• Audeze Penrose X

  • HyperX Cloud II

  • How We Tested

  • Things to Consider When Buying Gaming Headsets

  • Other Gaming Headsets We Tested

  • More Articles You Might Enjoy

Our Favorite Gaming Headsets of 2021

  1. Best Overall

    Audeze Penrose X

    Pros

    • Excellent sound

    • Durable materials

    • Intuitive controls

    Cons

    • A bit heavy

    • Short battery life

    Skip to the full review below
  2. Best Value

    HyperX Cloud II

    Pros

    • Extremely comfortable

    • Durable aluminum body

    • Cross compatible with multiple platforms

    Cons

    • Loud volume could cause hearing damage

    Skip to the full review below
Audeze-Penrose-X-hero
Credit: Reviewed / Lee Neikirk

Audeze's Penrose and Penrose X gaming headsets are simply excellent, but they don't come cheap.

Best Overall
Audeze Penrose X

Audeze's Penrose and Penrose X gaming headsets have one major advantage: planar magnetic drivers. This type of headphone construction utilizes a pair of magnets on either side of the audio driver in each cup, allowing them to move it with much more force and precision. You can read a lot more about how it works if you want to, but all you really need to know is that planar magnetic headphones tend to deliver excellent audio quality.

That's not the only thing we love about the PS5-compatible Penrose and Xbox-compatible Penrose X, however. These durable wireless headsets may feel a bit heavy on your head at first, but their contoured ear cups are surprisingly plush, while the padded headband and firm clamping force help them stay locked onto your head through however many hours of gaming. The hint of blue on the Penrose and hint of green on the Penrose X add a nice pop of color without resorting to garish propensities, and the included 3.5mm cable, USB A-to-C charger, and USB-C cables are plenty long and feel sturdy enough to last a while. An included 2.4Ghz dongle makes it very easy to pair the Penrose with your gaming platform of choice, and the Penrose's intuitive controls and dual volume/mic wheels make choosing an audio source or fine-tuning your audio experience pleasingly easy.

The detachable microphone is a gem, too. For those used to almost shouting into a headset microphone to make sure your friends could hear your, the Penrose's microphone sensitivity is a breath of fresh air. The boom arm is highly adjustable, and the Penrose models sound so good it's easy to forget they're geared for gaming when you're using them sans microphone as Bluetooth headphones, listening to magnet-powered renditions of your favorite music. Not only is this a great gaming headset, it could even be a full on upgrade to your regular headphones.

A huge array of strengths—durable design, awesome sound quality for lots of different kinds of content, and intuitive controls—balance well against the Penrose's only real weakness: all that power drains battery life pretty quickly. These take a few hours to charge, and you only get about 15 hours of use for every full charge. However, if you can get in the habit of charging them nightly, they're one of the best-sounding gaming headsets around, and worth the high price tag for audiophile gamers.

Pros

  • Excellent sound

  • Durable materials

  • Intuitive controls

Cons

  • A bit heavy

  • Short battery life

HyperX-CloudIIwireless-BV
Credit: HyperX

Our current pick for Best Value is HyperX's Cloud II gaming headset.

Best Value
HyperX Cloud II

HyperX's Cloud II headset replaces the original Cloud, our previous top pick for value. It's extremely comfortable and comes packaged with leatherette or velour ear cups, an audio control box, and a detachable mic. The aluminum body is strong and durable enough to last a good long while if you plan on taking your gaming on the go. It's a wired headset, but we won't hold that against it.

When it comes down to the audio performance, you'll need to be a little cautious. These things are explosively loud—if you're not careful they could destroy your ears. But once you've dialed in the correct volume, you're left with a headset that delivers every note and range of your game audio with beautifully detailed clarity.

We were constantly surprised by new sound effects we heard while playing Overwatch, a game you can easily log well over 400 hours on. That's not to mention the detachable mic that still left us impressed. One of the best things about this headset, though, is that it's compatible with PC, PS4, and Xbox One—so no matter what your gaming system of choice is, the Cloud II will do the job.

Pros

  • Extremely comfortable

  • Durable aluminum body

  • Cross compatible with multiple platforms

Cons

  • Loud volume could cause hearing damage

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How We Tested

The Testers

Nicole Carpenter was a freelance video game and tech reporter from Massachusetts who now works at Polygon. She plays a lot of video games—a perk of the gig that she loves—and has been working in the industry for over five years, both covering the video game industry and reviewing the technology that goes along with it. She's a lifelong competitively-minded gamer who is always looking for a headset that can provide her with the sound I needed and comfort that lasts a long time.

Lee Neikirk is Reviewed's Home Theater Editor, and has been reviewing consumer tech products for almost a decade. He's been playing video games since since he was five years old, and holds a degree in music performance. A huge fan of sound design in games with a passion for video game music, he's especially invested in the functionality and audio quality of gaming headsets.

The Tests

Nicole: Primarily, I'm playing Blizzard Entertainment's Overwatch, a first-person shooter with an emphasis on team play. (In particular, I'm trying to level up my alternate account to get a new in-game rating.) I'm a support main. I primarily play Zenyatta, and it's important to me to have a clear view of what's going on around me. I listen for ultimate cues from the enemy team so I know when to protect or fight.

But I also like playing indie games, quieter games with emotional soundtracks. During testing, I played Jo-Mei Games' Sea of Solitudeand a bit of Team Atma's Atma. In all three games, sound is important in creating an atmosphere. In Overwatch, that atmosphere can mean winning or losing. But in story-based games, that sound is essential in the emotional drive of the game.

Sound is super important, but a big part of competitive video games is communication. One of my biggest gaming pet peeves is being able to hear people breathing into the microphone — and it's even worse when it's someone complaining that it's me. During testing, it was important to me to ensure that game sound works just as well as the communication system.

Lee: I tested headsets that were compatible with PC, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox One, so that required a fairly eclectic selection of titles: primarily Sea of Thieves on PC; Gears 5 and GTA Online on Xbox One; and Mario Kart 8 and Animal Crossing: New Horizons on Nintendo Switch are what I played most.

I tend to place a big emphasis on the balance between chat volume and a game's music and sound effects when evaluating gaming headphones. I don't want to be unable to hear or communicate with my teammates, but neither do I want valuable feedback effects or music to be too quiet.

However, I'm also a stickler for lightweight sets that boast long-term comfort: I don't want to feel like I have to stop playing something just because my neck is sore or my ears are overheated.

Things to Consider When Buying Gaming Headsets

While gaming headphones are still headphones, gamers typically have a different set of priorities than audiophiles listening to music on the go. Even within the gamer population, different gaming headsets will be more or less useful, depending on their preferred gaming genre. Once you've decided that regular headphones are no longer adequate for an hours-long session of Red Dead Redemption 2, here are a few features that can help you make your decision.

Sound Quality—Are you playing games that mainly soundtrack music? Or can your headphones' transmission of audio cues make or break your ability to level up? If you're playing online with friends, can you hear their instructions and comments? If you're constantly listening for gunshots or footsteps, you may want to invest in a pair of headphones that emphasize bass tones; otherwise, if you need to hear more than audio cues, it's best to get headphones that have a more expansive sound profile.

Microphone—Having a high-quality mic is key, especially if you're playing with teammates. The best microphones should cut out any electric humming or ambient noise, and have voice clarity that is comparable to talking to someone on a cell phone when you both have great reception. Ideally, the microphone is also adjustable so that you can get it at just the right distance from your mouth so that it doesn't transmit your breathing more than your voice.

Comfort—Listen, we've all gone on gaming binges before, but you can't really enjoy a gaming marathon if your headset starts squishing your head and ears after only a couple of hours. The headphones themselves should be adjustable so that you're not stuck with ill-fitting headphones. Thick ear pads, a padded headband, and a relatively lightweight are necessities for a pair of gaming headsets if you're going to be spending quality time in front of your TV or computer.

Isolation—Gaming can be a form of escapism; to ensure that you're really escaping, your headphones should really block out ambient noise, both so you can better hear what's going on in the game, and so that the outside world doesn't distract you from your task. Granted, in an emergency, it's best to be able to hear some of the outside world, but gaming headphones should ideally be able to block out humming from air conditioners, refrigerators, and other appliances.

Cable/Wireless Connection—If your gaming headsets have a cable, it should be a long cable (ideally, longer than 10 feet). While it's easier when you're gaming on your computer, when you're gaming on TV screen, you're typically not sitting right up in front of it, like you would with a computer. Having a long cable allows you to sit at a comfortable distance from your gaming system. If, on the other hand, you prefer to be cable-free, then you may prefer wireless gaming headphones. Wireless headsets usually have either a USB connector that you plug in, or are connected over Bluetooth. Keep in mind that wireless headphones have a battery life, and that you may want to keep an eye on said battery life, lest they cut out at a key point in your gaming experience.

Platform—Before you lay down cash for a pair of gaming headphones, make sure they're compatible with your game system. Some brands have different products for different platforms, and others just have a regular headphone jack that can be plugged into any system. Additionally, some features may not work equally well across all platforms.


Other Gaming Headsets We Tested

SteelSeries Arctis Pro

One of the more comfortable gaming headsets on the market, the SteelSeries Arctis Pro uses a flexible suspension band to customize size, with super soft ear cups that stay comfortable for hours—even while wearing glasses. Sure, comfort alone isn't enough reason to buy a headset that keeps you tethered to your station, but not only can the Arctis Pro often be found on sale these days, as a stalwart choice of gamers everywhere, its many attributes offer plenty of reasons to pick one up.

Both music and games sound fantastic using the Arctis Pro. We played both quiet indie games, and loud, booming matches of Overwatch while using this headset and were pleased with both. The headset balances quiet soundtracks with in-game sound effects, like the crunching of grass beneath your character's feet with excellent subtlety. In Overwatch, we were able to clearly distinguish allies' voices from in-game noise, which can sometimes be a struggle. That's largely thanks to the mixer that comes with the SteelSeries, which makes for a perfectly customizable balance between game and chat.

From there, customization extends into the equalizer which lets you change frequencies without any extra software..Just note that this one doesn't work with Xbox consoles—for that, you'll need to check out the SteelSeries Arctis 9X below.

Pros

  • Great for gaming

  • Top-notch sound

  • Comfortable

Cons

  • Expensive

SteelSeries Arctis 9X

SteelSeries Arctis 9X is probably the best wireless Xbox One headset we've tried. It's unique for a few reasons, the first of which is its ease of use: the headset has a built-in Xbox wireless adapter, which means it connects seamlessly like a controller. But it also has simultaneous Bluetooth integration so it can be connected to your phone there and to the Xbox One with the wireless Xbox adapter—listen to music or take a call while doing mundane tasks in an expansive, open-world game like Red Dead Redemption. ("Old Town Road," anyone?)

It works wirelessly on PC, too, but SteelSeries suggests using a USB Xbox wireless adapter for that. We really didn’t have any problems with Bluetooth, though the microphone quality may have decreased over Bluetooth. That said, any sound quality difference from Bluetooth to using it wirelessly on Xbox One was negligible. Bass, in particular, stood out: in really intense matches, rich booms rang clear over most other sounds.

We were also impressed by the comfort—in fact, we wouldn’t hesitate to say this is the most comfortable console headset you can get. Using a flexible suspension band like in the Arctis Pro, rather than something fixed, it feels light on the head. It doesn't squeeze your glasses to your face but still feels secure, like it won't shake loose. The band for the Arctis 9X is only slightly different than the Arctis Pro, and that's in the color: for the Xbox One-optimized 9X, the headset takes on the console's signature green details on the band. It's understated, though, and not garish.

Pros

  • Overwhelmingly comfortable

  • Simultaneous compatibility with Xbox and Bluetooth

  • Intense bass

Cons

  • Microphone can cut out with Bluetooth

Epos Sennheiser GSP 670

The wireless Epos | Sennheiser GSP 670 is one of the most premium products we've tested, and its price frankly may put it out of reach for the average gamers. This one is as geared towards eSports professionals as it is deep-pocket audiophiles, but for the price you're getting one heck of a package: a highly durable, angular design aesthetic; customizable 7.1 surround sound via Epos' Gaming Suite software; Sennheiser's storied handling of audio quality; and compatibility with pretty much any mobile device (phone/tablet), PC, or PS4. Sorry, Xboxers—this is yet another one that doesn't work with Microsoft's home consoles.

We'd be remiss if we didn't first and foremost mention the quality of the audio here. While the GSP 670s aren't head and shoulders above everything on the list (they're not our favorites, actually), they do sound a lot better than the average gaming headphones. On the downside, they're bulky and heavy—it's almost impossible to forget they're on your head. If you're partial to lighter, more minimalist gaming headphones, these might not be your top choice.

On the other hand, the considerable size and build quality allows for a robust set of on-set controls, which made it easy to adjust game/chat volume during use. Alongside the solid audio quality here, we also greatly enjoyed the microphone's sensitive and voice transference. While you're not getting a noise canceling mic like with some newer gaming headsets, no one we chatted with had any complaints about voice quality.

As for surround sound, Epos' Gaming Suite software is simple enough once you get the hang of it, but does require a learning curve—and we recommend using it if you want to extract the maximum value from these headphones. Overall, while these are a bit on the pricy side, Epos/Sennheiser pack in enough quality and features that the GSP 670 feel like a real step up from the average gaming headset.

Pros

  • Very durable

  • Great sound

Cons

  • Expensive

  • Bulky, heavy

Razer Nari Ultimate

The first thing you'll notice about the Razer Nari Ultimate headset is the size of the headset: these things are massive. The cups are almost comically oversized, and you can feel it when you wear it. They're heavy, and it was hard to ignore the sheer weight on my head. Even with the freedom of wirelessness, they may leave you feeling weighted down.

However, the reason they're so big is because there's a lot going on in there. The Nari Ultimate uses THX spatial audio to create a "360° sphere" of sound, and it works great. Sound always felt crisp and precise. We were impressed by the accuracy of sound in Overwatch, able to place enemies in the area by sound. But we were most impressed when playing Jo-Mei Games' Sea of Solitude. It's a much quieter game that emphasizes its emotional soundtrack; with the Nari Ultimate headphones, we felt immersed in the swell of the music — it was almost good enough that we forgot the heft of the headset on my head.

Razer stuffed in a system called "HyperSense" in the Nari Ultimate headset. This feature uses haptic technology to let players "feel" the sound with vibrations. It feels like an unnecessary feature that was more distraction than immersion. Just keep in mind, this is yet another headset that's compatible with PC and PS4, but not Xbox.

Pros

  • Full, immersive sound

  • Vibrations let users feel the sound

Cons

  • Comically oversized and heavy

  • Vibration feature can be distraction

  • Not Xbox compatible

Microsoft Xbox Wireless Headset

If you've got an Xbox One or Xbox Series X|S, there's almost no better choice for you than Microsoft's new Xbox Wireless Headset. Not only is this wireless headset comfortable and equipped with an excellent microphone, it integrates so seamlessly with the Xbox software that it may as well be an in-the-box accessory.

We're especially big fans of the control scheme, which allocates game/chat balance and volume controls to swiveling caps on the left and right ear cups respectably. You'll also be able to connect to a Windows PC at the same time as your Xbox console, making it easy to multi-task, and you can tweak numerous aspects of this headset's functionality right in the Xbox Accessories menu, meaning the headset's design (from a controls perspective) is refreshingly minimalistic for a gaming headset.

All in all, first-party products tend to boast implicit advantages where functionality and integration are concerned, and the Xbox Wireless Headset brings that level of ease and intuitiveness to the Xbox experience.

Pros

  • Perfect for Xbox

  • Great microphone

  • Intuitive controls

Cons

  • Sound is a bit bass heavy

HyperX Cloud Alpha S

The HyperX Cloud Alpha S is a top-notch choice from HyperX, a brand that produces an almost impossible-to-keep-track-of array of gaming headsets. Take it from us: the Alpha S is one of the good ones (for PC and PS4—this is another no-Xbox option).

Available in blue, black, or red, the Alpha S gives you a durable, comfortable fit, great sound, a reliable microphone, and—perhaps best of all—a software-based virtual 7.1 surround sound function that lends some serious atmosphere to whatever game you're playing. We found ourselves legitimately impressed after booting up the 7.1-channel mode, even without doing any tweaking: the rolling, stormy ocean in Sea of Thieves suddenly seemed to be crashing and breaking all around, just with the push of a button.

Is this "modeled" surround sound perfect? No—it almost never is. But for what you're paying for these, it's a rock-solid addition to gaming headphones that already offer a healthy combination of design, comfort, and aduio quality.

The one thing you're not getting with the Cloud Alpha S headset is wirelessness: these are USB/wired only, so you'll have to look elsewhere (perhaps the Cloud Flight S?) if you're hoping to ditch the wires altogether. However, not only does the USB connection mean you don't have to worry about battery life, and the in-line control device (a rectangle with buttons for volume adjustment, muting the mic, triggering the 7.1 emulator, and so on) is much easier to learn than the usual wireless headset controls.

Unless you really need a wireless headset, this one is excellent for what you're paying, and sleek, compact, durable, and comfortable enough to wear all day (or all night, if that's your style).

Pros

  • Great sound

  • Virtual 7.1 is very effective

Cons

  • Wired only

  • PC, PS4 only

Logitech G635

The Logitech G635 is a PC gamer's headset. While others on this list have a more subtle appearance, this headset really leans into the design details stereotypically attributed to gaming products: LED lights, bold and maximal design, and tons of buttons. You're not getting wireless functionality here, but it nails things otherwise.

It makes for a sturdy and absolutely eye-catching headset, but perhaps not eye-catching in the right way—depending on your style. While some may personally prefer minimal design, you may find the design charming enough. Paired with Logitech's line of gamer stuff, all chock full of lights, it creates a cohesive environment.

Alongside the strips of LED lighting, the Logitech G635 has three programmable buttons (and they feel great, with a very distinct tactile click), a wireless on/off switch, a quick-mute button, and a volume wheel. They're all easily accessible, but it's unclear whether there's a real, practical use for the extra buttons.

Also tucked away on the left cup is a flip microphone. On paper, it's pretty cool—but in practice, it's kind of awkward. There's a retractable piece that adds some length and flexibility, but we had a hard time keeping that part where we wanted it. Also on the left cup is the wireless USB adapter, hidden under a magnetic cover. It's neat that all these details are all embedded in the headset itself to ensure you've always got what you need.

Those who wear glasses may find the headset uncomfortable—it clamps to your head pretty tightly, which can be painful. It's a shame, because the headset sounds lovely. We were able to hear all the distinct sounds while playing Overwatch (have you guessed what my game of choice is?), from the character voice lines to the small, atmospheric sounds of a character's body moving through the world.

Pros

  • Sounds are rich and full

  • Programmable buttons

  • LED light strips

Cons

  • Almost too many buttons

  • Retractable mic has a hard time staying in place

  • Fits uncomfortably over glasses

Razer Kraken Ultimate

This simple wired USB headset from Razer seems like it could be a great choice for a lot of gamers. The pricing is quite reasonable, and you’re getting a lot of flash for what you’re paying.

Of course, flash comes standard with a lot of Razer products and peripherals. If the company tends to make you think of multi-color RGB LEDs first and foremost, you’ll be extra happy to know that the Kraken Ultimate doesn’t break tradition: the rears of both ear cups are emblazoned with Razer’s green snake logo, and also glow in a rainbow of colors that’s programmable with Razer’s RGB LED-controlling Synapse software.

Of course, that’s all fine and dandy, but what really makes the Kraken Ultimate worth its salt is the audio and microphone fidelity. This headset didn’t blow me away in any one area performance-wise, but it’s definitely not lacking in anything, either. Game sound effects register well within the surround sound environment (powered by THX Spatial and 7.1-channel emulation), and music sounds very warm and robust in the mids and low end.

The Kraken Ultimate aren’t the best-sounding headphones I’ve ever used, but they definitely get the job done. You may be paying a little more here for the flashy design, but we're also big fans of the ANC (active noise canceling) equipped microphone, which did (according to the folks we chatted with, anyway) effectively transmit my voice—and not much else. This is yet another great headset that's not available for Xbox—it's PC or PS4 here yet again.

Pros

  • Classic Razer design

  • Comfortable

  • ANC mic works well

Cons

  • Sound is decent, not great

Turtle Beach Stealth 700

Like the Arctis 9X, the Turtle Beach Stealth 700 is a wireless headset designed for the Xbox One. For just over $100, it's a decent headset that's low on frills and easy-to-use. You won't get the build or audio quality of the higher-end headsets here, but this does a good job for the price.

We found the Turtle Beach Stealth 700 earcups to be a little harder than the cushions on other headsets, but not necessarily uncomfortable. The firm cups helped lend the headset an air of stability without making it overly heavy or tight. These are the on-ear style, too, which made them easier to use with my glasses—they weren't pushed tight to my head. Another neat little feature is the mic, which is designed to mute automatically when it's flipped up. I like that there's no need to fiddle with buttons if you need to mute the mic for any reason. But because the mic needs to be able to flip up, the microphone arm is really short. It didn't seem to impact how people heard me, though, which surprised me.

Pros

  • Sturdy feel

  • Microphone automatically mutes when flipped up

Cons

  • Stiff earcups

HyperX Cloud Flight S

If you love the aesthetic of the HyperX Cloud Alpha S but hate the idea of being tethered by wires, the HyperX Cloud Flight S might be just what you're looking for. It's a bit more expensive than its wired counterpart, but you're still getting all of the same great features as HyperX's wired models—cushy padding, solid sound, and a reliable microphone—on top of the ability to ditch the wires.

This one's a little different from the usual wireless gaming headset, however. It isn't technically a Bluetooth device (which threw us for a loop when we were first setting it up), but instead uses 2.4GHz wireless adapting a la a wireless mouse or keyboard. While this isn't that outlandish in the realm of gaming headsets, it does mean these won't double as a pair of Bluetooth headphones to be used with any old mobile device. You'll have to plug a USB dongle into your PC or PS4 (again, sorry Xbox fans, this one doesn't work for you).

But once you've got the Cloud Flight S properly "up and running," so to speak, most people will really enjoy using it. There's no latency or stuttering to speak of (and I would hope not at this price point), and music and sound effects sound balanced and clear. You're also getting a pretty hefty amount of upgrades here compared to the original Cloud Flight: Qi wireless charging, 7.1 surround sound, fairly intuitive on-cup controls, and so on—you just aren't getting the LED lighting of the other Cloud Flight variants.

We gave this model a CES Editor's Choice award for a reason—it's a very solid, comfortable wireless headset. While it's not the most valuable wireless option on the list, it's still pretty darn good, especially if you're hungry for convenience features like Qi charging.

Pros

  • Comfortable

  • Good sound

  • Qi-compatible

Cons

  • A bit expensive

Meet the testers

Lee Neikirk

Lee Neikirk

Editor, Home Theater

@Koanshark

Lee has been Reviewed's point person for most television and home theater products since 2012. Lee received Level II certification in TV calibration from the Imaging Science Foundation in 2013. As Editor of the Home Theater vertical, Lee oversees reviews of TVs, monitors, soundbars, and Bluetooth speakers. He also reviews headphones, and has a background in music performance.

See all of Lee Neikirk's reviews
Nicole Carpenter

Nicole Carpenter

Contributing Writer

Nicole Carpenter is a reporter and reviewer based out of Massachusetts. For the past few years, she’s specialized in the technology and gaming sectors, reviewing a number of different headphones with a specialty in gaming gear.

See all of Nicole Carpenter's reviews

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