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Best gaming headsets for 2021

5 headsets that help you make the most of your gaming experience

In this article: I'll hook up a few key gaming headphone recommendations, based on common gaming scenarios.

  1. Best for an immersive experience — Audeze Mobius
  2. Best for consoles — Audeze Penrose
  3. Best for pro gamers — Astro A50
  4. Best value  — JBL Quantum 300
  5. Best for streamers — Audio-Technica/Yamaha eSports Gameplay Bundle

As we start our journey, I'll discuss some of the many benefits of a quality pair of gaming headphones.

A lot of people ask us if a gaming headset is really worth the expense. "Can't I just stick to my TV or computer audio? How much of a difference could it make? It's just beeps, boops, and pows anyway, right?" Oof. Be still, my breaking heart. Few things could be further from the truth.

If you're looking for the best experience possible, you need to think about your sound too. Video games are about way more than just the visuals, and they've come a long way as a form of media. A game can be a fully-fledged piece of interactive art that challenges our perceptions or a competitive sporting event watched by thousands of people at a time. In all of these cases, sound fulfills a fundamental role in our gaming experience.

So, what are some of the benefits? Let's get specific.

Bring the game to life

A rocking pair of headphones is a budget-friendly way to get a hold of high-quality sound. This is great for audiophiles, but also for gamers. A full surround sound system can be pretty expensive and often means filling your room with speakers. Headphones with virtual surround sound can provide a similar experience at a fraction of the cost. And they cut ambient sound out of the picture, so you're hearing the game and not the air conditioning kicking on.

Few things put you right into the middle of the action like the feeling of sound enveloping you from all sides. If you're playing Resident Evil 2, hearing a zombie shamble towards you from behind will send a shiver straight up your spine.

A lot of games these days also have banging soundtracks that match the emotional content of the story. This draws you in further and invests you in the fate of the characters (I'm looking at you, Witcher 3.) A solid gaming headset can give you the full experience of both the game world and the joy of music.

An audible advantage

If you're looking for a competitive edge, the audio feedback you get from a game is a big deal. Sound cues inform reaction speed, timing, and situational awareness in-game.

Our ability to react to auditory stimuli is actually faster than our ability to do the same with visuals. In other words, you're able to respond to what you hear before what you see. This is why arcade sticks made for fighting games are often designed to reduce the "clickety-clack" of button presses. A capable opponent sitting next to you can hear your inputs before the results appear on-screen. Audio feedback can also inform the rhythm of complicated combos and other advanced techniques.

If you're playing a team-based game, like an FPS (first-person shooter) or MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena), you also need to reliably communicate with other players. Coordinated teamwork beats a disorganized group of individuals. This requires being able to clearly hear your teammates over the game track or ambient noise around you.

In a close game, split-second decisions can end up giving you the win or leaving you feeling salty. With sub-par equipment, you'll find yourself all too familiar with the latter scenario.

Best for an immersive experience — Audeze Mobius

Audeze Mobius Gaming Headphones

The Audeze Mobius caused a bit of stir with the gamers here at Crutchfield. Several of us were pretty impressed, and our headphone guru Jeff Miller covered these awesome headphones in an in-depth review. Jenny, one of our IT specialists, breaks it down like this:

"I've always been impressed by the soundscape of Destiny 2. There are all of these little nuances and subtleties that drop you into the world. Through the Mobius headphones, the sound was as enchanting as the graphics and the gameplay. I felt like I was in the middle of the game. Especially when an explosion or surprise attack would come from one direction or another, and bring on that ping of panic in my chest."

The Audeze Mobius blanket you in impactful 3D audio. They bring out details you didn't know existed and really help the game world feel alive. With advanced head-tracking technology, sound cues maintain position when you turn your head, creating a more immediate soundscape. If you're looking for a truly immersive experience to suck you in to the game and not let go, the Mobius are for you.

Details

  • 100mm planar magnetic drivers provide detailed, dynamic sound
  • full surround sound decoding up to 7.1 (with digital connection)
  • Bluetooth 4.1 connectivity with LDAC High-fidelity streaming with compatible sources
  • frequency response: 10-50,000 Hz

Best for consoles — Audeze Penrose

Gamer wearing the Audeze Pemrose headphones

The Audeze Penrose over-ears use the same powerful planar magnetic drivers as the Mobius for controlled, powerful sound. While they don't have the same surround sound processing, directional cues are clear and easy to place, making the Penrose a solid choice for competitive games like Fortnite or Call of Duty: Warzone.

The detachable boom mic was also designed in partnership with Shure, experts in sound recording technology. With a built-in filter for noise reduction, you can be sure your teammates will hear you clear as a bell, but not the dog barking down street.

The Penrose headset comes in two varieties that support major current and next-gen consoles: one for PlayStation and the other for Xbox. The former works with both the PS4 and the PS5, while the latter works with the Xbox One and Xbox Series X. Both versions can be used with a PC or a Mac as well. If you haven't upgraded to next-gen yet, these headphones are a smart investment. You can use them now and they'll still be just as useful when you pull the trigger on a new console later.

The headphones use a transmitter to hook up wirelessly to your device of choice. You can also go old-school and wire up with the 3.5mm jack on most controllers instead. This lets you use the Penrose with a wide variety of Nintendo Switch controllers as well. This is great for people like me. I'm a PlayStation adopter, but the Switch was too cool to pass on, so I've got both in the house.

Details

  • 100mm planar magnetic drivers provide detailed, dynamic sound
  • uses 2.4 GHz low-latency wireless transmitter
  • Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity (can be used with wireless transmitter at the same time)
  • frequency response: 10-50,000 Hz
Last updated 3/29/2021