Enjoy advanced microphone technology, surround sound and long battery life (iStock/The Independent)
Whether you’re a hardcore, professional gamer or a relative noob, at some point you’re going to think about sound quality. This won’t just be for your own enjoyment, but for your teammates and the people that you live with that have to listen to the background music, explosions and, possibly, yelling.
Gaming headsets, which combine headphones and a microphone, are the obvious, all-in-one solution. But when choosing which gaming headset is right for you, there are several things to consider.
First and foremost is: what kind of gamer are you? Different games have different needs. Players of first-person shooter (FPS) or battle royale games need to know exactly where their enemies are and where the action is coming from. In which case, you will want to look for something with surround sound.
If it’s multiplayer, you’ll want a high-quality microphone to communicate clearly with your team… or spurn your enemies. If you’re a solo gamer more attuned to roaming rich, expansive roleplay game (RPG) worlds, quality atmospheric sounds are going to be more important to you, rather than a mic, and so on.
The next thing to consider is platform. A 3.5mm connection will work across most devices but a USB connection will result in a cleaner, stronger signal and open up a host of other, more in-depth customisations, especially on PC. Different headsets are designed for different devices, so while most are versatile, it’s best to go with the one tailored to your platform.
You’ll want to choose between wired and wireless. There’s little discernible difference in audio quality these days, but the former is usually better value while the latter offers extra flexibility. Comfort is also key. Pay attention to the headband, ear cups, material and weight – build quality should be one of your biggest priorities.
And finally, the sound. Stereo, virtual surround and three-dimensional are terms you’ll hear a lot when it comes to gaming headsets. There are nuances between them and they’re suitable for different types of games and devices, so pick the one that best suits your needs. Oh and one last thing: make sure it looks damn cool.
The best gaming headsets for 2021 are:
Razer Blackshark V2 and USB soundcard
Best: Under £100
- Compatibility: PC, Mac, Xbox, PlayStation, Switch, mobile
- Wireless: No
- Weight: 262g
- Connectivity: 3.5mm audio, USB
- Features: THX spatial audio, cardioid mic,
Fans of the original Blackshark headset, released by Razer in 2012, should get excited about the remastered V2, which was released just last month. The V2 takes everything its predecessor mastered – amazing audio, superior mic clarity, supreme sound isolation, premium comfort – and enhances it, truly making this the gamer’s gaming headset.
For the audiophiles, the V2 offers a huge depth of customisation, from the 50mm drivers that allow individual tuning for highs, mids and lows to the soundcard and advanced mic controls that finetune the pick-up area and eliminate background noise so that you can deliver your burns loud and clear.
But the real USP is undoubtedly the superior features that come with Razer’s partnership with THX – the movie-standard audio company of George Lucas fame. Not only does this deliver a lifelike and realistic 360 degrees of sound, but you are able to create “profiles” for your favourite games. You can adjust the settings to your liking, down to the finest detail, to ensure you are able to pinpoint and track your enemies – allowing you to turn up softer sounds without overpowering the louder ones, like picking up footsteps during a chaotic firefight – while the surround sound ensures you won’t lose any of the immersive environment sounds. In layman terms, you hear sounds exactly where you’d expect to hear them.
That’s not to say this isn’t a great headset whether you’re on your 14th hour of Apex (which they truly are built for), roaming a vast RPG or simply listening to music or watching a video – the audio quality is top notch. And if that doesn’t sell it to you, the lightweight design (the whole thing comes in at just 240g) and memory foam cushions suit both professional esport players who play for long periods of time as well as on-the-go audiophiles.
The V2 is the brother of the V2 X (£49.99, Amazon.co.uk), that, with much of the same features bar the soundcard and THX spatial audio, is at two-thirds of the price, making for a great entry headset.
Logitech pro X
Best: For PC gaming
- Compatibility: PC, Xbox, PlayStation
- Battery life: 20 hours
- Wireless: Yes, includes cable
- Weight: 320g
- Connectivity: Bluetooth, 3,5mm audio
- Features: 7.1 surround sound, custom EQ profiles
With memory foam ear pads and a durable steel and aluminium frame, all encased in soft leatherette, there’s a distinctly premium feel to this pair. In our opinion, this is the best-looking headset on this list. Designed with and for the world’s top esports professionals, this gaming headset strikes a near-perfect balance between durability, comfort and next-level audio.
The lightweight design is comfortable enough to be worn for hours; the PRO-G 50mm precision drivers and 7.1 channel surround sound build an incredibly real and rich audio environment; while microphone technology brings studio-quality vocal communication in-game.
But the biggest pro of the set is all of these features are completely customisable through the “G HUB gaming software”, available for PC gamers. Not only can you create your own individual game profiles or finetune the settings to your personal preference, but there’s a huge database of downloadable profiles created by fellow players, popular streamers and gaming pros.
You can search by game or activity, whether you want to up the bass while listening to music or find the best configurations for an all-out PVP battle, there’s something for every scenario. This is a cool feature some of its closest competitors miss out on.
All this makes for a high quality bit of gear that is sure to give gamers of all abilities the competitive edge needed to win, or just a nice-looking, great-sounding headset whatever the activity.
Steelseries arctis 1 wireless
- Compatibility: PC, PS4, PS5, Nintendo Switch, Android
- Battery life: 20 hours
- Wireless: Yes, includes cable
- Weight: 252g
- Connectivity: Bluetooth, 3.5mm audio
- Features: Noise-cancelling, Discord certified detachable mic
If its countless industry testimonials are anything to go by, this set is a pretty impressive piece of near-universal kit. Its indisputable USP is the USB-C dongle, which should excite Nintendo switch gamers the most, as well as gamers on just about every other platform thanks to the 3.5mm cable that comes with it (apart from Apple users still stuck with a lightning connector).
We found that the pair outmatched the range of any of the other wireless options on this list, allowing the wearer to travel between rooms without any audio interruption.
Building on the success of the arctis 7 (£145.61, Amazon.co.uk) and arctis Pro (£299.48, Amazon.co.uk), and with the same excellent speaker drivers, the arctis 1 offers more accurate sound than other sets in the same price bracket, making them a great choice for both gaming and music. The Discord-certified detachable mic makes the arctis 1 even more portable and versatile, while delivering clear and natural-sounding audio.
It’s also compatible with Steelseries’ “engine software”, though as this is a stereo headset without surround sound, there’s not much customisation available beyond standard equalisation settings and a few custom presets. Oh, and this seems to be the only way to check the remaining battery life.
The airweave pads – which are slightly too shallow, allowing our ears to touch the fabric of the speakers – don’t do as good a job as leatherette at blocking out exterior sounds, but at 254g, as well as the extremely slim design and totally adjustable headband, comfort and durability trumps any issues this might bring.
On price, sound quality and multi-platform versatility, the pair is as good, if not better, than competitors on the higher end of the price bracket. And if you want both a game – and street-ready pair of headphones (because who wants a different pair for everything) with no gimmicks, these are easily one of the best options out there.
Razer kraken X
Best: On a budget
- Compatibility: PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox one, Xbox series x/s
- Wireless: No
- Weight: 250g
- Connectivity: 3.5mm audio
- Features: 7.1 surround sound, cardioid mic, Discord certified
Another infallible front-runner from Razer is the Kraken X. Like its cousin the Blackshark (£76.99, Amazon.co.uk), the Kraken is designed with ergonomic, ultra-light comfort in mind. At just 250g, you can sit and play for hours without ever feeling like you’ve got a headset on. There are even inbuilt, hidden grooves to eliminate pressure from glasses.
The plastic structure feels a little less high quality than the Blackshark’s wire frame and padded headband, but the Kraken enjoys much of the same features: from the 7.1 surround sound that allows you to pinpoint the exact direction of the action and the custom-tuned 40mm drivers that capture everything from thundering explosions to subtle footsteps, to the flexible and bendable cardioid mic that provides crystal clear communication with your team (or your enemies) and cuts out noise from the back and sides.
All these features are confirmed with a stamp of approval from Discord. And with a 3.5mm audio jack, the set is compatible with most devices (though you may need to purchase an adapter for Xbox one separately).
HyperX cloud alpha S
Best: For PS4
- Compatibility: PC and PS4
- Wireless: No
- Weight: 321g
- Connectivity: 3.5mm audio
- Features: Virtual 7.1 surround sound, game/chat volume mixer
HyperX devices have long been loved by pro and semi-regular gamers, and for good reason – the cloud alpha S really is no exception. Those familiar with the groundbreaking Cloud Alpha (basically the best gaming headset ever for its price, sound quality and comfort) will recognise the signature HyperX design, with a durable aluminium frame and interchangeable leatherette/fabric cushions sure to endure the rigours of daily gaming.
The S adds virtual 7.2 surround sound, a removable inline control box for volume control and chat/audio balance, and bass sliders on each earpiece… not to mention the 50 per cent price bump. For casual gamers, this might not seem enough bang for your buck, particularly if you already own and love the cloud alpha, but if this is your first time and you’re looking for a brand new headset with quality audio, impactful surround sound and a comfortable and stylish design, it’s a no-brainer.
There isn’t the option for tweaking the settings or creating game profiles, as in some of its competitors, but you can trust HyperX to deliver an all-round great sound quality that covers all the game audio basics – enemy footsteps, approaching vehicles and gunfire.
At a breezy 320g, it’s not the lightest rig on the market but it makes up for it in the design, which keeps pressure and weight off the skull and ears, even after hours of use.
The removable inline control box is handy, as the cable is simply too long, and the addition of the game-chat balance buttons is an added bonus, though takes some getting used to. We tried the blue on black colourway, which is striking, but the recently released Blackout is the best option for something sleek but subtle.
Best: For Xbox one
- Compatibility: PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox one, Xbox series x
- Wireless: No
- Weight: 350g
- Connectivity: 3.5mm audio
- Features: 53mm drivers, memory foam ear cups
For the price, it’s hard to find a better gaming headset than this pair. An esports mainstay for years, Fnatic has used its expertise to venture into the gaming audio market to produce a stripped-back headset focused solely on quality and consistent mic and audio output. The set delivers directional audio with great clarity, crystal clear comms and comfort for those long grinds (except, perhaps, if you wear glasses).
There are no bells and whistles here: this is an analogue stereo headset with no surround sound. While that’s not essential for any genre and the average casual gamer will get along just fine, particularly in solo RPGs, surround sound can add a competitive edge during multiplayer FPS battles that simply can’t be denied. However, this is only an issue when playing on PC.
That said, you won’t find any of the usual audio bugbears. Designated frequency chambers separate the bass from the mids and highs, preventing the distortion of important sound frequencies. What does this actually mean? Explosions won’t blow your ears off or drown out enemy footsteps or gunfire.
This also makes the pair a great option for most music genres, though music on the more electronic side would benefit from less highs and more bass.
The thick memory foam earpads do a great job of blocking out indoor noise, and the detachable microphone is one of the most accurate out there. So if you’re after something affordable that covers the basics and you don’t need any of the extra fancy stuff, this rock solid stereo gaming headset is the one for you.
Turtle Beach elite atlas aero
Best: Battery life
- Compatibility: Windows, Mac (wired only on Xbox, PlayStation and Switch)
- Battery life: 30 hours
- Wireless: Yes, include cable
- Weight: 816g
- Connectivity: Bluetooth, 3.5mm audio
- Features: Glasses friendly, noise-cancelling microphone
On sound quality alone, it’s hard to beat this pair. While probably more familiar to console gamers, Turtle Beach’s first foray into gaming peripherals for PC is not a bad start. For one of the only wireless sets on this list, it doesn’t shirk on audio duties. This is where a couple of the sets biggest selling points come in.
For esports players, you can switch on “superhuman hearing” with a handy little button on the left ear, which will amplify the most important sounds in competitive gaming, like footsteps or directional gunfire.
This isn’t just great for games like Overwatch, but in solo RPGs it will isolate other sounds to help put the gamer right “inside” the world. Single-player gamers will also benefit from “wave NX 3D audio”, which, as it says on the tin, adds a “3D effect” to games, meaning you can return to some of your best-loved, big-world games and have a totally different experience.
As well as these features, gamers can also configure their own settings using the control studio, which is an extensive bit of software available for the elite atlas aero as well as the Atlas edge. Here you can tweak equalisation, reprogram buttons, toggle surround sound and build profiles for individual games. However, the software suffers from almost too many options – audiophiles will feel at home but for casual gamers, few, if any, tweaks are needed for what is already a great all-round configuration.
While not as comfortable as some of the others on this list – the fully enclosed ear pads offer great noise cancellation, but the overall fit is tight – the Elite Atlas Aero certainly looks the part. With an angular design and external speaker grills, this is very much a gaming headset, which may not suit those looking for something more versatile.
As mentioned, there are some controls for toggling volume, the mic and superhuman hearing on the headset itself, which is a bonus often overlooked by other brands. There’s also the added benefit of it being foldable.
With crystal clear audio, 30 hours of battery life and some pretty nifty features, Turtle Beach certainly delivers on its “hear everything” slogan. It will be up to you to “defeat everyone”, though.
Epos Sennheiser GSP 670
Best: For gaming and listening to music
- Compatibility: PS4, PS5, PC, iPhone, Android
- Battery life: 16 hours
- Wireless: Yes
- Weight: 398g
- Connectivity: Bluetooth, no wired support
- Features: Intelligent battery management, 7.1 surround sound
Another wireless offering – and a pretty good one to boot – is the GSP 670 from audio geniuses EPOS | Sennheiser. At almost 400g and selling for £279, this isn’t just one of the heaviest set on this list, but also the most expensive. Whether you get your money’s worth with them really depends on what you’re after.
Despite the weight, the headband offers a degree of adjustability not seen in other models and makes all the difference when it comes to comfort and wear – it’s a tight fit but after hours of gaming it was still comfortable.
The combination of fabric and leather ear pads create a tight seal around the ears, providing simply excellent isolation with little overheating. There’s also a set of onboard controls, including separate dials for chat and main volume and a button for toggling surround sound, that, though they are a bit unusual and fiddly, are solidly useful.
Battery life comes in at a reasonable 16 hours, the gaming suite app to adjust the settings is pretty straightforward and it’s the only set on this list capable of connecting to a phone via Bluetooth. Additionally, the GSP 670 ticks all the boxes for gaming audio, but is actually a stellar option if you want a headset for electronic music, as the bass is booming but doesn’t overpower the mids and highs. The microphone is unbendable and non-removable, so something to bear in mind, but it’s sensitive and more than capable of cleanly capturing your voice.
Given its price point, you might expect more from these, but that shouldn’t be a reason to knock it. It delivers on audio quality, comfort and cool features, and is certainly a great option for gamers looking to gear up.
Gaming headset FAQs
How to choose the best gaming headset
Deciding which gaming headset is best for you comes down to a few factors. For console gaming you’re unlikely to have an external USB microphone, so choose a headset with a decent detachable microphone arm and sound-isolating ear pads to prevent reverb in the voice chat.
Comfort is important, so don’t skimp on quality when it comes to the materials of the cushioned pads. If you’re a glasses wearer, find a headset that can be moulded around the arms of your glasses so that they don’t leak sound and apply pressure that can become painful during long play sessions.
Most gaming headsets are basically compatible with all consoles, while some are designed to fully integrate with all of the features of the PS5 and Xbox series x. Push-to-talk, surround sound and 3D audio might be unavailable on certain headsets.
Are expensive gaming headsets worth it?
While more premium designs often have an advantage when it comes to quality, design, and comfort, especially if you’re going to be wearing a pair for long periods of time. But that doesn’t mean budget-friendly styles aren’t as good, you can still find good quality foam cushions without spending hundreds of pounds.
Brands we’ve been impressed with include Razer and Fnatic, which offer varying models under £100 that were comfortable during long gameplay.
What headsets do pro gamers use?
Swedish YouTuber Pewdiepie reportedly uses the Razer kraken X headphones (£40.89 Amazon.co.uk) while online personality Miniminter opts for the Beyerdynamic DT 990 pro headset (£111, Amazon.co.uk) and KSI has been seen playing with the Turtle Beach ear force DX11 headset, which is currently sold out but you can sign up with your email on Amazon to be notified when it’s back in stock.
Elsewhere American professional Call of Duty player, Scump, often uses the Corsair virtuoso RGB wireless 7.1 gaming headset (£149, Currys.co.uk)
The verdict: Gaming headsets
From its barely-there comfort to the (literally) cinematic sound and in-depth customisation, the blackshark V2 from Razer is the undeniable choice for gamers of all types.
Audiophiles will fall in love with the Logitech pro X, as much for its high quality audio and software modifications as its sleek aesthetic. Meanwhile, the Steelseries arctis 1 is a fantastic wireless option that cannot be beaten on price, sound quality and multiple connections.
More headset recommendations
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