Our top picks for gaming sound from SteelSeries, Razer, Logitech, HyperX and other well-known makers.
Gaming just keeps getting bigger and better, and you can’t turn around these days without being reminded of it.
But if you’re just getting started,
you might not realize how much of a difference a good gaming headset can make.
A mic makes it possible to chat and strategize with your teammates,
and good separation of highs and lows make it easier to hear any enemies sneaking up behind you.
Plus, the balance and tonality they provide can really help you appreciate the soundtrack you paid extra for.
If you’re looking to upgrade your setup, a top gaming headset is a good place to start.
Plus, you may already be spending a ton of time on video calls,
so treating yourself to a new headset can be a way to satisfy your work brain yes,
be that person wearing the huge headset in meetings — and your play brain without blowing a ton of money.
Keep in mind that analog gaming headsets, which connect via 3.5mm jacks,
can work with almost any device —
- gaming PC
- Xbox Series X or Series S
- Nintendo Switch
in addition to regular Windows PCs.
But depending on the hardware you may not get the full set of features, such as surround sound,
mic monitoring (aka sidetone) and other capabilities that rely on software and a USB connection to function. To get console-specific features, you might need to check out headsets designed specifically for them,
like those found on our best Xbox gaming headset and best PS5 gaming headset lists.
SteelSeries Arctis 9X
This excellent wireless headset supports both Bluetooth and 2.4GHz connections for simultaneous lag-free gaming and audio monitoring, with a bunch of excellent features. You can use it wired or while it charges over USB, and it’s got a Discord-certified noise-canceling retractable microphone, swivel earcups so it can sit on your shoulders and support for DTS Headphone:X v2.0 and Windows Spatial audio. Its pucklike dongle has an analog 3.5mm input for game audio and a line out to the headset, which expands its usefulness. My only significant quibble with the Arctis 9X is it feels a little too tight on my head (which is odd, since all the other Arctis models feel fine). Its big brother, the SteelSeries Arctis Pro Wireless, gets rave reviews as well, but it’s significantly more expensive as well as relatively old; it’s due for an upgrade and I think it’s a bit overkill for many gamers, anyway.
Razer BlackShark V2
These aren’t the absolute best in gaming headsets, but the newest generation of Razer’s BlackShark headsets — the wired Razer BlackShark V2 ($100) and V2 X ($60) and the Wireless V2 Pro ($180) — are well-rounded options if you need a single headset for both work and play. I prefer the V2 over the V2 X for its extra PC features, like support for THX Spatial Audio, microphone settings in Razer’s Synapse utility and a USB dongle. Plus, it has a better cord, a removable mic with foam cover and breathable fabric on the earcup padding. If you’re on a tighter budget, the analog-only V2 X has all your platforms covered for half the price.
Nacon Rig 500 Pro HX
The first time I saw the Rig series of gaming headsets — well before the brand was bought by gaming and accessory company Nacon — I was so turned off by the aesthetic I didn’t even take the headset out of the box. I powered through this time, and although I’m still not fond of the appearance, it’s turned out to be one of my go-to headsets in why-doesn’t-my-pc-see-my-wireless-headset emergencies.
You get a lot for the money. It’s comfortable and relatively light with good 3D audio, pretty decent mic quality, good noise isolation and an inline volume control that’s neither too far down the cable or too far up. The mic is both removable and flip-up, which you rarely see at this price.
The last generation of the headset got complaints about build quality, but I’ve been using it for months with no issues. Its flat rubber cable is a step up from competitors: Flatness makes it tangle-free and less susceptible to damage when I roll over it with my chair. To adjust size, there’s a combination of three notches on the headband — you basically pop out the earcup to move it, so if it comes under stress it just pops out — and a basic suspension band.
It doesn’t come with a headphone/mic splitter cable, a common omission in budget headsets, and the shortish cable isn’t removable, but it’s a good length if you’re going to plug it into a controller for use with the Xbox. You do get a two-year activation card for a Dolby Atmos subscription (at least the last time I looked) for Windows 10/11 and Xbox One or later.
Prices occasionally jump up closer to $60, but I still think it’s worth the money.
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