The microphone is excellent and slides into the earcup when not in use. The icing on the cake is excellent software that lets you customize the sound and even assign profiles to games. All in all, the Arctis 7 has every feature we could ask for in a headset, and it comes wrapped in an understated package that's both sophisticated and all-day comfortable. When it comes to wireless gaming headsets, at this price it really doesn't get any better than this.
A headset is an audio hardware device that connects to a communication device, like a phone or computer, that allows the user to speak and listen hands-free. Headsets are different from headphones in that headsets allow the user to communicate rather than just listen. As such, headsets are typically used in any field where the user needs to multi-task with his or her hands while communicating with another person via the headset. These situations include customer service, technical support, gaming and more.
But perhaps more important for the purposes of this guide, I’ve been a hardcore gamer since 1980. I’m primarily a PC gamer these days, although I do dabble in consoles from time to time (when a new Gran Turismo game is released, for instance, or for the occasional round of Worms). And whether I’m playing massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs), strategy games like Civilization VI, shooters like Doom, or the latest version of Magic: The Gathering, chances are good that I’m logged in to my private Ventrilo chat server, either to coordinate group attacks or to chew the fat with my gaming friends and guild mates. Granted, I’ll probably never break the personal record I set back in October 2011, when I played Rift for 24 straight hours during an Extra Life charity event, but I tend to spend at least 15 to 18 hours per week wearing a headset.
Some Bluetooth office headsets incorporate Class 1 Bluetooth into the base station so that, when used with a Class 1 Bluetooth headset, the user can communicate from a greater distance, typically around 100 feet compared to the 33 feet of the more usual Class 2 Bluetooth headset. Many headsets supplied with these base stations connect to cellphones via Class 2 Bluetooth, however, restricting the range to about 33 feet.
Stereo simply means two channels, a left and a right, and is created with a pair of drivers. One in each ear cup. Surround sound, which in gaming headsets is almost definitely 7.1, refers to 7 drivers and a subwoofer. Now packing all those drivers into a headset isn’t always possible, so a lot of companies use their pair of stereo drivers mixed with some digital wizardry and recreate the impression of that sound. This is referred to as virtual 7.1 and is the case for 99% of the headsets in our list excluding the ASUS Centurion. Most either use Dolby virtual 7.1 surround sound or DTS Headphone:X surround sound.
A headset combines a headphone with a microphone. Headsets are made with either a single-earpiece (mono) or a double-earpiece (mono to both ears or stereo). Headsets provide the equivalent functionality of a telephone handset but with handsfree operation. They have many uses including in call centers and other telephone-intensive jobs and for anybody wishing to have both hands free during a telephone conversation.
Next, I record myself talking for a bit in Audacity to see how its microphone performs, and I also try to wear the headset for as long as possible to see how comfortable it is over long periods of time. Admittedly, a lot of headsets tend to struggle in this area for me, as I’ve either got a head that’s secretly shaped like a Minecraft block underneath all my hair, or every headset manufacturer on the planet has a mysterious grudge against me and they’ve collectively designed each of their headsets to only last for about 30 minutes before they start to press down and pinch the top of my head. Obviously, the longer I can wear one without this happening, the better.
No roundup of gaming headsets would be complete without a look at Astro’s offerings, so we brought in the A40 with MixAmp Pro, the A30 with MixAmp Pro, and the A50 Wireless for the first iteration of this guide. None of us were overly fond of the on-ear design of the A30, but I was smitten with the hard-hitting sound of the A40 and A50, especially with games like Dying Light. But noisy mics and the MixAmp Pro’s constant background hiss bothered all of us. After we wrapped up our original round of testing, Astro introduced a new digital MixAmp and a new version of the A50; we plan on giving them a listen for a future update to this guide.
The headset’s design is…interesting, and like the G633 wouldn’t look out of place on the holodeck of your favorite star cruiser. But these aren’t meant to be pretty. They’re meant to be devastating, machines of inner ear destruction. The high price tag means you’ll also be destroying any chance you had of getting a mortgage, but owning a pair of these means being homeless never sounded so good. They are heavy too. Without the chunky cable connecting them to the amp, they weigh in at a whopping one pound. But when was being cool ever comfy? Outside of that, the provided software and amp affords massive customization and more presets than all the headsets on this list combined. So if you want the most immersive audio gaming experience available and don’t care about anything else, then these are for you.
The first major consideration is what gaming platform(s) you’ll be using with the headset, as the supported connection will differ from console to console. Modern headsets will connect via one (or more) of the following ways: Single 3.5mm, dual 3.5mm (one for headphone audio and one for mic), wired USB, wireless USB, or Bluetooth. Here’s a quick breakdown of which connection type is supported by each of the modern gaming platforms:
Standard headsets with a headband worn over the head are known as over-the-head headsets. Headsets with headbands going over the back of the user's neck are known as backwear-headsets or behind-the-neck headsets. Headsets worn over the ear with a soft ear-hook are known as over-the-ear headsets or earloop headsets. Convertible headsets are designed so that users can change the wearing method by re-assembling various parts.
This brand is a bit more unknown than most popular names, but this headset is rated too high to not include in this article. The audio quality is great but has a bass boost (some may like it some may not), microphone monitoring (hear it back to yourself to test how you sound), chat volume control, and is USB powered. It’s a lower price-point headset with great features for the cost, and if you want something with a bit more bass and solid build that will last you a while, this is a great headset to buy. It’s one of our picks for best low-cost gaming headsets. Gamers Radar had this in their best gaming headsets budget-friendly pairs list as well.
And while we do think the soundstage isn’t as good as that found in models like the HyperX Cloud Revolver S, the audio quality is still phenomenal. It feels natural, balanced, and clear, without overcooking any one element. The model we’ve linked to here is the base headset, but if you want, you can shell out an extra $70 and pick up SteelSeries’ GameDAC - a high-end audio converter that is geared towards gaming. We don’t think it makes a huge difference - it’s overkill for most people, and doesn’t give a dramatic improvement on the base sound - but it’s nice to have the option. And when you consider just how good - and affordable - this headset it, it’s hardly surprising we’ve ranked it so highly. There is also a wireless version, but we think it's way too overpriced for what you get; if you can deal with a lone wire, this offers excellent value.
Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications (DECT) is one of the most common standards for cordless telephones. It uses 1.88 to 1.90 GHz RF (European Version) or 1.92 to 1.93 GHz RF (US Version). Different countries have regulations for the bandwidth used in DECT, but most have pre-set this band for wireless audio transmission. The most common profile of DECT is Generic access profile (GAP), which is used to ensure common communication between base station and its cordless handset. This common platform allows communication between the two devices even if they are from different manufacturers. For example, a Panasonic DECT base-station theoretically can connect to a Siemens DECT Handset. Based on this profile, developers such as Plantronics, Jabra or Accutone have launched wireless headsets which can directly pair with any GAP-enabled DECT telephones. So users with a DECT Wireless Headset can pair it with their home DECT phones and enjoy wireless communication.
The design is pretty out-there on this one. Two giant owl eyes emanate from each ear cup, on a Pan’s Labyrinth vibe. Combine that with the amazing bass response these kick out, and things going bump in the night could well have your neighbors calling the police. ASUS claim the dual antenna feature provides a faster response time than Bluetooth, and although we can neither confirm nor deny this statement, we can confirm that the signal never dropped.
Mobile (cellular) phone headsets are often referred to as handsfree. Most mobile phones come with their own handsfree in the form of a single earphone with a microphone module connected in the cable. For music-playing mobile phones, manufacturers may bundle stereo earphones with a microphone. There are also third-party brands which may provide better sound quality or wireless connectivity.
Virtual reality, of course, represents a new kind of headset–a headset with a component that simulates the visual field. The technological development comes at a cost, however: being immersed in such a headset can cause severe motion sickness. It perhaps gives pause to consider that such things were the science-fiction dreams of many who lived not more than fifty or a hundred years ago…though lightsabers are still forthcoming.
Where do we start with Steelseries‘ magnum opus, the Arctis Pro? The highly flexible, crystal-clear mic that rivals even some professional-grade audio equipment? How about the sleek, professional design that mimics stylish audiophile headphones? Or maybe it’s the headset’s plug-and-play peripherals that push hi-res sound and enable users to fine-tune EQ settings and surround sound at a much more granular scale than the competition — all without the need for extra software or downloads.