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The 5 best PC gaming headsets: Premium audio, no drops
What is the best PC gaming headset? The Razer Kraken is ZDNet's top choice. But here are the best five PC gaming headsets overall. We compared the specs and features to help come up with a list of the must-have PC gaming headsets available to buy right now.
Nintendo Gameboys and SEGA Master Systems were among the early consoles that brought video games outside of arcades and into the living room. Now, 8-bit machines have been transformed into powerful PC gaming rigs and consoles, including Microsoft's Xbox and the Sony PlayStation 5.
As consoles and PCs have become more capable and internet connectivity is standard (and sometimes required), gaming has become far more immersive. Headsets, which allow you to communicate with other players in real-time, are a key component of the modern gaming experience.
However, just as internet lags can ruin the moment, a low-grade headset can mean you have to deal with poor audio, crackling, drops in conversation, and discomfort. Luckily for us, there are plenty of options on the market that combine performance and comfort to push your gaming experience to new heights.
ZDNet has compiled our top picks in 2022 to get you gaming with a new, quality headset that will suit different needs and budgets.
The Razer Kraken Tournament Edition headset is our top pick for balancing price and quality. This wired headset offers THX 7.1 surround sound via 50mm drivers and over-the-ear earphones with gel cushions. The Razer Kraken is compatible with PC setups as well as various gaming consoles. You connect the headset via USB/a 3.5mm jack.
The Razer Kraken also includes a retractable noise-canceling microphone, a volume control wheel, and a mic mute switch.
Excellent audio quality
You may need to purchase adapters depending on your console
The Sennheiser Game Zero headset is the best option to consider if you want a suitable headset for noisy environments. This model sports large leather earcups designed to block noise through what the vendor calls an "acoustic seal," a noise-canceling microphone, and is compatible with devices including PCs and gaming consoles.
The microphone, while a dated design, has a useful 'flip to mute' feature and the headset also includes side buttons for managing volume. Furthermore, the Game Zero is foldable for easy transport.
Excellent noise cancelation
Useful mute/microphone functions
Long hours of use can trap heat in the ear cups, prompting sweat
The Steelseries Arctis 9 is a wireless headset, designed for PC and console gamers, which sports high-quality audio and noise cancelation technologies. Low-latency 2.4 GHz wireless is included, alongside Bluetooth connectivity, and the inbuilt microphone is Discord-certified.
If you buy this headset, you also receive a free game code for Tom Clancy's Rainbow 6: Extraction.
Bluetooth for gaming, voice-over-IP, calls, and music
The Razer BlackShark V2 X gaming headset is an excellent entry point into headsets. The wired headset, available in six colors, offers 7:1 surround sound via 50mm drivers and is compatible via the .5mm jack with Windows PCs, andmacOS machines, as well as consoles. (You may need to purchase an adapter if there is an incompatible jack/audio connector).
The ear cups are made from memory foam. If you prefer, you can also purchase the BlackShark V2 X as a wireless model (Pro), but this is far more expensive.
The LucidSound LS35X is worth the praise because it features a slew of on-device functions like mute and chat toggling, volume control, and microphone monitoring, all requiring a simple swipe, dial, or tap on either side of the headset.
Instead of the neon and dashing aesthetics of traditional gaming peripherals, the LS35X can pass as a regular pair of headphones with its metal and faux leather blend.
Still, the LS35X provides exceptional comfort and the over-ear, memory foam cushions do a reliable job at passive noise cancellation, enhancing what is already a high-performing sound stage. The LS35X can pair wirelessly to PCs and some consoles without needing a dedicated dongle, USB receiver, or cable.
While the Razer Kraken may be our No. 1 choice, but it needs an adapter or two to be fully compatible with every gaming device you own. For PC gamers, we can't ignore its quality sound and its affordable price point.
PC gaming headset
Sennheiser Game Zero
Steelseries Arctis 9
Razer BlackShark V2 X
Which is the right PC gaming headset for you?
When you decide on your new PC gaming headset, comfort and quality are key -- however, you should also consider whether or not blocking environmental noise and noise-cancelation on your microphone are essential to you while you're gaming.
Choose this PC gaming headset...
If you need…
An all-rounder headset
Sennheiser Game Zero
To block out unwanted sound
Steelseries Arctis 9
A wireless headset
Razer BlackShark V2 X
An entry-level produc
How did we choose these PC gaming headsets?
There tends to be a baseline in quality for entry, mid, and high-level headset tiers -- and as you can imagine, the more you spend, the more likely you'll enjoy an audio and comfort upgrade.
While some gamers might insist on a premium brand like Sennheiser or Razer, the price point isn't the only factor: plenty of headsets in the entry and mid-tiers are comfortable and will last you a long time without spending a fortune.
We have attempted to accommodate different budgets while keeping in mind some headsets are specifically designed to cater to particular gaming consoles and setups.
What is the difference between headphones and a headset?
A pair of headphones is a set of speakers connected together by a band or other structure and is designed to be worn around the head. A headset will, in essence, be a pair of headphones with a microphone attached, in a boom design or otherwise.
Earphones tend to either have a very small band to be worn around the head or will connect through wires only, whereas earbuds are separate and wireless, and are meant to fit snugly in your ears.
Do I need a headset?
If you want to regularly game with your friends, a headset is necessary for communication. Another benefit of investing in a headset is the potentially improved audio quality of your game, blocking out external distractions, and a more immersive experience.
How do I know if a headset is good?
There are a few main features you should consider when you pick a headset -- and these qualities will show you whether or not a headset is decent and is suitable for you. The first element is its audio quality: Is it crystal clear? Do you want extra bass? Is there an amplification boost, or is it just stereo-only? (There should also be a lack of crackling and feedback when you are using both the speakers and mic.)
You should also consider the build quality of a headset: basic plastic ones tend to be the cheapest, whereas vendors who use a combination of other materials including metals, wood, and leather tend to be more durable and will last longer.
Finally, comfort is key. If you're going to be wearing a headset for several hours at a time, it can't put pressure on your ears or skull.
Which is better: wired or wireless?
It really all comes down to personal preference, but both wired and wireless gaming headsets have their pros and cons. Wired headsets have unlimited play time since they plug into your laptop, console, or PC tower and don't rely on a battery. The downside is that you often have to deal with long cables that can get tangled and broken. Wireless headsets give you more freedom of movement, but you then also have to keep track of battery life so you don't end up with a dead headset in the middle of your game. You also need to make sure your wireless headset can connect to your console or computer, as some models don't use Bluetooth so they aren't compatible with the Nintendo Switch, smartphones, or tablets.
What is the best gaming headset for PC?
That would be my pick for the best overall gaming headset, the Razer Kraken. It features a headband and ear cups that are cushioned with cooling gel for long-lasting comfort during marathon gaming sessions as well as leatherette ear cup material for easier cleaning. Each of the 50mm audio drivers is custom tuned for superior audio, and the on-board controls make it easy to adjust volume or mute your mic on-the-fly.
Are there any alternative gaming headsets worth considering?
While deciding on the best products on the market, we based our recommendations on quality, build, versatility, and affordability. You don't need to spend a fortune on a headset that will boost your gaming experience, but the pros out there might want to treat their choice as an investment.