We focus on improving our gaming experience with visuals with a better gaming TV or a beefier graphics card, but the way your games sound is just as important. 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 watching a clear video with audio that’s clipping or out of sync is far worse. Worse yet a bad audio experience can hurt your ears with sounds of a sudden explosion or enemies that you can’t hear until it’s too late.
A quality gaming headset can help ensure these audio issues won’t be a concern of yours. The best wired and wireless headsets deliver crisp and clear audio. Some feature 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 the best option – and click here to find them in the UK.
TL;DR – These are our picks for the Best Gaming Headsets:
1. SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless
Best Gaming Headset
It’s hard not to fall in love with the SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless. You still get all the great features of the previous SteelSeries Arctis Pro Wireless with some new technology including active noise cancellation and improved audio all around. Using a hybrid noise-canceling system with four mics, you can drown out the neighbor’s dog yapping or the low hum of an air conditioner. Though the ANC isn’t as good as some of the best noise-canceling headphones, it keeps you focused on the game rather than the distractions around you. There’s also some fantastic spatial audio onboard, so it’s easy to hear enemies lurking in the bushes or helicopters flying overhead. And you can make some next-level customizations to the EQ setting and game chat mix with Sonar and the SteelSeries GG app – good luck going back to your ordinary headphones for anything but listening to podcasts or the news.
With SteelSeries latest, we see the biggest design shift since the start of the Arctis lineup. The Arctis Nova Pro Wireless now totes telescoping arms on it’s adjustable headband so it better accommodates larger head sizes. The earcups are also slimmer and sleeker, giving off less of a gaming headset vibe and more of wireless headphones look. And one of our favorite features remains intact with a few upgrades, the hot-swappable rechargeable battery system. This means that when the battery runs low during a heated moment in a game, you just quickly change it out, barely missing a second of the action.
2. Razer Barracuda X
Best Budget Gaming Headset
The Razer Barracuda X makes affordability feel premium. Coming in at just $100, it’s easily worth your money. For one thing, it supports a broad range of devices. Better still, it supports a bunch of those devices with a 2.4GHz wireless connection using a USB-C dongle. That’ll gives you get low-latency, wireless audio from a PC, Nintendo Switch, many Android devices, and PS5 or PS4. For everything else, there’s also a backup 3.5mm connection.
The Razer Barracuda X has a lightweight build at just 250g and keeps things discreet with an all-black design, a low-profile headband, and even a removable boom mic. The earcups also have a breathable, FlowKnit material. Razer tops things off with support for virtual 7.1-channel surround sound on PC. You’d think there might be a few cut corners or missing features at this price point, but Razer didn’t even settle for a lackluster battery life, as these headphones can run for over 50 hours.
3. SteelSeries Arctis Nova 7
Best Wireless Headset
The SteelSeries Arctis Nova 7 is the gaming headset to get when you don’t want to be tethered to a wire. It may not offer as much as its bigger brother, the SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless, but it comes at a far more affordable $180 price with plenty of useful features. As far as connectivity goes, there’s Bluetooth 5.0 and a 2.4GHz wireless dongle for a virtually lag-free experience. It doesn’t stop there, though, as you can simultaneously listen to your game’s action on the PS5 or a gaming PC via that dongle while also playing music or chatting over discord with another device through Bluetooth. Trust us, once you try it, you’ll never look back.
Looking past the wireless connectivity, the Arctis Nova offers a durable and comfortable design with a height-adjustable headband for a universal fit and breathable AirWeave ear cushions. Housed inside the earcups are 40mm drivers to deliver a strong sound. And though this headset sounds great straight out of the box, SteelSeries Sonar software takes it to the next level with EQ adjustments and 360-degree spatial audio, which puts you right at the center of the action. There are some other convenient extras as well, such as improved 38-hour battery life, a noise-canceling mic, and on headset controls for ChatMix, volume, Bluetooth pairing, and more. All this makes for a wireless gaming headset that earns its place at the front of the pack.
4. Roccat Elo 7.1 Air
Best Budget Wireless Gaming Headset
If you’re on PC, you’re in luck. The Roccat Elo 7.1 Air is a solid wireless gaming headset that comes in under $100. That’s a rare enough feat, but it’s especially uncommon for not skimping on features and design elsewhere. It features a bigger profile on account of its use of a suspension headband to evenly spread its weight for long-term comfort and its larger earcups to accommodate 50mm speaker drivers.
The Roccat Elo 7.1 Air connects to your PC using a 2.4GHz wireless dongle for high-quality and latency-free audio. With Roccat’s Swam software, you’ll get support for 7.1 virtual surround sound. The headset also has a built-in dial to adjust your mic monitoring levels, so you can fine-tune how well you hear yourself in case you want to avoid shouting at your teammates. And, 24-hour battery life will keep you in the game longer before you need to recharge, which is thankfully facilitated by a USB-C port.
5. Audeze LCD GX
Best High-End Gaming Headset
If you like to game and also happen to be an audiophile, you’ll get some serious joy from the Audeze LCD GX . This takes Audeze’s knack for open-back, planar magnetic headphones and retrofits it with a boom microphone to give you a headset that can handle your game and chat audio together, something you’ll rarely find from a high-end, audiophile pair of cans.
The Audeze LCD GX uses super large 106mm planar magnetic drivers for incredibly rich audio with a wide open soundstage thanks to the open-back design of the headphones. With an impedance of just 20 ohms, all it needs is the power of a headphone jack you’ll find on a wide variety of devices from phone and laptops to computers and consoles, though sound levels can vary depending on the actual power of the source. The headphones includes TRRS or dual TRS adapter jacks for wide compatibility with devices. You can also leave the microphone off and go with a quarter-inch plug if you’re connecting these cans to high-end DACs when you’re not gaming and just want to enjoy some tunes.
6. Asus ROG Delta S
Best Wired Gaming Headset
This one might catch you off guard. The best wired gaming headset doesn’t come from one of the typical brands behind the best gaming headsets, though it is the brand behind many excellent gaming devices. The Asus ROG Delta S manages to be a true standout, and a lot of its excellence is actually achieved thanks to its wired connection. It uses a USB-C cable that delivers some serious Hi-Fi potential. It delivers an extended frequency response range from 20Hz to 40kHz, and its quad-DAC helps it deliver an exceptional signal-to-noise ratio. It’s a precise enough headset for those looking to enter a premium level of music streaming with Master Quality Authenticated files.
Of course, that audio quality translates into gaming for this headset. It offers solid audio on the console, PC, and mobile alike. It also offers a software-enabled virtual surround sound for more useful positional audio cues in your games. And let’s not overlook the Asus ROG Delta S’s inclusion of RGB lighting.
7. Audeze Penrose X
Best Audiophile-Quality Gaming Headset
If the Audeze Mobius enticed you and then you saw the HyperX Cloud Orbit S, which ranks among the best headsets we’ve ever used, then you’re going to love the Audeze Penrose X. 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 this. 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
Why settle for just one type of surround sound? The JBL Quantum One 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 connection available (though the latter will limit its 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. SteelSeries Arctis Prime
Best Esports Gaming Headset
When you’re competing, you need every advantage you can get, and audio clarity is one piece of the puzzle. The SteelSeries Arctis Prime is built to give you clear audio both going in and coming out. Your teammates in esports will hear you loud and clear thanks to the ClearCast microphone, which has consistently delivered on SteelSeries headsets.
On the other end, the SteelSeries Arctis Prime may only cost $99, but they’re coming with the more premium speaker drivers from the Arctis Pro side of the family. These drivers deliver an extended frequency response range and hi-fi clarity to ensure you don’t miss anything in game. The Arctis Prime is built with comfort and durability in mind like the other premium Arctis headsets, but it also aims to help block out external distractions by using a leather-like ear cushion instead of the AirWeave cushions on other Arctis headsets, which are more breathable but also let in more outside sound.
10. Turtle Beach Stealth 700 Gen 2 MAX
Best Xbox Series X/S Gaming Headset
For a feature-rich, quality-designed headset ready to game on the Xbox X/S, you’ll want the Turtle Beach Stealth 700 Gen 2 MAX. This headset is an amped-up version of the Stealth 700 Gen 2. It’s got 2.4GHz wireless for a pain-free connection to your Xbox Series X/S, and with the flip of a switch, it connects to other gaming consoles like the PS5 or Nintendo Switch. So, you’re in for some uninterrupted, lag-free gameplay. There’s also Bluetooth for easy connection to other devices. Since this headset is wireless, battery life is always a concern, but with 40 hours of listening time, you should be covered for long-haul gaming sessions and then some. A quick charge feature even lets you get 8 hours of juice with just 15 minutes of charging.
You’ll find once these cans are paired with your console, you’re in for a pleasant listening experience. The Turtle Beach Stealth 700 Gen 2 MAX is comfortable, lightweight, and durable thanks to an improved design. The 50mm Nanoclear speakers relay even the most subtle nuances in your games, including picking up on the quiet footsteps of your enemies. There is Windows Sonic, Dolby Atmos, DTS Headphone: X, and Superhuman Hearing support baked in, so you’re in for an insanely immersive sound performance. Plus, the microphone, though it picks up some background noise, sounds clear for strategizing with your teammates.
11. Sony Pulse 3D
Best PS5 Gaming Headset
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 is the headset to do it. It’s designed to connect 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 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 this option for just $100 makes it quite a strong offer.
12. Logitech G Pro X
Best Streaming Headset
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 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.
Kevin Lee is IGN’s Hardware and Roundups Editor. Follow him on Twitter @baggingspam.
Danielle Abraham is a freelance writer and unpaid music historian.