Gaming Headset Buying Guide

Premium-quality headphones are an inseparable component of the gaming setup of both hardcore gamers and casual players. Headsets not only add a sense of realism to the games, but they also give you a chance to communicate with teammates and meet like-minded gaming enthusiasts.

However, which are the features that make a headset well worth the purchase? How can you tell if the headsets you have eyed will actually live up to your requirements for gaming? How can you determine whether the headset has all features you need to make the most out of your gaming sessions?

It would be unacceptable to proclaim that certain brands are the best manufacturers of headphones and condemn others as creators of cheap pieces of garbage. It all depends on your personal preferences. If you are a passionate gamer, you will not settle for less than the best gaming headset currently in existence.

However, if you are looking for a budget gaming headset or you think that investing your weekly wage into gaming gear is a rich man’s whim, you will have to put up with the lack of some essential features. Still, you have all chances of finding a model that works well for you. Here are the most important features to look out for when you explore the market for the best gaming headset.

Gaming Headsets Compatible with PC, Mac, Xbox One or PS4

What’s important to take into account before you start looking for a high-quality gaming headset is the platform you use.

If you are predominantly a PC player, make sure the headsets you have eyed are compatible with a gaming PC. Likewise, if you prefer consoles, double check if the headsets work with PS4 and Xbox One. Mac users have some difficulties in finding headsets compatible with Apple devices, but manufacturers seem to be working hard towards solving that issue.

Some premium-class headsets run across all gaming platforms. However, they tend to cost more as compared to those that support a single platform.

Gaming Headsets Connection Type

Depending on the platform you use, you have to consider the connection type of the headsets you intend to purchase. Failing to do that means you may end up with fancy headsets that are incompatible with your PC or console. There are several types of connection: a standard 3.5mm, dual 3.5mm, wired USB, wireless USB, and Bluetooth.

If you are a PS4 player, you are not likely to stumble upon connectivity issues. However, if you are mainly a PC gamer, you will have to dig deeper into that matter. Here are a few tips we have when buying headphones.

Headsets, made specifically for PCs, require you to install extra drivers or software. Otherwise, you will not be able to access the advanced features such as EQ settings or surround sound. If you are looking for a USB headset on PS4, it’s important to make sure such compatibility is explicitly stated on the box.

As for headsets’ compatibility with Xbox, things are a bit tricky. If you are looking for wireless USB headsets that offer Xbox One (or Xbox Series X) support, you will have to double check their compatibility. Newer Xbox controllers have a jack for standard 3.5mm headsets. If you have an older Xbox device, you might need to purchase the Microsoft 3.5 mm headset adapter.

To wrap up, USB wireless models are compatible mainly with PS4 and PC, and in some cases with Xbox One. Bluetooth headsets support mobile devices, PS4, PS Vita, and PCs.

Comfort during Prolonged Use

Comfort is the key to peak in-game performance. Who needs advanced headsets that cause such a terrible pain neck that you prefer wearing the featherlike cheapo you bought from the local shop?

The best gaming headset is comfortable and non-obtrusive. It is made of durable, lightweight materials (like high-quality plastic)  that allow you to focus solely on the game. Using decent quality headsets reduced the risk of a headache, neck pain or an earache after a few hours of usage.

The materials used for the headsets are not the only factor that determines if the device would be a comfortable one. The topic is much deeper, so let’s outline all the important elements that make a headset comfortable to use.

Gaming Headset for People Who Wear Glasses

If you wear glasses, don’t forget to take that into account when choosing the best gaming headset for you. Some manufacturers use a glass-friendly technology that does not put any pressure on the frames which might be a big difference for longer gaming sessions.

Headband and Earcups Materials

The materials used in the headband and the earcups matter the most. Leather earcups are said to be the most comfortable, not to mention that they look really stylish. However, they make your ears prone to sweating especially with intense gaming. Spongier earcups allow better airflow, but the low-class models are not very comfortable to wear.

As for the headband, it should comfortably rest on your head. If the headband crushes your skull, you may rest assured you will not be able to wear the headsets during the weekend gaming marathons. The padded headbands seem to be the most comfortable ones. If you have eyed headsets that offer no padding but metal or plastic bands, you should think twice and decide whether you would sacrifice your comfort when gaming.

How Important is the Headphones’ Weight?

The weight of the gaming headset also matters. Make sure you pick up headsets that are lightweight and at the same time durable. If the headsets are too heavy, you will reach a point when the pain in the neck will be the smallest comfort-related problem of yours.

To cut the long story short, the perfect gaming headset is comfortable; features thick, yet soft padding; comes with a flexible headband; the earcups are big enough to fit your entire ear, and finally yet importantly, that whole thing is not too heavy.

Microphone Specs

The microphone is among the most important components of a good quality headset. Even if you cannot afford to buy the most luxurious device on the market, make sure the budget model you liked has a good quality microphone.

The built-in microphone helps you communicate with your fellow players. What’s more, the best gaming headphones have a high-end noise cancellation feature, so that those you speak to can hear your voice with remarkable clarity.

If you intend to use the headset not only for TeamSpeak, but also for listening to music or watching movies, you’d better focus on finding a model with an unobtrusive or better yet, detachable microphone.

Omni- or Undirectional Mic- What’s the Difference?

A gaming headset usually comes with omnidirectional or unidirectional boom mics.

What’s the difference between omnidirectional and unidirectional mics? As their name implies, omnidirectional mics pick up sounds from all directions. To put it the other way around, if you have to choose between headsets featuring an omnidirectional mic and another model featuring an unidirectional mic, choose the latter.

Should I Get Headset or Headset and Separate Mic?

This is a matter of personal taste. If you wish, you can get a headset to listen through and a microphone to speak to teammates. However, for the sake of comfort, most gamers prefer headsets with an in-built microphone.

Wired or Wireless Gaming Headset?

Everyone who’s big into gaming would smash the belief that wireless gaming peripherals are equal to the wired ones. Both wired and wireless headset versions have their advantages and disadvantages.

The most obvious disadvantage of the wired headsets is the availability of cords. Opting for a wired headset means that you take the risk of untangling wires or tripping up over cords. It’s important to mention that cables are notorious for being drunk spillers when gaming.

On the other hand, wireless headsets spare you the above troubles. However, most of them connect to gaming platforms via Bluetooth or wireless networks. Therefore, you might experience some interference from routers, mobile devices, and speakers. The good news is that manufacturers work hard towards improving the technical specs of the wireless devices. Each wireless headset released by the renowned brands outshines its predecessors. The Cowin E7 wireless bluetooth headphones are a good example of a sophisticated wireless piece of tech. We did not notice any interference with the above mentioned devices.

However, there is another side of the coin. Wireless headsets run on batteries, which mean you have to deal with the battery-charging chore before gaming. If you forget to charge it, the battery may die in the middle of a game.

Open or Closed Gaming Headsets?

Let’s clarify the difference between open and closed back headsets.

Closed headsets have a solid cup around the speaker, so that your ears are completely isolated from the noises around you. Closed headsets are the better solution if you want to focus solely on gaming and do not get distracted by environmental noises. Likewise, people around you will not hear any sound coming from the game you play.

Another perk of using closed headsets is that you can hear even the slightest noise in the game loud and clear, which definitely gives you an edge over the competition.

As for the open headsets, their main advantage is that they deliver more natural, less muffled sound. That’s possible due to the perforated ear cups. It can be more enjoyable to use an open headset for some gaming sessions. However, the drawback is that you will hear outside noises and other people will hear noises from your game.

Last but not least, if you settle for an open headset, you have to double check whether the microphone picks up sounds from the ear speaker.

Sound Quality

All serious gamers would agree that the high-quality sound can make a huge difference when gaming. The main purpose of the headsets is to enable you to hear explosions, gunfire, your enemies’ footsteps, and take your game to the next level. If you are not just a gamer but also a YouTuber, podcaster, or a Twitch streamer compromising on the audio quality is simply out of question.

The true surround sound of a gaming headset comes from the multiple drivers kept in each side of the earpad for different audio channels. In other words, users can hear the sound from different angles.

In FPS, such as Call of duty, it is essential to know the direction of the gunfire. In this respect, choosing headsets with surround sound is the best thing you can do. The Dolby Headphone Technology is considered the fanciest feature a contemporary  gaming headset may possess. It delivers 7.1 virtual surround sound that gives you a competitive edge not only in FPS but in all other gaming genres.

The alternative to the 7.1 channel surround sound is the stereo game sound. Once again, it is a matter of personal preference which one to choose. However, keep in mind that to make the most out of your game, you are advised to pick headsets with either 5.1 or 7.1 virtual surround sound. The latter is critically important in FPS. If most of your gaming sessions are in MMO and RTS games you would also benefit from the availability of a surround sound.

If you are into FPS, make sure your headsets have a powerful bass. After all, it is the good bass that brings gunfire and explosions to life, isn’t it?

The simulated surround sound is not a must, but let’s say it is a desirable feature the best gaming headsets should possess. However, if you are looking for cheap gaming headsets, you’d better stay away from those featuring a surround sound. You may rest assured the sound quality will be dreadful.

Active Noise Cancellation Feature

The noise cancellation is a very handy feature for gaming that works in the following manner. An external microphone is used to invert any outside noises and cancel them. This way, you can indulge in your game without being exposed to any distractions.

Choosing a gaming headset with a noise cancellation functionality is a must if you play in a loud environment and do not want to hear your roommate watching TV or your family talking in the living room.

Sound Format

If you need a basic headset for Skype conversations, you will be fine with mono/ stereo. If you are doing some serious gaming and do not want your headset to be the reason for your in-game demise and real-life frustration, you should go with 5.1 or better yet, 7.1 directional audio hearing.

Gaming Headsets Durability

You might be determined to find the best wired or wireless headset for gaming on the market but your determination probably has its limits. Financial limits, to be precise J. What you need is a gaming headset with a decent quality-price ratio. The high price is not always a fair representation of headset’s durability, but you are advised to shy away from flimsy materials and headsets made up entirely of cheap plastic.

Spare Parts

Let’s call a spade a spade. Even if you buy a product known as the best headset for gaming, it is still prone to breakdowns. Sometimes, these breakdowns are due to technical overlooks. Improper exploitation and poor maintenance are also among the common reasons for breakdowns. Since an unbreakable piece of gaming gear is yet to be crafted, you have to be prepared to find a replacement to the broken part if needed. Make sure the headset ships with spare parts or at least they are sold separately.

How Much Should I Spend on a Gaming Headset?

The price range of the headphones is pretty wide. The more advanced features your headset of choice possesses, the higher the price will be.

You can find a decent quality device in the range $50-$100. Headsets in this price category come with all features you need for a smooth TeamSpeak or Skype conversation with a friend on the other side of the globe. A vivid example of a decent and inexpensive headset is Recon 50x.

If the price is a concern to you and you are on the lookout for the best budget headphones, don’t miss to check our guide. To save you the bother, we handpicked the best cheap headset.


No matter if you are a self-proclaimed gaming enthusiast or you are an avid gamer who can hardly count the hours spent in playing, using a good quality headset is always a challenging task.

The combination of all above features makes a gaming headset a good quality one. Still, if you want a budget-friendly device, the headset might not possess all those bells and whistles. All that counts is to find a device that best suits your individual gaming needs and does not make you clench your fist in frustration during a gaming session.

Tracy has been working for RealGear since the first day it went online. She reads every e-sports related newspaper and website. She is a huge fan and a gamer with a soft spot for Lineage 2, WoW, and Guild Wars 1 and 2. She says she does not suffer from PvP insanity, she enjoys every minute of it. Tracy defines herself as a person who’d spend two hours customizing a character rather than indulging in an activity that would not be as nearly rewarding as playing games and testing hardware.

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