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The best gaming headsets: Immersive sound for an extra edge

What is the best gaming headset? The HyperX Cloud Alpha S takes our top spot! We analyzed everything from surround sound and connectivity, to weight and noise cancellation below.
taylor-clemons
Written by Taylor Clemons, Staff Writer on

A gaming headset is a perfect way to enhance your play and get a more immersive gaming experience. Headsets can allow you to pick up on in-game audio cues like footsteps and enemy fire better than you would with a TV's speakers or even a soundbar. Many gaming headsets feature some sort of virtual surround sound technology for a more dynamic sound that either changes with your in-game position or (if you're willing to spend a pretty penny) is relative to your real-life head position. 

There are about as many options for headsets as there are games, including Bluetooth wireless models and USB-C wired ones. Many also have cross-platform compatibility, so if you regularly switch from PC to consoles, you can find a headset that works with everything. I've rounded up some of the best gaming headsets you can buy from top brands like HyperX, SteelSeries, and ASUS. And I've broken down their features to help you decide which one best fits your budget and your gaming needs.

Also: Best gaming mouse: Click, click, BOOM

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HyperX

Connectivity: Wired USB | Surround sound: 7.1CH virtual | Weight: 321 grams | Driver size: 50mm | RGB: No | Noise cancellation: Microphone only | Microphone: Detachable

This is the headset I personally use for everything from gaming and listening to music to hopping into video calls and virtual meetings, and I can confidently say that it is one of the best (if not THE best) gaming headsets available. While it's on the heavier side at 321g (11.3oz), the thick headband cushion and memory foam ear cups evenly distribute the weight for all-day comfort. And even if you have a larger head or wear glasses, they're comfortable for long-term wear since the ear cups don't have a lot of clamping pressure. 

It features a detachable microphone equipped with noise canceling technology so your teammates hear you and not your computer fans or talking roommates. It also has a detachable, 7.1CH surround sound module for enhancing audio quality when you need to hear tiny cues like enemy footsteps; the module also has onboard controls for adjusting volume, changing the audio balance between your game and chat, and a quick-mute button for the microphone. The dual chamber, 50mm drivers are built to balance rich bass tones with bright highs and crisp mids for cleaner audio even at high volumes. Each ear cup also features sliders for adjusting bass levels for a custom sound experience.

Pros:

  • Comfortable
  • 7.1CH surround sound
  • Detachable mic and surround sound module
  • Great audio even at high volumes

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • No RGB
  • No on-ear volume or mic controls
HyperX Cloud Orbit S
HyperX

Connectivity: USB-C/USB-A/3.5mm AUX | Surround sound: 7.1CH virtual | Weight: 368 grams | Driver size: 100mm | RGB: No | Noise cancellation: Microphone only | Microphone: Detachable

The HyperX Cloud Orbit S is one of the most expensive headsets you can get, but they are worth every penny. HyperX teamed up with Audeze to create 100mm, planar magnetic drivers for the Cloud Orbit S, creating nearly lossless and incredibly crisp audio. The headset also uses Waves NX 3D audio processing to create 7.1CH virtual surround sound as well as head tracking to shift sound from left to right channels as you move for dynamic, ultra-immersive audio that puts you right in the middle of the action. You can even customize your headset's audio output with the Audeze HQ app; it allows you to manually adjust head tracking sensitivity, as well as tune a virtual room for custom ambience and listening. 

And while the Cloud Orbit S has three connection options, it isn't wireless or Bluetooth compatible. And if you want to use the Waves NX technology regularly, you'll have to keep the integrated battery charged. But these are relatively minor drawbacks compared to the absolutely stunning sound capabilities this headset has.

Pros:

  • 7.1CH virtual surround sound
  • Custom EQ software
  • Head tracking for dynamic audio
  • USB-C/USB 3.0/3.5mm AUX connections

Cons:

  • Not wireless
  • 3D audio requires regular battery charges
Sony Pulse 3D
Sony

Connectivity: USB wireless dongle/3.5mm AUX | Surround sound: Sony Tempest 3D | Weight: 295 grams | Driver size: 40mm | RGB: No | Noise cancellation: Microphone only | Microphone: Dual integrated

If you've managed to get your hands on a PlayStation 5, the Sony Pulse 3D is the best headset to pair with your new console. It's a no-nonsense headset that you can either use with a USB wireless dongle for up to 12 hours of play or connect it to your controller via a 3.5mm AUX cable and play as long as your controller lasts. It uses Sony's Tempest 3D audio processing for virtual surround sound that, while not as good as what you'd get from much more expensive, Dolby-capable headsets, is still really immersive and clean. 

You can fine-tune the 3D audio settings right from the PS5 menu, and the left ear cup sports onboard controls for changing volume, muting your mic, and even monitoring your mic on-the-fly. The dual microphones are integrated within the headset itself for a cleaner, simpler look, which is perfect for when you want to connect the headset to your phone or laptop to listen to music while out and about or tackle your workload and virtual meeting schedule for the day. 

Pros:

  • Windows, Mac, PS5 compatible
  • Wireless or wired connection
  • Affordable
  • Mic monitoring

Cons:

  • 3D audio may not be as good as some gamers expect
  • The plastic headband feels a bit cheap
Microsoft Xbox Stereo wireless
Microsoft

Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.2 | Surround sound: Dolby Atmos, DTS Headphone: X | Weight: 312 grams | Driver size: 40mm | RGB: No | Noise cancellation: No | Microphone: Integrated boom

Like Sony, Microsoft has created a headset that is a perfect pairing for their Xbox Series X console. This lightweight headset pairs wirelessly with the console via Bluetooth for up to 15 hours of play, and just 30 minutes of charging gives you 4 hours of use. This is perfect for when you forgot to charge overnight and want to hop into a quick Apex match with friends. The earcups eschew on-board buttons, dials, and switches for more intuitive, rotating dials do adjust volume and game/chat balance. 

The integrated microphone doesn't detach at all, but it does feature a flexible boom arm that allows it to bend up out of the way when you don't want to use it. And the microphone has an automatic mute feature that kills the audio input when you aren't speaking, so you don't have to worry about teammates having to listen to the drone of your box fan when you aren't calling out shots and enemy sightings; there's also a manual mute for when you want to shut the mic off completely. 

Pros:

  • Dolby Atmos capable
  • Quick charge feature
  • Good battery life

Cons:

  • The mic doesn't detach
  • No iOS compatibility
ASUS ROG Strix Go Core
ASUS

Connectivity: 3.5mm AUX | Surround sound: 7.1CH virtual | Weight: 252 grams | Driver size: 40mm | RGB: No | Noise cancellation: No | Microphone: Detachable

The Nintendo Switch is built for gaming on-the-go, and the ASUS ROG Strix Go Core headset is a great pairing for the console. It uses a 3.5mm AUX cable to connect and features 7.1CH virtual surround sound, so whether you're rescuing Princess Peach (again) in Super Mario 3D All-Stars or shine sparking your way through Metroid Dread, every game sounds its best. The ear cups have a swivel-fold design for more compact storage and easier travel, as well as an ergonomic design for long-wear comfort. 

The detachable microphone is certified for Discord and TeamSpeak so you get crystal clear chat no matter what, and the flexible boom arm makes it easy to get the perfect position, so you aren't clipping your chat audio or inaudible during critical moments.

Pros:

  • 7.1CH virtual surround sound
  • Discord and TeamSpeak certified
  • Foldable design

Cons:

  • Need longer AUX cable to use with Switch in docked mode
  • No noise canceling mic
SteelSeries Arctis 7+
SteelSeries

Connectivity: USB-C dongle | Surround sound: 7.1CH virtual/Tempest 3D | Weight: 422 grams | Driver size: 40mm | RGB: No | Noise cancellation: Microphone only | Microphone: Integrated boom

If you're willing to pay a bit more to get the best-of-the-best when it comes to wireless gaming headsets, the SteelSeries Arctis 7+ is well worth the investment. It uses a USB-C dongle to connect to your PC or console and has a very impressive 30-hour battery life. And just 15 minutes of charging gives you 3 hours of play for quick matches with friends even if you forgot to charge the Arctis 7+ overnight.

It features 7.1CH virtual surround sound for PC and Xbox gaming as well as Tempest 3D for PS5, so you get an immersive experience no matter what you use to play. The boom mic doesn't detach, but it does retract up into the right ear cup when you don't want to use it, and it features noise-canceling tech to block out background noise when you're chatting with teammates. 

And while this headset is on the heavier side at 422g (about 15oz), the steel and ski-goggle headband does a great job of evenly distributing weight for comfortable, long-term wear. 

Pros:

  • Excellent battery life
  • 7.1CH surround/3D audio for PS5
  • Quick charge feature

Cons:

  • No noise cancellation
  • The mic doesn't detach
  • The steep learning curve for EQ software

How did we choose these gaming headsets?

Aside from price, I chose headsets with a variety of compatibility and connectivity options. Since gamers are more prone to cross-platform play, it's important to have a headset that works with computers, mobile devices, and consoles. I also looked at audio processing and EQ capabilities for sound quality and clarity, as well as microphone and build quality for clearer chat.

What is the best gaming headset?

The best gaming headset is the HyperX Cloud Alpha S, based on sound, connectivity, features, and price.

Which gaming headset is right for you?

Once you've locked down a budget for a new headset, you'll want to choose a model that best fits your playstyle as well as gaming setup. If you primarily play on PC, you may want to opt for a headset with 7.1CH virtual surround or Dolby Atmos for more dynamic audio and a detachable mic if you have a separate microphone for streaming/chatting. If you are more of a console gamer, an integrated mic is crucial for in-game chat, and you'll want to consider both wireless connectivity and wired connectivity options; wireless allows for more options on where you sit in relation to your TV but battery life can hamper your playtime. And wired headsets provide more stable connections but limit how far away you can sit; unless they can plug directly into the controller or you use your Switch mostly in handheld mode.

Which is better: wired or wireless?

This is a pretty subjective question. Wireless headsets are great for both PC and console gaming since they don't have cables that limit where you can sit or are prone to tangling. They are usually more expensive, though, and battery life can seriously hamper your playtime. Wired headsets are more affordable, but do limit where you can sit if you play on a console; unless you can plug into a wireless controller. The wired connections are also prone to damage and tangling, shortening the life of the headset. In the end, it comes down to what fits your budget and what features are on your must-have list.

Do I need a preamp?

Not at all. A preamp is only necessary if you're an established, professional streamer who wants to ensure top-quality audio for broadcast. If you're just wanting to hop into Final Fantasy XIV raids or Apex Legends matches with friends, your headset's usual connectivity is just fine.

Are earbuds good for gaming?

They can be! Especially if you don't like on-ear or over-ear headsets. Earbuds offer better fit and comfort for mobile gaming, and better sound immersion since the audio plays directly into your ear. Many gaming earbuds have in-line microphones for in-game chat and in-line controls for adjusting volume and muting the mic. They're also usually much more affordable than their over-ear counterparts.

Are there alternative gaming headsets to consider?

There are as many options for gaming headsets as there are gamers. Here's a short list of other models that I thought were great:

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