The Best Gaming Headsets of 2021
COMFORT AND CLEAR SOUND IS ESSENTIAL
Gaming headsets come in different shapes and sizes, some specialised for gaming, some for long use or music and some are a good mix for all. There are physical and software features that become important when selecting a headset, and you should look for not only for the basic requirements that make a gaming headset great, but also be sure to prioritise what actually matters to you, over a feature that you will probably never use.
WHAT ARE THE IMPORTANT DIFFERENCES BETWEEN HEADSETS?
There are many things to keep in mind when choosing a headset that’s right for you. If you are someone who jumps on when you can, maybe playing a little less hardcore than your super competitive friends, then you may be looking for a good all rounder at a bit of a budget. If you don’t have as much time as you’d like, but want to make the best of the previous hours you do find, it would make sense to choose a headset that helps you out and makes life as simple as possible. And for the hardcore, obviously prioritising comfort during extended use, and crystal clear surround sound audio is going to be your priority.
What technical specs are important?
Speakers will usually have either a 40mm or a 50mm driver. This is essentially the literal size of the speaker diaphragm inside the headphone ear cup. A bigger speaker will give you a fuller, richer bass sound. This is because bass sounds require larger cone movements, so a larger cone can push more air and generate a lower sound than a smaller cone is capable of doing. The difference isn’t so important for gaming, but if it is to you, or if you listen to a lot of music as well, it will be something you want to check out in our comparison table.
The microphone is an important part of the headset, but not one that differs hugely among modern gaming headsets. All of the mics on the headsets in this list are noise cancelling, meaning that they will do their best to filter out all external noises other than the users voice. These mics are usually unidirectional, meaning that they will only attempt to pick up audio from the direction in which they are pointing, which is towards the users mouth. This is important as an omnidirectional desktop microphone will pick up every bit of audio happening in the room.
Comfort is of huge importance when picking out a headset, as it’s the only piece of your gaming kit that literally sits on you. Things that will most affect comfort when using headphones are things like the material that the ear cups are made of, the head bands material, the tightness of the headset on larger heads, whether it’s too loose on smaller heads etc.
Plantronics GameCom 788
This is a headset with a USB connection, giving digital full 7.1 Dolby surround sound headphone technology . There is a button on the side of the headset that turns the surround sound on or off, lighting up blue when it’s enabled. There is a small wheel on the headset that scan scroll up or down, which will affect the computers master volume, and there is also a switch on the headset to quickly mute or un-mute the mic. The microphone is attached on the left hand side and swivels down about 170 degrees from a vertical position to sit comfortably at mouth level. The microphone itself is inside a flexible, rubber bar, and can be gently pushed closer or further away from the mouth.
The earphones on the headset can each rotate 90 degrees backwards. The idea is that the headset can sit around your neck and you can hear audio without having to have the cups over your ears. This works well but is more suited for listening to music / movies than gaming, as some of the precision in the audio can be lost. The headset itself is very comfortable and the ear pads are soft and cushioned and quite large. Each cup can slide about an inch up or down on the metal supports on either side, allowing for the headset to sit on larger or smaller heads.
Logitech G430 Surround Sound
The Logitech G430 is a full 7.1 Dolby surround headset with a digital USB connection. Meaning that it can simulate full 7.1 style surround sound within the two earphones. The headset is fairly light and slim compared to others and aims to give comfort by sitting gently instead of wrapping around the head more snugly some some headsets will do. The ear cups are very soft, with “breathable” air holes throughout. The microphone bar is very solid and durable and flips from a vertical, “tucked away” position, down to sit in front of the mouth. The cord is long and coated in a durable blue fabric that doesn’t tangle easily.
There are no volume or mute controls on the headset, as the G430 instead has a control box on the cable itself. This small box has a simple scroll wheel to alter the volume and a switch to mute or un-mute the microphone. The box isn’t huge, weighty or obstructive, but is a lightweight control panel that can hang on as a part of the cable without getting in the way or being noticeably heavy.
The Kraken headset is thick but comfortable, and can be extended on each side to suit larger head sizes, though this headset is usually not recommended for people who often find that they need especially large sized headphones, as they don’t extend a huge amount. A possible negative for some is that they might find they get very warm using this headset. It’s not a problem for lots of people, but if you getting warm or sweaty ears is a common problem, this may not be the ideal piece of kit for you.
But despite not being ideal for everyone, the Kraken is still a hugely popular headset. It has a fully retractable microphone for easy storage and travel, and the ear cups themselves will fold in slightly to pack it down even smaller. The headset has a normal 3.5mm combined mic and headphone jack and a strong, not easily twisted cable. The headset also comes with an extension cable and a microphone and headphone port splitter, that separates each connection back into two 3.5mm jacks. The Kraken is available in a variety of bright colours, giving a style option that few other headphones give.
Mad Catz F.R.E.Q 7
The F.R.E.Q 7 is a fully digital surround sound Dolby 7.1 headset. It has a very unique and rough design, typical of Mad Catz and is made from some very solid, very heavy duty components that reflect its outward appearance. But it is made largely from aluminium pieces so will not be overly heavy or uncomfortable. The microphone can easily be moved around and set in place as it is on a sturdy but bendy arm, extending from the left ear cup. The mic can also actually be completely removed if it’s not being used or is in the way. There is an on-board scroll wheel and mute button to give you simple and quick control over audio without having to tab out of games or play around with the audio settings.
Like a lot of other modern headsets, the ear cups can actually rotate 90 degrees to sit flat, and can be worn around the neck. The ear cups have soft, cushioned materials around the edges. The cord is a high quality, braided cord that runs out from the left hand ear cup and has both USB and 3.5mm connector options. Like most peripherals, there is software included that allows for precise control over EQ pre-sets.
Roccat Kave Solid 5.1
The Kave is the best of Roccats current line of gaming headsets, delivering ful, digital 5.1 surround sound audio in a comfortable gaming headset at a very competitive price. Roccat have gone out of their way to focus on both giving effective audio feedback quickly and clearly and comfort with the Kave. The ergonomic ear cups have three tiered bedded pads, designed to distribute weight evenly and absorb the force of being worn comfortably and maximise the delivery of audio. Like a lot of the best headsets nowadays, the Kave has aluminium hinges to ensure that the headset is robust as well as lightweight. The microphone is mounted on the end of a flexible arm, and can even be completely removed if necessary. There is an LED light on the end to let you know when it’s muted, so you don’t end up talking to yourself for ten minutes wondering why no one is answering you.
It is possible to set up different sound profiles on the Kave so that different levels can be set for things. This headset has a large control box part way down the cable that is designed to sit on a desk and be used be used as quick controls. It’s bigger than most control boxes and features control, microphone options and profile sliders.
Turtle Beach Ear Force Z22
There are a few things special about the Z22’s that make them unique, mostly revolving around the control box on the wire of the headset. Like the Roccat Kave, there is an extensive control module on the wire. There are the usual microphone muting and volume control options, as well as specific bass & treble sliders and mic, chat and game options. The microphone slider can change your microphone output level easily and the chat and game sliders will alter specific chat and game levels.
The headset uses a USB connection to power it and a standard 3.5mm jack to transmit audio. The microphone is on a standard bendy arm that can be positioned to your liking. It’s also possible to buy additional ear cups and audio connectors individually for very cheap via the Turtle Beach website.
SteelSeries Sibera V3
Whether you game for a half hour here and there, or you play for hours on end, SteelSeries definitely focus on comfort. This version of the V3 is lighter and softer than previous models, meaning that it’s incredibly easy to use for long periods of time. Like a few other headsets, the V3 uses slightly memory-foam padding, which keeps external noises out well and stops what you’re hearing from bleeding out into your surroundings.
The cable has been made more durable, and there is also now a mute switch for the microphone on the back of the headset. The headset and mic connections are standard dual 3.5mm audio jacks, making the V3 compatible with consoles, phones etc that use the same jacks.
The Dolby 7.1 digital PC363D headset comes with an in built 3D G4ME1 USB sound card which is connected via a standard 3.5mm headset and mic jacks. There is the option to switch between 2, 4, 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound and the ability to turn on Dolby Headphone, which is a processing tech provides a much richer 7.1 surround sound Dolby audio experience. The G4ME1 can control the base settings, but this headset has on-board volume controls. The mic is also incredibly smart, as when the fully adjustable bar is raised, the mic will automatically mute.
Sennheiser have employ their own “Eargonomic Acoustic Refinement” technology to shape the headphones in a way that delivers audio very directly to the ears, without bleeding excessive amounts out to your surroundings. The ear cups also have an “open design” which is supposed to keep your head and ears cool and comfortable when used, and by all accounts, they have succeeded completely at this. The PC363D headphones often score at least 9/10 across all categories when reviewed, and unlike many are said to be extremely comfortable and do not make you very hot during extended use. The soft material used is Sennheisers “XXL velvet ear pads”, and the headband is cushioned with the same soft material.
Logitech G35 Surround Sound
The G35 provides the full surround sound digital 7.1 Dolby audio technology common to all the best gaming headsets. The ear cups are a cool padded shiny material that provides comfort differently than some, favouring a light and comfortable fit over a full, more snug memory-foam cup. The headband comes with three different swappable pads so there is a choice between a thick, thin and contoured headband, giving more choice over finding the most comfortable fit.
The connection is USB and on the end of a relatively thick plastic covered long cable. There’s no control box on the cable as the volume up and down and mic mute buttons are all on-board the headset. The G35 also has three of Logitechs signature G-Keys on the side, which are fully programmable and can be used to make controlling chat clients or music from in-game much easier. Customisations are made using the Logitech Gaming Software, which runs all attached Logitech peripherals.
The CA-90111 could be considered fairly boring by some, but by others it’s the perfect headset. Encompassing all the regular features found in and needed from a high end gaming headset, the comfort needed for extended use and a simple mature look and feel, this headset is a surprisingly viable choice when compared to competitors, especially on price / value for money.
The ear cups use a micro-fibre memory-foam soft material to gently surround the ears and provide crystal clear audio with minimal sound leaking. These are of-course full Doly 7.1 digital headphones, providing surround sound audio. The unidirectional, noise cancelling microphone can flip up out of the way, or be gently moved into the perfect position when down.
Astro Gaming A50 Wireless
This is a 7.1 fully digital Dolby surround sound headset that delivers the highest level audio experience available. This is also a wireless headset, with a built in Astro MixAmp Pro that works with absolutely zero interference at an impressive 30 feet from the base unit. The right headset has a free spinning volume wheel and sync button. The volume wheel resets itself down to low each time the headset is turned on, as this piece of kit can go very loud . There are also onboard switches to increase chat sound and in-game sound
The microphone mutes when the boom is raised, with a slight feedback letting you know where the point is that the mic mutes at. The headset is also not as heavy as many would expect all of the wireless technology contained within would make it. It’s comfortable and doesn’t make you hot or sweaty when using it for extended periods of time. You get what you pay for with the A50’s, and you do have to pay a fair bit for it, but if you want the absolute best wireless gaming headphones, the A50’s make a good case for being just that.
HyperX Cloud II
Like a few other headsets, the HyperX Cloud II has a USB sound card audio control box that will amplify and enhance audio and voice through the 7.1 virtual surround sound speakers and noise cancelling microphone. The sound box enables toggling of the 7.1 surround sound on and off as well as volume controls for both the microphone and volume. The microphone is on a bendy arm and is completely detachable from the rest of the headset when not in use.
The ear cups are made from the highly comfortable memory foam material that you find in the highest quality gaming headphones. They even come with a range of accessories including leatherette and velour ear cushion replacements, an aeroplane adapter and a travel-mesh bag. For the price, these headphones from HyperX are a surprising contender for the best value for money headphones available.