Updated December 20, 2017: The still-laudable HyperX Cloud cedes top honors to its HyperX Cloud Alpha successor, our new best all-around gaming headset. We’ve also crowned a new best budget gaming headset. See our reasons for the these shakeups below.
The next great peripherals war is being waged over your ears. After every company on the planet put out a gaming mouse and then a mechanical keyboard, they turned their attention to headsets. So many headsets.
We know you don’t want to scroll through every single headset review when all you want is a simple answer: “What’s the best gaming headset I can buy with my hard-earned dollars?” This page holds the answers you seek, no matter what your budget is.
We’ll keep updating our recommendations as we look at new products and find stronger contenders.
Best all-around gaming headset
After three years, we’re finally changing it up. Sort of. Since 2014, our official gaming headset recommendation has been Kingston’s HyperX Cloud—the original, no surname, just Cloud. “It’s comfortable, it sounds great, and best of all, it’s relatively inexpensive,” as I wrote of its virtues.
And that still holds true. The original HyperX Cloud remains a phenomenal headset, and almost always on sale for $70-80. I highly recommend it.
HyperX finally outdid itself, though, with 2017’s HyperX Cloud Alpha, or “HyperX Cloud III,” as I’ve termed it in my head. That’s why I say we’re “sort of” shaking things up—the Alpha is, in many ways, just an upgrade to the original Cloud.
The core design hasn’t changed much, meaning the Alpha brings the same combination of durability and comfort that made me fall in love with its predecessor. There are some quality-of-life upgrades though, like removable cabling and more accessible volume and mute controls.
It sounds great, too. HyperX chalks it up to the Alpha’s dual-chamber technology, which separates bass frequencies from the mids and highs. That could be the case, or it could be a gimmick—I’ve discussed it at greater length in our review. Either way, the upshot is that the Cloud Alpha sounds as good or better than plenty of its more expensive competition, and with slightly more bass kick this time around. (Read our full review.)
The HyperX Cloud Alpha is a great headset. If its entry on the scene feels a bit less noteworthy in 2017, it’s only because three years on from the Cloud, HyperX is an established player instead of an underdog—and yet other companies still struggle to match the Clouds’ quality at the Clouds’ price. We’ll see what 2018 holds.
Best budget gaming headset
Surprisingly, the one company competing with HyperX right now in the low-end space is...Astro. Ironic, since as headset prices spiraled downwards the last few years, Astro stood strong at the top—its cheap headset, the A40, was still $150 at the low end, while its high-end wireless A50 (our pick for extravagance) came in at $300.
But for 2017 Astro unveiled the new A10, its entry-level headset. Very entry-level, with a list price of $60. That’s slightly more than our previous recommendation, the HyperX
Cloud Stinger—still a great headset too. I think $10 more for the Astro A10 is a bargain though.
There were compromises to hit that price, for sure. The A10 lifts some design inspiration from its more expensive siblings, but it’s a bit boxier, with a drab gray chassis and minimal decoration. It’s also 100 percent plastic, which doesn’t help dispel the cheap feeling.
The A10 has it where it counts though, which is to say it sounds great. We’re talking “great for a $60 headset,” of course, but still. The A10 delivers clean mids and a rich bass that comes close to mimicking the sound of Astro’s more expensive headsets and only falters in the details. Details, I might add, that most listeners probably wouldn’t even notice day-to-day. (Read our full review.)
It’s an excellent entry-level headset, and deserves your consideration—provided you can look past its bland exterior.
Best low-end wireless gaming headset
Frankly speaking, Corsair doesn’t really have any competition in this category. Most decent wireless gaming headsets will run you $150 or more. Corsair’s Void Wireless is priced at a mere $100, which leaves it on its lonesome.
But even accounting for that vacuum, it’s pretty good. Not phenomenal, mind you, but at this price you’re getting a bargain.
I wasn’t really sure what to make of the Void’s weird, diamond-shaped ear cups but after some use I’m actually pretty pleased. The Void Wireless sits a bit forward on the head, with the band resting just above your forehead. It takes some getting used to, but the end result is less tension on the jaw and more on the back of the head where it’s less noticeable. I wouldn’t say it’s as comfortable as the more traditional HyperX Cloud, but without a doubt I like it more than its predecessor, the H2100.
The on-headset controls are fairly intuitive, with a volume rocker on the bottom of the left ear, plus oversized buttons for power and mute on the side. And it’s got 16.8 million color RGB lighting, if that’s your bag.
The biggest design issue is that the Void Wireless is heavy. It’s not a problem when sitting up, but if you look down or look up the headset has a tendency to slide around. I don’t know whether it’s because of the battery or the metal-augmented construction, but your neck gets a workout with this headset.
Sound-wise, the Void Wireless still needs some work. It sounds passable, especially while gaming, but throwing on some music sets the Void Wireless’s limitations into stark relief. The low-end is muddy and distorted, and the whole range of mid-to-high-end frequencies sounds slick, like you’ve applied too much compression.
You can adjust the headset’s sound in Corsair’s software, but Corsair’s software is still a bit unwieldy. Better than last year, I think, but still not on par with Razer, SteelSeries, or Logitech. Also, some users have reported problems with firmware updates—not a great sign.
“This doesn’t sound like an incredibly positive review,” you might say. And you’re right, it’s not. The Void Wireless is not an incredible headset, as I said up top. But it is the best wireless gaming headset under $150, and given how many wires are attached to my PC at any given moment, the convenience of cheap wireless might be worth sacrificing a bit of sound quality.
Best mid-range wireless gaming headset
It’s a tough call replacing our former mid-tier wireless pick, the Logitech G933, with its sibling-successor the Logitech G533. Like, really tough. The G933 is an excellent headset, with crisp and well-balanced audio and a few nifty design features (like being able to store the USB dongle inside an earcup).
In some ways, I’d say the G933 is a better headset than the G533.
But I’m still replacing it. Why? Well, aesthetics are a huge reason. If you want an indication how Logitech’s design language has shifted in the past year or so, look no further than the G933 and G533. The G933 was all sharp angles and science fiction. The G533 on the other hand is sleek, professional, restrained. With a piano-black finish and soft curves, it looks like a headset made by Audio-Technica or Sennheiser or a more mainstream audio company—not necessarily a “gaming” headset. I like it.
The G533’s design is also functional. The microphone isn’t as hidden as I’d like, but that’s the sole flaw. The headset is lightweight, durable, and less vise-grip tight than its predecessor.
As for audio fidelity? It’s not quite equal to the G933, but the differences are minimal. The G533 lacks a bit of oomph, especially at lower volumes, and its 7.1 support is subpar. Those are hardly reasons to stay away, though—most people will run the headset loud enough to counteract the headset’s lack of presence, and virtual 7.1 is (in my opinion) pretty much always bad. The G533 is worse than the average, but the average is still something I choose to avoid day-to-day.
In any case, the G933 is still being sold and is a perfectly good choice for some, especially if you want console support. The G533 is PC-only, while the G933 can be attached by 3.5mm cable to other devices. And if you value comfort over audio fidelity, take a look at the SteelSeries Arctis 7 too—another great choice.
The G533 is our official mid-tier wireless recommendation though, for the time being.
Best extravagant gaming headset
After a new generation of the Astro A50 and Siberia 800 released in 2016, I thought we might finally break the tie that’s dominated our splurge headset pick for the past few years.
But once again, there’s no clear winner at that $300+ price—though Astro certainly made some strides toward edging out SteelSeries.
The new A50’s biggest improvement is the battery. The new model overcomes a long-running weak spot and packs in 12 to 15 hours of life—enough to get you through even a long day of gaming. Better yet, it features gyroscopes in the ears that allow it to detect whether you’ve set it down. It automatically shuts off ten seconds later if so, and then turns back and connects to your PC on once you pick it back up. Its base station also serves as a charger, a nice mix of function and beauty.
What keeps it from being the stand-out winner are several annoyances. For starters, the A50 uses the 5GHz band, which means the range isn’t great. Even sitting at my computer, I occasionally noticed interference. A built-in battery also means you’re stuck attaching it to your PC with a MicroUSB cable while you play, if you somehow forgot to charge it. And the audio, while quite good and superior to the Siberia 800, still is easily outdone by $300 headphones.
Accordingly, the Siberia 800 retains its spot on this list. Though the Astro A50 sounds better and is more comfortable, this headset’s been a favorite of mine for a while—mostly because of its battery system. Rather than charging the battery in the headset, the Siberia 800 instead allows you to swap between two removable packs. One can power the headset for up to 20 hours while the other charges in the side of the base station. There’s literally no way you can run out of battery in the middle of gaming.
The base station is also functional, allowing you to adjust EQ, chat mix, and other audio tweaks on the fly with a simple OLED display. No software’s needed. It’s also much smaller than Astro’s base station, which takes up a hefty portion of your desk. The headset range is better with the Siberia 800, too, since it uses the 2.4GHz band, which has better penetration.
One note: Personally I’d stick with the 800 model, since it’s about $150 cheaper. The Siberia 840’s main difference is Bluetooth support, which doesn’t seem worth it for that much of a jump in price.
Overall, the A50 leads in comfort and sound, while the Siberia 800 gets the edge in ease of use and range, plus the aforementioned charging method. The scales are starting to tip in Astro’s favor, but for now there’s not enough to make a definitive call in either direction.
How we tested
We test headsets over the course of a few weeks, and sometimes longer. Much longer, in some cases—I’ve been using a pair of Astro A50s as daily drivers for years now, and stand by their quality and durability. Our rankings are based on the following criteria:
Design/comfort: Obviously you want a headset that fits well without snapping in half the first time you put it on. Headsets are tested with our vigorous and ultra-scientific “I bent it a lot and saw if it seemed durable” method, as well as against the internationally recognized “I wore this for eight hours and it didn’t give me a headache or make my ears feel like sandpaper” baseline.
Sound: There will always be the people who say, “Why buy a gaming headset when you can buy a decent pair of headphones and a standalone microphone?” And those people are right, but they’re sort of missing the point. There’s something to be said about a product that performs just as well when watching movies/listening to music as it does while playing games. After all, I assume most people want one pair of headphones for their PC, not multiple pairs for different tasks.
With that in mind, we test headsets at PCWorld in various games (Battlefield 4, Rainbow Six Siege) but also listening to music and watching videos, to make sure you’re getting a decent all-around experience. These aren’t necessarily studio-quality headphones, but that doesn’t mean it should sound like all-bass-all-the-time.
Price: How much are you willing to spend on a gaming headset? That’s a purely subjective question, but it’s something we try to keep in mind. Our best all-around option is a bargain at $80, but if you want to throw $300 at Astro for a pair of A50s we’re not going to stop you.
All of our headset reviews
Want to see what else we’ve reviewed? We’ll keep updating this on a regular basis, so be sure to come back to see new products that we’ve put through their paces.