Best PC gaming headset 2017: The best gaming headsets from £16 – Expert Reviews
A PC gaming headset isn’t only an essential buy if you want to play competitively – it’s also a great investment if you want to indulge in a little late-night gaming without waking the whole neighbourhood. You don’t need to spend a fortune, either: regardless of whether your budget is £15 or £150, there are plenty of great-quality headsets to choose from. We know this because we’ve hunted high and low for the very best PC gaming headsets, tested them to destruction and taken our pick of the very finest.
Read on and our buying guide will answer all the key questions, and further down the page you’ll find our pick of the best PC gaming headsets to buy.
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How to buy the best gaming headset for you
How important is sound quality for a gaming headset?
A headset’s frequency response and overall clarity will affect your ability to hear enemies coming – and that’s why we pay close attention to a headset’s sub-bass, mid-bass, mids, highs and soundstage (which is how far sounds spread left and right) when we’re testing. Headsets that provide the clearest, most spacious soundstage will aid you in locating the enemies you can’t see, and those with the best microphones will ensure your teammates hear you loud and clear in the heat of battle.
As headsets have to pack in a bundled microphone and gaming-friendly features, you can end up paying a premium over a bog-standard pair of headphones. But while headsets might not provide the audio refinement of a comparably priced pair of dedicated headphones, you can expect the best ones to perform well for both games and music.
How do I connect my headset and do I need a soundcard?
PC headsets have three ways of communicating with your PC: digitally via USB; through a 3.5mm audio jack (and sometimes two); or a wireless connection.
If you’re looking at a headset that connects via a 3.5mm jack (some also use two 3.5mm connections, one for the headphones and one for the microphone), you might want to look into purchasing a dedicated soundcard. Onboard soundcards found on either desktops or laptops can potentially pick up static noise due to poor shielding or dodgy power supplies, which will negatively affect the sound quality.
To bypass your onboard soundcard, you can purchase a £6 USB soundcard from Amazon. This will completely eliminate static noise from your 3.5mm-connected headset. If you want the absolute best performance from a headset used via an analogue connection, however, it may be worth investing in a pricier external or internal soundcard.
Do I need a wireless headset?
Wireless technology works well in headsets as there’s no perceived audio delay. However, it’s worth remembering that you may lose a little audio fidelity via a wireless connection; it all depends on the headset and its specifications. Of course, if you want to go wireless, there are other issues to consider: you’ll pay a premium for the privilege and will have to remember to charge your headset.
Should I worry about build quality or weight?
A well-built headset should last you several years. It all depends on how often you use it, how you treat it (and its hinges) and, of course, how well it was manufactured. Pricier headsets often add sturdier-feeling hinges and materials in addition to improved sound quality and fancy features.
Weight is another key consideration, as the heavier the headset, the less comfortable it will be for epic gaming sessions. Another comfort factor is the size of the earpieces. As not everyone’s ears are the same, the earpieces on some models may potentially press on the earlobe or around the ear and cause pain. What might be comfortable for a few minutes may be extremely uncomfortable after an hour or so.
Is software important for gaming headsets?
When it comes to headsets, there isn’t much in the way of essential software. Unlike gaming mice and keyboards, a headset doesn’t need to be configured. However, some manufacturers bundle software to allow you to change microphone characteristics, EQs, lighting and even the programmable buttons on wireless headsets.
What about LED lights?
Lighting is a feature that’s a little more recent, with even cheaper headsets now offering basic lighting capabilities. Since the headset will be on your head most of the time, though, you won’t get the same benefit as you do from LED lighting on gaming mice and keyboards – you won’t be able to utilise its lighting capabilities to provide you with visual prompts, for instance.
The best gaming headset to buy
Antlion Audio ModMic: Turn any headphone into a headset
Price when reviewed: £45 – Buy now from Amazon
It might seem quite odd to see a standalone microphone in a headset roundup, but the ModMic is a detachable boom microphone that will attach to any headphone. This means you attach it to an old pair of headphones or partner it with a high-quality set of headphones for the ultimate in audio quality.
The ModMic is one of the best boom microphones on the market, competing with standalone USB microphones for quality. Compared to the mics in most £200+ headsets, it blows the competition out of the water. If you’re looking for a headset, you could choose one of the best over-the-ear or on-ear headphones within your budget, and attach the ModMic 4 or 5 to it. If you choose to go down this path, though, it may be worth purchasing a cheap USB soundcard to get hiss-free sound quality.
Sumvision Akuma: The best gaming headset under £20
Price when reviewed: £16 – Buy now from Amazon
Finding a headset that costs less than £20 and provides acceptable sound quality might seem like an impossible mission, but prepare to be pleasantly surprised. The £16 Sumvision Akuma is a wired USB headset with virtual 7.1 surround sound, a detachable microphone, lighting and large 40mm audio drivers.
The Sumvision Akuma’s sound quality gives strong clues to its budget price. It doesn’t dig up the deepest sub-bass, its mid-range is a touch recessed, the strong mid-bass is flabby and it struggles to produce the really high frequencies, too. Given its price point, that’s to be expected, but somehow the Akuma still manage to sound good overall – they punch well above their weight. The biggest flaw is that they don’t sound as airy and spacious as pricier models; the soundstage is tiny.
Recording quality is surprisingly good for a budget headset, though, and while speech comes through with a rather boomy quality, it remains clear and intelligible.
Build quality is a highlight. They feel solid, and there’s sufficient padding at the top of the headband and around the ear pads to make them comfy for long gaming sessions. There’s a non-customisable red light to the side of the headset that activates when the headset is connected, and it’s a nice touch that the microphone is detachable too. This allows you to use the headset as a headphone without having to worry about a mic getting in the way. For the money, the Akuma are a steal.
Key specs – Drivers: 40mm; Wireless: No; Illumination: Yes (static red); Connection: USB; Cable length: Unknown; Weight: Unknown
HyperX Cloud Stinger: The best gaming headset under £50
Price when reviewed: £48 – Buy now from Amazon
If you’re looking for a headset that punches above its weight and combines good audio with a high-quality microphone for less than £50, the HyperX Cloud Stinger should be your go-to headset.
These are a significant step up from the Sumvision Akuma. Sub-bass reaches deeper, the mid-bass is more controlled, and the Stinger reaches further up into the high frequencies. Its mid-range is still a touch recessed, but this doesn’t come at the expense of realism, and while there isn’t the wide open soundstage of the best headsets, it’s possible to pinpoint sounds and instruments more precisely than on cheaper models.
The microphone provides clear, good-quality recordings, although you may need to grab a USB soundcard to get the best results.
Despite being made entirely out of plastic, build quality is up to scratch and the design is sensible, too. The microphone flips up so that you can quickly mute yourself, and the volume slider by the earcup makes it quick and easy to adjust the headphones’ volume. Comfort is impressive thanks to the memory foam ear pads and padded headband, and the headphone cups rotate around 90-degrees to make them more comfortable to wear around your neck, and much less likely to break in transit.
Key specs – Drivers: 50mm; Wireless: No; Illumination: No; Connection: 3.5mm; Cable length: 1.3m (+1.7 extension); Weight: 275g
Lioncast LX50: The best gaming headset
Price when reviewed: £55 – Buy now from Amazon
Most wouldn’t have heard of Lioncast, that’s because the company’s primary focus is on the German market – their products have received a lot of praise on Amazon.de and with the company also sponsoring BIG Clan, an increasingly popular eSports team, their products have taken many by interest.
The LX50 is Lioncast’s premium headset, but without the ‘BIG’ price tag. At only £55, it’s one of the more affordable headsets around – but make no mistake, there are absolutely no compromises in build, sound or recording quality. In fact, it’s one of the best gaming headsets in this round-up.
The build quality is fantastic, it has a metal plate on its housing, soft ear pads, a cushioned headband, an adjustable headband, a detachable 3.5mm input cable and microphone. The included 1.35m cable has a control pod that has a mic mute and a headphone volume wheel. A 2m extension cable is also included within the box, which is terminated with a mic and line in jack.
Its recording quality is the best we’ve come across. Its ability to accurately reproduce vocals is seriously impressive. There’s no boomy or thin sound – it’s flawless, and gives the modular ModMic a run for its money.
Its sound quality is equally impressive, putting to shame headsets that cost more than double its price. The bass extends into the sub-bass frequencies, providing a low-end rumble, the mid-bass is controlled and has a great impact. The mids are slightly recessed and pushed back, but still, have an accurate reproduction – there is a slight upper mid bump, which does result in an odd sound in certain songs. The highs extend very well but might sound sibilant to some sensitive ears. Soundstage is wide, deep and instrument separation is very precise.
The headset’s only flaw is that it’s terminated by a 3.5mm jack, which means you’re limited to what your sound card can achieve – If you don’t have one, purchase a cheap £5 USB sound card to get the best recording quality from the headset, and connect the line input to a competent source. If you’re looking for the best sound and recording quality from a headset – look no further than the LX50, it’s seriously impressive.
Key specs – Drivers: 53mm; Wireless: No; Illumination: No; Connection: 3.5mm; Cable length: 1.35m (+2m extension); Weight: 350g
Plantronics RIG 600: A cross-platform headset with surround sound
Price when reviewed: £62 – Buy now from Amazon
The Plantronics RIG 600 is a cross-platform gaming headset with a wide soundstage – making it ideal for positional cues. The headset connects through a 3.5mm jack, which means you can use it on the Xbox One, PS4 and computer. In the box, you’ll find two cables: one with an in-line mic for mobile devices, while the other cable has a traditional noise-cancelling mic for the home.
The RIG 600’s mesh padding makes the headset ideal for long gaming sessions. Its soft headband and ear pads provide unparallel comfort. However, isolation and noise leakage is rather poor, so it isn’t suited for busy commutes. Its design is excellent – there’s an adjustable headband, pivoting drivers for portability, and a detachable cable.
Its 40mm drivers are the real star of the show. With a forward-sounding mids, the RIG 600 is ideal for games with lots of vocals. At its price point, this is the only headset that’ll give you the best mid-range. Its highs are slightly rolled off at the top end, but there’s a sufficent amount of sparkle to keep your toes tapping. The drivers also deliver a clean, precise bass response that doesn’t leak into the mids or sound uncontrolled in any way.
Its soundstage and sound signature are by far the most impressive aspect of the headset. It has a wide, deep soundstage with an unbelievable instrument separation. Having a headset with these traits is ideal for gamers, as you’re able to accurately locate your enemies, such as hearing footsteps or judging the distance of gunfire from your position.
Finally, it has a class-leading microphone. Its boom microphone concentrates on your voice through noise-cancelling technology and accurately portrays it. Recordings are clean, crisp, and neutral, which isn’t a surprise given Plantronics excellent reputation in the world of business-focused headsets.
If you’re looking for a gaming headset that works across different platforms, has an excellent soundstage and an impressive microphone, get the Plantronics RIG 600.
Key specs – Drivers: 40mm; Wireless: No; Illumination: No; Connection: 3.5mm; Cable length: 1.2m; Weight: 298g
HyperX Cloud II: The most popular gaming headset
Price when reviewed: £70 – Buy now from Amazon
The HyperX Cloud II is highly respected among audiophiles and gamers. It’s arguably one of the best headsets on the market and one of the most capable for both recording and sound quality.
The headset comes with a detachable mic, aeroplane adapter, USB soundcard, a set of velour earpads and a carrying pouch – the Cloud II’s are the complete package. The sturdy build impresses from the off, and the metallic headband construction and attractive-looking stitching make it easy on the eye. It’s also comfortable to wear, and the velour pads give you the option to choose which ear pads suit you the best.
The headset comes bundled with a miniature 7.1-channel USB soundcard that also serves as a 2m extension cable. You’ll get the best results using the using the headset via USB, but it can also be used while connected through a standard 3.5mm connection if you prefer.
The sound quality is very impressive, with an expansive soundstage that easily trumps its cheaper sibling, the HyperX Stinger. Sub-bass goes fairly deep, mid-bass is controlled yet punchy, the mid-range is forceful and the highs only fall short at the extreme end of the frequency scale. Thanks to the noise-cancelling microphone, the Cloud II’s microphone is very good, too, and picks up voices with a clear, natural sound.
Key specs – Drivers: 53mm; Wireless: No; Illumination: No; Connection: 3.5mm and USB; Cable length: 1m (+2m extension); Weight: 350g
Logitech G933 Artemis Spectrum: The most customisable gaming headset
Price when reviewed: £130 – Buy now from Amazon
Customising a headset might seem like a step too far, but Logitech has two headsets that can be personalised to your liking. Both the Logitech G933 and G633 have the exact same features, but it should be noted that the G933 uses 2.4GHz wireless to communicate with your PC, whereas the G633 connects through USB.
On either side of the headset’s earcups, Logitech has added an RGB LED strip that can be customised with the supplied software. Through the software, you can also program the buttons found on the left-hand side of the headset. There are three programmable buttons that you can use to open specific programs, control media playback and even cycle through the G933’s colour profiles. There’s also a dedicated microphone mute button, a wireless on/off switch and headphone volume wheel.
The microphone on the left earcup can be flipped up when not in use. That earcup also houses the headset’s battery, which can be removed. On the right cup, there’s a compartment for the wireless USB dongle, so you don’t lose it en route to your next gaming appointment.
Wireless range is very impressive, and the comfort levels are superb thanks to the soft ear pads and comfortable headband.
Sound quality is a cut above. The mic’s recording quality is superb, and the headphones provide generous amounts of sub-bass, a controlled mid-bass slam, an accurate mid-range and sparkly high frequencies. Best of all, the expansive soundstage spreads music and audio effects far and wide, making it easy to pinpoint where instruments or enemies are located.
Key specs – Drivers: 40mm; Wireless: Yes; Illumination: Yes, RGB; Connection: Wireless or 3.5mm; Cable length: N/A; Weight: 374g
SteelSeries Arctis 7: Wireless, cross-platform compatibility
Price when reviewed: £160 – Buy now from Amazon
SteelSeries’ late 2016 line of headsets
SteelSeries’ late 2016 line of headsetswas announced with three new headsets, the Arctis 3, 5 and 7. The Arctis 3 is a 3.5mm wired headset, the Arctis 5 has a USB connection with RGB lighting and the Arctis 7 is a wireless headset.
The headset has exchangeable headbands, which can be purchased separately from the SteelSeries store. Even though SteelSeries allow you to adjust the headband, its design means it won’t fit around everyone’s head, as it won’t cater for smaller or larger sizes. This also applies if you’ve got large ears, as you’ll find them uncomfortable after hours of gaming. On the plus side, its soft ear pads are comfortable, even while I was wearing glasses.
The microphone is retractable and can be muted on-the-fly through a button located on the left-hand side. A headphone volume wheel, 3.5mm jack, microUSB for charging and a port for the Xbox One and PS4 are also found there. On the right-hand side, you’ll find the power button and the ChatMix Dial, which allows you to adjust the game or chat volume directly from the headset (PC and Mac only).
The Arctis 7’s wireless functions work flawlessly, with over 15-hours of quoted battery life you can game for a whole day without charging. If you do run out of battery, you can still use the headset, by charging it through its micro-USB connection.
The headset’s real strength is its recording quality. The microphone has the right amount of bass and treble to accurately reproduce your voice. Most headsets will sound boomy or thin, but not the Arctis 7.
Its sound quality is good, although one would expect a little more from a £160 headset. You’ll want to make sure you’ve set the headset in your Windows Playback settings to ‘Game’ mode. In ‘Chat’ mode, you’ll find the bass is non-existent and a closed soundstage.
In ‘Game’ mode, I found the headset to have an acceptable extension in the sub-bass frequencies, with an audible rumble in explosive scenarios. Its mid-bass slam is uncontrolled and sounds flabby. I’d have liked to hear a lot better control here. Its treble, from its mid-range to highs is good but lack that finer edge. Highs are evidently rolled off, which result in a lack of sparkle. Arguably its most impressive sound quality trait is its soundstage and instrument separation. It has a wide and deep sound, which is fundamental when gaming, as it can be used to hear the positional cues.
I should also note that the SteelSeries Engine works flawlessly and can be used to customise the headset’s sound and mic traits. You’ll also find DTS Headphone:X 7.1 Surround Sound through the software, but I found that to negatively impact its sound.
Key specs – Drivers: 40mm; Wireless: Yes; Illumination: No; Connection: Wireless, 3.5mm; Cable length: 1.2m; Weight: 376g
Fnatic Duel Modular: A multi-purpose headset
Price when reviewed: £180 – Buy now from Amazon
Fnatic is known in the world of eSports for its trophies and its presence in world majors in different games, such as Counter-Strike, Dota 2 and League of Legends among others. The eSports company has teamed up with the Danish headphone manufacturer AIAIAI, to bring the Duel Modular headset to the market.
Utilising AIAIAI’s design, the Fnatic headset is a fully modular headset. Within the elegantly designed package, you’ll find a headband, over-the-ear and on-ear earpads, two S02 AIAIAI drivers, a boom microphone with a 2m cable that has an in-line mute switch, a 1.2m mobile cable with a one-button remote and mic, a PC headphone/mic splitter and a drawstring pouch.
Its modular design gives you the option to use the Fnatic Duel Modular as a headset with the included 2m boom mic cable and its over-the-ear pads, and as a portable headphone with its on-ear pads and its shorter 1.2m cable.
The headset’s sound quality is certainly aimed at those who like bass. Its boomy sound emphasises in-game explosions and gunfire. Unfortunately, this does mean that in-game voice or vocal tracks do sound a little subdued. Positional cues are good, with an acceptable level of depth and width to the headset’s sound, which enables you to hear the enemy’s footsteps.
Its recording quality is good, only if you get the new variant of the headset. If you experience static noise, you’ll need to purchase a cheap USB soundcard to bypass your motherboard’s interference. After receiving the first variant of the Duel Modular headset, I found its mic to sound thin and struggle to pick up lower frequencies. Thankfully, after some feedback, Fnatic has updated its mic. The new mic has a full-bodied sound and is accurate in its reproduction. Fnatic state that they will inform any customers who purchased the first variant with a free replacement. All new headsets will ship with the new mic, which can be distinguished by the orange Fnatic colours on the mic’s stem.
Key specs – Drivers: 40mm; Wireless: No; Illumination: No; Connection: 3.5mm; Cable length: 2m & 1.2m; Weight: 275g
SteelSeries Siberia 800: The best wireless gaming headset
Price when reviewed: £225 – Buy now from Amazon
If you’ve been shopping for wireless headsets before, you might remember the SteelSeries H Wireless – this model has now been renamed the Siberia 800. There’s also the Siberia 840 that adds software customisation and Bluetooth for an additional £55 (£280).
The Siberia 800 is the ultimate wireless headset experience. Its receiver boasts digital optical and analogue 3.5mm inputs and outputs, in addition to a USB connection for PCs. It also doubles up as an active charger for the two removable batteries: sensibly, SteelSeries provides two lithium batteries, so you can charge one in the receiver while you game wirelessly on the other.
The soft ear pads and headband mean that they’re extremely comfortable, and you can flip up the microphone out of the way when it’s not in use. You’ll find a volume dial on the right earcup, while the left earcup provides inputs for another headset to be daisy-chained and a wired 3.5mm connection (in case both the batteries run dry).
Unlike the Siberia 840, the 800 doesn’t require any software, as all your EQ settings and controls can be tweaked directly through the small receiver – handy if you game on multiple platforms.
The final coup comes courtesy of the Siberia 800’s sound quality. There’s a stunning level of detail from the deepest bass to the highest highs, and sounds are positioned deftly across an expansive, detailed soundstage. Want the best? Then you’ll need to pay for the privilege.
Key specs – Drivers: 40mm; Wireless: Yes; Illumination: No; Connection: Wireless; Cable length: N/A; Weight: 318g