Updated: We've added the SteelSeries Arctis to our shortlist of the best gaming headsets you can buy today.
No PC gamer worth their kill/death ratio would skimp on a decent headset. Arguably more important than a mechanical gaming keyboard or mouse, a worthy pair of cans make the difference between guessing where enemies are and hunting them down like a sonically-enhanced ninja.
Pick the right pair and you'll hear the sound of bullets envelop your ears while explosions rock your eardrums, and dialogue in games takes on a new level of clarity.
Whether you need a USB or 3.5mm headset, a surround sound or stereo pair, or simply one to communicate with friends online, we've picked out the very best PC gaming headsets for your needs.
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Sometimes you're prepared to pay a premium for a PC gaming accessory that does the lot, and in the headset category that's the Siberia 840. Following on from the already impressive Siberia 800 (and the H Wireless before that from 2014), the upgraded Sibera 840 now works with Bluetooth and is lag-free within games. It also supports SteelSeries Engine 3 - a gorgeous and user-friendly app that lets you manage and tweak every element of the Siberia 840 – from profiles to equalizer settings and what to show on the OLED display on the side of the accompanying base unit.
All of that is, of course, secondary to the Siberia 840's sound qualities which are nothing less than sublime. Activating Dolby 7.1 surround sound is like dropping you into the game. Enemies' footsteps can be picked out across a room including behind you, leading to some heart-in-mouth moments in shooters like DOOM.
If you're more interested in the sounds coming out of your gaming headset, rather than glowing LEDs, macro keys and other nonessential extras, then the V-MODA Crossfade Wireless is the headset for you. These stylish cans are a treat for the ears, emitting booming sound that's bass-heavy with fantastically crisp treble at the other end. Whether you're being rocked by explosions in Battlefield or can hear the roar of the crowd in Fifa, they bring games to life and are equally suited to listening to music; You'll be able to pick out parts of your favorite tracks that you never previously thought existed.
Stepping out of the soundscape for a moment, the V-MODA Crossfade Wireless feature comfortable memory foam ear cups that don't irritate the ears even after hours of use, and you'll get around 12 hours out of its battery life when connected via Bluetooth. This headset's rugged build quality, funky travel case and optional USB connectivity add up to make it one of the best headsets on the market.
Read the full review: V-MODA Crossfade Wireless
Unlike some of its competitors, SteelSeries stresses subtlety in its headset designs. The Arctis continues this trend by flaunting sound quality and comfort over gaudy appearances.
When you pop an Arctis on your head, the goal is for your audience to see a professional environment rather than, say, a Dorito stain on your chair. The customizable lighting, however, gives you plenty of wiggle room, though, if the monochrome look isn’t your thing.
The SteelSeries Arctis comes in three distinct flavors: Arctis 3, Arctis 5 and Arctis 7, each one more expensive than the last. The Arctis 3 is pretty analog protocol while the 5 ships with an external digital-to-analog converter (DAC) and the Arctis 7 is wireless with 2.4GHz connectivity. Each model comes with digital audio control built-in, with an app available for those looking to take this one step further.
The only drawback, then, is a less-than-attractive suspension headband.
Looking like something straight out of Quake 2, Asus' Strix 7.1 wireless gaming headset immediately caught our eye thanks to its large black-and-orange ear cups that are decked in a circular pattern resembling an owl's eye. Those oversized ear cups makes them comfortable to wear for extended periods but there's no RGB lighting on them, which on the plus side provides up to 10 hours of continuous gameplay using 2.4GHz wireless to connect.
Asus claims that it provides lower latency than Bluetooth, and while it's difficult to verify that, bullets whizzing past our head in-game synched up pretty well thanks to virtual 7.1 surround sound being blasted into our ears from all directions. Asus' Sonic Studio software provides an easy method of tweaking sound settings, and we found cranking up the (already sufficient) bass in the app's equalizer particularly satisfying for both gaming and listening to music.
Aimed at PC and console gamers, using Turtle Beach's Elite Pro feels like sitting down at a command station and gearing up for war. This headset oozes gaming appeal, right down to the subtle orange ruler-type markings on the headset's automatically adjusting headband. It's a funky piece of kit that's reassuringly chunky while remaining supremely comfortable at all times thanks to its gel-infused Aerofit ear cushions. Most importantly, they sound great in the heat of battle. That's down to Turtle Beach's 50mm NanoClear drivers, which do an especially great job of bringing you into the heart of the action in shooters.
If you're particularly hardcore, you might want to shell out for the Tactical Audio Controller. At $199 (around £149) it's not cheap, but it grants an intuitive and fun of adjusting settings such as the game/chat mix, your own microphone level, in-game sounds, and there's also a mute button to cut game sound out completely. It also lets you chop and change between four surround modes (Game, Music, Movie and off), which is a lot easier than fiddling around with controls on the headset itself.
Quick and easy to setup using an inconspicuous wireless USB receiver that stores inside the headset for transportation, the Razer ManO'War is a user-friendly unit that's primed for surround-sound gaming. Sure, it's a little chunkier than most other headsets, but two soft leatherette ear cups make it comfortable to wear for extended periods. They're easy on the eye too thanks to customizable Chroma RGB backlighting configured through Razer's Synapse software.
Though delivered through software, the ManO'War's 7.1 channel virtual surround sound does a fine job of ramping up immersion in-game. Doom's Imps are no longer somewhere around you – they're breathing down your neck. The ManO'War's range can reach up to 14 meters using the supplied USB extender, and its battery life is capable of stretching to just as many hours.
Read the full review: Razer ManO'War
Arguably one of the most affordable gaming headsets available today, the HyperX Cloud Stinger is designed to give players eSports quality audio at a bargain. While there isn't much to write home about with the red on black plastic design of the headset, the stereo sound is superb. It also feels comfortable to wear for extended play sessions thanks to a set of memory foam earcups. Although this isn't the ultimate gaming headset, it's a great starting point if you're trying to game on a budget.
Logitech's flagship gaming headset packs in plenty of bells and whistles, the most useful being its cup-mounted G-keys that provide handy shortcuts to performing actions in-game. In terms of design, The G933 is certainly one of the snazziest headsets around and oozes gamer appeal, and if you're fed up of round ear-cups on headsets then you'll appreciate its large and comfortable ear-shaped ones. Logitech has ran a multi-colored lighting strip all the way down the cup, rather than placing a flashing logo on the side, which in our eyes is more appealing than the small glowing areas on Corsair's and Razer's flagship headsets. On the negative side, this cuts down battery life to around 10 hours. Turning off the flashing goodness will help you eke out a few more,
If you're looking for a pair of 7.1 surround sound cans with RGB lighting that won't break the bank, Corsair's latest entry should be high up your list. Its excellent 40-meter wireless range means you can go for a wander without your team-mates' chatter cutting off, and the Void is capable of emitting fist-pumping bass that's powerful without muddying the mix. You can configure its lighting colors using Corsair's intuitive software and even make it dance in tandem with the company's K65 or K70 mechanical keyboards. Unfortunately, there isn't any way for adjusting the fold-down mic so its clarity often suffers, but it doesn't put us off what is a solid and affordable option for surround sound gaming.
Here we have a no-frills headset that offers build quality that comes close to pairs that cost almost twice the price. You may have already come across Kingston's HyperX Cloud Revolver headset. Used by a number of eSports teams, its large interchangeable over-the-ear memory foam cups help block out unwanted noise, and the retractable mic allows clear and distortion-free communication with team-mates.
Despite its affordable nature, the Cloud Revolver is ready to rock. Its 53mm drivers have been tweaked to blast out punchy mid-range tones and pounding bass that's best described as in-your-face. Subtle they ain't. There's no surround sound support or RGB lighting to be found here, and you'll have to reach for the Cloud Revolver's braided cable to get to its in-line volume and mic controls. If those factors don't bother you then this value-focused headset comes highly recommended.