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The best gaming headsets can completely transform your gameplay. A high-quality headset can make the difference between having a complete picture of your game’s music, sound effects and teammates’ voices, or missing out on audio elements that are critical to winning the game. I learned this firsthand in my testing of 11 gaming headsets. After hours of gameplay testing, I picked the SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless as the best gaming headset overall, and the Razer BlackShark V2 as the best value gaming headset.
While audio quality is paramount, there are tons of other considerations when buying a gaming headset. For example, you want a headset that feels comfortable to wear for hours at a time. And you want a headset with an excellent microphone, so you can communicate with other gamers.
“A great universal gaming headset will be one that accounts for design, sound quality and microphone clarity,” explained Connor Barry, a market analyst at Gap Intelligence. “With design, it is important that the headset is ergonomic for extended sessions of play, meaning it should be able to fit without needing to be constantly readjusted and without creating fatigue on the ears—an ergonomic headset that fits correctly ensures a seamless gaming experience.”
Here are the best gaming headsets I found after extensive testing.
- Best Gaming Headset Overall: SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless
- Best Value Gaming Headset: Razer BlackShark V2
The first thing that stood out to me about the SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless gaming headset was its outstanding versatility across gaming systems and connection types. As I found through hours of testing, this model backs up its versatility with terrific, well-balanced sound and a comfortable design. It excels across all these areas, which is why I chose it as the best gaming headset overall.
I tested the Xbox model, since that headset works with the Sony PlayStation as well. It only lacks support for PlayStation’s Sidetone, which allows you to monitor your own microphone. The Xbox model has Microsoft’s required security chip inside, and it supports the ChatMix volume dial—which makes the Xbox version the better choice if you might game on both Xbox and PlayStation. Beyond that, the design, sound and components are identical across the different versions of the Arctis Nova Pro Wireless.
The SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless also supports Bluetooth 5.0 and 2.4 GHz wireless from multiple sources, and it has a wired 3.5mm connection, too. Even better: You can connect to both 2.4 GHz and Bluetooth wireless at the same time, making it easier to switch between your devices. The base station has two USB-C inputs—perfect if you have both a PlayStation and an Xbox—and a line input for an analog connection.
From the outside, the SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless stands out for its sleek, stylish and functional design, even though it lacks the bright colors or RGB highlights of competitors. It has a retractable microphone that perfectly blends in with the headset’s left ear cup. The left ear cup has an easy-to-reach volume wheel and a power button—all of which were very easy to distinguish by touch. The right ear cup has a Bluetooth button.
I found this headset extremely comfortable to wear through hours of gameplay. It is lightweight, with an elastic headband that fits well on any head size or shape and over-ear ear cups with plush padding and a soft-touch faux-leather covering. I noticed the ear cups felt slightly warm after long gaming sessions, but not enough so to cause discomfort.
The SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless headset outputs stellar audio. While I was gaming, the headset produced excellent frequency response, with enough bass for most situations and good clarity and detail in the high end to provide a top-notch gaming experience. It’s not the single best-sounding gaming headset I tested, though: The Master & Dynamic MG20 delivers a little extra sparkle in the high frequencies, but the SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless gets very close.
Microphone quality is sufficient for in-game chat, but don’t expect to use it for things like recording podcasts. I found the microphone on the HyperX Cloud Alpha, and even the cheaper SteelSeries Arctis Nova 1X, was better than the one on the SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless.
The biggest problem I had with the audio quality comes down to the noise cancellation. It succeeded at cutting out some outside noise and hum, but it doesn’t match the noise cancellation on everyday headphones like the Apple AirPods Max and Sony WH-1000XM5.
This is the only headset I tested with a hot-swappable battery (included), an uncommon feature in headsets today and useful considering the headset’s battery life over 2.4 GHz wireless is a little below average. The headset works with SteelSeries’ GG software (for PC and Mac), which lets you control the audio equalizer, change some of the microphone’s settings (such as the volume) and set behavior upon startup (like defaulting to the Bluetooth connection). It’s the most comprehensive software I tested, and it’s easy to navigate, too.
Ultimately, the SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless stood out for its versatile connectivity and excellent audio handling—see my full review for more details. Add in its cross-platform compatibility, and the SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless was my clear pick for the best gaming headset overall.
If you’re looking for an excellent gaming headset that doesn’t cost as much as the best overall pick, the Razer BlackShark V2 earned the title of best value gaming headset among the 11 headsets I tested. This headset doesn’t offer the same range of wireless-connectivity features as the SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless, but it looks good, sounds great and has a no-complication wired connection that works well with any gaming console.
The Razer BlackShark V2 gaming headset is sleek and stylish, with green highlights for a designer touch. I found the volume knob on the left ear cup easy to reach, so I could make adjustments quickly while gaming. The same ear cup has a handy microphone mute button.
The headset has a lightweight, metal wire frame that should survive day-to-day use. The rest of the headset, including the ear cup shells, uses plastic. The lightweight frame helps keep the headset feeling light and airy, even while wearing it for hours on end.
The headset is lightweight, so it doesn’t put as much pressure on the top of your head. When you factor in the headset’s plush padding and soft-touch faux-leather coverings, you have a winner. The Razer BlackShark V2 is one of the most comfortable headphones I’ve tested, and remained so even after hours of gaming. The only issue was that the headset got slightly warm, due to the good seal created by the ear cups.
Complementing this headset’s comfort is its excellent sound. Over the course of my testing, it produced powerful bass, with well-tuned mids that helped ensure a more realistic sound quality. The best thing about the audio quality is the detail and clarity in the high-end—which makes for an exciting, precise sound.
The headset also comes with a USB-C sound card, which makes it THX-certified on a PC, so you can have a more immersive experience while playing THX-certified games and watching THX-certified movies. The sound card itself is compatible only with PC and PlayStation—not Xbox. I find using it on a PC worthwhile, as it allows you to tweak the audio equalizer, control aspects of the microphone and more through the Razer Synapse 3 software. That said, I didn’t find the THX surround profiles to be helpful or even a faithful reproduction of a real surround sound system, and I don’t think you’re missing much if you skip out on them. On PlayStation, I found it more convenient to simply plug the headset into the controller and skip the USB sound card altogether, since I still got excellent audio quality. For this reason, I don’t think Xbox players are missing much by not being able to use the dongle. The dongle is most relevant on the PC, where it makes the biggest impact.
The (few) downsides to this headset are mostly that the detachable microphone is merely adequate (but not terrible), and that you won’t get more on-headset controls, like the ability to tweak chat mixes, like you get on the SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless.
Those issues aside, the Razer BlackShark V2 is an excellent headset that’s worth looking into for anyone who wants a widely compatible, high-quality gaming headset on a budget.
Other Gaming Headsets Tested
I tested nine other gaming headsets that didn’t quite match my top picks in terms of quality. Here’s a look at the ones that didn’t make the cut, but might still be worthy of consideration.
Astro A10 Gaming Headset Gen 2 ($60 on Amazon): The Astro A10 is one of the least expensive headsets I tested, but unfortunately the construction and design felt a little low-end. Its gaming audio performance was good overall, but sometimes I found it slightly heavy on the low mids, which made for unrealistic audio reproduction. I also heard little extension in the highs or lows. Beyond that, the headset’s ear cups were small, which I found very uncomfortable. This model has a very high-quality microphone, with solid voice pickup and bass. But that wasn’t enough to make it compete with my top picks.
SteelSeries Arctis Nova 1X ($59 on Amazon): The SteelSeries Arctis Nova 1X has a slightly more premium feel than the Astro A10, with neat design touches like an invisible retractable microphone. It sounded a little better than the Astro A10, with boosted bass extension that meant explosions and gunshots sounded full-bodied. It also has 360-degree audio. But its audio still sounded muted compared to other options. While this model was more comfortable than the Astro A10, it still wasn’t very comfortable due to how the headband clamped tightly on my head. The headset felt relatively hot and more uncomfortable after I gamed for 3 hours. This headset has one of the best microphones of the headsets reviewed here, with crisp detail and natural-sounding frequency response.
Corsair HS60 Pro ($50 on Amazon): The Corsair HS60 Pro offered a mostly comfortable fit, with a contemporary, styled design that makes this headset look more expensive than it is. Its audio output sounded faithful, with great bass reproduction and prioritization that sometimes overshadows some other aspects of the audio, but not so much so that you can’t hear voices clearly. Not as important, but the Corsair iCUE PC software seemed buggy, and it was tricky to navigate on a PC. The Corsair HS60 Pro came with a surround sound dongle, which I found unnecessary and not very useful. The microphone didn’t sound great, but it was passable for chat situations.
HyperX Cloud Alpha Wired Headset ($93 on Amazon): The HyperX Cloud Alpha is an excellent option in its price range. It has a sturdy build, with a metal frame and reasonable comfort, although it got a little too warm for my taste. Audio sounded loud and crisp, with good low-end response for explosions and gunshots and flat, accurate mids. That’s along with a microphone that delivered more body than most, meaning that voices sounded deeper—like they are in real life. Its main deterrents were that the highs weren’t as detailed as the Razer BlackShark V2, so audio wasn’t as exciting or ultra-realistic.
Logitech G Pro X Wireless ($173 on Amazon): The Logitech G Pro X Wireless offers a classic design, with coiled cables and a premium look and feel. As the hours passed, this headset felt a little heavy and uncomfortable on my head. I found other headsets more comfortable than the Logitech G Pro X Wireless. It outputs good-sounding audio, though, with excellent high-end clarity and detail and strong frequency response overall that provides accurate sound. But the microphone disappoints, capturing shrill audio with a heavy emphasis on the high mids.
HyperX Cloud Alpha Wireless ($160 on Amazon): The HyperX Cloud Alpha Wireless was one of my favorite headsets, offering a comfortable fit, excellent audio quality and impressive 300-hour battery life. When I was playing games, this headset exhibited excellent overall frequency response, particularly in the low end, which sounded deep and powerful without being muddy. But it doesn’t work with Xbox: It lacks the required Microsoft security chip, and it doesn’t have a 3.5mm port for wired listening. The microphone didn’t impress, either: It was quite mid-high heavy, capturing audio that sounded too sharp and grating.
Turtle Beach Stealth 700 Gen 2 Max ($150 on Amazon): The Turtle Beach Stealth 700 Gen 2 Max is a solid headset, with a heavily plastic build and a relatively tight clamp that made it less comfortable for extended wear. Its audio exhibited deep bass response and faithful reproduction and clarity in the highs, but its bass extension lacked the oomph to give things like explosions more body. The microphone had good lower frequencies, better than most I tested. Overall, this headset was good, but not enough to beat either of the two top picks. Specifically, the Razer BlackShark V2 was more comfortable and offered an even better frequency response.
Master & Dynamic MG20 ($330 on Amazon): The Master & Dynamic MG20 was one of the best-sounding gaming headsets I tested, with incredibly detailed high frequencies and a deep, round bass, both of which translated to a better music and gaming experience. Frankly, it sounded better than the SteelSeries that ultimately won. But it got slightly uncomfortable after a few hours of playing, and it didn’t do enough to warrant the extra $100—even with its impressive microphone and its built-in surround sound (which didn’t add that much).
Bang & Olufsen Beoplay Portal ($375 at Best Buy): The Bang & Olufsen Beoplay Portal was another excellent-sounding headset with platform-specific models, like the SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless, plus Dolby Atmos support. The headset had a solid bass extension that creates powerful sound, and good detail and clarity in the high end for natural, authentic audio reproduction. It has a lightweight, premium design and solid feel, and it includes a useful mobile app. But it also wasn’t as comfortable as the Arctis Nova Pro Wireless, with a tighter clamp that created some discomfort on the top of the head. Comfort, together with cross-platform compatibility, made the more versatile and more comfortable Arctis Nova Pro Wireless the better overall option.
How I Tested The Best Gaming Headsets
I narrowed the field of gaming headsets by focusing on models from well-established manufacturers, including SteelSeries, HyperX and Logitech. I also looked for gaming headsets from high-end audio companies, like Bang & Olufsen and Master & Dynamic. I looked for models with the most rounded set of features and widest compatibility among gaming systems, across a range of prices. I also considered whether a manufacturer offered a version of the headset for both Microsoft Xbox and Sony PlayStation, since due to Microsoft’s security requirements, not all wireless headsets work with both.
Once I narrowed down the choices, I gamed with them, spending hours with each headset. I evaluated the comfort level over hours of gameplay, and I installed and learned how to use any PC software, where it was available. I also gauged the audio quality across gaming, music and TV and confirmed how well each headset holds a wireless connection (where applicable). My testing is based on my primary test game, Call of Duty: Warzone. I chose this game because it’s a good cross-platform game with solid sound design that includes all kinds of different audio effects and cinematic music (albeit only in the loading screens). I also played Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and God of War Ragnarök. For music, my test tracks included “Can’t Stop” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers (a track I’ve listened to hundreds of times since childhood), and for TV I watched The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.
To test comfort, I spent 3 hours wearing each headset, judging its comfort level after the first hour and again at the end. And I recorded a sample from each microphone, listening to them side by side to see how they compared to each other.
How To Pick A Gaming Headset
When buying a gaming headset, there are a few things you want to take into consideration. These are the most important buying criteria.
As a baseline, gaming headset design is about finding something with an attractive look and a functional approach that works for you. Are access controls built into the headset itself? How easy to access are those controls? Is the headset’s construction sturdy enough to withstand daily use?
If you plan to settle in for long gaming sessions, comfort is one of the paramount criteria when buying a gaming headset. Unfortunately, it’s also something you can tell only by actually wearing the headset. A comfortable headset will be lightweight or have a good weight balance on the head. That will avoid any discomfort under the headband. Good headsets offer a light clamp around the ears, ensuring they won’t shift as you move your head. Lastly, a great headset will offer a breathable ear cup material that won’t get too hot while you’re wearing it. The vast majority of gaming headsets are over-ear, not on-ear or in-ear. Over-ear headsets tend to be the most comfortable.
A gaming headset needs to sound great in order to immerse you into the soundstage of a game’s world. Audio quality is another metric that you can’t really judge based on a spec sheet. Headset manufacturers love to point out a model’s frequency range, but it’s usually much wider than the human range of hearing, which is 20 Hz to 20 kHz, and thus it becomes a meaningless stat. More important is to watch for a gaming headset that pays attention to balancing bass, mids and highs to make for more realistic and immersive listening. Clarity and detail in the high end is particularly important for a gaming headset that’s trying to create realism. And robust bass and deep bass extension ensure things like explosions and orchestral music sound powerful and present.
Many headsets support surround sound formats, but unfortunately, it’s a very fragmented industry. Even if you get a headset that supports a particular format of surround sound, there’s no guarantee the game you’re playing will. So for example, if you have a headset that supports Dolby Vision, you need games that support it, too—and while they are out there, count on running into games that don’t work with the format. The same goes for THX. Frankly, I’m not a fan of using surround sound for gaming. Usually, those formats sound unrealistic, and just plain bad when gaming. Sometimes, the virtual effects sound okay when listening to music. Most of the time, virtual surround formats end up making music sound less detailed and clear.
Thankfully, consoles have their own surround sound formats that work on any headset you connect them to. The game console itself handles decoding Sony’s Tempest 3D audio and Microsoft’s Spatial Sound, and those protocols work with any connected headset. They also sound way better, and way more natural, than the surround sound that’s processed by some headsets. If you’re into gaming in surround sound, simply enable that feature on your console.
There are multiple ways you can connect a gaming headset to a console, computer or mobile device, but they all basically boil down to wired or wireless. And the myriad options available to you depend on the device you’re connecting to, and what your headset supports.
“Connectivity nowadays is a preference. There is barely any difference [between a wired connection and 2.4 GHz connection],” said pro gamer Robin Kool, who plays Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) professionally for the FaZe clan under the gamer tag Ropz, and was MVP at the ESL Pro League Season 15. “With wired, you don’t have to charge or swap batteries, while with wireless you need to make sure it has enough battery.”
A wired gaming headset typically connects via a 3.5mm headphone jack connection, which you can usually plug into your console’s controller. Nintendo Switch is the big exception to that rule; if you have the Switch docked so you can play it on a TV, you need a third-party controller to connect a headset. Of course, in handheld mode, you can plug a headset directly into your Switch. Some headsets only have a wireless connection, while others have a jack on the ear cup and come with a wire so you can use one, as well. Alternatively, some gaming headsets—typically those for use with PC gaming—connect through a USB-C connection.
Among wireless gaming headsets, there are two connectivity options. The most common uses a 2.4 GHz wireless network formed between the headset and a USB dongle that you need to plug into your console or PC. While almost all wireless gaming headsets support 2.4 GHz, some also now have a Bluetooth radio. The advantage of 2.4 GHz is that it offers a much lower latency than Bluetooth. But Bluetooth is a convenience for listening to streaming music or gaming on a mobile phone. For headsets with both Bluetooth and 2.4 GHz wireless, you can sometimes switch from gameplay to taking a Bluetooth call with ease.
Don’t think that pro gamers only use wired headsets either. “For me, wireless is better. I don’t mind changing batteries every time they need to be recharged,” said another pro gamer, Helvijs Saukants, also part of the FaZe clan under the gamer tag Broky and was ranked the sixth-best player of 2022 by HLTV. “I can walk away from my PC and still hear music or respond to people talking to me.”
Does it bother you when you’re gaming and your teammates have a terrible microphone that sounds shrill in your headphones? It probably bothers them, too. Getting a high-quality microphone will make your voice sound more natural, while preventing those you’re chatting with from wanting to turn your voice off altogether.
The better-quality headset microphones have a boom arm, which may be detachable or retractable. Unfortunately, it’s tricky to determine just how good a microphone sounds without hearing audio from it—so if you can find audio from the headset online, it’s worth doing so.
Getting a wireless headset? It has a battery in it, and that battery eventually runs out. Generally, gaming headsets offer a decently long battery, though none as long as the 300-hour HyperX Cloud Alpha Wireless just yet. You’ll probably want a headset with at least a 30-hour battery life, which is on the low end for gaming headsets. Alternatively, a headset with a removable battery, like the SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless, will make battery issues less of a problem.
A headset that doesn’t work with the platforms you game on is a non-starter, and not all headsets work with all platforms. Why? Some of it comes down to different chat technologies. Microsoft’s ChatMix allows you to mix game audio and the chat audio from your teammates, while Sony’s Sidetone allows users to adjust how much of their own microphone is in their headphones—and headsets don’t support both. Some of it also has to do with security protocols on each platform. For example, Microsoft requires that wireless headsets for Xbox have a security chip.
While all 3.5mm wired headsets and some wireless headsets support all platforms, not all wireless headsets support all platforms—so make sure your headset supports the platforms you game on before you buy it.
I’ve been an avid gamer since I was a kid. My first console was a Sony PlayStation 2 that I got at around the age of 10, and since then I’ve owned various consoles and gaming devices. Currently, I game the most on a Sony PlayStation 5 and Nintendo Switch, but also own and regularly use a Microsoft Xbox Series S.
Perhaps just as important is my audio experience. I have a bachelor’s degree in music technology, which is a fancy term for a degree in music production. In my career as a tech reporter, I’ve combined my gaming side with my audio background. I’ve reviewed hundreds of different pairs of headphones and dozens of gaming headsets. For this piece, I also interviewed three experts about gaming headsets, including professional gamers.
Which Headset Is Best For Gaming?
Based on my testing, the SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless is the best gaming headset, thanks to its wide compatibility, excellent audio quality, top-tier comfort level and more. Your needs, however, might mean a different headset is best for you. For example, I found the Razer BlackShark V2 to be the best value headset for those who don’t want to spend the cash on the SteelSeries model. The likes of HyperX and Astro also make quality options. The HyperX Cloud Alpha Wireless, for example, offers a 300-hour battery life.
Which Gaming Headset Brand Is Best?
There are several top-tier gaming headset brands. The brand that made my top pick is SteelSeries, however HyperX, Logitech, Turtle Beach, Astro, Corsair and more all also make great headsets.
How Much Should I Pay For A Good Headset?
That really depends on you. Like with anything, the more you spend, the better the headset you can get. If you’re looking for a wireless headset with all the best features and extra bells and whistles, then the $350 SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless is worth its high price. But you can still get a great headset for less. The Razer BlackShark V2 saves money by being wired and offering fewer features, but it still prioritizes great-sounding audio.
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