Best Gaming Headsets Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best gaming headsets you can buy in 2020.
There's a lot to consider when selecting a gaming headset, but sound quality really should be your highest priority – no amount of fancy features can make up for atrocious audio. And here's the thing: most gaming headsets sound very poor. The majority that we've listened to (and we've listened to many more than the few we recommend below) strongly lean towards bass, which might sound like a good thing, but the bass is usually of such poor quality that everything gets drowned out by a soft, woolly bottom-end.
The best gaming headsets should deliver a sound that's fairly neutral and tonally balanced, as that means you'll hear the action the way the game's audio engineers intended. At the same time, you want plenty of punch and strong dynamics in order to deliver the excitement and intensity of the latest and greatest shooters, an open and spacious soundstage for increased atmosphere and immersion, and lots of detail and clarity so you don't miss any important dialogue or those subtle audio cues that can give you an advantage in combat.
Many of the more premium headsets available now offer some form of surround sound. However, that rarely works terribly well (it will likely be a much better story once the PS5 launches with its baked-in 3D audio via headphones), so it's worth prioritising good, old-fashioned stereo sound quality and considering any surround sound processing as a potential bonus.
Also consider how you want to connect to your console. The controllers for the PS4, PS5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X all have standard 3.5mm sockets for wired headsets. These wired headsets can offer very good value indeed, but you will be tethered to the gamepad in your hands if you go down that route. If you want to go completely wireless, there are plenty of more premium options available that will help you do just that - most involve connecting a small dongle to your console, but others have bigger, more advanced audio processors that usually take a signal from your console's optical output.
The quality and usability of the microphone is also paramount if you intend to play online with others. Conversely, if team-based gaming isn't your thing, you might want to consider buying a standard pair of wired headphones and connecting them to your controller - choose wisely and you'll get better sound at a lower cost than you would going for a dedicated headset.
Finally, remember to consider comfort. The last thing you want is to be distracted by your headset 45mins into a long gaming session.
Got all that? Without further ado, here are our recommendations of the best gaming headsets around...
- PS5 vs Xbox Series X: specs, price and features compared
- VRR: everything you need to know about Variable Refresh Rate
This official, premium PlayStation 4 headset is simply the best-sounding gaming headset we've tested. It avoids falling into the massive bass trap, instead offering a crisp, clear and balanced sound that generates lots of excitement.
PS4 users predictably get the best experience, with information such as battery life being integrated into the PlayStation's UI and game-specific sound profiles being available on some games. There are a handful that even combine with the Platinum Headset to offer 3D Audio, which works really well. Sony has confirmed that the Platinum Wireless Headset will work with PS5, too, although whether all features will carry across remains to be seen.
But PC and Mac users can also use the Platinum headset wirelessly, while even Xbox and Nintendo Switch gamers can use is as a standard, wired headset.
The only flaws are that the Virtual Surround Sound (VSS) mode doesn't sound great (switch it off and just use the headset in stereo) and that the invisible mic picks up a little more background noise than the stalk-like mics of some rival headsets.
Read our full Sony PlayStation Platinum Headset review
There are loads of gaming headsets available in the £30 / $30 range and most are as terrible as you'd expect, but the Xiberia V20 proves that it is possible to get very decent sound at a very low price. This simple headset connects to any 3.5mm output (the one on the bottom of the PS4 controller, for example) and delivers a surprisingly clear, balanced and exciting sound.
There's also a USB cable, but this is only to power the light strips on the ear cups so can be ignored. It would actually be nice if this cable could be detached to avoid clutter, but at this price that's pretty much our only complaint.
Be aware that there seems to be another Xiberia headset referred to as 'V20' that has an audio USB connection for PC and claims to offer 7.1 surround sound. This is not the model we've tested.
The price of this new headset from Audio-Technica looks very high when you consider that it's not wireless, but the sound quality is undeniably premium. There's a definite bias towards bass here but, unlike those of many gaming headsets, the low frequencies here are punchy, solid and well defined, making the whole presentation satisfyingly chunky and bombastic.
There's great spaciousness to the delivery, too, which makes for a really immersive gaming experience, and voices and effects are clear and crisp.
The simple, wired design means they're compatible with everything, and you can even detach the mic completely, turning the headset into a standard pair of headphones that you won't be embarrassed to wear on the bus.
This Turtle Beach headset takes a very similar approach to the official PlayStation headset above: plug a small dongle into the USB socket of your PS4 and you're all set for wireless audio and chat. Of course, the Stealth 600 doesn't have the Platinum headset's UI integration or game-specific sound profiles. It can't be used with a wire, either, so if the battery runs flat you're all out of luck and you can't use the headset with devices that aren't the PS4.
That said, the sound is decent for the money, with a reasonable tonal balance, good spaciousness and weight. We'd like a bit more punch in the bass and a little less zing from the treble, but if you simply must have wirelessness and your budget is tight, this is a good option.
We've tested the PS4 version of the Stealth 600 (which should also work with the PS5) but there is also an Xbox One model - you'll recognise that one by its green highlights.