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Taken in Reviewed Testing Lab

The Best Xbox Headsets of 2021

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Audeze’s Penrose headsets deliver outstanding audio and handy features like a detachable microphone. We only wish the battery lasted a little longer. Read More

Pros

  • Excellent sound
  • Durable materials
  • Intuitive controls

Cons

  • A bit heavy
  • Short battery life

Read More

Pros

  • Perfect for Xbox
  • Great microphone
  • Intuitive controls

Cons

  • Sound is a bit bass heavy

Read More

Pros

  • Solid sound
  • Great microphone
  • Comfortable

Cons

  • No supporting customization software
  • Occasionally too much treble

Turtle Beach's Recon 500 ditches top-notch audio and design for affordability and convenience. Read More

Pros

  • Super comfortable
  • Cross-platform
  • Clear, vibrant audio

Cons

  • Microphone isn’t adjustable enough
  • No dual-channel volume control
  • Hard to tell mute button is activated

The Razer Barracuda X is a refreshingly simple, plug-and-play gaming headset solution that works handily across a wide variety of devices. At its price, it's an excellent value. Read More

Pros

  • Extremely flexible to use
  • All day comfort
  • Good sound

Cons

  • Microphone could be better
  • Bare-bones features
  • Audeze Penrose X

  • Xbox Wireless Headset

  • How We Tested Xbox Headsets

  • Things to Consider When Buying Xbox Headsets

  • Other Xbox Headsets We Tested

  • More Articles You Might Enjoy

Whether you play on a newer Xbox Series X or Series S console, or are still rocking with your trusty Xbox One, buying an Xbox headset isn't always easy. Microsoft's consoles require a proprietary connection and don't work natively with Bluetooth, meaning your choices are often limited compared to PC and PlayStation players. Fortunately, we're here to do the legwork.

If you just want the best-performing Xbox headset we've tested, Chief, check out the Audeze Penrose X (available at Amazon). This planar magnetic equipped headset delivers knockout audio performance, easily doubling as a svelte gaming headset and awesome headphones. Of course, they also aren't for everyone, which is why you should browse our full list of great Xbox headsets below.

Here are the best Xbox headsets we tested, ranked in order:

  1. Audeze Penrose X
  2. Xbox Wireless Headset
  3. HyperX CloudX Stinger Core
  4. Turtle Beach Recon 500
  5. Razer Barracuda X
  6. Razer Kraken Pro V2
  7. SteelSeries Arctis 3

Credit: Reviewed / Lee Neikirk

Thanks to its incredible audio quality, the Penrose X is our current pick for Best Overall.

Best Overall
Audeze Penrose X

We’ve loved Audeze’s planar magnetic headphones for years, so when we heard the company was launching planar magnetic gaming headsets, we were, well, all ears. And just as we expected, the Penrose X—designed specifically for Xbox consoles—is another triumph by way of magnets.

Really, you don’t even need to understand how planar magnetic headphones work (it involves magnets) to appreciate the quality audio here. These are one of those rare gaming headsets that can easily double as high-end headphones, making them an especially good pick for music lovers. And considering this headset’s detachable microphone, Bluetooth 5.0 compatibility, 3.5mm input, and (fairly) understated design, it’d be extremely easy to use the Penrose X as headphones around your house or during a commute as well as while you’re gaming.

If you’re thinking that the Penrose X is a bit on the expensive side, we don’t blame you—it’s two or three times the price of most of the headsets on this list. But cutting-edge audio isn’t the only thing you’re paying for, either. The Penrose X is kitted out with durable, high-quality materials that keep it comfortable through long sessions, though its magnetic enhancements do make it heavier than average at 320 grams. If you don’t mind a slight neck workout while you adjust to the weight, the Penrose X is otherwise amply comfortable.

Gamers who prefer to leap into the fray with friends will be glad to know that the Penrose X’s microphone is a workmanlike inclusion; it isn’t on equal footing with the audio quality, but it’s good enough for your Xbox Live buddies.

The Penrose X is our Best Overall pick because it delivers such stellar audio quality, rivaling and even surpassing certain name brand headphones. If you’re looking for a stellar Xbox headset that double-dips as a great pair of headphones, this is the headset to buy.

Pros

  • Excellent sound

  • Durable materials

  • Intuitive controls

Cons

  • A bit heavy

  • Short battery life

Credit: Reviewed / Lee Neikirk

The Xbox Wireless Headset is our current pick for Best Value.

Best Value
Xbox Wireless Headset

The Xbox Wireless Headset is easily the most popular Xbox headset around right now—and for good reason. This official wireless headset is manufactured by Microsoft (you know, the company that makes Xbox consoles), meaning it integrates seamlessly with Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S consoles, allowing users a high degree of control and customizability right from the Xbox Accessories menu.

The design here is also wholly unique to Microsoft, borrowing the Surface Dial first showcased on the Microsoft Surface headphones, which allows the user to twist the left and right ear cups to make adjustments. In the case of the Xbox Wireless Headset, this makes for an intuitive and easy way to adjust volume (twist the left cup) and game/chat balance (twist the right cup). It also makes for a very unique headset design; It’s only on the Xbox Wireless Headset you’ll get perfectly circular ear cups. This headset is also fitted with a good amount of band and cup padding, making it comfortable to wear through numerous rounds of Big Team Battle in Halo Infinite.

The Xbox Wireless Headset presents considerable value for Xbox gamers, which is why it’s our Best Value pick, but of course it isn’t perfect. The audio quality is fine, but is bass-adjacent in a way that may bother audiophile-leaning listeners. You can make EQ adjustments in the Xbox Accessories app easily enough, but a flat, well-balanced response is not the Xbox Wireless Headset’s forte. Likewise, while the (always attached) microphone has elicited no complaints from our Xbox Live parties, there are other options—like the HyperX CloudX Stinger Core—that deliver a slightly clearer, more premium microphone for the same price.

Yet the Xbox Wireless Headset, with its deep integration into the Xbox console system, generally solid audio/microphone response, and super intuitive control scheme sticks the landing as our Best Value pick. As a bonus, you also get full Bluetooth support (less common on Xbox-only models), meaning you can use it alongside your laptop, phone, or tablet as well.

Pros

  • Perfect for Xbox

  • Great microphone

  • Intuitive controls

Cons

  • Sound is a bit bass heavy

How We Tested Xbox Headsets

The Testers

Hi, I'm Lee Neikirk. I've been playing video games since 1990, and have been an avid Xbox gamer for the last 15 years. When I'm not testing a headset's spatial capabilities in Gears 5, I also review traditional headphones, meaning that I pay particular attention to frequency response and overall audio preservation even when I'm gaming. I'm especially fond of gaming headsets that are good enough to replace your headphones.

Hi, I’m Jordan McMahon. I’m a tech reviewer focused primarily on laptops, tablets, smartwatches, and apps. I’ve been writing about technology since 2017, and mashing buttons since the mid-90's. Most of my gaming hours are spent in mobile puzzle games and roguelikes, but I dedicate enough hours to Red Dead Redemption 2 and Overwatch to care about the level of detail my headset produces.

The Tests

To test Xbox headsets, we use them almost exactly like the average gamer would—only with a bit more rigor. We test each headset across a variety of games with music and sound effects that we're familiar with, and across as many Xbox console variants—Xbox One, Xbox One S, Xbox One X, Xbox Series X, and Xbox Series X—as possible.

Often, we have previously tested or reference headsets on hand to compare new headsets against, and on top of recording microphones to ensure their viability, we make sure to actually game and chat with real people, both in-game and via Xbox party chat.

Things to Consider When Buying Xbox 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 are 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 light weight are necessities for a pair of gaming headphones 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—If your gaming headphones 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 gaming headphones usually have either a USB connector that you plug in, or are connected over Bluetooth. Keep in mind that wireless gaming 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 Xbox. 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 Xbox Headsets We Tested

Product image of HyperX CloudX Stinger Core Wireless
HyperX CloudX Stinger Core

If there’s a clear runner-up to the Best Value category, it’s this official Xbox headset from HyperX. The CloudX Stinger Core lives right in the Xbox Wireless Headset’s price range, and nets you HyperX’s cushy memory foam ear cups; subtly balanced, robust audio quality; and one of the best Xbox headset microphones we tested in 2021.

So why isn’t the Stinger Core our pick for Best Value? It’s a lack of flexibility. Not only is there no way to tune or tinker with it in the Xbox Accessories app (all you can do is check your battery level), but you also don’t get Bluetooth connectivity as you do with the Xbox Wireless Headset, meaning the HyperX CloudX Stinger Core—which connects over 2.4 or 5.0 Ghz to your Xbox—is truly Xbox only.

The good news is that if all you need is an Xbox headset, rather than something that might double as mobile headphones or a meeting headset, the Stinger Core delivers comfort, very solid sound quality, and an excellent microphone, exuding maximum value in its single use case.

Pros

  • Solid sound

  • Great microphone

  • Comfortable

Cons

  • No supporting customization software

  • Occasionally too much treble

Product image of Turtle Beach Recon 500
Turtle Beach Recon 500

If you don’t need a wire-free gaming existence, especially if you’re a multi-platform gamer, the Turtle Beach Recon 500 is a comfortable, cross-platform option that simply plugs into whatever you’re playing on: Xbox, PC, PS5, Switch, laptop, or mobile devices.

During our time with the Recon 500, we found that it checks off a lot of the necessary boxes, and only exhibits a couple of fairly minor flaws. The boom on the microphone is a bit on the inflexible side and features a hard-to-find mute button. And iff you like to game with others a lot, you may find the lack of a dedicated game/chat volume control frustrating. The Recon 500 only allows for one degree of volume control, meaning any game/chat balancing you do will have to be done in console or software menus.

However, the Recon 500 is still a great choice if you just want something simple and effective that plugs right into your Xbox controller and a ton of other devices. It’s one of the best entry-level options we’ve tried, and its multi-platform flexibility promises a lot of value.

Pros

  • Super comfortable

  • Cross-platform

  • Clear, vibrant audio

Cons

  • Microphone isn’t adjustable enough

  • No dual-channel volume control

  • Hard to tell mute button is activated

Product image of Razer Barracuda X
Razer Barracuda X

Another great choice for multiplatform gamers, Razer’s Barracuda X may be a better choice for gamers who primarily play on PC or PS5 but enjoy a little Xbox here and there, or are Game Pass subscribers but don’t own Xbox hardware.

Razer has designed the Barracuda X with ease-of-use at the forefront of its design. The headset includes a small USB-C transceiver that you can plug into your phone, tablet, PS5, or other device. Just power up the Barracuda X and you’re good to go. Of course, it’s also entirely possible to use this headset passively via the included 3.5mm cable, allowing it to function smoothly with a whole host of legacy devices as well.

With up to 24 hours of battery life, a detachable cardioid microphone, an understated design (for Razer headsets, anyway), and a very light 250 gram weight, the Barracuda X is designed for the holistic gamer who wants a consistent listening and chatting experience across a wide variety of devices. This one’s another that also easily doubles as headphones, since you can pop the microphone off and plug the USB-C transceiver into your phone for listening and gaming on the go.

We think the Barracuda X presents considerable value, but naturally it is not engineered as directly for use with Xbox as many of the other headsets on the list, which knocks its placement down a bit. If you like to game all over across a wide range of devices, however, this one should be on your radar.

Pros

  • Extremely flexible to use

  • All day comfort

  • Good sound

Cons

  • Microphone could be better

  • Bare-bones features

Product image of Razer Kraken Pro V2
Razer Kraken Pro V2

There are better headsets out there, but they're going to cost you a lot of money. I don't know about you, but I'm not willing to spend more than I paid for my console on a headset. Instead, the Kraken Pro V2, a headset primarily targeted at PC gamers, does absolutely everything I want without emptying my bank account.

The audio is exactly what you'd expect from a headset targeted at pros: It's impressively loud and detailed without overwhelming the callouts from your team. On your end, the fully retractable unidirectional mic delivers your chat without the electric buzz of cheaper headsets. The soft, thick padding of the ear cups is heaven to my ears. I gamed for hours without them pressing too tightly or retaining heat.

As far as looks go, I really enjoy the relative simplicity of the Kraken Pro V2's design. Sure, the neon green variant is a bit aggressive, but the white and black options are sleek and don't necessarily scream "gamer" the way some jagged red and black headsets do.

Pros

  • Very comfortable

  • Fully retractable, unidirectional mic

  • Impressive sound quality

Cons

  • No extra accessories

Product image of SteelSeries Arctis 3
SteelSeries Arctis 3

The entry model in SteelSeries' new Arctis lineup, the Arctis 3, is a comfortable, great-sounding headset that has the look and style of snowboarding gear. I went with the Arctis 3 over the Arctis 5 and 7 because each of the higher-end models has features (that you'll pay a premium for) that don't work with the Xbox. But what you lose in features you more than make up for in design and performance.

They entire headset is soft and comfortable and fits snugly without being overbearing. The audio on the Arctis 3's isn't anything revolutionary, but if you're a casual gamer who just wants a bit more of an intimate experience, these get the job done and then some. I was also a big fan of the easy-to-use ear cup controls and retractable mic that allowed me to chat and goof off with my friends online and then easily mute myself while my roommates asked me a question. Overall, they're a great headset that you won't be embarrassed to use away from your gaming couch, and for some, that's all you need.

Pros

  • Soft and comfortable

  • On-ear audio controls

  • Retractable mic

Cons

  • Not wireless

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
Jordan McMahon

Jordan McMahon

Staff Writer, Electronics

Jordan has been writing about and reviewing technology since 2017, with products ranging from tablets and apps to fanny packs and home office gear.

See all of Jordan McMahon's reviews

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