The Best Gaming Headsets of 2017 - Buyer’s Guide
Any gamer knows what a gaming headset is. It is one of the most important accessories for a great real-life like gaming experience. For those unfamiliar with the word, a gaming headset is usually a combination of quality headphones with attached microphone. The increasing number of gamers all around the world demands more sophisticated devices featuring the latest tech. Besides a powerful PC, fast gaming router and a cutting edge mouse and gaming keyboard, today's gamer needs a proper headset. It can be the difference between life and death - image that you can't hear the enemy approaching in Counter Strike? Imagine that you can't hear the direction they are coming from. Terrible, isn't it?
Table Of Contents
The Best Budget Headsets
Gaming Headset Alternatives
Why Is It So Hard To Choose A Gaming Headset?
The differences between various models of headsets can be quite stunning in quality. For example, a headset can be designed for music lovers and be marketed as a gaming one. There are plenty of conference call earpieces marketed as "gaming" nowadays too - you just can't be too careful. There are stereo headphones that offer two-channel stereo output covering both ears. They are great for music, for example, but more often than not they struggle with delivering accurate surround sound for gaming. There are true surround sound headphones. They usually use more than two discrete speakers in each ear, they cover the ears entirely and some even deliver true 7.1 surround sound! Most surround sound headsets deliver high-quality speaker drivers and noise-cancelling microphones in order to deliver an immersive experience. They are supposed to isolate you from your surroundings and bring the game to life in the best possible way.
You can't ignore the fact that fit and ergonomic play an important role when choosing a headset that works for you as well. Some people prefer in-ear drivers but they usually can not deliver true surround sound and might get uncomfortable after a while. A good fit is very important if you spent more than a few hours a day playing games, especially first person shooters.
There are quite a few different types of headsets as well. There are four general types as follows:
Wireless Gaming Headsets
These come with no cables that tangle around your chair at any given chance. We all know how fragile headphone cables are and it will be a major disappointment if the cable gets tangled and cut as soon as you start using it. Wireless is a great option and nowadays most bugs and interferences are ironed out so there should be no issues using your wireless headset.
Virtual Surround Sound Headsets
Those are that comes with a digital processor built-in. They don't rely on the sound card or the computer DAC to do the signal processing. It is all done inside the headphones and usually at a very high level too. The build in digital-to-analogue converter does all the sound computing on the spot, delivering clear sound and high compatibility with most devices. They usually come with a USB connection to minimize noise and interferences.
True Surround Sound Headsets
Surround gaming sound is very important in first person shooter and role playing game when you have to be aware of the direction the enemies are coming from. A true surround sound headset will be able to deliver real surround sound coming from more than one speaker on each ear. Most true surround headsets have three or more speakers including mid-range ones, tweeters and a subwoofer in order to deliver real immersive surround experience for the true gamer.
Stereo Gaming Headsets
Stereo surround sound headphones are a proven classic - two separate speakers delivering crystal clean sound - one on each ear. Good audio card can provide virtual surround sound even to stereo speakers. It doesn't matter if the signal processor is built-in or external, stereo is not dead. Keep in mind that virtual surround, as good as it is, is not a true surround. The range is limited, sometimes lacking important frequencies in the deep bass or the high tweet ranges
So What Are The Best High-End Gaming Headsets?
Here we will introduce some of the very best pieces of gaming sound tech we have experienced. Keep in mind that they are not always budget friendly, but if you want the best you have to pay for the best - there is no way around it. These are not for the weak hearted. We tested and put to work some of the very best and expensive headset gear on the market today. As objective as we can be, most of them are excellent performers and a great buy for the money. With some being a tad overpriced at times, shopping around can prove quite useful.
You might wonder why we haven't included any wireless devices in the "Best" category? Well, we thought about it and decided to split them.
Although wireless tech is miles ahead of where it was a few years back, there is still some lag to be expected from time to time. Interferences are not unheard of either. It's not that we don't like wireless - we do. But we still feel that the tech has some maturing to do before delivering true lag-free and interference-free experience. So if you want the best sounding and trouble-free, we'd say go for a wired device. If you don't want wires laying around and tangling around every possible place - go for wireless. But don't expect 100% the same results as wired. Just our two cents.
So here are the five best gaming headsets that we tested:
1. ASUS ROG Centurion 7.1 – The Best Gaming Headset
For a start, let’s take a look at the ASUS ROG Centurion True 7.1 review. Unlike most <strong>gaming headsets, this gem features a unique design with fancy glowing LED ambient lights. Many headphones manufacturers claim true 7.1 surround sound and fail miserably when put to test, but sure the Centurion isn’t one of those. It offers an unbeatable surround sound with its five neodymium magnet drivers in each ear cup that deliver immersive sound with incredible clarity. In addition to the two sets of exchangeable ear pads and the exclusive stand, ASUS ROG features a foldable and flexible digital microphone. The mic, which boasts extended band frequency response and impressive signal-to-noise ratio, delivers a pure and natural sound and effectively cancels background noise for crystal-clear communication. ASUS ROG Centurion offers the powerful, easy to use Asus Sonic Studio app. It provides the hardcore gamer with a complete control over audio settings such as equalizer and level-balancing without wasting any time. If that is not enough, there is a plug-and-play USB audio control station. You can choose the most suitable game profile for each game. You can enhance gunfire in Battlefield 1 or just the sound of the engine in NFS. The built-in microphone can be set to eliminate specific noise such as mouse clicking or keyboard tapping. The only real downside is the need of a cable connection and the size of it. It is bulky but it should fit comfortably over most ears and reduce fatigue build up from prolonged use. In real life, there are things left to be desired… First, and most obvious, is the price. I’m not going into details since there are different markets and all, but I’m sure it is way too expensive for most. The performance is excellent for the price for sure, but we felt there are other options that deliver more balanced price to performance ratio. Second – the external amp and control stations are nice and all, but it is temperamental at best and it doesn’t always do what’s requested. Sometimes you might feel like it has a mind of its own. It is a nice addition for sure, but we feel that we could’ve gotten a nicer product for the price.
2. Sennheiser Game Zero – Best Sounding Headset
The Sennheiser Game Zero is a high-end offering everyone should love. Lots of professional gamers swear by Sennheiser and their audiophile headphones live up to their reputation day in and day out. While the ROG Centurion offers quite a comfortable over-the-ear design, the Game Zero is in a class of its own. With ergonomically designed pads, flexible headband and foldable phones it is sure to find a way into a gamer’s heart. It is intended for prolonged gaming sessions and tournaments. It has an own carrying case to take with you travelling too. The Sennheiser Game Zero is a high-end offering everyone should love. Lots of professional gamers swear by Sennheiser and their audiophile headphones live up to their reputation day in and day out. A downside is a rather large microphone. Yes, it is foldable and can be put away, but this is not a universal solution. You sacrifice audio quality if you use it while folded away and people will have trouble hearing you over the speakers. The Game Zero doesn’t come with an external amp or control station either. They are offered as extra accessories and they are quite expensive – even more, expensive than the headset itself. To be honest it doesn’t offer that much for the money so I wouldn’t spend it on one. Despite not offering a dedicated amp or external controls, the device performs remarkably well in real life. Audio is crisp and clean, as expected from Sennheiser. It offers an immersive experience in first-person shooters, role-playing games and more. You can clearly hear the direction an enemy is coming from in most shooters that we tested – Counter-Strike being the most notable, of course. True classic. It offers excellent sound for the money and it is no wonder that it deserves a place on our list.
3. Turtle Beach Elite Pro – Best Comfort For Gaming
Turtle Beach has been on the market for quite a while now and proven itself as a reliable and quality headset maker. The Elite Pro is no different – it is a quality wired headset and, arguably, the most comfortable gaming headset. It offers vented ear cups, it works great for people who wear glasses and the sound is excellent. The ComforTec system is great for adjusting the device to your own needs. There are a few quirks to it. To get the best of it you will have to shell out for the extra amp –
There are a few quirks to it. To get the best of it you will have to shell out for the extra amp – the Elite Pro Tactical Audio Controller. It offers built-in amplifier, presets for certain games, volume know and different equalizers and boosts. While it is a great addition to the family, the controller is not included in the price and if you want it you will probably have to shell out another hundred – quite a steep price.
While the microphone that comes in the set is pretty good, you will have to spend a bit more to get a proper noise cancelling mic as well. It is a whole ecosystem that Turtle Beach wants to sell you on. The products are definitely worth it – they are top notch. The price, however, is very steep if you want everything and we are not 100% convinced that it is worth it in general.
4. Razer Kraken 7.1 Chroma – Affordable Quality
You can’t complain from the bass of the Kraken- probably the best affordable high-end headset. Nice, tight and punchy – excellent sound coming from the 50mm drivers. The ear pads a quite comfy wrapped in foam and vinyl. The issue with it is that the headset might make your ears feel sweaty after long gaming sessions. There is no ventilation whatsoever so if you live in a hot climate the Kraken might not be the best set for you. The pads are removable so you can easily clean them if needed.
Razer decided to offer their feature headset with a virtual surround sound. It features a 7.1 surround ran through a pair of stereo speakers. The sound is good and you can clearly hear the direction the enemy is coming from, for example, but it is not in the class of true multi-driver setups like ASUS Centurion, for example. It is not in the price range of the ASUS though, and the real-life performance is quite good in comparison.
The cable is a good length and it comes with an extension cord. It ends in the standard 3.5mm headphone and mic jacks at the end. The cable has volume control built in so you can easily adjust the sound level. The only problem is that the microphone on-off button can be accidentally turned on or off during intensive gameplay.
There is a weak spot in the headset and it is indeed the said microphone. It is simply not up to standard. While it is in a comfortable positions and the attached boom makes it easier to move around, the sound quality is just not there. It is OK for a very basic voice chat, but if you don’t want your team to listen to your breathing throughout the game you will have to reposition the mic under your chin and away from your nose. That brings another problem – people might just not hear you properly then. The sound is nothing to write home about either – no bass, flat and sounds like a tin can.
5. Asus Strix 7.1 – Budget True Surround Sound
Another true surround sound headset from Asus. You might be wondering why do we have two ASUS offerings on the same list. Yes, I agree that the Strix and the Centurion are very close in what they actually offer – true hardware surround sound. The are very few manufacturers that offer true surround sound coming from more than just two stereo speakers and ASUS is one of them. Yes, they have lower class phones that are included in our other selections, but we truly believe that the Strix 7.1 has a firm place on the best headsets list and might be even a better deal overall than the Centurion in certain cases where the budget is an issue.
The strip 7.1 has five separate drivers on each ear making it total of ten speakers in total. The audio quality is superb and the surround is properly working with the amp that the headphones are arriving with.
Just like the big brother – the Centurion – ASUS Strix comes with an external amp – control station. It doesn’t use the PC sound card – all the processing is done at the amp and delivered to speakers via USB. It is all plug and play and you can adjust volume and built-in presets with the touch of a button – on the fly.
Comfort is great with foam pads wrapped in faux leather. We felt that ventilation is adequate, although not superb and you might feel a little moisture building up from prolonged gaming sessions.
Compared to the Centurion, it seems to have the same speaker setup and the same frequency response. The clear plastic on the back of the headphones is a nice touch and you can see the driver bouncing when the bass hit. Really cool.
Pricewise it is about a third of the price of the Centurion and it seems like a sweet spot for most budget aware gamers. It offers true hardware surround sound, adequate comfort, and controls. The only downside is the microphone, but it seems that’s the case for most middle ground headsets these days – it can’t all be perfect.
What are the best wireless headsets?
We mentioned before that wireless is not our favourite headset when it comes to lag-free sound and trouble-free experience. They are not as bas as we make them sound, but keep in mind when deciding whether you need a wired or a wireless sound system. The main benefit wireless provide is the freedom of movement, the absence of cable and reduced fear of damage to the headphones. The trade off, as expected, is that you have to remember to charge the batteries, experience lag and interference from time and sometime trouble connecting with certain devices. It is not a perfect world so we want you to keep this in mind when deciding. Have a look at our favourite wireless headsets:
1. Astro A50 – The Best Wireless Headset(2017)
Astro is relatively unknown to most but they have massively outdone themselves with the A50 wireless headset. It is truly a masterpiece although it is a bit on the pricey side. Let’s be honest – it’s quite expensive but for most, it should be well worth the price.
Let start with the positives
It looks great. The black plastic with a blue neon touch of the PS4 version is a very classy look, especially compared to the XBOX One’s model neon green cast. It’s definitely a futuristic design and it will please even the most sophisticated eyes. There are two different version depending on the voice protocol on each console.
The actual headset is actually a pair of a headset and a USB docking station. The docking station has most of the controls too – there is a switch between PC and console gaming. Wireless charging is a nice touch too. It has an option for optical sound input and output ports.
The headset has a dedicated EQ switch that has three positions that you can customize via the PC app. There is a Dolby button to switch Dobly digital on or off as needed. The A50 has a built-in accelerometer that will automatically turn off the headset of places on its side in order to save battery life. We think that this is really thoughtful and useful feature.
The sound quality is fantastic for both high-level gaming and music listening. It has a very good soundstage that is customisable via the built-in EQ. Surround sound is virtual, but it is very nicely implemented via Dolby tech. While it is not a true surround sound headphone, the 40mm drivers deliver well-designed sound with clear 360-degree field positioning. We had no trouble with our Battlefield 1 enemies and they were easily tracked by their gun sounds.
The battery life is excellent – it lasted close to 14 hours in our tests. Astro claims over 15 hours of activity but range and volume might have affected our results. The wireless charging is nice but that means you can’t really use the headset while charging. That’s the case with most wireless devices so we don’t feel let down too much.
There are a few negatives.
The microphone is nothing to write home about. It is OK for gaming and you will be heard on the other side, but the sound is unimpressive. Unfortunately, that’s the case with most gaming headsets we’ve tested so there are no surprises here. If you need the mic for anything else but chat to teammates, we recommend getting a proper condenser microphone.
The connection, although quite stable in comparison, is known to drop from time to time. Not very often, but it is bound to happen at least once a week. Fortunately, it is very easy to reconnect with a simple on/off flick. That might be due to the somewhat limited range of the wireless signal. We started experiencing audio drops and fizzy connection at around 3.5-4 meters away from the base station. While that might not be a problem for most, if you game on a massive TV few feet away that might be a problem for you.
Overall it is a very nice wireless headset if you can stomach the price tag.
2. Razer Man O’War 7.1 – Great Cable-Free Sound
Razor has managed to build quite a reputation in the gaming world by offering very high-quality gaming sound at affordable price. That is the case with the Man O’War 7.1 as well. The sound quality is better than most in its class. It comes from two 50mm drivers setup for virtual 7.1 surround sound. Please remember that this is NOT a TRUE surround sound headset. It is a very good stereo headset with simulated surround sound. While the sound quality is amazing – crisp and clear with plenty of bass – it is not a proper surround sound system with the corresponding number of “speakers” or so to say.
The earphones are comfortable if set properly. When adjusting the headband you have to make sure the headset fits properly on your head. Otherwise, you might experience an uncomfortable digging-in and tightness of the band. The leatherette earpieces are ventilated to avoid discomfort and moisture build up during extended hours of gaming.
The battery life is excellent too – we managed to achieve well over 12 hours of continuous use. You can easily extend the battery life if you disable the LED lights. You can’t really see them anyway while using the headset so there is point leaving them on if you plan on gaming for extended periods of time.
The wireless connection is good and stable. The headset comes with a USB wireless dongle and installation is a breeze. It is compatible with most gaming platforms but some users experienced some sound issues on PC. It seems that the issues were ironed out with software updates so keep that in mind if you experience weird sounds – you might need a newer set of drivers.
What can’t be fixed by software updates is the flimsy headband. Lot’s of people report issues with the plastic headband – creaking, bending and quite often total snapping off the plastic that holds the earpieces together. This is usually covered by the warranty but it can prove quite annoying dealing with warranties months after receiving your precious headset.
3. SteelSeries Siberia 840 – The Most Expensive Wireless
The Siberia 840 is the flagship gaming headset from SteelSeries. It is aimed towards pro gamers, it is endorsed by many in the industry and it is a proud successor of the very popular 800 series.
It is a reasonably comfortable headset with leather ear pads that are wrapped in memory foam. It doesn’t offer any flamboyant colors or crazy LED patterns – it is a sleeper as best as we can tell. The microphone is foldable and can easily retract inside the headphones.
Being a wireless headset has its advantages and disadvantages. the main disadvantage is that the battery can not be charged via the USB port – you’ll have to charge it on its own special charging dock. That can be pretty annoying since you can’t really use the headset while charging.
The advantage, of course, is that there are no cables laying around that you can run over with your chair as you move around and less chance of damaging one in the process.
The install is pretty easy and straightforward – you just plug the transmitters in a free USB port and it will connect to the device. On PC you’ll have to plug it into a stereo headphone jack as well, which we think could’ve been avoided since it uses just the USB connection on consoles.
The sound quality is pretty good and comparable with most high-end gaming headsets on the market, but still a bit off from a reputable set of stereo headphones, especially for music lovers. While it claims to be a 7.1 virtual surround headset, it falls well behind from a true surround headsets like the ASUS Centurion 7.1 we mentioned above, for example. You still get some sense of directions, but nothing like a dedicated extra speaker can deliver.
It is a good overall headset that doesn’t stand out with anything in particular. We can’t recommend it for the price asked. If you can find it on a great deal – say sub-100 – we’d say go for it, but keep in mind that it is not really the best we tested at all.
4. Logitech G933 Artemis Spectrum – Best Value
Here is another virtual surround sound gaming headset that we can wholeheartedly recommend. If you can live with the disadvantages of wireless and can’t really justify the prices of the SteelSeries, for example, the G933 is the device for you. It carries the quality expected from a Logitech product. It is a very well made headset with an excellent soundstage for both gaming and music lovers. The sound comes from two 40mm drivers and it is remixed by the Logitech Gaming software before reaching your earlobes. It comes really close, if not bests, to the Razer Man O’War although sporting smaller size drivers. The design is futuristic and it’s a breath of fresh air compared to all the round gaming headsets we’ve seen to date. The ear cups are nice and comfy, well ventilated and the retractable microphone is really nice touch. You might even miss it at first too – it took us a while to figure out that this is the microphone. The USB dongle storage is a really nice option – as we’ve seen it with some of Logitech’s mice and keyboards. It’s really convenient that you can tuck it in and store it safely inside the headset while travelling. We’ve lost a number of dongles ourselves so we can appreciate the feature. While it is not a real surround sound headset, the G933 virtual mixing works really good in real life. You will have to have the Logitech Gaming Software installed in order to take advantage of the whole 7.1 surround though. You can clearly hear directions and movement and it worked wonders with our friendly CS sessions. There is a drawback, unfortunately, and that the connection between the headset and the dongle is not always 100% stable. There are quite a few reports of random disconnects and then difficulties connecting. That can be quite annoying but we are sure Logitech will take care of it soon enough with a firmware or driver update, if not done by now. Highly recommended from us – it is a really good value for money.
5. Corsair VOID RGB – Budget Wireless
While this Corsair offering is on the verge of being a <strong><em>budget gaming headset</em></strong> rather than a top dog, we feel that it deserves its place between the big boys.
It doesn’t provide a high end, luxury feel like the Astro, for example. It can’t measure up to the crystal clear sound of the Razer either, but it is a very well rounded good-for-all solution, especially within its price tag.
The design is solid, although a bit basic, compared to the dreamy Logitech, for example. It offers a solid build, although we feel that the grip could be a bit tighter. After prolonged use, we feel that just doesn’t fit very tight when put to the test. If doesn’t mean that it will fall off during gaming, just that it could’ve provided just a tad tighter fit. It is a heavy headset so we think it would help feel more solid.
The sound is great. Not amazing, but decent enough with clear bass and unobtrusive highs. It has a very well balanced sound with a good soundstage. The sound comes from kite-shaped earphones containing excellent 50mm drivers. It is a rather unconventional design but it works well in this case. It offers a <strong>virtual 7.1 Dolby surround</strong> that is executed at a very acceptable level. We cloud clearly hear a directional sound and especially footsteps of enemy approaching. We tested it with games like CS: GO and Battlefield and we didn’t have any issues with sound direction. The memory foam and fabric earpads offered decent isolation and comfort. Ventilation was present too – out ears didn’t sweat at all.
Battery life is more than adequate – you can easily achieve 12 straight hours of <strong>heavy gaming</strong> and you can even extend that if you turn off the LED lights. That battery life is achievable up to 12 meters away from the dongle
The mic is the biggest concern, just like most of the headsets we mentioned above. Yes, it has somewhant cool features with the “InfoMic” lights showing you info about the Dolby status, battery life and all that. The problem is that the lights are a bit too small for comfort and they are not really in your field of view when gaming. Usesless feature in our opinion, but might be a good marketing strategy. The sound, however, is just not that good. It sounds flat and unflattering – almost like talking through a tin can. It is def OK for basic teammate chat but it is in practice unusable for anything else but baseic chat.
There is some sound leakeage as well. Although that the memory foam of the pads should isolate well, there it is pronounced sound leakege coming from the headphones when the volume is up. It might not be a problem for most, but if you are using the headset around people who are trying to sleep it might be an issue.
The best budget gaming headsets
We decided that it is fair to include the best budget headsets in this comparison as well. We understand that a lot of people can not really justify the price tag of a true surround earpiece or a good wireless headset. A lot of people have a limit of around fifty or so, but can stretch the budget a bit if needed for the right product. None of the headsets below cost more than a hundred and they offer very high quality sound, plenty of features and sometimes they even come close to some of the best on the market.
Let's see which devices are the best budget gaming headsets:
1. HyperX Cloud Stinger – The Best Budget Gaming Headset
The HyperX Cloud Stinger is one of the best budget gaming headsets we tested to date. It features simple, but elegant design, classic features without over complication. Check out the full Cloud Stinger review here.
Let’s take a look at the design. The headphones are painted in classic black and they look very high-end from afar. It has a nicely textured finish. The headset is analogue with two 3.5mm jacks – one for the headphones and one for the microphone. It is compatible with anything that houses a standard headphone slot – from PCs, phones to gaming consoles and TVs – just like any standard headphones.
The microphone has some noise cancellation built-in but it is far by the best in class. It offers adequate performance for the price and it is ideal for a basic game chat and talking to teammates. Just don’t expect it to be usable for anything more than that.
The ear cups can rotate 90 in 90 degrees radius and offer a good fit without too much pressure on the head. The leatherette and foam coating offers good isolation but ventilation is not the best – you can expect some moisture to form after prolonged gaming hours. It is also a very comfortable headset to wear around your neck.
The Stinger is a relatively light headset with its 275 grams and it never feels like it can slide on or create any discomfort – in our tests it just fitted most people quite well.
The sound quality it has is impressive for the price. It comes from two 50mm drivers that are very well-balanced. It is equally good for music and gaming. We tried it with more than one music genres, Battlefield, CS: GO and the new Civilisation – all perfectly balanced with a nice clean sound with punchy bass. It is on par with some high-end headsets in terms of sound quality without some of the most advanced EQ and extra features.
Build Quality is good in general with a plastic headband and steel extenders built in. We don’t expect it to be rock solid but should offer decent longevity when used correctly. The cable seems the right length and it offers an extension if needed. The only issue is that the cable is not braided so it might not be the strongest one. We’d say it is a weak point and should be used with care.
Overall we think it is a very good headset for the money and it should be the obvious choice for most gamers. Music lovers can take advantage of good sound and adequate comfort too with the added bonus of comfortable wear around the neck. All that for a reasonable price.
2. Cougar Immersa – Runner Up
Cougar has proven themselves as a very good computer cases and accessories manufacturer. No wonder their gaming headset offering has found a place on our best budget list. It is well priced for the quality it offers – both build and sound. Let’s take a close look.
The Immersa has a dual headband design meaning that it is built for comfort and durability. The outer headband is made of two metal tubes and the inner one is well padded artificial leather and plastic. built build to last and we couldn’t find any fault with it. It has plastic speakers so anything is possible, but we can sacrifice some sturdiness for the price.
On the headband, there are mounted two huge 100mm ear pads run by 40mm drivers. It is a very comfortable headset with a good, snug fit without putting too much pressure on your head. We felt it was just right without slipping off or gripping too tight during long gaming sessions. The cushions are made from faux leather and are very well padded and comfy. So well padded that your head will usually not touch any other parts of the headset throughout the day.
Audio quality from the drivers is overall good but we couldn’t ignore the absence of a punchy bass. The Immersa are not really bassy headphones at all. They seem well balanced with clear sound but the deep rumble present with other headsets is just simply not there.
Dolby surround is working properly too. It is not high-grade like true surround headphones, but we had no trouble feeling direction during the games with tested it with. In Battlefield we could hear the direction tanks and choppers were coming from, including footsteps of enemies. Not professional grade surround, but usable enough.
The microphone is basic grade just like most gaming sets. It is loud and clear when communicating with your teammates over TeamSpeak, for example, but there are no deep and low notes to it. It doesn’t sound like a tin can but it is not too good either. Let’s say that it is adequate for the price. The HyperX reviewed above has a much nicer mic though. If I had to choose between the two microphones I’d go for the Cloud Stinger. You can see the full Cougar Immersa headset review too.
3. Logitech G430 – Above Average
Another proven performer is the Logitech G430 Headset. Whenever you hear the name Logitech there are always associations with quality and great design. The G430 does not disappoint, as usual, and for a very lucrative price. Let’s take a look at this budget headset. The full Logitech G430 review is on the blog, but here is a little overview:
The G420 comes in a very nice combination of blue and black. It is mostly plastic but it feels sturdy to the touch. The build quality seems adequate and the headband is easily adjustable for a comfort fit. Each earpiece is branded with the Logitech logo and the ear cups are perforated in order to provide a decent level of ventilation during long sessions. To be honest, it feels a bit fragile to the touch but comfort is top notch.
The microphone is situated under the left earcup and can be bent sideways or folded back if you’re not planning to use it for a while. The sound quality of the microphone is not phenomenal but it perfectly usable for basic teammate chat and conversations with your gaming friends. It is missing some of the highs and lows of human voice but it doesn’t have the metallic sound of some of the cheaper versions.
While the headset is mainly designed for PC, it can be used with any device that sports the basic 3.5 stereo plug. It has two 3.5mm jacks – one for the headphones and one for the mic. It is supplied with a USB adapter for PC too.
Sound quality is good but I wouldn’t prefer it over the HyperX, to be honest. Yes, it is good but there is no liveliness in it – it sounds a bit dull. Not bad in any case, just not to our taste. You can easily pinpoint shots directions in shooters like Battlefield and COD if needed thanks to the Dolby 7.1 virtual surround. It is far from a true surround setup but still manageable for orientation. Bass is present but it is not overpowering the soundstage in any case. High volume doesn’t distort the sound so that’s a big plus.
Overall the G430 is a well-balanced headset that doesn’t shine with anything in particular. Adequate price but we always felt that there is something better for the money during our tests.
4. Roccat Cross – Great Value Sound
The Roccat gaming headset is a lightweight, elegant and very portable device. It doesn’t look like much on the outside, but it offers very good sound quality, portability and value for money. The Cross is composed of black plastic and it is a very unassuming device. There is very little color on it besides the black plastic and if you are after something with more flashy and entertaining looks, you might have to look elsewhere. The headband is made of plastic and wrapped in faux leather with the Roccat logo tastefully embossed on top.
The 50mm drivers are shaped in memory foam and faux leather. They are designed to wrap around your ear rather than sit on it. This should prove helpful in long gaming sessions where comfort is crucial. Being an over the hears headset means that ventilation is almost non-present so you can expect sweaty ears after a few hours of gaming.
The Roccat seems sturdy, but keep in mind that it is made of plastic that is quite bendable. We haven’t performed any endurance testing, but the way the plastic bends makes us think that it will break with a more forceful impact or a drop from a higher ground. It’s tough enough for travelling and carrying around but I wouldn’t go dropping it off the desk too often.
It comes with a standard 3.5 jacks – one for the headphones and one for the mic. That makes it compatible with all PCs and portable devices, but you might need an adapter for some of the new gaming consoles. Always best to check first.
Musperformancence is overall good, but it tends to focus more on the low end rather than the highs. It’s not really overwhelmingly bassy, but certain music styles make you wish you had a bit more in the highs rather than the lows. While gaming is the true test for a proper gaming headset, the Roccat is small enough to be used while commuting or travelling so we wanted to test it extensively with all sorts of music. It is overall good, but highs could do better.
In gaming tests, it didn’t disappoint. We tested it with quite a lot of first-person shooters as that’s the genre a true gaming headset should excel at. It did marvellously in Battlefield and CS: GO – we were easily able to hear directions and the soundstage was very easy to orientate in. You can clearly hear footsteps before visual contact with the enemy, tanks and choppers are very lively too. The only issue, just like with music, is that the lows and mids are more pronounced than the highs. Sometimes even overpowering them. I feel like it might not be an issue for most, but I’m so used to balanced sound that missing highs bothers me a bit.
The microphone is OK. It’s not amazing but it’s no slouch either. Nice and clear. I had no trouble talking to my teammates on TeamSpeak and they had no trouble understanding me either. The most notable feature is that the mic is very easy to take out and transform the Cross from a gaming headset to a regular pair of cans with a simple switch. You can just swap the cable and you can take out the Roccat outside without looking goofy with the microphone attached. Very useful feature.
Comfort is overall good mostly due to its lightweight, large ear cups and comfy headband. I didn’t feel any fatigue during prolonged usage. The only thing that might be a problem for more “ear-y” people is that the ear cups seem a bit narrow. I managed to fit them fine but the tip of my right ear was constantly pressing towards the speaker. I can see how that might be an issue for people with bigger ears.
Overall the Roccat Cross is a great buy for people who like bassy headphones and don’t care much about the highs. Comfort is great if you have medium to small ears too. Definitely recommended if you like the styling. The full Roccat Cross review is on the blog.
5. ASUS ROG Orion – Great Budget Alternative
The ROG Orion is an interesting bird. It has the specs of a high-end gaming headset, it sounds very close to one but it has the price tag of a budget one. Well, not exactly, but still much closer to budget than to a couple of hundred top dog. It has ASUS written all over it, both figuratively and literally speaking. The full Asus Orion Pro review is on the blog, but here is a slight overview. Let’s take a look.
The design proudly carries the Republic Of Gamers branding – black and red combined in a very tasteful way. It’s mostly plastic with steel extensions holding the memory foam and faux leather ear cups. They are massive 100mm cans with ROG logos on each side. The overall sturdiness of the headset seems quite good and we haven’t noticed and creeks or gaps in craftsmanship and we think that with careful use they should last a long time. The headband is plastic, though, so I wouldn’t go bend it over the top. It is padded with pleather and foam for some extra comfort. The microphone is situated on the left and can be retracted inside the can at any point.
A bonus feature is the ASUS ROG Spitfire USB amp. It is basically an external USB sound card with some added options. It offers virtual 7.1 surround sound, headphone amp and volume control in one single USB device.
The sound comes from 50mm drivers padded with foam and faux leather. Comfort is very good and although they are not the lightest cans we tried, I didn’t feel any pressure or digging into my head. Ventilation is absent so you should expect to feel the heat after gaming for some time.
The ASUS Orion sounds OK for music. We tested it for a couple of hours with some Amazon Music tunes and the sound was good overall, but we had to turn off surround on the Spitfire amp to hear some good sounding music. There are some missing tones and a weird echo with the surround on so its best to turn it off while listening to music. Mids and lows are ok and present without overpowering the stage, but highs are where the strength lays with this cans. They are crystal clear without sounding too high – just perfect.
Gaming is where a true gaming headphones should be tested and the Orion is great. The Spitfire amp helps a lot with sound positioning and surround. It offers Dolby 7.1 virtual surround and it works great in games like Battlefield, Borderlands and more. We had no trouble positioning enemies purely on sound, although sometimes the bass was a bit too strong and overpowering the stage a bit. The Spitfire is a great addition as we tested it with the onboard sound and a separate DAC and the result was not as good in gaming as it was with the included USB Spitfire.
The microphone is OK. Honestly, I think no company has the interest to create an actually decent mic on a gaming headset. It seems that it is the most overlooked device and it is quite important if you want to use the mic for anything more than basic chat to teammates and Skype, for example. It is pretty flat in sound. Clean enough for TeamSpeak chat – we had no trouble speaking to teammates, but we felt there could be more to it than that.
Overall it is a very good virtual surround headset and the Spitfire is a great addition to it. There are some issues reported with dynamic volume control, but we could replicate them in our testing. It costs a bit more than the average budget headset but it is well worth the price for the quality that you receive. Highly recommended.
The Alternative To A Gaming Headset
Even though a dedicated gaming headset can provide comfort, built-in microphone and true surround sound, there is always something left to be desired in terms of audio quality. Whether is it Dolby surround, missing bass or muffled tremble, gaming headphones are build with one purpose in mind - gaming. They come with all sorts of lights, crazy colour patterns and futuristic looks. When it comes to sound most of them lack quality to compare with a proper set of good headphones.
So the alternative, although pricey for most, is dedicated headphone in combination with an external microphone. Probably you noticed above, if you managed to read all my babbling, that I don't like most gaming microphones. They are just not that good. If you are into sound quality and record audio from time to time you might want to invest in a good condenser or dynamic microphone. The latter are a bit more expensive and unneeded for most so I'd recommend getting a decent condenser mic from Amazon.
So let's take a look a two of the best cans for general use we experienced up to date. One of them is the proven Audiotechnika ATH-M50X and the other is Bayerdynamic DT-770 PRO. Let's take a look at the Audiotechnica first.
Best Headphones For Most – Audio-Technica ATH-M50X
OK, I admit that I am a bit biased in this case. I’ve owned a pair of ATH-M50 for well over 5 years now and I haven’t heard anything better that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. The M50X build on that and offer the same proven design with the addition of interchangeable cable a few minor tweaks.
It was initially build to be a professional studio headphone with neutral tones and accurate soundstage. Many consumer-grade headphones (and gaming sets) try to emphasis on looks and build materials. This is not that case with Audio-Technica. The M50X is all plastic with the exception of the metal extenders. It is a durable construction and mine don’t have a single creek after many years of drops, mistreatment, and abuse. The looks of the ATH are quite dull – black styling with the manufacturer logo on each cup and Audio-Technica printed on the top of the headband. It is stylish and unassuming. They are quite easy to wear around your neck and to take outside – I had issues with neither.
The fit is perfect – they go over the ear. The headband is wrapped in faux leather and foam to provide a good padding to it. My ears fit quite well in the ear cup with plenty of room left so they should fit people with bigger ears too. Ventilation is not too good but not too bad either.
The music sound quality is amazing. Deep lows, present mids, and crystal clear highs. It is a real pleasure to listen to any kind of music. The ATH-M50 and the M50X are probably the most recommended headphones and every audiophile’s starting kit before splashing on a better, but much more expensive set. They are studio headphones and you can clearly hear every tone as intended. Their closest competitor is probably Beats by DRE Studio, but hearing both I would say that the ATH blows them out of the water in terms of sound quality and accuracy.
They are no slouch for gaming either. Paired with a good sound card (or external DAC) they deliver excellent audio quality and accurate direction. While they are not Dolby surround certified, I was clearly able to tell direction in all the games I play – from Battlefield and CS: GO to Civilisation and Dirt. You have to pair them with a good sound source to hear them truly shine.
Overall the ATH-M50X is a solid choice for both music lovers and gamers alike. They don’t need an amp to be loud, but one helps to get the magic out. Connect them to a good source and they will pay you back tenfold with sweet, sweet sound.
Beyerdynamic DT770 – Best Headphones For Bass
Whenever the ATH-M50X is mentioned the Beyerdynamic is mentioned as well. They are very close in price, fit and somewhat in soundstage. The main difference is in the bass department. While the M50 is a more balanced set of cans, the DT770 is all about that bass ( no trouble…)
Let’s take a look at the design of the DT770 from Beyerdynamic. The first impression is that they are massive. I mean really really big headphones. Styling is pretty conservative with just a small model sign across each earphone. Keep in mind that there are actually three different models of the DT 770 – one that is 32 ohm, another that is 80 ohm and a pro studio version that has an impedance of 250 ohms. The latter will need an amp in order to achieve any sort of loud volume from it. The 32 version will be fine for most, even phone users and whatnot. Rather big, they are still quite comfortable to wear around the neck. The only noticeable issue with the build quality is that the paint of the logo on the earcups tends to wear out over time. Not a major issue but it’s fair to point it out.
The earphones, driven by 45mm drivers, are huge and very comfortable. The earpads are well padded and roomy. There seems to be plenty of room for people with bigger ears. We didn’t manage to touch the cloth interior of the headphone even once during our tests.
Sound quality is great, although they are more on the bassy side than the M50X. There is a difference in sound and compared head to head there is definitely more “umph” to the Beyerdynamic. It is a pleasant “umph” without overpowering the mids and the highs. They are a closed type of cans so there are no distractions from the outside world. While people might argue that open headphones provide more natural sound and wider stage, we think that the DT770 has done quite well without it. There is barely any sound leakage outside too. The midrange is a bit more subtle compared to the M50X but it’s noticeably less in any case. We already mentioned the strong bass, but the highs are equally impressive. Some people might find them a bit too “sharp” to their tastes but we’re not one of those people – we like crystal clear highs.
Overall they are a great choice for those of you who like strong, bassy headphones without overpowering the rest of the soundstage like Beats by Dre, for example. Highs are clean, mids are there and the bass is thumping. They are about the same price as the M50Xs so it comes down to styling and personal preference. We like the Audio Technica better though.
What About Microphone?
When it comes to microphones you have plenty of options and it all depends on what you are going to use it for. You can buy a cheap desktop microphone that will probably break or get damaged in a few months. I know, I’ve done it before. I wouldn’t go there.
If you do any sort of voice recording, podcasts, stream on Twitch or anything like that, please get a good condenser microphone. Do you and your listeners a favour and spend an extra tenner on a proper mic. You’ll thank us for it later.
A good condenser microphone will make your voice more natural and avoid the mentioned already effect of the tin can. No one likes to sound like he or she is talking through a tin can. Few options that we recommend are the eBerry Cobblestone USB microphone and our personal favourite – the Excelvan BM-800 Condenser Microphone. Both are excellent in terms of audio quality, but keep in mind that the Excelvan BM-800 might not work with onboard sound cards on some laptops and desktops. It requires a bit of power to run but when it does the sound quality is fantastic. Highly recommended!!!
Verdict And What To Buy - Final Thoughts
We can't really make you buy anything, can we? Yep, I didn't think so. There are upsides and downsides and there are compromises at each choice category. If you want the best of the best - arguably the ASUS ROG Centurion - you will have to pay a sizeable chunk of money and forget about wireless - just not battery will hold the number of speakers on that beast. If you want the best wireless - most likely the Astro A50 - you'll have to live with the crazy colour pattern, the high price tag and the permanent choice between Xbox and PlayStation.
All the budget sets are very good buys for the money, arguably the Asus ROG Orion the best of them all, but you might sacrifice true surround sound and wireless capabilities. It's a tough choice and we can't really make it for you. Our choice is obvious - we really, really like the Audiotechnica M50X with the Excelvan mic, but that takes real estate on your desk. Not that portable either if you have to take them with you somewhere.
The choice is yours and only you can make. Hope you had a good read and that we helped you make the right choice.
If you feel that we missed an important element or we missed a VERY good headset and it deserves a place on our list, please, by any means, drop us a like and we'll take a look to see whether that headset deserves a place on our list. Looking forward hearing from you and answering your questions below!