A good pair of headphones is key to victory in many games - particularly shooters like Valorant, Fortnite and Counter-Strike - 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.
Best gaming headset 2023
- SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless - best wireless gaming headset
- Razer Blackshark V2 / V2X - best wired gaming headset
- Corsair HS80 Max - runner-up, best wireless gaming headset
- Epos H3 Hybrid - 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
- Astro A10 Gen 2 - best value gaming headset
- Roccat Elo X Stereo - best cheap gaming headset
- HyperX Cloud Flight - best cheap wireless gaming headset
- Audeze Maxwell - best planar magnetic 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
- Bonus: Sound Blaster G3 - best DAC for PC, consoles and handhelds
Best wireless gaming headset: SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless
The £180/$197 SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro and £322/$315 Arctis Nova Pro Wireless are the best gaming headsets available, thanks to their excellent sound quality, comfortable design and wide compatibility. These premium headsets supersede the earlier Arctis Pro and Arctis Pro Wireless and represent a significant step forward over what were already competitive options - especially on the wireless model which becomes an all-in-one option with the addition of simultaneous Bluetooth and active noise cancellation (ANC).
Each model comes with a base station with two USB inputs, allowing you to connect to a console and PC, or two consoles, then swap quickly between the two sources. On Xbox versions of the ANP and ANPW, one port supports the Xbox but the headsets are otherwise identical. The base stations also serve as a DAC (for the wired version) and a wireless transmitter / spare battery charger (for the wireless version), with a screen, dial and button used to show sound and battery levels, select and modify EQ settings and so on.
The fabric suspension headband that debuted on the original Arctis headsets returns to provide a comfortable fit, but a new frame design and three headband positions allows the headsets to suit a wider range of head sizes. The athletic foam has been swapped for leatherette to boost bass response and improve passive noise isolation, which together with a higher clamping force ensures the headset remains in position. This clamping force is a bit much out of the box, but soon becomes comfortable even for long gaming sessions.
Earcup controls take a step backwards, with no dedicated dial for game/chat mix, but the volume wheel can be pressed in to toggle it between regular volume mode and game/chat mix mode. This is reflected on the base station, so it's easy once you know how to do it. Interestingly, the wireless model has a separate multi-function button for the Bluetooth, so you can turn on the 2.4GHz and Bluetooth sides of the headset independently. It also comes with two batteries, so you can use one while the other is charging in the base station - very smart. ANC is a smart addition, but doesn't quite match dedicated ANC headsets Bose's QuietComfort or Sony's WH-1000XM lines.
In terms of sound, the Arctis Nova Pro stands out. Bass, treble and mids are all well-represented, with extremely good detail and a wide sound stage for a closed back headset. The wired model sounds even better, thanks to a high-end Sabre DAC built into the base station. Microphone performance is also great when SteelSeries' AI noise cancelling feature is used on PC, but merely average otherwise.
These are definitely high-end headsets, but if you can make use of the features - dual inputs, great base stations and wide compatibility - then the Arctis Nova Pro and Nova Pro Wireless are well worth it.
You can read the full Arctis Nova Pro and Nova Pro Wireless review here.
Best wired gaming headset: Razer Blackshark V2 / V2X
The £80/$80 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 £48/$50 BlackShark V2 X, which ditches the sound card to hit a much more competitive price point. (There's also the £140/$130 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 wireless gaming headset: Corsair HS80 Max
The PC and PS5-friendly £169/$180 HS80 Max is my go-to headset these days, as it offers a comfortable design with soft, glasses-friendly fabric ear cushions and a suspension headband, excellent microphone quality and extremely long battery life - up to 65 hours wireless or 130 hours with Bluetooth. The headset is easy to use too, with a flip-to-mute microphone, easy-to-feel buttons and Corsair's powerful iCUE software.
The HS80 Max has a pleasant, neutral response, with the only major criticism being slightly under-developed bass that makes some genres or cinematic moments feel a little lacking. This can be adjusted in the iCUE software on PC, but I was happy enough with the headset on its default setting. The HS80 does get nice and loud, and good sound isolation and imaging makes it easy to listen for enemy footsteps in Counter-Strike 2. On PS5, you can use the console's 3D audio (as with any other USB or 3.5mm headset), while on PC you get a free license for Dolby Atmos while the headset is attached. I don't personally love surround sound for competitive gaming, but for watching films or playing single-player games it works beautifully.
All in all, the HS80 family is a really positive step forward from Corsair in terms of design, outperforming their previous efforts and providing a solid basis for future development, and the HS80 Max is an awesome choice for PC and PlayStation gamers who want a comfortable, low-latency wireless headset.
The HS80 Max is expensive compared to its predecessor, the £128/$120 HS80 RGB Wireless, so you could consider the original model if you're willing to accept more limited battery life (20 hours) and no Bluetooth support; the headsets otherwise perform very similarly.
Runner-up, best wired gaming headset: Epos H3 Hybrid
Our runner-up for the best wired headset category is the £99/$173 Epos H3 Hybrid. This headset packs in Bluetooth, USB and 3.5mm connectivity, while the cheaper £69/$99 Epos H3 is wired only. The sound quality is impressive, with a neutral profile and plenty of detail, and the microphone is one of the best we've heard at this price point. The Hybrid model can use both its wired and Bluetooth connections simultaneously, which is great if you're playing on a console with your friends on Discord or you just fancy listening to your own music.
The industrial design here is great too, proving light and comfortable even while wearing glasses, and despite a more plasticky construction the H3 headsets still feel robust in the hand. The earcup volume dial on the H3 Hybrid has also been improved from the earlier models of the standard H3, which was a bit hard to turn with one finger - this model spins freely. I like the magnetically attached (and therefore easily removable) microphone arm too, which is great if you're playing on PC with an external USB or XLR mic and would prefer a lighter headset.
The Epos H3 Hybrid and Epos H3 are excellent translations of the firm's traditional strengths - audio quality, build quality and comfort - down to a more mainstream price point, and for that they deserve our runner-up spot. The standard H3 is a much better value currently, but we expect the recently released Hybrid to become more affordable going forward.
Best Xbox Series X/S headset: Xbox Wireless Headset
The £70/$80 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 fundamentals either, with great (if bass-heavy) sound, good adjustability (with custom EQ settings) and a choice of three surround sound modes (including a free Dolby Atmos trial). 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.
Best PS5 headset: Logitech G Pro X Wireless
Our favourite PlayStation headset right now is the £147/$179 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, the £86/$104 Victrix Gambit is a good wireless plus wired headset that's often available at a discount. Sound quality is on point with a bass-heavy mix that suits experiental games rather than competitive ones, usability is good with comfortably reachable controls and comfort is excellent with a good range of adjustability. However, mic quality and overall build quality does falter a bit compared to the G Pro X, and you may well prefer a more neutral sound as well.
Best Switch headset: Corsair HS70 Bluetooth
The Corsair HS70 Bluetooth ($100/£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 ($86/£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: Astro A10 Gen 2
The £40/$51 Astro A10 Gen 2 is one of the most surprising gaming headsets we've tested at Digital Foundry, offering a superb lightweight design, universal wired compatibility and good sound. The headset uses smaller-than-usual 32mm drivers, helping it achieve a weight of just 240 grams (8 ounces for our American friends), which helps it sit comfortably on the head for hours on end. The ear cups are correspondingly a bit smaller, making these more "on-ear" than "over-ear" headphones, but you still get a decent amount of noise isolation and bass reproduction. The overall signature of the headphones is quite neutral, without the bass emphasis that most gaming headsets have, which makes these a better choice for competitive gaming.
In terms of features, there's a decent-sounding flip-to-mute microphone and an inline volume control on the simple black plastic 3.5mm cable; a 3.5mm splitter adapter is provided for PCs. There's no built-in surround sound, as you'd expect from a 3.5mm headset, but you can use surround sound solutions from Sony and Microsoft on PS5, Xbox consoles and PC. Astro has also taken strides with repairability, with replaceable ear pads, headband pads and cables which is nice to see.
The A10 Gen 2 is offered in "PlayStation/PC" and "Xbox/PC" varieties on Amazon, but I think this is to do with the colouring as they can be used with pretty much anything with a 3.5mm jack - PS5 and PS4, Xbox Series and One consoles, Switch (in handheld mode), tablets, phones and of course PC. There are five colourways to choose from - Black, Grey, White, Mint and Lilac - and each style has a few accents here and there to add some visual interest. It's a good-looking package overall, and despite the plastic construction they feel relatively robust and resistant to flexing too.
The Astro A10 Gen 2 is an impressive entry-level headset, and with the prospect of eventual sales and price drops these headsets could become even better value.
Best cheap gaming headset: Roccat Elo X Stereo
Roccat's entry-level £48/$40 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.
Best cheap wireless gaming headset: HyperX Cloud Flight
The £98/$80 HyperX Cloud Flight is a great wireless headset for the money, with the regular Cloud Flight being offered for the PS5, PS4 and PC, while the similarly-named £105/$120 CloudX Flight performs a similar role for Xbox gamers. There's also a 'Cloud Flight PS5' which has a blue colour scheme, but it's functionally identical to its red-coloured predecessor. All of these headsets offer balanced sound, courtesy of 50mm drivers, 30 hours of battery life (with lighting disabled) and a detachable microphone that's capable of isolating your voice even in louder environments. Sound quality is impressive too, with a relatively balanced sound profile with a subtle bass boost. Imaging is good, but the sound stage is relatively narrow and not much outside noise is blocked. There's no surround sound, but you can get this for free on PC (Windows Sonic) or PS5 (3D Audio).
The light weight (300 grams), memory foam ear cups and only moderate clamping strength means that these headsets feel comfortable to wear for long periods, and the plastic construction feels relatively sturdy in the hand with metal sliders for added durability. Rotating ear cups are handy if you fancy letting your ears rest for a while, but you still want to be able to hear the broad strokes of your game. What's not so handy is the Micro USB charging, which has been retained even on the new PS5-branded model and is a bit annoying in 2023 where almost everything is USB-C. You'll also need to press the power button twice after turning it on to disable the lighting - I wish the headset would just remember this setting as the lighting adds nothing to the experience but harms battery life significantly.
Overall: a comfy headset with good audio characteristics for gaming and long battery life, but a few quirks that could be improved in future models.
Best planar magnetic headset: Audeze Maxwell
The £319/$299 Audeze Maxwell are the best demonstration of planar magnetic drivers I've tried, combined with the convenience of low-latency wireless and Bluetooth in a gaming-focused design. The headset benefits from extremely accurate sound with a wide soundstage for a closed-back design, thanks to the 90mm planar drivers, and is tuned well for gaming with a slightly v-shaped sound profile that provides bright treble and robust bass but faintly veiled mids. It's well worth tweaking the EQ using the Audeze HQ app on Windows or mobile to make the headset suit your preferences, as the base level of driver quality is superb.
The Maxwell is also robustly constructed with plenty of metal, as you'd hope from a headset at this price range. It's available in both PlayStation and Xbox variants, and of course supports use with the PC and many other BT devices as well.
While the Maxwell sounds incredible, its comfort is only good to middling thanks to not insignificant clamping force, slightly ungainly dimensions and a kerb weight of 490g; this is not a headset you'll forget you're wearing. Microphone quality is unfortunately not up to the standards of the best wireless models from Corsair and Razer either, though AI noise cancellation does help; this feels like a headset designed for your aural pleasure rather than that of your teammates.
On the other hand, usability is quite good, with convenient volume and game/chat mix dials on the bottom of the headset in addition to big power and mic mute buttons on the outside of the can, and battery life is strong at up to 80 hours via Bluetooth or 2.4GHz wireless. I also appreciated the plush leatherette earpads that completely encompass your ears, which provide for good passive noise isolation.
Overall, the Maxwell is a fantastic and somewhat affordable introduction to the wonders of planar magnetic headphones that can work well for gaming and critical listening.
Best open-back gaming headphones: Astro A40 TR with MixAmp Pro
The best open-back gaming headset we've tested so far is the £190/$200 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 £95/$110 HD 599 and $149 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 £114/$150 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.
I tested the headphones in competitive Counter-Strike matches, and found 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.
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.
Alternatively, consider the £99/$80 Edifier Neobuds Pro. These in-ears offer a low-latency (80ms) gaming mode over Bluetooth, no USB-C dongle required. The sound reproduction here is impressive, thanks to the combination of an armature for bass and a dynamic driver for mids/treble. Notably, these units offer active noise cancellation - including several strength levels and an 'ambient' mode to let in external noise when you're listening out for a parcel delivery or carrying out a conversation - giving them a few extra tricks not matched by the GTW 270 Hybrid. Given that both headphones are available at a similar price in the UK (and the Neobuds Pro are much cheaper in the US), they're well worth considering for gaming.
Best noise cancelling gaming headset: Nuraphones + Gaming Microphone
The £285/$220 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' £65/$75 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.
Best surround sound in a gaming headset: Creative SXFI Gamer
The £104/$45 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 £210/$258 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 £200/$300 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 £166/$149 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.
Bonus: Best DAC for PC, consoles and handhelds: 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 £27/$45 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.
The Sound Blaster G3 is something of an investment, but it's also 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 or the Fiio E10K 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, and we've been testng both the Astell and Kern AK HC3, which offers a similar plug and play interface to the Creative Sound Blaster, and works wonders in making audio richer with a wider soundstage, for instance, as well as also providing a microphone for calls, too. That'll run you £200 and is currently DF deals writer Reece Bithrey's DAC of choice.
What about speakers?
We've added a round-up of the best computer speakers from £50 to £250 here.