got an open-back design that offers an absolutely fantastic sound quality and one of the best sounding microphones in the business. This GSP 550 also comes equipped with 7.1 Dolby Surround Sound and included software with sound presets that actually give you a very different sound experience from preset to preset.
If you want to get yourself a comfortable headset that handles everything from gaming to music with surprising ease and accuracy this is definitely the one to go for. As an added bonus the mic is so good that it could even work as a main microphone for beginning streamers and the likes.
Best budget gaming headset
Showcasing these great high end headsets is all well and good but we are aware of the fact that some people can't or don't want to spend that kind of money on a headset so we've been scouting around for the best budget offerings out there and our eye fell on the Corsair HS50.
It's not the cheapest headset out there, but most of those bargain bin no-name brand headsets make too many compromises to reach a certain price point. This HS50 doesn't really sacrifice anything, and that's what makes it our choice for best budget gaming headset.
It's got a great sound and a more than respectable (detachable) microphone, and that paired with the sturdy build quality and sleek looks makes it punch quite a bit above its price class, so this is certainly one of the better options if you're on a budget. There are certainly much better headsets out there, but at this price you're not really making too many compromises.
HyperX Cloud II Wireless
Best wireless gaming headset
HyperX has been dominating the gaming headset market for a while now, but it took them quite some time to come up with a wireless headset that could also corner that part of the market. The Cloud Flight was released some time ago and filled that void (and does it wonderfully: a lot of pros use that one) but early November 2020 it was time for the big guns to come out: the Cloud II went wireless.
What you get here is everything that makes the Cloud II the gaming headset of the past years, but packed into a wireless product. It's reliable, it's comfortable, and it has that recognizable HyperX look. The sound quality that the Cloud II Wireless puts out is great: it sounds every bit as fantastic as its wired sibling, giving you a really nice and rather natural sound with great positional audio. The headset will last you as well: with a battery life of up to 28 hours you're not going to be without ears during an intense and long gaming session, unless you of course forget to charge your device.
It's a bit of a shame that the mic is 'just' decent and that you don't get the velours ear pads that you get with the wired version of the Cloud II but aside from that this is everything you love about the legendary Cloud II, only wireless.
Best earbuds for gaming
We know that some people (such as professionals in some tournaments) like to game with earbuds or want to use their computer sound device for when they're on the go too, and for that the Bose QC20 is one of the best choices. These aren't gaming-branded earbuds but they've been seeing a lot of usage in the pro scene of some of our analyzed games such as PUBG.
They feature Bose noise cancelling technology so you can completely shut off the outside world and focus on your game without any interruptions, but there's also a button on the control unit of the QC20s to turn off the noise cancellation for those times where you do want to be aware of your surroundings.
Bose is another company that's known for their audio solutions, so it shouldn't surprise you that these QC20s sound amazing. They're also supremely comfortable thanks to Bose's StayHear+ technology, so if you're looking for a pair of high quality earbuds that you never have to put away this could be it. This is definitely not a budget option but you get plenty of bang for your buck, and if you're going for a pair of earbuds to take with you everywhere this is worth the investment.
beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro + ModMic
Best headphones + mic combo for gaming
If you don't really want a headset combo or you want a studio-grade pair of headphones along with an external mic then we've got you covered too.
The beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro is an open-back pair of headphones that's not even made for gaming. This product is aimed towards audio enthusiasts and professionals in the music scene and logically that means that the sound that it produces is going to be great. You don't get any software or on-board controls with the DT 990 Pro but what you do get is a fantastic open soundstage (thanks to the open-backed design) that's going to be great for anything from singleplayer gaming to studying intricate pieces of classical music.
To transform this pair of headphones into a gaming headset we recommend the ModMic by AntLion Audio. This is a high quality microphone that attaches to any pair of headphones to essentially make it into a headset right then and there. It's noise cancelling so you can use it in LAN environments (which is something you just cannot do with a broadcast style Blue Yeti or something like that) and the sound quality is pretty damn nice too.
Obviously this is not going to be the most convenient and sturdy solution but the mic attachment is a very simple process, and the ModMic comes complete with a mute switch so the functionality won't be much different from a (bare-bones) gaming headset. If you go for the newest ModMic 5 you even get two mics (a very high quality omni-directional mic and the usual noise-canceling uni-directional mic) in the same package, so if you want crystal clear voice audio for when you're in quiet environments and the standard 'gaming mic' performance for other scenarios this combo is going to be ideal for you.
Best Gaming Headset - Conclusion
There are a lot of options when it comes to choosing an audio solution. Contrary to something like mice there are a bunch of non-gaming companies out there who make great quality headphones/headsets that can be used for high performance gaming, and if you also count the possibility to combine a pair of headphones with an external mic the possibilities really do become endless.
We personally prefer the convenience of a dedicated combo headset for gaming, especially since gaming headsets have come really far in the past few years, but if you want to use your pair of high quality studio cans for gaming that's an option as well thanks to solutions such as the ModMic. That's the beauty of (PC) gaming, after all, there are so many options out there that it's impossible to not find what you like.
We're confident that we've created a list here that has a bit for everyone, so hopefully this has been an informative and entertaining read. If you have any questions whatsoever please don't hesitate to reach out to us on Twitter or Discord.
Thanks for reading!