The best gaming headset should be more than a set of top-notch headphones with a microphone tacked on the side. You need crisp, clear voice transference, a snug yet cozy fit for long gaming sessions, and sound that places everything perfectly in space.
After countless hours testing dozens of gaming headsets, we're confident the SteelSeries Arctis Pro (available at Amazon for $124.99) is the best you can get right now. It offers a great mix of features, incredible long-term comfort, and excellent sound placement.
If you’re after a high-end gaming experience with crystal-clear sound, deep feature customization options, and luxurious comfort, you don't have to drop a bundle of cash to get a solid gaming headset. Just look to the SteelSeries Arctis Nova 1 (available at Amazon. Whatever your budget, these picks will take your gaming up a notch!
SteelSeries Arctis Pro
Connection type: USB, 3.5mm jack
Noise canceling: Microphone only
Supported systems: PC, Mac, PlayStation 4 and 5, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Mobile
One of the most comfortable gaming headsets on the market, the SteelSeries Arctis Pro uses a flexible suspension band to customize size, with super soft ear cups that let you game for hours—even while wearing glasses. Comfort alone isn't enough reason to buy a wired gaming headset that keeps you tethered to your station. But the Arctis Pro is often on sale and it offers plenty of reasons to pick it up.
Both music and games sound fantastic using the Arctis Pro. We played both quiet indie games and loud, booming matches of Overwatch with this headset and were pleased with both. The headset balances soft music with in-game sound effects, like the crunching of grass beneath your character's feet, with excellent subtlety.
In first-person shooters, 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.
Customization includes an equalizer that lets you change frequencies without any extra software. Just note that although this one will work with Xbox consoles if you connect the 3.5mm headphone jack through a controller, you may not get the full functionality—for that, you'll need to check out the Turtle Beach Recon 500 (our Best for Xbox pick), or our upgrade pick, the SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro.
Supported systems: PC, Mac, Nintendo Switch, Mobile; PlayStation 4 and 5 and Xbox One and Series S|X versions exist
The SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro isn’t just an incredible gaming headset, it’s an amazing headset for anything you play. SteelSeries developed new custom drivers that deliver detailed and engaging sound, fully immersing you in the sonic environment. Whether it be NPC dialogue, the crunch of enemies lurking in surrounding foliage, or an epic soundtrack, sound is spacious and clear. That clarity extends to the microphone—which is fully retractable into the left earcup—allowing for easily understood conversation between teammates.
As with other SteelSeries headsets, the Arctis Nova Pro is very comfortable for long gaming sessions. The thick leatherette pads feel luxurious and soft against the head, and the clamping force is just enough to keep the headset secure without causing headaches. An adjustable headband allows it to fit head sizes small and large.
The Arctis Nova Pro is loaded with features, too. The two included batteries are hot-swappable so when one runs low you won’t miss out on any of the action (the second charges while you play in the headset’s base station). When connected to a PC, the Sonar app allows for a huge range of adjustments including noise canceling to both incoming and outgoing signals, a 10-band equalizer, included sound profiles customized to 20 specific games, and a mixer for game and chat volumes.
There are both PlayStation and Xbox wireless versions available. And if you don’t mind being tethered to your controller or PC, there’s a wired one, too.
Supported systems: PC, Mac, PS5/PS4, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch, Android, iOS
The SteelSeries Arctis Nova 1 may sit at the bottom of the stack in the company’s new lineup of gaming headphones at only $60, but it delivers exceptional value thanks to all that it borrows from its more expensive siblings. The Arctis Nova 1 has better audio chops than you’re likely to find from most other headphones at this price, providing crisp mids and treble with thumpy bass that doesn’t drown out the entire mix.
Communication is critical when gaming, and the new ClearCast Gen 2 mic on the Arctis Nova 1 does a great job picking up voice chat without including too much background noise. However, it doesn’t offer sidetone to let you hear yourself as you speak.
The headphones have wide platform compatibility since they can plug into any audio source with a 3.5mm plug, but that may mean you’ll need to use a dongle to connect to certain devices. And while the $100 Arctis Nova 3 might look like a tempting step up, its extra features don’t justify the cost.
Supported systems: PC, Mac, PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, Mobile
The Turtle Beach Recon 500 might not be laden with as many features as SteelSeries Arctis Pro or our Arctis Nova Pro, but for its relatively low price point, it's an excellent no-frills headset that delivers impressive sound and comfort.
The audio is detailed and well-suited for dialogue and action alike. While the microphone isn’t as adjustable as we would like, it still produces a crisp and clear sound that should keep your team in communication in almost any situation.
A snug fit and thick ear cushions keep you comfortable through long gaming sessions. Even after several hours of gaming, the Recon 500 never felt cumbersome or taxing to wear. The four-foot cable has enough length to keep connected without being in the way.
The wired connection works perfectly with Xbox as well as with other consoles, like the Switch and PlayStation, as well as PCs.
Connection type: Bluetooth, 2.4Ghz over USB dongle, USB-C, 3.5mm jack
Noise canceling: Microphone only
Supported systems: PC, Mac, PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, Mobile
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, so it can move with more force and precision. While the technology is rather complicated, 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 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 for hours of gaming.
The hint of blue on the Penrose and green on the Penrose X add a nice pop of color without being garish. 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, while the 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 yelling into a headset so your friends can hear you, the Penrose's microphone sensitivity is a breath of fresh air. The boom mic arm is highly adjustable, and you can use these Penrose models without it as Bluetooth headphones, letting the magnets power your favorite music. They may even be an upgrade for your regular headphones.
A huge array of strengths—durable design, awesome sound quality for many situations, and intuitive controls—balance well against the Penrose's only real weakness (apart from the high price): all that power drains battery life pretty quickly.
The headset takes a few hours to charge, and you only get about 15 hours of use. However, if you can get in the habit of charging the headset nightly, it's one of the best-sounding gaming headsets around, and worth the high price tag for audiophile gamers.
Connection type: Bluetooth, 2.4Ghz over USB dongle, 3.5mm jack
Noise canceling: Microphone only
Supported systems: PC, Xbox One and Series X|S, Mobile
The SteelSeries Arctis 9X is one of the best wireless Xbox headsets we've tried. It's easy to use, thanks to the built-in Xbox wireless adapter, which means it connects seamlessly to your Xbox like a controller.
It also has Bluetooth integration, so you can simultaneously connect it to your phone and Xbox with the wireless Xbox adapter. You can listen to music or take a call while doing mundane tasks in an expansive, open-world game like Red Dead Redemption 2.
It works wirelessly on PC, too. SteelSeries suggests using a USB Xbox wireless adapter for that, but we didn’t have any problems with Bluetooth. The microphone quality may have decreased, but beyond that it was fine. On Xbox, any difference in sound quality between and wireless was negligible. Bass, in particular, stood out: in really intense matches, rich booms rang clear over most other sounds.
The band for the Arctis 9X is only slightly different than the Arctis Pro, and that's in the color. For the Xbox-optimized 9X, the headset takes on the console's signature green details on the band. It's understated, though, and not garish. We're also impressed by the comfort. It uses a flexible suspension band like in the Arctis Pro, and feels light on the head. It doesn't squeeze your glasses to your face but still feels secure, like it won't shake loose.
Simultaneous compatibility with Xbox and Bluetooth
Supported systems: PC, Xbox One and Series X|S, Mobile
If you've got an Xbox One or Xbox Series X|S, Microsoft's Xbox Wireless Headset is an easy choice. 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 respectively. You can also connect to a Windows PC at the same time as your Xbox console, making it easy to multitask. You can also tweak numerous aspects of this headset's functionality right in the Xbox Accessories menu, meaning the controls on the headset itself are refreshingly minimalistic for a gaming headset.
First-party products tend to boast implicit advantages in functionality and integration, and the Xbox Wireless Headset is no exception, bringing ease and intuitiveness to the Xbox experience.
Connection type: 2.4Ghz over USB dongle, 3.5mm jack
Noise canceling: None
Supported systems: PC, PlayStation 4 and 5, Mobile
The first thing you'll notice about the Razer Nari Ultimate headset is its size: this thing is 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. Even with the freedom of wirelessness, this headset may leave you feeling weighed down.
However, the reason this headset is so big is because there's a lot going on in there. The Nari Ultimate uses THX spatial audio to create a "360-degree sphere" of sound, and it works great. Sound was always crisp and precise. We were impressed by the accuracy in first-person shooters, where we could easily place enemies in the area by sound alone.
But we were most impressed when playing Sea of Solitude. It's a quieter game that emphasizes its emotional soundtrack. We felt immersed in the swell of the music—it was almost good enough to make you forget the heft of the headset.
Razer also stuffed a system called "HyperSense" into the Nari Ultimate headset. This feature uses haptic technology to let players "feel" the sound with vibrations. It feels like an unnecessary feature and was more distraction than immersion. Unfortunately, this is yet another headset that's compatible with PC, PS4 and PS5, but not Xbox.
Supported systems: PC, PlayStation 4 and 5 The 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, PS4 and PS5—this is another no-Xbox option).
Available in blue, black, or red, the Alpha S is durable, with a comfortable fit, good sound, and a reliable microphone. Perhaps best of all, there’s a software-based virtual 7.1 surround sound function that lends a serious atmosphere to whatever game you're playing. We found ourselves legitimately impressed after booting up the 7.1-channel mode, even without 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" virtual surround sound perfect? No, but for what you're paying, it's a rock-solid addition to gaming headphones that already offer a healthy combination of design, comfort, and audio quality.
The biggest feature you're not getting with the Cloud Alpha S headset is wireless playback. This headset is USB/wired only, so you'll have to look elsewhere on our list if you're hoping to ditch cables. However, the USB connection means you don't have to worry about battery life, and the in-line control device (a rectangle with buttons for adjusting volume and more) is much easier to learn than the usual wireless headset controls.
Unless you really need a wireless model, this headset is excellent for the price, and it’s sleek, compact, durable, and comfortable enough to wear all day (or all night, if that's your style).
This simple wired gaming headset from Razer seems like it could be a solid 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. If you like the company's signature, multi-color RGB LEDs, you’ll be pleased 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 they glow in a rainbow of colors that’s programmable with Razer’s RGB LED-controlling Synapse software.
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 us 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 isn’t the best-sounding headset we’ve ever used, but it definitely gets 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 voices—and not much else. This is yet another great headset that's not available for Xbox—it's PC, PS4, and PS5 only.
What better way to test gaming headsets than by gaming? Our team of testers spent hours playing all types of games—first-person shooters like Overwatch, open-world games like Red Dead Redemption 2, and party racing games like Mario Kart 8. Headsets were tested on PC, Xbox, PlayStation, Switch, and any other platforms we could get our hands on.
While playing, our testers paid particular attention to the audio quality—both how good they sounded and their soundfield's accuracy (like if we could hear an enemy sneaking around). Since group communication is an important part of team play, we also tested the clarity of the mics and how easy it is to balance chat volume with a game’s soundtrack and effects.
Things to Consider When Buying Gaming Headsets
Gaming headsets typically have different priorities than headsets made for audiophiles. Even when gaming, you may want different features depending on the type of game you’re playing. Once you've decided that regular headphones are no longer adequate for an hours-long session of Elden Ring, here are a few features that can help you make your decision.
Are you playing games that mainly feature music? Or will hearing 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. If you need to hear a wider variety of sounds, it's best to get headphones with a more expansive sound profile.
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, with vocal clarity similar to a cell phone call with great reception. Ideally, the microphone is also adjustable, so you can position it close enough to your mouth to carry your voice, but not your breathing.
You can't really enjoy a good gaming binge if your headset starts squishing your head after only a couple of hours. The headphones should be adjustable enough to fit just right. Thick ear pads, a padded headband, and a relatively lightweight are necessities if you're going to be spending a lot of quality time in front of your TV or computer.
Gaming can be a form of escapism. To ensure that you're really escaping, your headphones should block out ambient noise. This both helps you hear what's going on in the game, and keeps the outside world from distracting you.
Granted, in an emergency, you want to hear some of the outside world. But gaming headphones should be able to block out humming from air conditioners, refrigerators, and other appliances.
If your gaming headsets have a cable, it should be a long cable. (Ideally, longer than 10 feet). It may not matter as much on a computer, but when gaming on a TV, you want to be able to sit further back.
If you prefer to be cable-free, you may prefer wireless gaming headphones. Wireless headsets usually have either a USB receiver that you plug in, or connect over Bluetooth. Keep in mind that wireless headphones have a battery life, and you may want to keep an eye on said battery, lest they cut out at a key point in your gaming experience.
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, while others just have a regular headphone jack that can be plugged into any system. Remember too that some features may not work equally well across all platforms.
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.
John is the A/V Editor for Reviewed. He is an ISF Level III-certified calibrator with bylines at ProjectorCentral, Wirecutter, IGN, Home Theater Review, T3, Sound & Vision, and Home Theater Magazine. When away from the Reviewed office, he is a sound editor for film and musician, and loves to play games with his son.
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.
Joanna specializes in anything and everything gaming-related and loves nerding out over graphics cards, processors, and chip architecture. Previously she was a staff writer for Gizmodo, PC Gamer, and Maximum PC.
Our team is here for one purpose: to help you buy the best stuff and love what you own. Our writers, editors, and lab technicians obsess over the products we cover to make sure you're confident and satisfied. Have a different opinion about something we recommend? Email us and we'll compare notes.