Gaming has become increasingly social. According to a 2022 report published by the Entertainment Software Association, 83% of gamers play with others, either online or in person. That’s up from 77% in 2021 and 65% in 2020. In the report, gamers agreed that social play helps form new friendships and maintain existing connections.
Connecting with friends by gaming online, though, can sometimes be hampered by tech issues. A top-rated Wi-Fi router helps keep a stable connection, but another way to help reduce comments like “What did you say?”’ and “You sound like you’re underwater”’ is with a gaming headset. To recommend the best ones available, we spoke with experts and leveraged our own experience to bring you top picks.
What is a gaming headset?
Most gaming headsets are over-the-ear headphones with a microphone to the left ear. They provide much clearer sound and communication than anything built in to a laptop or monitor.
A great gaming headset also sounds accurate. While everyday earbuds may be more exciting for bass-thumping music, a good gaming headset will have a wider sound field and accurate sound positioning, said Jaime Thompson, a product marketing manager at Beyerdynamic US. This is great for gamers, as it creates more immersion and lets you better locate which direction sounds are coming from— whether that’s a friendly conversation or menacing footsteps.
Gaming headsets are especially essential for anyone playing with friends on a home gaming console like the PS5 or Xbox Series X, as those systems have no built-in microphones.
“A [gaming] headset typically has a microphone that will only pick up your voice and doesn’t pick up background noise or other people talking in the room,” said Jake Rabinowitz, a software engineer and developer of PogoChamp. (Full disclosure: Jake Rabinowitz is also the author’s brother.) “Built-in microphones have terrible audio quality and often pick up tons of stray ambient noise.”
Top-rated gaming headsets in 2023
The experts we spoke to mentioned sound, comfort and connectivity as the most important features for any gaming headset. We combined their expert guidance with our own experience using numerous gaming headsets to pick the best gaming headsets for a variety of different gamers.
Best wired: HyperX
HyperX is well known for its gaming headsets, and the HyperX Cloud II is one of the brand’s best.
“[The HyperX Cloud II is] by far the most comfortable pair of headphones I've ever had,” said Rabinowitz. “I can easily wear them for eight hours daily without any discomfort.”
Rabinowitz also mentioned the headset’s design, noting the metal headband and low-key aesthetic. “It’s a straightforward, minimalist headset that you can [also] use at work without being embarrassed,” said Rabinowitz. “Just plug them in and you’re good to go.”
The HyperX Cloud IIs are wired and compatible with just about every system, including PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch (in handheld mode), PC and Mac. To use their virtual surround sound, you need to plug them into a computer via the included USB input rather than a 3.5mm audio jack.
Best wireless: SteelSeries
Wireless gaming headsets tend to be a lot more expensive than wired ones. Not only that, but wireless gaming headsets are usually not compatible with a wide variety of devices.
The Arctis 1 is an exception to the norm. This is because the Arctis 1 comes with a wired 3.5mm cable as well as a USB-C wireless dongle. From my own experience, I’ve found that the Arctis 1 is slightly less comfortable than the HyperX Cloud II, but the connectivity options and fair price make it a great wireless option.
The Arctis 1 is compatible with PC, Mac, PS5, PS4 and Nintendo Switch via wireless dongle or 3.5mm cable, and Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One exclusively via wired 3.5mm cable.
Best affordable wired: Razer
The Razer Kraken is an affordable bestseller among wired gaming headsets. For the price, the headset strikes a good balance between quality, sound and comfort, according to critics and consumers.
Like the HyperX Cloud IIs, the Razer Kraken is compatible with PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch (in handheld mode), PC and Mac. The headset comes in a variety of fun colors, including white, black, green and pink. The pink version has light-up kitty ears but is compatible only with PCs.
Best Affordable Wireless: Logitech
Our experts did note that Bluetooth and wireless connectivity can lead to lesser audio quality and increased lag. That is true of the Logitech G435 — they don’t sound as good as some of our other picks. However, they offer wireless convenience at an excellent price, and are a top-rated favorite among critics and consumers. Critics at the SoundGuys noted that its low cost, fun colors and very light weight make it well-suited to kids.
The Logitech G435 is compatible with PC, Mac, PS5, PS4 and Nintendo Switch via the included USB-A wireless dongle or Bluetooth. We recommend using the wireless dongle, as it offers a more stable connection and better sound.
How to shop for a gaming headset
Picking out the perfect gaming headset has more to do with your own needs than finding the most expensive option available. Our experts said to consider the following before buying a new gaming headset:
Compatibility. Not all gaming headsets are compatible with every gaming system. Before deciding on any pair of headphones, it’s important to make sure they are compatible with your favorite devices. Double check the listing and reviews for compatibility notes.
Wired versus wireless. Wireless headsets offer comfort and freedom of movement, while wired ones offer convenience, simplicity and, often, better sound quality. Wired headsets are also usually cheaper than wireless ones.
Our experts favored wired gaming headsets. “I don't want to have to deal with low battery issues, Bluetooth or weird latency stuff, so I keep pretty much all of my peripherals wired, even when they can be wireless,” said Rabinowitz.
“With a wireless setup, you do introduce slightly lower audio quality depending on how you pair your headset,” said Thompson. If you do go wireless, Thompson recommended sticking to Wi-Fi rather than Bluetooth, as Bluetooth introduces more lag and latency when compared to Wi-Fi.
Separate microphone and headphones. More serious gamers sometimes use a separate microphone and headphones instead of the combination offered by gaming headsets. This can lead to even better audio and communication quality and is where top-selling products from audio brands like Blue, Sennheiser and Beyerdynamic earn top reviews. A separate microphone and headphones is going to be more expensive, involve more wires and isn’t as convenient, however.
Typically, you can only choose this option when gaming on a PC — gaming consoles lack this type of connectivity.
Meet our experts
At Select, we work with experts who have specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also take steps to ensure that all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and with no undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.
- Jaime Thompson is a product marketing manager at Beyerdynamic US.
- Jake Rabinowitz is a software engineer and developer of PogoChamp.