The arrival of 2.4GHz wireless technology has made wireless gaming headsets more reliable than ever before, the best of which can now rival their wired counterparts when it comes to connection latency and sound quality. But no two wireless gaming headsets are made the same. Manufacturers cater to all tastes and budgets, so there are myriad different styles, designs, and hardware inclusions that can vary how they look, feel, and sound.
To hardcore gamers, gaming headsets have become another tool that helps them get an edge over competitors, hence personalization is a big consideration. Here players look for headsets with the best spatial audio, and software support to fine tune audio settings like EQ and to tailor-make presets for specific games.
Suffice to say, considering all the ins and outs of a particular headset can be a little daunting. To simplify things, our PCWorld reviewers have done the legwork by getting hands-on with each device. While we review everything that comes our way—the good, the bad, and the ugly—only those that have excelled in our testing make it into our list below. These headsets strike a balance between performance and usability, placing them in a league above the rest.
For a rundown on how we test wireless gaming headsets and for buying advice, read on below our recommendations.
1. Astro A50 – Best overall wireless gaming headset / Best premium option
Charging cradle is smaller and still very unique
Switches to the more reliable 2.4GHz band (finally)
Comfortable and durable
Middling battery life
Poor noise isolation
Although it doesn’t come cheap, the Astro A50 packs in more gamer convenience than most similarly priced gaming headsets. In our PCWorld hands-on review we considered the A50’s onboard controls, which include an easy-to-locate volume wheel and a chat/game channel mixer, to be best in class. The mixer allows you to easily switch between your game audio and chat programs in an instant.
As well as a refined audio profile, the A50 features a sleek and convenient charging cradle that displays your chosen EQ profile and your selected audio mode—Dolby or stereo. The headset uses the current best-standard 2.4GHz band Wi-Fi signal for the most reliable wireless connectivity. It’s also comfortable and durable.
Read our full
Astro A50 (2019) review
2. SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless – Best audio quality
Great quality audio
Dual wireless functionality
Lots of software options for personalization
Active Noise Cancellation won’t block out all external sound
The SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro features just about everything you could possibly want in a wireless gaming headset, including excellent sound quality, style, comfort and a durable metal headband. With support for 2.4GHz Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless, as well as wired connectivity, the Arctis Nova Pro is easily compatible with your PC, laptop, or Xbox device. It also comes with a GameDAC base controller that lets you switch between your PC and Xbox One or Xbox X/S at the press of a button.
The headset incorporates technologies that elevate your listening experience, including Active Noise Cancellation, 360 Degree Spatial Audio, and Pro Grade Parametric EQ. All this functionality will set you back $349.99, which admittedly isn’t cheap. But for a headset that sounds this impressive and can actually make you a better gamer, that could be a price worth paying.
Read our full
SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless review
3. Razer Barracuda Pro – Best surround sound
Excellent audio through the bass, mid, and high tones
THX Spatial Audio is a treat in games
Lightweight and comfortable design
No boom mic means the mic audio suffers somewhat
ANC works but could be better
Gamers wanting a full surround sound experience—either for the strategic advantage that brings, or just for thrills, should dig this headset that features arguably the best spatial audio we’ve heard. The pro-grade Razer Barracuda Pro supports THX Spatial Audio that delivers excellent sound directionality in games like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Battlefield I. Razer’s Synapse app also lets you personalize the spatial audio by tweaking the audio’s directionality and creating profiles for specific games and media.
The Barracuda Pro is a little different from other gaming headsets in that it doesn’t have a dedicated boom microphone, relying instead on innocuous slots to pick up the sound of your voice for chats. The advantage of that is that it can pass off as a convincing headphone at anytime, making it a highly versatile device.
Read our full
Razer Barracuda Pro review
4. Logitech G935 – Best mid-range wireless gaming headset
Leatherette is a classy change from the G933’s sports mesh
Hidden microphone and dongle storage are great features to have
One of the best-sounding headsets at this price
Bulky and boxy compared to the competition
Mediocre battery life
Very little noise isolation
It may be a mid-range device but the G935’s flowing S-curve design and stylish leatherette earcup coverings class up the headset’s overall look. The G935 also sounds impressive thanks to 50mm audio drivers that deliver a rich bass-presence and warmth through the mid tones.
The G935’s microphone reproduces voice chats with a clarity you’d scarcely expect to hear from a mid-range device. In what amounts to a nifty piece of engineering, the mic also folds up into the headset’s body when you don’t need it, keeping it out of sight. There’s also a handy onboard compartment to store your Wi-Fi dongle so that it doesn’t get lost.
Read our full
Logitech G935 review
5. HyperX Cloud Core Wireless – Best budget wireless gaming headset
Decent audio quality, with deep bass and clear mids and highs
Durable, strong, and portable design
Highly comfortable earcups with memory foam cushioning and leatherette coverings
No Active Noise Cancellation
Metal headband attachments can sometimes trap your fingers
The HyperX Cloud Core Wireless ticks off must-haves, like great audio quality, but also backs those up with a few nice-to-haves like durability and excellent spatial audio, which for just $99 is exceptional value. The spatial audio comes courtesy of DTS Headphone: X which is managed in the third-party DTS Sound Unbound app. This app leverages Microsoft Spatial Sound technology so it gets decent Windows support and it’s easily downloadable in the Microsoft App Store.
The headset’s Wi-Fi signal is delivered over the 2.4GHz band and in our hands-on it proved very reliable, never dropping out or suffering interference. If your ears like a touch of luxury, the headset’s plush memory foam cushioning and leatherette earcup coverings will keep them feeling snug and comfy.
Read our full
HyperX Cloud Core Wireless review
How we test wireless gaming headsets
To find the best of the best, we put every wireless gaming headset through a legion of tests. We examine everything from design and styling to the integrity of their Wi-Fi and/or Bluetooth signals. Since these headsets are tailor-made for gaming, we spend many hours trying them out in games, listening closely to their sound quality, and testing extra features like Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) or spatial audio technologies. Our testing criteria mainly falls under these categories:
Design and ergonomics
When it comes to gaming headsets, design is crucial for your overall comfort. It’s also crucial for maximizing your gaming experience. To that end we consider factors like the overall shape and fit of the headband and earcups, their clamping force, and crucially what they’re made of—which affects how they feel. We also examine things like whether they have boom microphones, if the microphones are detachable, and whether there’s onboard storage for the dongle.
Wireless gaming headsets transmit sound to and from your PC via a wireless signal. However, the way they do this can vary. Key connectivity considerations are whether the headset connects via a Wi-Fi or a Bluetooth signal or provides a choice of both of these options. We also look at the Wi-Fi band the headset uses, all the while mindful that the 2.4GHz band is the current best-in-class standard for a low-latency connection.
This will make or break your gaming experience, and while there are lots of factors that determine audio quality, it can quite simply be determined by listening closely to the fidelity of the sound and the tonal range available. We also listen keenly for any audio distortion, such as rattling or hissing sounds that can be red flags for sound quality.
How to choose a wireless gaming headset
Connectivity: Wi-Fi versus Bluetooth
A low-latency connection can make a world of difference, allowing you to hear the best quality sound while also minimizing the likelihood of signal dropout or interference. As a general rule the lowest latency wireless connection you can get these days comes courtesy of a 2.4GHz Wi-Fi connection. A Wi-Fi connection will also give you the best wireless range, allowing you to wander anywhere up to 20 feet away from your device without losing your audio. However, to take advantage of Wi-Fi you’ll need to plug a dongle into your devices.
Some headsets also offer Bluetooth connectivity, which still does a decent job transmitting your audio signal but somewhat lowers the fidelity of the sound quality. Another downside is it can also suffer latency issues. And, while it’s granted that most gamers wouldn’t choose Bluetooth over Wi-Fi for these reasons, one benefit of Bluetooth is that if you plan on using your gaming headset with multiple devices, it allows you to conveniently and quickly switch between them without needing a dongle.
Compatibility: Why checking is important
It pays to research which of your devices work with a new gaming headset since compatibility can vary widely. By that we mean checking to see if it works with any consoles you might have, such as Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 or 5, or XBox X/S, and your smartphone. Doing so can save you the cost and inconvenience of having to purchase multiple headsets.
You’ll also want to check that the headset’s software-dependent features like 3D spatial audio are supported by not only the devices, but also the games you want to use it with, since that is not a given and you may be sorely disappointed if you can’t take advantage of the full breadth of your headset’s capabilities.
What design traits are the most comfortable?
Beyond just being pleasant to wear, comfortable headsets help prevent pain and injury to your ears and head. What constitutes a comfortable headset can come down to personal preference, but as a general rule, these points will help guide you in choosing one that’ll keep you feeling snug:
Lightweight design: Lighter headsets are generally more comfy over prolonged periods, and can prevent you feeling too much pressure on the top of your head. Designs that incorporate plastic tend to be lighter than those that have more metal in them. Soft materials and padding: The padding and coverings in headsets can be made from a broad spectrum of materials, including PVC, rubber, memory foam, artificial leather and plastic. Ideally the padding in the earcups should gently melt into the sides of your head with minimal force, while the earcup coverings should feel smooth rather than coarse. Many manufacturers opt for a combination of memory foam padding with a leatherette coverings that we think gives you the most luxurious and comfortable feeling you can get these days. Extendable and flexible headband: A headband that extends vertically to cover your ears will prevent soreness in the parts of your ears not cupped, while one that is flexible and opens easily will reduce unwanted clamp force hurting your ears and the sides of your head. Rotating earcups: These allow your head a degree of horizontal movement (left and right) without the headset’s earcups pulling your ears in the other direction. What makes a headset durable?
As is the case with most other tech devices, wireless gaming headsets that eschew plastic for metal in their designs are a lot tougher and tend to last longer than those that don’t. That’s especially important for the arc of the headband which will quite often snap in two when made entirely from plastic.
When it comes to the durability of earcups, genuine leather tends to reign supreme over other materials, being a little more resistant to wear and tear than leatherette, plastic, or polyester cloth. On the flipside, leather tends not to circulate as much air to your ears and thus can make you sweat more, so any durability concerns you have will need to be weighed up against your personal comfort needs.
Spatial audio or no?
Most wireless gaming headsets will offer stereo sound from both earcups, but an increasing number now offer 3D spatial audio. This feature mimics the kind of sound experience you’d expect to get from having multiple speakers, thereby delivering sound through a 360-degree sound-scape in your headset.
Headsets like the Razer Barracuda Pro Wireless, SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless, and HyperX Cloud Core Wireless, all offer their own spatial audio technologies, so the chances are good that a new-to-market mid-range or premium headset will support this technology.
While there are some differences between the spatial audio technologies used by different headsets, on the whole most work reasonably well, allowing you to clearly hear the directionality of sounds in games. Suffice to say, if you’re a competitive gamer this feature can give you a big advantage over your competitors, allowing you to better pinpoint sounds like your opponents’ foot-falls, explosions, or enemy fire a little easier than you otherwise would.
Noise Isolation: What to look for
Noise isolation refers to how well your headset can isolate the sound coming from your own gaming headset while simultaneously blocking out any external sound from outside. Apart from just being plain annoying, sound leaking into your headset can be a strategic disadvantage in tightly contested games, especially in shooters like Overwatch or Counter-Strike: Global Offensive that rely on directional audio prompts.
At the very least, you will want to ensure your gaming headset has decent passive noise isolation, which is a measure of how well its overall physical design is effective at stopping external sound entering your ears. However, if only the strongest noise-blocking power will do, look for a headset with Active Noise Cancellation. This technology actively detects and analyzes the sound pattern of incoming noise and then generates a mirror anti-noise to cancel it out.
The microphone: Key considerations
From a design perspective a good microphone should be either detachable or fold back into the headset’s body to be virtually undetectable when you’re not using it. This allows you to more discreetly use your wireless gaming headset as a pair of headphones when you’re not gaming, making it a little more versatile than a purely wired set.
Although you’ll mainly be using your headset’s microphone for casual voice chats in gaming sessions, you’ll also want to check that it has noise-cancelling technology and that the sound it picks up is clear and free of distortion—after all, your gaming friends won’t want to listen to your voice for very long if it’s muffled or full of static.
Source : PCWorld