A good pair of headphones is key to victory in many games - particularly shooters like Valorant, Fortnite and CSGO - where hearing a single footstep from a wayward enemy could mean the difference between a delicious chicken dinner and an ignoble defeat. That's why we've gathered up our top recommendations for the best gaming headsets for the money on the market right now.
Whether you prefer the lower cost and audio fidelity of wired headphones or the convenience of wireless headsets, we've got you covered. We've also included recommendations for the PS5, Xbox Series X/S, Switch and PC, so no matter what system you game on, you'll be able to find at least a couple of top-tier gaming headsets to consider, each far better than your TV or monitor's built-in speakers. We'll also consider both open-back and closed-back headphones, as the former tend to offer a wider sound stage that's conducive to locating enemies, while the latter minimise sound leakage to ensure you don't bother your flatmates.
Before we get into the recommendations, it's worth mentioning what we'll be looking for when choosing the best gaming headsets. We want a comfortable pair of headphones you can wear for hours without discomfort, perfect for marathon gaming sessions. Sound quality is also key, so that you can hear each sound clearly and become totally immersed in the game. Naturally, you'll need to communicate with your friends or teammates too, so a built-in mic with good noise mitigation is also important. Finally, we also would like to see support for multiple systems, so that if you own a console and a PC, or multiple consoles, you can use the same headset on both.
With that out of the way, let's get straight into the Digital Foundry picks for the best gaming headphones available in 2021. Click the links to jump straight to the pick you're interested in, or scroll on to read the whole piece! You can also find answers to frequently asked questions at the end of the page.
Best gaming headset 2021
- SteelSeries Arctis 7X and 7P - best wireless gaming headset
- Razer Blackshark V2 / V2X - best wired gaming headset
- Epos H3 - runner-up, best wired gaming headset
- Xbox Wireless Headset - best Xbox Series X/S headset
- Logitech G Pro X Wireless - best PS5 headset
- Corsair HS70 Bluetooth - best Switch headset
- Fnatic React - best value gaming headset
- Roccat Elo X Stereo - best cheap gaming headset
- LucidSound LS15P / LS15X - best cheap wireless gaming headset
- SteelSeries Arctis Pro - best premium wired gaming headset
- Audeze Penrose - best premium wireless gaming headset
- Astro A40 TR with MixAmp Pro - best open-back gaming headset
- Epos GTW 270 Hybrid - best in-ear gaming headphones
- Nuraphone + Gaming Microphone - best noise cancelling gaming headset
- Sennheiser GSP 600 - best tough gaming headset
- Creative SXFI Gamer - best surround sound on a gaming headset
- Asus ROG Delta S - best hi-res gaming headset
- HyperX Cloud Orbit S - best planar magnetic headset
- Bonus: Sound Blaster G3 - best DAC for PS4 and Switch
Best wireless gaming headset: SteelSeries Arctis 7X and 7P
The Arctis 7X and Arctis 7P are the best gaming headsets available, thanks to their comfortable design, impressive durability and excellent sound quality. The new models supersede the earlier Arctis 7 (2019), with 24 hours of battery life (up from 20), next-gen console compatibility and a matching look - the white/blue or black/blue 7P for PlayStation fans and the black/green 7X for Xbox users.
The fabric suspension headband that debuted on the original Arctis 7 remains the key to the new models' comfortable and well-balanced fit. Controls on each earcup of the 7X allow you to balance overall volume and the mix between chat and game sounds, although the 7P doesn't allow this mixing and instead uses its dial for sidetone adjustment. Bass, treble and mids are all well-represented, and although the sound isn't the cleanest or widest we've heard, it is still excellent for a gaming headset. Microphone performance is also outstanding, even in loud environments.
The Arctis 7 headsets connect via low-latency 2.4GHz wireless to a USB-C dongle, which can then be plugged into the next-gen consoles plus PCs, the Nintendo Switch and Android smartphones. This includes devices with full-size USB-A ports only, as a USB-C to USB-A adapter is included in the box. You can also use a straight 3.5mm cable, ie when listening to music on the go or while the headset is recharging. Sadly, SteelSeries hasn't opted to include USB-C charging here, meaning you'll need to keep an archaic Micro USB cable around for this purpose.
If you'll only be getting the Xbox Series X/S or the PlayStation 5, our recommendations are simple - get the 7X if you're going for an Xbox and the 7P if you're plumping for the PlayStation. If you're planning to get both - even eventually - then the Arctis 7X makes more sense, as it supports both consoles at the same price and the only downside is a slightly larger dongle.
Best wired gaming headset: Razer Blackshark V2 / V2X
The Razer Blackshark V2 is the best wired headset for the money we've tested. First, these headphones are a treat to use for gaming or music, with a wide sound stage, accurate sound and good imaging provided by newly designed 50mm drivers that Razer says it'll use for upcoming headsets too. This is a stereo headset, which we recommend for competitive play, but a 7.1 surround sound mode with "THX Spatial Audio" is also available for games where you want maximum immersion. The BlackShark V2's mic is also quite reasonable, although we'd recommend a more professional-grade alternative for streaming.
The BlackShark V2's design is also worthy of some praise. For starters, the ears are well sealed to block out distracting background sounds - useful whether you're clutching in Valorant or trying to get some work done while working from home with your spouse. The athletic-knit-covered memory foam ear pads remained comfortable for hours, no doubt aided by the light weight of the headset - just 262 grams. There's a convenient volume knob on the left earcup, and the microphone is removable. The BlackShark V2 also lacks any kind of RGB lighting, with only green cables and a subtle Razer logo on each earcup betraying this design's gaming focus.
In terms of connectivity, three options are provided: dual 3.5mm (for PCs), single 3.5mm (for PC, mobile, Switch, PS5 and Xbox) and USB-A (for PS5 and PC). That means you can use these headphones on the go just as easily as at home on your PC or console. USB comes via an included dongle which adds the simulated 7.1 capabilities, microphone settings (like a noise gate and side tone) and compatibility with Razer's Synapse software. If you could do without all that, consider instead the BlackShark V2 X, which ditches the sound card to hit a much more competitive price point. (There's also the BlackShark V2 Pro, which adds wireless connectivity with the same excellent sound and comfort, making it a good alternative to the SteelSeries Arctis 7X and 7P in the "best wireless headset" slot.)
Runner-up, best wired gaming headset: Epos H3
If you're not a fan of Razer's design, our runner-up for the best wired headset category is the Epos H3. This headset aims for a mid-range (£100) price point, much lower than the firm's usual premium designs, but the most important qualities have all been preserved. The sound quality is great, with a neutral profile and plenty of detail, and the microphone is one of the best we've heard at this price point.
The industrial design here is impressive too, proving light and comfortable even while wearing glasses, and despite a more plasticky construction the H3 still feels robust in the hand. Compatibility is wide too, with two finely braided 3.5mm cables in the box: a short cable with a right-angle TRRS plug for mobile devices, consoles and more recent PCs and laptops, and a slightly longer cable that splits into two 3.5mm TRS ends for computers with separate mic and headphone ports. The only real point of complaint for me is the earcup volume dial, which requires two fingers and a few seconds of concerted effort to turn from its highest to lowest settings - and the lowest setting stops short of actually muting the headset, which is unusual.
Regardless of this minor annoyance, the Epos H3 is an excellent translation of the company's traditional strengths - audio quality, build quality and comfort - down to a more mainstream price point, and for that it deserves our runner-up spot.
Best Xbox Series X/S headset: Xbox Wireless Headset
The £90/$100 official Xbox Wireless Headset is the best headset we've tested for Xbox Series X and Series S. It's light and comfortable for hours, has good battery life and boasts easy controls, with each earcup rotating to adjust volume or the game/chat mix. It connects to the Xbox without a dongle, using low latency 2.4GHz wireless, and can also connect to your smartphone over Bluetooth simultaneously - perfect for listening to music or talking on Discord while playing games.
This is by far the cheapest headset to pack in this feature, yet the Xbox Wireless Headset doesn't lack in the fundemantals either, with great (if bass-heavy) sound, good adjustability (with custom EQ settings) and a choice of three surround sound modes (including free Dolby Atmos). See our Xbox Wireless Headset review to learn more, but we're confident that the Xbox Wireless Headset is by far the best value wireless headset for Xbox on the market.
Another great headset that combines dongle-free Xbox Wireless with Bluetooth is the SteelSeries Arctis 9X, which boast neutral audio reproduction, a comfortable "ski-goggle" headband and battery life of around 20 hours. Mic quality is strong too, with a retractable design that's easy to position. Convenient volume, game/chat balance and connectivity controls ensure this headset isn't frustrating to use, either.
Another option is the Corsair HS75 XB. I loved using this headset with games like Tetris Effect and Call of Duty Warzone, where the bass-heavy profile and Dolby Atmos surround sound made for a bombastic experience. The included mic is also impressive, producing clear speech for easy comms in multiplayer and co-op games. Given its comfortable fit, great sound and long feature list, the HS75 XB is an excellent pick.
Best PS5 headset: Logitech G Pro X Wireless
Our favourite PlayStation headset right now is the £190/$200 Logitech G Pro X Wireless, which uses a 2.4GHz USB dongle to connect to PS5, PS4, PC or Switch (docked). This cross-platform headset offers great comfort for the spectacled and non-spectacled alike, with the option of velour or memory foam ear pads, as well as impeccable build quality with plenty of metal evident. The 50mm drivers inside provide a neutral sound, with a slight emphasis to mids that can help highlight footstep sounds. Surround sound is provided by 3D Audio on PS5 or DTS Headphone:X on PC; I much prefer this arrangement as it tends to provide more consistent results than each headphone maker rolling their own simulated surround solution on the headset itself.
Wireless headphones tend to suffer in mic quality, but the solid hardware here plus the addition of Blue Voice software on PC make this one of the best-sounding options in the category. Battery life is reasonable, at around 20 hours, with easy (if not rapid) USB-C recharging. One area I'd like to particularly highlight is usability; Logitech has done well to incorporate a large number of controls (power, volume, mic mute) onto a single earcup while ensuring each has a distinct feel. Overall, the G Pro X is a great pick for any competitively-minded PS5 or PC gamers.
In terms of alternatives, our previous pick for the PS5 is the SteelSeries Arctis 9, and it remains a good option. It offers great sound quality, a comfortable fit and Bluetooth compatibility. Another alternative with both 2.4GHz wireless and BT support is the Turtle Beach Stealth 700 G2. It offers a tighter fit than the Arctis 9 with stronger passive isolation, making it a better choice for gaming in noisy environments. The headset is extremely well built, despite its plastic construction, and offers plenty of on-ear controls. Unfortunately, the chat mix and volume wheels are right next to each other, making it easy to operate the wrong one, and the voice alerts are painfully loud no matter the headset's volume setting. Sound quality is good, perhaps a little behind the Arctis 9, and the mic is on par as well, so if the Stealth 700 G2 is cheaper or if passive noise cancellation is important, it could be a good fit for gamers on PlayStation and PC.
Best Switch headset: Corsair HS70 Bluetooth
The Corsair HS70 Bluetooth ($80/£100) is the perfect headset for Nintendo's... unorthodox approach to multiplayer gaming that restricts party chat to a smartphone app. With the HS70, you can be hooked up to the Switch via 3.5mm and your phone via Bluetooth simultaneously, allowing you to hear game audio and chat with your friends in comfort. You can use the HS70 with PC (USB, 3.5mm, BT), PS5 (USB, 3.5mm, BT) and Xbox Series X/S (3.5mm), granting this headset excellent flexibility. The same simultaneous wired + Bluetooth connection also works if you want be on Discord while gaming on console; perfect for cross-platform Warzone games.
We found the HS70 comfortable in our testing, despite toasty ears after each gaming session, with rationally-designed controls and convenient USB-C charging. Audio quality is a little better than the Arctis 1 Wireless we previously had as our top Switch pick, with a V-shaped frequency response that emphasises bass and treble at the expense of mids; mic quality is also good, especially when used over a wired connection.
As an alternative, the Arctis 1 Wireless for Xbox ($100/£100) offers full wireless connectivity for Switch, as well as Xbox Series X/S and PS5. That makes it a great option if you're looking for a lighter headset and don't need Bluetooth support for voice chat.
Best value gaming headset: Fnatic React
As well as being a longstanding esports team, Fnatic also produces a solid line of branded gaming peripherals - including excellent mechanical keyboards. Now, a truly top-tier headset designed expressly for competitive gaming has joined the mix with the £60/$70 Fnatic React.
Fnatic used the design of the popular HyperX Cloud line of gaming headsets as a starting point when designing the React, with a durable metal frame and comfortable plush earcups. Building from a proven design makes sense for Fnatic, as a smaller player within the space, especially when this particular configuration is so well-loved by players. However, I did notice some creaking as I twisted the headset gently, something I've not experienced with any HyperX headset.
While the design is very familiar, the audio quality is slightly more novel. Fnatic opted to emphasise highs and mids while flattening lows, providing a bright sound signature with plenty of clarity that makes it easier to hear that single errant footstep that can give you an edge in competitive games like CS:GO or PUBG. The good seal produced by the plush earcups also ensure great passive noise isolation, making these an ideal choice for playing competitive or immersive games where you don't want to be disturbed by the world around you. Finally, the mic quality is surprisingly good, and it's removable if you prefer to use a USB or XLR mic instead.
All things considered, the React is perfectly tuned for competitive multiplayer games, thanks to its clarity and comfort, especially given its killer £60/$70 price point. Given how much Counter-Strike I play, these headphones could be sitting on my desk for a long time.
If you want 7.1 surround sound, the best value headset to include this that we've tested is the MSI Immerse GH61. Despite costing less than £100, this headset feels premium, with a choice of 3.5mm or USB connections, leather or fabric earcups, a folding design, a chunky in-line remote, a good retractable microphone and a foam-lined carry case. The actual sound quality here is competitive too, with the Onkyo drivers providing a balanced sound signature with good imaging. Combined with the good passive noise isolation, and these are great headphones for gaming. The only noticeable area where MSI have cut corners to keep the price reasonable are in the materials, which are simple plastics - but honestly, the GH61 still feels as well-built as headphones that cost twice as much. Overall, a great value for money option that will appeal to a wider range of people than the more competitive-focused Fnatic React.
Best cheap gaming headset: Roccat Elo X Stereo
Roccat's entry-level Elo X Stereo headset is far better than its price point suggests. It connects to Xboxes, PlayStations, Switch, mobile and PC with a simple 3.5mm wired connection and features a decent detachable microphone. We found the headset was lightweight and stayed comfortable for hours on end, thanks to its memory foam earcups - and it even lived up to its 'Glasses Relief' branding with no added discomfort for spectacle wearers. You can't expect amazing audio quality from a headset at this price point, but the headset's larger-than-average 50mm drivers still mean it sounds better than most built-in TV or monitor speakers and many entry-level headsets too. At £40/$40, that sounds like a winner.
The same comfortable design is also available with the Elo 7.1 Surround, a USB gaming headset, and the Elo X Air, a wireless headset. Both of the latter work via USB, restricting their use to PC, PS4, PS5 and Switch, but allowing for RGB lighting and 7.1 surround sound. They're a good choice at their price points if you can use the extra features, although the cheapest Stereo option remains our top pick.
Best cheap wireless gaming headset: LucidSound LS15P
The LucidSound LS15P and LS15X are two nearly identical models coming in at the £100/$100 mark - the highest price you could reasonably call 'affordable' for a wireless headset. As the name suggests, the LS15P is designed for PlayStation and the LS15X for Xbox, but the two share the same 50mm drivers, sensible control scheme and carbon fibre effect design. The light weight (270 grams), soft headband and only moderate clamping strength means that these headsets feel comfortable to wear, and the plastic construction felt relatively sturdy in the hand. Sound quality is good overall, with reasonable imaging but relatively little detail, making them best-suited for gaming rather than music or movies.
The controls here are probably the most novel thing about the headset; you can roll the outer edge of the left earcup to adjust the volume and the right earcup to adjust the chat mix (on PC). This is convenient, but makes an unpleasant scraping sound. As well as the wheels built into the earcups, you get dedicated on/off and EQ buttons, a Micro USB charging port, a 3.5mm input and a mic socket - there's also an integrated mic for mobile use. The main plug-in microphone requires careful positioning but offers decent quality, while the integrated mic doesn't require setup but sounds a bit distant. Finally, battery life is about average at 15 hours; normally you don't see better results without stepping up to something like an Arctis 7X/7P which gets closer to 25 hours. For the money, the LS15P and LS15X are a reasonable choice.
Best premium wired headset: SteelSeries Arctis Pro + GameDAC
The Arctis Pro + GameDAC has the best sound of any PC or PS4 gaming headset on the market, achieved through the pairing of well-tuned, high-end 40mm headphones with a quality DAC (digital to analogue converter) that replaces the often lacklustre DACs built into most onboard sound cards and games consoles. This provides excellent sound quality from a variety of sources, including standard game audio all the way up to hi-res lossless music, all of which is easily adjustable using a built-in graphical equaliser and mixer. However, the GameDAC doesn't allow for volume adjustments to be made on your Windows PC; you'll need to use the GameDAC's oversized volume wheel or those on the headphones themselves.
The Arctis Pro is also incredibly comfortable, with the same fabric suspension headband that shines on the rest of the Arctis range. The headset has a well-regarded extendable microphone too, with the option for the mic to light up when it's muted so you don't end up talking to yourself. If you don't need wireless connectivity and you can afford the premium price, the Arctis Pro + GameDAC is the best gaming headset we've ever tested.
Best premium wireless headset: Audeze Penrose
The £300/$300 Audeze Penrose and Audeze Penrose X are the best premium wireless headsets we've tested yet. The headset uses planar magnetic drivers rather than the traditional dynamic drivers, allowing for excellent sound quality at the expense of bulk. The Penrose is defined by excellent clarity and separation, making it easy to pick out details even in chaotic soundscapes, with a slightly warm sound overall. Combined with a good low latency audio connection via a 2.4GHz wireless dongle and a good microphone, and you get one of the best-sounding headsets for PS5 or Xbox Series X. The headset also offers Bluetooth and 3.5mm connectivity, allowing use with a wide range of other devices - including simultaneous wireless and Bluetooth playback, ie you can listen to music on your phone while playing PS5.
I found the Penrose quite uncomfortable initially, but after a week of use its high clamping force eased up, and it now ranks among the most comfortable options I've tried despite its weight. Audeze tells me that the headset uses a common earcup size, so it's possible that replacement cushions from different materials could be sold down the line if there's enough interest (I'd be down for a set of velour ear pads that let out more bass but are comfier with spectacles, for example).
Battery life is average, at around 15 hours, with USB-C charging taking a few hours; you get an audible low battery warning when you have an hour or less left.
The Penrose does come with its quirks - I experienced a quiet hissing in the left earcup at low volume levels, which required turning off side-tone in the Windows app to solve. The headset also annoyingly disappears from your list of sound devices in Windows when the headset shuts off to save power, which means sound can start blasting out of your speakers unexpectedly. You can change the shutoff time in the Audeze HQ app to work around this if it bothers you.
Despite the annoyances, these weren't game breakers for me, and Audeze's status as a small company means that it should be able to fix these sorts of issues quickly. Overall, the Penrose's excellent audio and wide cross-compatibility means it's still easy to recommend.
If you're willing to accept a bulkier headset in exchange for better battery life, the Sennheiser GSP 370 is uniquely capable option. It boasts a sturdy design, good sound reproduction and up to 100 hours of battery life. We found its sound signature to be warm and inviting, with reasonable imaging and a wider sound stage than you could might expect for a closed-back headphone, and the mic is one of the better ones we've tested. The GSP 370 is a little heavy at 285 grams, yet it is well balanced and comfortable to wear for long periods. Connectivity is handled via a 2.4GHz USB dongle, limiting connectivity to PC, PlayStation and Switch (while docked), with no option for Bluetooth or 3.5mm inputs.
If comfort is more important than battery life, then the HyperX Cloud 2 Wireless ($150/£150) is a worthy alternative. Just like the legendary wired version loved by esports pros and casual gamers alike, the Cloud 2 Wireless are supremely comfortable, well built and sound great with a neutral profile and good imaging. Battery life is still respectable too, at 30 hours, with quick USB-C charging available.
If money is no object, there are a host of other strong options near the £300/$300 price point too. Here are three examples that we've tested and rate highly, although the Audeze Penrose, GSP 370 and Cloud 2 Wireless offer better value in our book:
- Epos Sennheiser GSP 670: better sound but worse battery life vs GSP 370 (£279/$300)
- SteelSeries Arctis Pro Wireless: comfy with nifty dual-battery charging (£320/$330)
- Astro A50: great sound, comfortable and available in Xbox or PS5 variants (£300/$300)
Best open-back gaming headphones: Astro A40 TR with MixAmp Pro
The best open-back gaming headset we've tested so far is the Astro A40 TR with MixAmp. These premium wired headphones are comfortable, with soft memory foam earcups and a lightweight design, making them easy to wear for hours on end - even for glasses users.
How does it sound? The default tuning is warm with nice emphasis on low and low-mid tones, but the Astro Command Center software makes it easy to find a more neutral EQ setting. Imaging is pretty good, helping you locate enemies in-game, and there's the option for both stereo and simulated 7.1 surround. As with all open-back headphones, some sound does leak out, and you'll be able to hear background noise too, making them best suited for quiet environments. The microphone is also of good quality, and can moved to either side of the headset or removed entirely if you prefer.
The headset is available standalone, but we recommend picking up the version with the bundled MixAmp. The MixAmp provides convenient dials for adjusting the volume and game/chat balance, compatibility with the Astro Command Center software, plus easy connections to PCs and either Xbox One or PS4 units depending on which variant you purchased.
While they aren't strictly gaming headsets, Sennheiser's HD 598 and HD58X Jubilee are also great options. These open-back headphones boast neutral sound reproduction and a wide sound stage, with velour earcups and a lightweight design that stays comfortable for hours on end. These headphones don't come with a built-in microphone, so we recommend pairing them with one of the best gaming microphones, like a clip-on ModMic or a freestanding unit like the Blue Yeti.
Best in-ear gaming headset: Epos GTW 270 Hybrid
The £179/$199 Epos GTW 270 Hybrid is something quite special: a set of wireless in-ear headphones tuned for gaming. While we normally associate these Airpods-style headphones with Bluetooth - something that is offered here too - the GTW 270 also comes with a USB-C dongle, unlocking a lower latency aptX Low Latency connection on PC, Switch, Android phones and PlayStation consoles. Having a low latency option is critical for gaming, as it ensures what's happening on-screen syncs up with what you're hearing and you get audio information as soon as possible.
I tested the headphones in competitive Counter-Strike and Warzone matches, and found no issues with the wireless connection - the link remained stable with no discernible delay compared to a wired headset. And while in-ear headphones never have a super-wide sound stage, the reasonable imaging here helps with locating enemies by the sound of their footsteps. Otherwise, the sound is impressive, as you'd hope from the Epos name, with surprisingly present bass, rich mids and crisp highs. You can play with an EPOS app on PC to adjust the equaliser and enable simulated surround sound if that's your preference.
In terms of isolation, the in-ear design means there's little sound leakage in either direction, allowing you to concentrate on your game. There's no active noise cancellation here, but it's not really needed either. The isolation does require a good fit with the ear buds, with three different sizes provided in the box. I found the in-ears comfortable to wear for a few hours, but my ears did become a little sore afterwards. The in-ears will last for around five hours before needing a recharge in their metal case, which provides an additional 20 hours of battery life and recharges over USB-C. The GTW 270 will automatically turn off if the right earbud is removed from your ear, which helps to maintain battery life over the course of a day.
Unfortunately, the GTW 270 has one major flaw for gaming - the dual microphones built into the earbuds don't work over the USB-C connection due to a bandwidth connection, so you'll need to either use a standalone gaming mic for communicating in team games or switch to higher latency Bluetooth. This wasn't an issue for me, as I have a arm-mounted mic on my desk, but might remove the GTW 270 from contention for anyone that prefers an all-in-one headset.
Otherwise, there's a lot to like here - the GTW 270 is comfortable, long-lasting and sounds great, with a unique low latency option that makes these the best in-ears we've tested for gaming.
Best noise cancelling gaming headset: Nuraphones + Gaming Microphone
The Nuraphone is weird - but it also sounds pretty phenomenal. The idea here is that the Nuraphone uses in-ear drivers for its treble and mids plus over-ear drivers for bass, while also providing strong passive and active noise cancellation. The recently released Gaming Microphone add-on converts the Bluetooth headphones to 3.5mm wired only operation (suitable for all consoles and PC), but adds one of the best mics on a gaming headset.
The initial setup is quite involved - you'll be asked to use the Android or iPhone app to develop a custom EQ based on the shape of your ears, then upgrade the headset's firmware over a leisurely 20 minute period if an update is available. Following this, you can plug in the Gaming Microphone add-on and hook them up to your PC - a 3.5mm splitter isn't provided, so you'll need to purchase your own if your PC's 3.5mm audio port doesn't support combined mic/headphone connections. You'll be welcomed by name, with a readout of the current battery life (required for ANC) and then the headphones will start working.
Thankfully, the result of this long setup process is excellent audio with pinpoint imaging - plus significant bass response if you knock the in-app slider all the way. The in-ear portion of the headset is quite comfortable too, with the option of three tip sizes in the box, but they still may not suit everyone. This really is one of these things that you have to try for yourself, as I honestly didn't expect the level of comfort and aural clarity that I got. If you're willing to spend the significant asking price, you'll be rewarded with both a top-notch noise cancelling Bluetooth headset for mobile use and the best noise-cancelling gaming headset we've tested.
Best tough gaming headphones: Epos Sennheiser GSP 600
If you're constantly breaking your headphones by running them over in your chair or tossing them off in a fit of rage, then something a little tougher could be just what you're after. The best build quality we've found on a gaming headset we've tested is Epos' excellent GSP 600 - which is also available in white as the GSP 601 and in blue/tan as the GSP 602. No matter which colour you choose, the headset feels extremely robust with its metal and plastic construction.
Of course, something that's well-built but rubbish isn't worth buying - but thankfully the GSP 600 is also a really good wired headset too. It offers incredible noise isolation, thanks to its thick ear cups and moderate clamping force, making it easy to lose yourself in a virtual world. The sound quality is good too, with an mild emphasis on bass that makes cinematic singleplayer games sound fantastic - although this does mean that more subtle highs and mids can be lost, making it less suitable for competitive multiplayer games like CSGO, Valorant or Warzone. The flip-down microphone works well enough, and the chunky volume wheel on the right ear cup makes it easy to adjust your sound in between firefights. Overall, it's a strong option - befitting its premium price point.
If you'd prefer a wireless headset, then the Corsair Virtuoso SE's aluminium construction, USB-C charging and bright sound signature make it a strong choice. However, the Virtuoso SE's high clamping force out of the box makes it slightly less comfortable than the GSP 600, consigning it to our back-up choice for this slot.
Best surround sound in a gaming headset: Creative SXFI Gamer
The Creative SXFI Gamer delivers some of the best surround sound we've experienced on a gaming headset. Interestingly, it slightly alters its surround sound implementation based on the topology of your ear, which it calculates based on photographs of your ear that you provide via the company's (slightly buggy) smartphone app. This provides a really lush aural environment, perfect for enjoying single-player games. If you prefer more competitive fare, then there's a battle mode which emphasises sounds like footsteps and reloads to help you track down your Warzone or Valorant opponents. I found this most helpful in games with more detailed soundscapes, like Warzone and Battlefield 5, as competitive-focused games like CSGO and Valorant already have quite a stark audio mix that makes it easy to locate an errant misstep.
Even with its special modes disabled, the SXFI Gamer still impresses. The headset is relatively comfortable to wear for long periods, with suitably cushy ear cups, and the clamping force here is just right. The microphone has a built-in pop filter, which works well, although the mic does feel much more sensitive to correct placement than others I've tried. The USB-C connection means that audio processing duties are handled internally, rather than relying on potential suspect motherboard audio, and also allows for tasteful RGB backlighting. Ergonomics are good, with well-differentiated buttons backed up with aural confirmation of which mode is enabled and a smooth volume wheel. The only major complaint I had concerned the cable, which produces a ton of noise when it's handled or it rubs against the edge of your desk. Given that this looks to be a regular USB-C to USB-C cable, replacement could be an option if this bothers you too. Overall, the SXFI Gamer is a strong headset that delivers on its key promises without any major stumbles. If a good surround sound implementation is key for you, then the SXFI Gamer is definitely worth a go.
If you have a higher budget, the ROG Theta 7.1 is another USB-C gaming headset that offers an even better surround sound implementation, thanks to four discrete ESS 9601 drivers - three 30mm drivers for the centre, rear and sides, respectively, and one 40mm driver for the front. This provides rich, full-bodied sound with plenty of warmth - ideal for listening to music or playing immersive single-player games. Convenient earcup volume controls, a performant "AI-powered" mic and RGB lighting are also included, ticking all the boxes for a high-end gaming headset. While the ROG Theta sounds great, the heavy weight of the headset makes it fatiguing for long gaming or listening sessions. The USB-C and USB-A connectivity allows easy use with the PC, PS4, Switch and Android smartphones, but the thick cables emerging from each side of the headset are hard to ignore. Despite these flaws and a relatively high asking price, the ROG Theta is an intriguing option.
Another possibility for surround sound junkies is the JBL Quantum One. This headset has a number of novel features, including active noise cancellation and an HRTF surround sound mode that adapts to each user based on measurements taken by a special in-ear mic worn under the headset itself during setup. Unfortunately, this latter mode didn't work well for me, with the initial setup process playing extremely loud noises into my ear, pausing and then repeating ad infinitum for about 10 minutes. Later, I pushed the earbud in even further and completed the setup successfully, but the results weren't noticeably better than the default tuning.
Despite this initial stumbling, the other surround sound modes performed better, and features like head tracking were quite fun to experience for the first time. The headset's acoustics were solid as well, with good imaging, although the relatively high weight of the headset made it uncomfortable for spectacled-me over long gaming sessions. However, others who tested the same headset found the surround sound much more engaging and the fit more comfortable, so I think the Quantum One is still worth a try.
Best high-resolution headset: Asus ROG Delta S
There's plenty to like about the Asus ROG Delta S. Its audio credentials are impressive, offering support for hi-res audio and MQA through services like Tidal, and it's probably these that contribute to its high price. The 50mm drivers here provide a detailed and neutral sound, with much less prominent bass than the average gaming headset. That means some setpiece moments in games lose a bit of their impact, but clarity is unmatched.
You can adjust the mix with a graphical equaliser and several presets in the provided Armoury Crate software, which also allows you to choose RGB lighting effects (toggled between 'on', 'off' and 'reactive' via a simple hardware switch). The microphone gets access to Asus' AI features for cancelling out unwanted background noise, and they work well - but you do lose a bit of detail and clarity with this turned on. The Armoury Crate app is only available on PC, but you can use the headset via its wired USB-C connection on Android, PS4 and PS5 too.
Beyond the audio quality, this is one of the most comfortable headsets I've worn in years, with a lightweight (288g) design, D-shaped ear pads and the perfect amount of clamping force. Normally I can only wear headsets for a few hours before my ears become sore, and I accepted that as a normal part of PC gaming while wearing glasses, but here I didn't face that problem. I still took off the headset, but more because my ears got a bit warm - and that's much more quickly rectified! If you don't like the feel of the default synthetic leather pads, there are fabric replacements in the box to try too.
Best planar magnetic headset: HyperX Cloud Orbit S
The £300/$300 Cloud Orbit S is a curious 3.5mm or USB gaming headset, combining the same planar magnetic drivers that we loved on the Audeze Penrose with some of the head tracking surround sound technology of the even more expensive Audeze Mobius. If you're not familiar with either headset, all you need to know is this: you get extremely accurate sound, thanks to the planar drivers, while the head tracking element adds a new dimension to music and cinematic games, adjusting the stereo mix as you turn your head. I played through 70 hours of Horizon Zero Dawn with this headset, and exploring new areas or experiencing new weather conditions like snow, storms or rain often spurred me to spend a few seconds not doing anything at all, just listening. Of course, you can also disable this feature, as I like to do for more competitively-minded games.
Apart from the sound, the Cloud Orbit S ticks all the relevant boxes. It's comfortable to wear for a few hours at a time (and longer if you're lucky enough to not wear glasses), thanks to its thick pads and balanced design, despite its weight. The microphone quality is in the upper echelon of headsets we've tested and the extremely long cable means you can stray from your computer without difficulty. There are still some oddities here - such as needing to manually turn on what is a wired headset and potentially reset your audio devices in apps like Discord - but by in large everything works as it should. The only sticking point is the price, but that's practically a feature of planar magnetic devices. For the money, you do get something quite special - and if you'll use the head tracking functionality, it might be worth choosing this over the wireless Audeze Penrose.
Bonus: Best DAC for PS4 and Switch: Sound Blaster G3
There are plenty of great DAC/AMP combos for use with desktop and laptop PCs, but those that effortlessly support consoles like the PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch are much rarer. The best console DAC we've tested so far is the Sound Blaster G3, a tidy USB-C dongle that packs a ton of functionality into a compact and reasonably priced package.
Let's take a look at what's included. At the bottom of the device, there are three inputs for headphones, microphones and optical (via a short adapter cable), while on the other end is a USB-C plug that can be converted to full-size USB (with another included adapter). This setup covers you on the PS4, Switch and computers of all kinds, but while Xbox is supported via the optical input you won't be able to use voice comms here.
The left side of the device allows you to mute or adjust the volume of your mic, while the right side allows you adjust the volume of your headphones. There's also a switch here; flip it and you'll be able to adjust the mix between game and chat volume on PS4 or PC - so you can turn down your annoying teammates to focus on the game or vice versa. Finally, there's a button at the top that enables another key feature, the built-in footstep amplifier mode, intended to give you an edge in competitive shooters.
The whole package works well, with each setting you'd need within easy reach. It's great to be able to adjust things like the chat mix or enable the footstep boosting equaliser setting without needing to dive into game menus - something that's likely to get you killed in games like Call of Duty Warzone. The boost in audio quality is evident out of the box, and you also have the ability to customise your EQ (either by hand or by selecting per-game presets) using apps on Android, iOS or Windows.
At around £55/$60, the Sound Blaster G3 is a significant investment. However, it is something that you can use with a wide range of consoles and computers, or even Android phones, and you'll get some benefit out of it even for listening to music or playing non-competitive games. For that reason, if you want to take your audio quality seriously and you're using wired headphones, the G3 is a sensible acquisition.
For more external sound card recommendations, check out our picks for the best gaming sound cards.
Frequently questioned answers
Is it worth using 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound?
It depends. If you want to immerse yourself in a game or movie, the virtual surround sound mode offered on many gaming headsets can be fun to play with. You can even add surround sound processing to headphones that don't come with it on PCs running Windows 10 and the Xbox One using Windows Sonic or Dolby Atmos for Headphones. However, if you're looking at surround sound to gain a competitive advantage, my recommendation is to keep surround sound disabled - the processing that tries to fake surround sound often makes it harder to hear footsteps or other quiet audio cues, adds delay and tends to remove detail. Instead, look for headphones with a wider audio stage, eg many open-back headphones, as this will actually make it easier to place your enemies on the map based on the noises that they're making.
Should I get wireless headphones?
Wireless headphones give you a lot of freedom, so you can make yourself a sandwich in the kitchen or sit on the opposite side of the couch without worrying about taking off your headset or rerouting its cables. However, you will need to recharge your wireless headset every few days or weeks, and it's certainly annoying when your headphones go dead mid-firefight. If you tend to sit in different positions while gaming or just hate being tethered to your desk, wireless is a sensible choice; otherwise, save the money and the hassle of recharging and get wired headphones instead.
What brands should I consider?
This is no by no means an exhaustive list, but headphones from HyperX, SteelSeries and Sennheiser tend to be well-respected. Razer, Logitech, Turtle Beach and Astro have also made some great headsets in their day, although they've also produced a few relative stinkers as well. Ultimately though, gaming headsets can vary massively from model to model, so it's best to look for reviews on the headset you're considering rather than shopping by brand alone.
Why do headsets that work for PS4, PS5 or PC not work for Xbox?
Largely because PlayStation 4/5 and PC support connection options that the Xbox One does not. The PS4 and PC both support headsets that connect via 3.5mm (either dual 3-pole or 4-pole), optical, Bluetooth and USB. Meanwhile, the Xbox One didn't include 3.5mm on its first-generation controllers, requiring the use of an Xbox One Stereo Headset Adapter to add this option. The Xbox also only works with certified USB devices and uses its own proprietary wireless standard rather than Bluetooth, so you'll need to look for headsets that are specifically marketed as Xbox Series or Xbox One compatible. The final option is getting a headset that connects via optical (S/PDIF), although this isn't available on the Xbox Series X or S. We've marked the connection options for each headset we recommended above for your information.
How can I improve the sound of my existing headphones?
Good and totally not just made up question! A lot of this comes down to personal preference, but we prefer to turn off audio "enhancements" like surround sound and aggressive equaliser settings; you want things to be as "bare metal" as possible if you trust in the intent of sound engineers and headphone designers alike. From there you can use a DAC, which takes audio processing duties off your PC or console and entrusts it instead to dedicated hardware which tends to do a better job, removing jitter and changing the characteristics of the sound for the better. Desktop or portable DACs like the Audioengine D1, Fiio E10K or Cambridge Audio DacMagic XS cost around £100/$100 or less and can improve audio quality substantially. (We also highlighted the Sound Blaster G3 just above!) Of course, you can spend way more if you want to go even further into the audiophile realm.
What about speakers?
We've added a round-up of the best computer speakers from £50 to £250 here.
Will you support the Digital Foundry team?
Digital Foundry specialises in technical analysis of gaming hardware and software, using state-of-the-art capture systems and bespoke software to show you how well games and hardware run, visualising precisely what they're capable of. In order to show you what 4K gaming actually looks like we needed to build our own platform to supply high quality 4K video for offline viewing. So we did.
Our videos are multi-gigabyte files and we've chosen a high quality provider to ensure fast downloads. However, that bandwidth isn't free and so we charge a small monthly subscription fee of $5. We think it's a small price to pay for unlimited access to top-tier quality encodes of our content. Thank you.Support Digital Foundry