A helicopter circles overhead. The harsh stutter of automatic weapons crackles in the distance, but what you're most concerned about right now is the crunch of boots on gravel. Someone—friend or foe—is approaching.
A high-quality headset can help you precisely identify the location of those audio cues. Crisp, clear sound can mean the difference between life and death when you're gaming, rendering your headset as vital to your virtual well-being as any weapon.
We put five headsets—the Logitech G430, the Ozone Rage ST, the Astro A40 with MixAmp Pro (2013 edition), the SteelSeries Flux In-Ear Pro, and the SteelSeries Siberia Elites—over our ears and under the gun to evaluate their comfort and quality. Each headset is dedicated to making games an immersive experience and giving the user a leg up on rival gamers. Read the full reviews to see which ones are worth strapping to your noggin.
When choosing a gaming headset, the crucial consideration is long-lasting comfort for marathon gaming sessions. Superb sound quality doesn’t matter if you can’t stand to have the contraption on your head for more than an hour. Headphones need to be light and ergonomically cushioned, and they need to sit on your head without irritation as you game the night away.
Using your headset in the heat of battle to communicate with teammates and to get a read on the direction of incoming fire can help turn a chaotic warzone into an organized assault. Shoddy speakers and muffled mics won’t get the job done.
Most high-end headsets connect via your PC's USB port and come with device drivers for delivering virtual surround sound. USB models are practically immune to electrical noise emanating from the inside a PC, because the audio signal remains in the digital domain until it reaches the headset, where it's converted to analog. If you have a high-end sound card installed, you might get better quality with an analog setup (if the headphones are up to snuff, that is).
Once you've determined that the headset fits well and delivers good sound, look for features that make it easier to use. Inline controls allow you to adjust or mute the volume and perform other basic tasks right from the headset.
At the high end of the market, you'll find features such as swappable attachments and equalizers that render the headset suitable for different listening environments: gaming at your desk, listening to music on the go, or watching a movie on the couch.