The top performers in our review are the Astro A40, the Gold Award winner; the Turtle Beach Z Seven, the Silver Award winner; and the Kingston HyperX Cloud II, the Bronze Award winner. Here's more on choosing a product to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of the top 10 PC gaming headsets.
Audio is a key component of any gaming experience. A quality PC gaming headset makes you feel like you're part of the game. Nothing is quite as satisfying as being encircled in sound and having the ability to keep tabs on enemies because you can hear exactly where they are positioned. The best headsets let you know everything going on around you at all times and communicate with your teammates.
An excellent PC gaming headset can give you an advantage while gaming because it increases your awareness of what's happening in the game world. A top-notch gaming keyboard can also help improve your game by giving you more options and a consistent experience. If you find that your computer is what's holding you back, then you may want to check out our reviews for gaming PCs and gaming laptops.
Top performance across the board is elusive. We found that it's difficult to get a PC gaming headset that scores high marks in all audio categories. Some headsets have excellent microphones and subpar headphones, while others have the reverse. A couple of headsets scored average marks for all audio categories, and a couple of others mixed high and average marks. We didn't find any headset that had excellent scores across all audio categories. What this means is you need to decide what's most important to you: high-fidelity audio capture (the microphone), high-fidelity audio reproduction (the headphones) or consistency between the two.
Likewise for design and features. The design of a gaming headset is important because it can directly affect how comfortable the headset is. You can have the most capable headset in the world, but it's not helpful if it becomes uncomfortable after 10 minutes of use. We found that most PC gaming headsets struggle to find a good balance in design. A couple of headsets combine a long list of features with low weight and high comfort, but they are the exception.
Rarely do gaming headsets offer you everything that you need. More often than not, they'll have a feature you want, like chat volume control, but lack another, like a carrying case. We found that a few gaming headsets give you much more than others in this regard. Generally, the more options you have, the better off you'll be.
Top Ten Reviews seeks, whenever possible, to evaluate all products and services in a way that best serves the consumer. For this project, we drew the data for product specifications (including all frequency response, sensitivity and impedance measures) from those provided by the manufacturer. The manufacturers had no input or influence over our evaluation, nor was the evaluation method provided to any of them in more detail than is available through reading our reviews. Results of our evaluations were not provided to the companies in advance of publication.
There are several key features and attributes that every gamer should look out for when deciding on the best PC gaming headset:
Audio Impedance & Driver Size
A lower impedance is usually a good thing because it indicates higher efficiency, which allows the option for louder sound output to your ears from the signals piped into the headset. Another important consideration is the size of the drivers in the headphones. The larger the drivers, the more air they can move, which results in better audio reproduction.
Specs for the Microphone
Not all microphones are made equally. Most microphones in gaming headsets are unidirectional, which means that the mic picks up less ambient noise; however, some headsets have bidirectional or omnidirectional microphones. The sensitivity and frequency response ranges for microphones are also important to consider. Higher sensitivity means it's easier for the microphone to pick up quiet sounds. The frequency response range dictates what frequencies the microphone can capture and resend. Large ranges allow better audio capture.
Another aspect of design you shouldn't overlook is whether the microphone is retractable, removable or both. Both is the best, since it means you can move the microphone wherever you want.
Well-designed headsets won't put too much pressure on the sides of your head, which can become painful over time. Circumaural headphones cup your ears and passively cancel out noise, which provides you with a better auditory experience. Keep in mind that we only looked at wired headsets, which means that the length of the cord and the connection type are important considerations.
Controls & Accessories
This category covers all the features that make using and adapting these PC gaming headsets more convenient and multifunctional. Specifically, we looked to see if there was a USB connection. You should look for gaming headsets that have separate microphone and gaming volume controls. A protective carrying case is important if you travel a lot and like to game on the road. The best PC gaming headsets come with all of the accessories you need to take advantage of any situation. Ideally, you won't need to buy anything else after you open the headset's box.
Help & Support
Nothing is more frustrating than shelling out money for a headset that doesn't work when you get it in the mail. It does happen sometimes, so take into consideration the amount of support available to you should there be a manufacturing defect. Also consider the information and different kinds of support the manufacturer provides to help you understand and use your PC gaming headset properly. Live chat is an excellent way to contact manufacturers and resolve issues.
To learn more even more, check out our articles on PC gaming headsets.
The Astro A40 is the top pick out of all of our PC gaming headset reviews because it combines excellent design, functionality and extras. While it's certainly not the cheapest gaming headset, that money goes toward a well-designed product. You can expect the A40 to accurately reproduce audio with its 7.1-channel surround sound and the A40's microphone to faithfully capture and transmit your voice. Part of what makes the A40 so appealing is how comfortable it is to wear. Even with all of its extra features, the A40 only weighs in at 11.4 ounces. It's not uncommon for other headsets to be twice as heavy.
Spec for spec, the Turtle Beach Z Seven is hard to beat. In many aspects, the Z Seven is technically better than our number one pick. With slightly better headphone and microphone response range, lower impedance, and larger drivers, the Z Seven is a compelling choice. The Z Seven's one weakness is its weight and relative comfort. Weighing in at 32 ounces, this is one of the heaviest headsets we've looked at. Still, the Z Seven is a strong choice for any PC gamer.
The Kingston HyperX Cloud II took what the original HyperX Cloud did and made it better. The headphones can reproduce sounds as low as 15Hz and as high as 25kHz, which is excellent. What really makes the Cloud II stand out is its relatively low price. Not only does the Cloud II rank third on our lineup, it's also the best value. One minor issue with the Cloud II is that the headphones don't fold into a smaller size, which somewhat limits portability.