27/06/2018 – 12:27pm
If you’re really getting into your gaming, it’s well worth investing in a decent headset.
There are a few reasons why. For one thing it means you can play games unrestricted – you don’t have to worry about waking up the people you live with, or your neighbours, with the explosions from your session of Fortnite, Fallout, or Battlefield 1.
Another good reason is the audio experience can be vastly improved by a good quality headset, particularly those with 3D positional audio capabilites, effectively giving the performance of a full surround-sound speaker setup with much less faff and usually cheaper too. As well as higher quality audio, the direct-to-ear sound with ambient noise cancellation gives a much more immersive gaming experience, and will actually help you in-game as you’ll have a better idea where enemies are coming from.
Lastly, there’s the communications aspect. Most headsets these days come with a built-in microphone, while most online multiplayer games feature some kind of voice communication. Or at least, even if the voice isn’t built-in, most multiplayer communities now use services like Discord and TeamSpeak to talk during games. As well as the social aspect, in many games this can be vital, particularly during team play games where if you want to get the advantage on your opponents you’ll need to plan and work together, as well as react spontaneously to dynamically changing situations. All of that is better done with voice.
If you’re already a veteran gamer, all of the above will already be known to you. But perhaps your last headset broke, or you simply think its time for an upgrade and you’re looking for something new?
You’ll notice a couple of things about our list. First, it’s quite small – this is because in truth there is only a handful of really decent, gaming-focused headsets on the market amidst a sea of flashy crap which will fall apart in five minutes.
A lot of hardcore gamers will recommend that rather than grab a gaming headset you instead opt for an expensive, studio quality set of headphones and add a simple boom mic for voice; but often we’re talking about headsets that cost many hundreds of pounds/dollars because they’re the kind of kit used by professional recording artists, producers, and sound engineers.
Second, the prices in the list start somewhat high, and go higher pretty quickly. Again, it’s part of the same issue of the quality-price plateau in this device category.
Go any lower than £70 and you might as well view the headset as disposable, because it’s going to disintegrate within a year, probably much quicker, in fact.
But then, just because you pay £70-£120 doesn’t necessarily mean you are getting quality – again, there’s a lot of dross out there jazzed up with luminous exterior designs with a fat price tag slapped on.
What we’ve tried to do is essentially list a couple of headsets which are within the price range that can get you something decent, but without going to crazy high levels. But more than that we’ve picked ones which we know are good quality either first-hand or by esteemed reputation.
Whether you’re a gaming newb or a grizzled vet, here are our favourite gaming headsets on the market right now.
HyperX Cloud II Gaming Headset – £69.99-£74.99
Full disclosure: this is the headset which I personally own and use for my own gaming.
I’ve spent years using headsets which would last six months at best, often spectacularly bursting into pieces for no apparent reason. After my fourth or fifth headset explosion, I had finally had enough and decided to put some research in and invest in a quality headset.
My priority was durability and voice quality, rather than audio quality specifically. I wanted something solid that would last years, and in the past I’d had a lot of problems with terrible microphones which meant other players couldn’t hear me very well, or got terrible feedback and distortion.
However, with that said I didn’t want to settle for crappy audio, and I can confirm the audio quality is easily some of the best I’ve encountered on any sound-producing piece of hardware. It also features virtual enhanced surround sound toggle-able by a hardware button on the built-in wired controller.
The headset band is fashioned from high-end aluminium and is tough but has some flexibility and other components are plastic, while the wiring uses durable braided cording. Both the main cable and the boom microphone are detachable, with the latter using a 3.5mm headphone jack. The main connector has options for both 3.5mm and USB via an included adaptor, and the cables are nice and long so you can comfortably sit on the couch some distance away from your console or gaming PC while using it.
I’ve found the HyperX Cloud II’s to have a very solid and robust construction that has stood up well over time, and it feels to have a high quality when you’re handling it too. I’ve also found the microphone is one of the best I’ve owned and had a remarkably no-fuss setup compared to what I’ve used in the past.
The headset comes in a really nicely presented hard cardboard box with shaped foam inserts and there’s a custom carry bag included too should you need to use you Cloud II’s for gaming or music away from home.
HyperX does produce some higher-priced and supposedly higher-end headsets, notably the HyperX Cloud and Cloud Revolver Pro, the latter of which actually has a steel frame rather than an aluminium one. You’d think this would mean a more durable headset, and on the whole it does – I nearly forked out extra for this model – however, allegedly it has a lot of problems with the microphone connector packing in, which is not something the Cloud II’s are said to suffer from.
SteelSeries Arctis 7 Wireless Gaming Headset – £129.99-£159.99
SteelSeries has an excellent reputation for gaming accessories and the Arctis headphones series is pretty comprehensive, ranging from the Arctis 3 (wired, £59.99-£89.99) all the way up to the crazy expensive Arctis Pro Wireless at £300!
At that price you might as well go for the studio headphones and a boom mic!
The SteelSeries Arctis 3 is easy to recommend and is a similar price point to the HyperX Cloud II’s, but it is made from plastic, making the Cloud II’s a more durable option.
However, while the SteelSeries Arctis 7 is a significant step-up in price, it’s also significantly cheaper than the Arctis Pro, while still boasting the perks of wireless connectivity, plus a metal build like the HyperX Cloud II’s. What’s more, it’s made from a lightweight steel alloy.
Couple this with 15-hour wireless battery life, excellent audio quality and 7.1 surround sound, and you have a pretty compelling package.
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