Best Gaming Headsets 2020: Headphones For PC, Video Games, E-Sports - Rolling Stone
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The Best Gaming Headsets to Upgrade Your Gameplay

The best headsets for gaming, from a basic set of cups, to a premium package used by E-Sport pros

SteelSeries Arctis Pro High Fidelity Gaming Headset

Courtesy Amazon

Amazon

Products featured are independently selected by our editorial team and we may earn a commission from purchases made from our links; the retailer may also receive certain auditable data for accounting purposes.

A good gaming headset is one of the most important accessories you can use to improve your setup, and is a necessity for playing online. The right headset will allow you to fully immerse yourself in the game you’re playing, and give you the ability to play all day and night without disturbing anyone you live with.

If you’re ready to upgrade your gaming experience, we’ve rounded up some well-reviewed pairs of gaming headsets, from a solid, basic set of cups, to a premium package used by E-Sport pros.

What You Need to Know Before Buying a Gaming Headset

There are many factors to consider when choosing the right gaming headset for you; below are the most important ones, which we considered while we were researching this list.

Console compatibility: All three major video game consoles (Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4) support headsets. But, not all headsets are cross-compatible, meaning you may need an additional dongle or specific version to work with your console of choice. We prioritized headsets that work across consoles for the sake of simplicity.

Wired or wireless: Wireless headphones are the future of casual music listening, but you’ll actually want a wired headset when playing games. Bluetooth headphones all suffer from latency, a slight delay from when you hit the play button on a song, and when you hear it. Gamers want as little latency as possible when playing games because even a few milliseconds of audio delay gives their competitors an advantage.

Headphone style: Headphones come in three basic styles: in-ear, on-ear, and over-the-ear; every headset on this list falls into that last category because it provides the greatest level of immersion when you’re playing a game.

Surround sound: Some high-end headsets use a combination of speaker placement and software to simulate a surround sound system. The effect works better than you’d expect, and can be critical if you’re playing first person shooter games, which require you to know the exact position of your opponents at all times.

Microphone: Part of the online gaming experience is coordinating with the other players on your team. We made sure all of the headphones in our guide had a built-in microphone, so you don’t have to set up another accessory.

Weight: You’re going to be wearing these headphones for hours at a time, so their weight will have a big impact on your overall comfort. More advanced headphones are usually filled with extra audio components, or larger speakers, which makes them heavier, which is something to consider.

1. AmazonBasics Premium Gaming Headset

AmazonBasics Premium Gaming Headset

Courtesy Amazon

Amazon

Casual players who want a simple way to play online games with their friends should seriously consider AmazonBasics’ Premium Gaming Headset.

It’s a stereo headset that works with the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Switch, and PCs, and you can connect it to your console or computer in two ways. Game console players can connect a 3.5mm audio cable (included) from the headset directly into your system or controller. The cable has in-line audio controls, so you can adjust your game volume directly from the headset.

PC players have the option to use the mini desktop mixer Amazon bundles with its headset. The mixer lets you mute your microphone and cycle between four different audio settings: music, movie, gaming, and and what looks to be a faux surround sound mode. It also features a large volume controller, so you don’t have to use a keyboard shortcut, or TV remote. The mixer connects to your PC over USB.

Although Amazon moved a bunch of controls into its mixer, this headset comes in at 377g, which is toward the heavier end of the spectrum in this guide. A lot of that comes down to the fact that this headset is a little bulky.

Besides its weight, there’s very little to nitpick about this headset. There are a handful of small letdowns, like its lack of surround sound, plain look, and rigid microphone (you can only move it up and down), but overall this is a compelling package.

2. Razer Kraken X

Razer Kraken X

Courtesy Razer

Razer

Gamers who crave total immersion when playing will find a lot to love with Razer’s Kraken X.

It supports 7.1 surround sound (only on PCs running Windows 10), and uses a standard 3.5mm for maximum compatibility — you can use this headset on all three big consoles.

There’s no way to change this headset’s EQ settings on the fly, but Razer used 40mm drivers (the part of the headphone that produces sound; the bigger they are, the better), so anything you play or listen to should sound pretty good. You can adjust your game’s volume via a volume wheel on the headset’s left earcup.

More professional players will also appreciate the headset’s microphone, which can be precisely positioned to their liking. The mic was also designed to block out external noise, but picks up on voices very clearly.

Surround sound audio may be exclusive to PC gamers, but one of the Kraken X’s best features is available to everyone: its light weight. This is an important factor for players who enter tournaments, or are partial to all-night gaming sessions. At 250 grams, it’s the lightest headset in our guide.

If you’re a PC gamer who wants surround sound gaming without investing in a bunch of speakers, or a console gamer who prioritizes comfort, this headset is an excellent choice.

Want to upgrade to something a little more luxe? Razer just introduced its brand new, active noise-cancelling Opus over-ear headphones, designed for both gameplay and wireless music listening. These cushy, THX-certified cups deliver big, high-fidelity sound for gamers and audiophiles alike. Purchase: $199.99 at Amazon

3. HyperX Cloud II Gaming Headset

HyperX Cloud II Gaming Headset

Courtesy HyperX

HyperX

The HyperX Cloud II is the official gaming headset of Intel Extreme Masters, a professional e-sports team who compete in international tournaments.

This headset caters to the pros by being stuffed with key features, like 7.1 surround sound audio (PC and PlayStation 4 only; Xbox One owners need an adapter to use the headset), and an adjustable, noise-cancelling microphone certified by TeamSpeak, the premier chat client for online gamers.

It features large, 53mm drivers for excellent audio quality, and a technology called echo cancelling, which reduces the amount of ambient sound picked up by the microphone to minimize distractions. HyperX bundled this headset with an audio control box, which lets you enable or disable the 7.1 surround sound setting, or change your volume.

This level of audio quality and sound technology are necessary for professional play, but casual gamers will appreciate them, too. Unfortunately this technology does come at the cost of added weight.

At 317 grams it’s not the heaviest headset on this list, but you’ll probably start to notice it more as your game session draws on. If you’re the type of person who plays in shorter bursts, this problem won’t be an issue.

4. SteelSeries Arctis Pro High Fidelity Gaming Headset

SteelSeries Arctis Pro High Fidelity Gaming Headset

Courtesy Amazon

Amazon

If you’re a serious gamer looking for a premium headset that rivals those seen on professional E-Sports players, you’ll want to pick up the Arctis Pro High Fidelity Headset from SteelSeries.

It won’t work with game consoles, but the Arctis Pro can connect to your computer or console via a 3.5mm audio cable, or SteelSeries’ “ChatMix Dial,” which connects to your computer over USB lets you control the volume of your game and microphone.

Speaking of, the retractable, bidirectional microphone on this headset is constructed to only pick up your voice. This is a hardware feature, so no latency is introduced from software noise cancelling.

SteelSeries didn’t skimp out when it comes to audio quality — the Arctis Pro supports surround sound created by DTS, the company who helped pioneer the format, and worked on films like Jurassic Park. It features 40mm drivers that can reproduce frequencies up to 40,000Hz — double what most headsets are capable of.

Game consoles cannot take advantage of the surround sound features or “ChatMix Dial,” but you’ll will notice the improved audio fidelity. PC gamers will need to download the accompanying SteelSeries Engine software to customize the headset’s audio settings, from EQ, to RGB lighting, to surround sound.

The Arctis Pro is the best sounding and most capable headset in our guide, but at 425g it’s by far the heaviest.

At nearly a pound, you’ll definitely notice it on your head. That said, the reason it’s so heavy is because it’s packed with audio hardware that will help you enjoy every second of gameplay. It’s a fair tradeoff, but one you should be aware of.

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