What To Look For When Shopping For A New Gaming Headset

What To Look For When Shopping For A New Gaming Headset
Image: Razer
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When it comes to choosing the right gaming headset for your rig, it sure isn’t easy. From price to sound and functionality, there’s a lot to consider. If you’re wondering how you can choose the best headset that’ll fully immerse you in any game you play, then you’ve come to the right place.

How to choose the best gaming headset for you

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Image: iStock/EKKAPHAN CHIMPALEE

Design preference

Let’s start with the easiest part — personal preference. You almost certainly have a few preferences when it comes to headphones. Do you prefer over-ear headsets or earbuds? Answering this question alone will open up so many new options. Do you prefer a wireless or wired gaming headset? A chunky look or slim? These are simple choices, all of which boil down to a matter of taste, and all of which will help narrow your search.

Sound

Obviously, sound is the most critical factor when choosing any headset. The best headsets will be a blend of many desirable features, but the top shelf ones have amazing positional audio for multiplayer gaming. Some headsets are capable of a full 7.1 surround soundstage, but they’re often cabled and require external amps for best audio. Cheaper models can produce virtual 7.1, but it’s often a poor substitute for the real thing. Wireless gaming headsets are all dependent on battery life — the better the sound, the shorter the battery. This goes for volume, too. Another thing to consider, if you’re a snooty audiophile like us, is the audio balance. What is the mix like? Gaming headsets have always had a tendency to be big on bass as a way to amplify the sound of gunfire in shooters, but that might be what you want.

Weight

It’s hard to overstate the importance of weight. For longer sessions with over-ear cans, the lighter the better. This has become less of a problem as gaming headsets have moved into a more luxe space. There’s a desire to mimic more music-oriented headsets in style and design, and that means a more evenly-balanced headset.

Some, like the Logitech G733, are a perfect example of a headset that does this extremely well. Older Logi headsets favoured bulkier designs that made them quite heavy. More current models, exemplified by the G733, cut the weight entirely without and sacrificing sound or durability.

Image: Eksa

Durability

Speaking of durability, this one’s really important. Because they’re so cheaply produced, many entry-level headsets suffer in the durability department. If you’re only after a temporary headset to fill in on your way to a more expensive model, they remain a fine option regardless of durability problems. Pricier headsets are often made with strong metal headbands or other harder-wearing parts. Ear cups, particularly models with removable or customisable cups, are an immediate durability flag. If you’re changing them regularly, they will wear out fast.

This goes double for earbuds, which can come apart after extended use or even suffer cable failures if wound too tightly.

Style

Style is the area of most improvement across the entire range of gaming headsets. Previously boxy, decidedly masculine modelling has given way to more unisex designs and colour combinations. The design brief is now about creating a sleek, fashionable look, as many of these headsets want to be useful as day-to-day cans outside the home.

There are some that retain that chunky, early-era Razer vibe. The Sennheiser GSP range still does bulky, beefy headsets, but even it now has EPOS, an offshoot brand that specialises in gaming headsets far more similar to Senny’s studio cans.

Another point to consider when choosing over-ear headphones is the material used to make the earcups. Leather cups are softer and give the headset a luxe feel, but they also get quite hot, which is something to bear in mind during the summer. Cloth cups are lighter and cooler overall. It’s a case-by-case thing, but it might be valuable in your thinking.

Functionality

This is the area where headphone manufacturers go a bit nuts. They’ll throw every bell and whistle they can think of at you. Knowing what you want here is key. Don’t need detachable ear cups or cans? Rule those out. Do you need MegaDeepRumbleBass mode? No? Avoid. If you’re getting a wireless gaming headset, what kind of dongle does it come with? Is it a small USB thumb like the Logitech G gear, or is it a larger RF dongle like RIG used to make? Does it require an external amp for best results or can you simply connect it to your PC or controller? Does that change things for your setup?

You’ll also need to ask yourself if it’s compatible with the platform you’re using. Some gaming headsets aren’t compatible with your PC or PS5 for whatever reason, so it’s important to ensure you read all product descriptions closely so you don’t make a mistake.

This is the part of the process that requires a lot of cutting through marketing BS. Do your research before you go shopping. Know what you need and, more importantly, know what you don’t.

The best gaming headsets

Razer Kraken X Ultralight Gaming Headset

Razer Kraken is one of the best gaming headsets
Image: Razer

If you don’t mind a wired headset, the Razer Kraken is an excellent choice thanks to its immersive 7.1 surround sound, custom-tuned 40mm drivers and bendable cardioid microphone. It’s also one of the most comfortable headphones you’ll ever wear and is lightweight with an adjustable headband slider.

Where to buy

Amazon ($29) | eBay ($73.31) | Microsoft Store ($89)

SteelSeries Arctis 3 Gaming Headset

SteelSeries Arctis 3
Image: SteelSeries

If you love to game on the go, grab this SteelSeries Arctis 3 wireless gaming headset for any platform. This gaming headset comes with native surround sound built-in, making it compatible with a number of platforms from Windows 10 PCs and PS5 consoles.

Instead of dealing with hot and sweaty earlobes, this pair comes with AirWeave cups that’ll keep those ears cool and dry.

Where to buy

Amazon ($99) | eBay ($99.95) | Bing Lee ($119)

HyperX Cloud Stinger Gaming Headset

HyperX Cloud Stinger is one of the best gaming headsets
Image: HyperX

The HyperX Cloud Stinger gaming headset is compatible with most platforms including PS5, Xbox and PC. This headset is a budget-friendly choice for those who want a lightweight option that doesn’t compromise on sound.

It also sports 50mm drivers, rotatable ear cups and HyperX’s signature memory foam.

Where to buy

Amazon ($54) | eBay ($58.90) | mwave ($79)

Razer BlackShark V2 Wired Gaming Headset

Best gaming headset
Image: Razer

While very similar to the Razer Kraken, the BlackShark V2 improves on its features by adding advanced passive noise cancellation. If you want to be fully immersed into any game you play, all you need is this pair of headphones and a curved monitor so you can let everything else fade away.

Where to buy

eBay ($65) | Wireless1 ($65) | Amazon ($119) 

HyperX Cloud II Pro Gaming Headset

best gaming headset
Image: HyperX

With the weather taking a cool turn, it’s the perfect excuse for us to retreat deep into our dens and sink into our gaming chairs. You can take this HyperX Cloud II with you and keep your ears nice and toasty, thanks to its soft leatherette ear cushions with memory foam support.

Its cord also happens to come with an advanced audio control box so you can adjust your volume or microphone with ease.

Where to buy

Amazon ($109.28) | Kogan ($145) | eBay ($190.80)

So there you have it, a few pointers to help you choose the gaming headset that’s right for you! What are your favourites? And what, to you, makes the perfect gaming headset? Let us know in the comments below!

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