Best gaming headsets for 2023
Three 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.
- Best for Xbox and PlayStation — Arctis Nova Pro Wireless
- Best for pro gamers — Astro A50
- Best value — Astro A20
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 for our gaming experience.
A rocking pair of gaming headphones is a budget-friendly way to get a hold of high-quality, audio and keep up with the competition. 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.
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 good gaming headset can give you the full experience of both the game world and the joy of music.
So, how do I find the right pair of gaming headphones? Let's get specific.
How to choose a gaming headset
We aim to provide all the information you need to make an informed decision on our product pages. As you're looking over these details, you'll want to think about how you plan to use your gaming headphones.
Are you looking for an immersive single player experience or digging into competitive multiplayer? Do you play casually, maybe an hour or two a day, or are video games a full-time hobby? Let's chat about some key the elements of a good gaming headset to help you pick out the right one for you.
It's not uncommon for gamers to play for hours at a time. Little details like weight, clamping force, and earcup material become more important the longer you wear your gaming headphones at a time.
Softer, plushier materials on both the earcups and headband tend to be better for gaming, as well as lighter clamp. You want your headset to be secure, but if it's too tight it'll wear on you and quickly become distracting.
A full surround sound system can be 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.
Surround sound is a big consideration for immersive single player games. 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.
Detailed environment cues are vital to keeping your competitive edge sharp, too. When I play The Hunt: Showdown, every gentle tap of a nearby enemy's footsteps or crinkle over broken glass can tip us off to a hidden attacker. Being able to pinpoint a gunshot echoing in the distance also tells us where to go hunting, so we can creep up and lay down our own ambush.
A good pair of gaming headphones will provide noise isolation, cutting ambient sound out of the picture. You'll want to hear the game's soundtrack, not the air conditioning kicking on. Cutting out distracting noise helps you maintain immersion for single player games and help you catch audio cues like footsteps when you're playing competitively.
Over-the-ear gaming headphones tend to provide the best noise isolation, creating a physical barrier between your ears and other sounds in the environment.
Team communication is vital to competitive gaming and absolutely requires a gaming headset with a microphone. Team-based games like an FPS (first-person shooter) or MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) benefit the most from a good built-in or attachable microphone.
Coordinated teamwork beats a disorganized group of individuals. Your team needs to be able to hear you over the game track or any environmental noises around you. In a close game, split-second decisions can end up giving you the win or leaving you feeling salty.
The best headsets have a mic that isolates your voice from other sounds in your environment. This both makes it easier for your friends to hear you and prevents distracting noises from leaking into your game chat. It's hard to focus on the game if all you can hear is the rustling of your teammate's bag of chips.
Wired vs wireless
Wired gaming headphones offer a secure, reliable connection. They also tend to be budget-friendly, netting you a sound upgrade without putting too much strain on your wallet. Most wired headsets connect directly to your controller, but some might require an additional cable connected directly to your PC or console. Whenever that's the case, you need to consider how far away you plan on sitting.
On the flipside, wireless headphones give you a greater range of freedom, letting you move around without worrying about unplugging yourself accidentally. This helpful especially between matches or when the game is paused. You can set down your controller and take a break without taking your headphones off. Bluetooth headphones have become the go-to solution for many gamers because of how easy and flexible they are to use.
Our top gaming headphones for 2023
We carry a solid range of gaming headsets. I've highlighted a few of our best below, separated by the features that help them stand out of the crowd. This should help guide your search so you can pinpoint a headset that will fit your application.
Best for consoles — Arctis Nova Pro Wireless
The Nova Pro Wireless is the flagship model of SteelSeries's popular Arctis line of gaming headphones. They come in two flavors, one for PlayStation and the other Xbox. These pro-grade 'phones boast seriously immersive sound with powerful bass extension backed up by active noise cancellation so you can focus on the game and not your laundry spinning in the other room.
The unique wireless base station is one of the coolest features of the Nova Pro Wireless. This station lets you connect to two different sources at the same time. So you can hook up your main PlayStation or Xbox console, then also connect a PC or second gaming console, like a Nintendo Switch. You can easily switch betwen the two sources and keep using the same headphones when you switch over to a different platform.
The base station also allows you to adjust your audio settings with a 10-band parametic equalizer and features line-in and line-out minijack connections for additional flexibility. Even cooler, the base station also acts as a charger for the headset's detachable batteries. Two batteries come in the box, so you can charge your spare while you're playing, then quickly swap them out to get back into the game immediately. They call it the "Infinity Power System" for a reason.
- 40mm high-fidelity drivers with neodymium magnets deliver powerful, detailed sound
- active noise cancellation with ClearCast AI algorithm and quad microphones intelligently senses and blocks out external distractions
- wireless base station can connect to two sources and switch between them with a pair of USB-C outputs
- frequency response: 10-22,000 Hz (wireless), 10-40,000 Hz (wired)
Best for pro gamers — Astro A50
The Astro A50 is one of the most popular headsets worn by gaming professionals today. They regularly rank in the Top 10. Next time you're watching an eSports event like EVO or the League of Legends World Championship, take a gander at what folks are wearing. You'll notice an Astro logo on a lot of those headphones, and for good reason.
First off, these are probably the most comfortable headphones I've ever worn. The earcups are super soft and almost disappear on your head, making them great for long playing sessions. They've also been tuned for smooth, lifelike sound with detailed localization that makes tracking the position of sound cues easy. With 3D and Dolby Audio support, the A50s help you maintain situational awareness for a competitive edge.
With a built-in MixAmp, the mix of chat and game audio is optimized to make sure you don't miss key communication from your team. Easy buttons on the side of the headphones let you adjust the volume of your game sound versus your chat. Astro's original MixAmp was so successful at improving team communication in the early 2000s it was banned at some tournaments because it provided what was considered an unfair advantage at the time.
The A50 has PlayStation and Xbox versions that cover the PS4/PS5 and Xbox One/Xbox Series X, respectively (as well as PC/Mac). If you're looking for an awesome set of professional-quality headphones that work for both current and next-gen consoles, you should definitely consider snagging the A50s.
- 40mm drivers with neodymium magnets deliver crisp, powerful audio
- support for Dolby and 3D audio provides up to 7.1-channel surround sound
- Base Station provides convenient charging and low-latency 2.4 GHz wireless connection
- frequency response: 20-20,000 Hz
Best value — Astro A20
The Astro A20 gaming headphones pack a lot of punch, but keep it simple so you can get the most for your money. These wireless headphones are lightweight with soft, breathable earcups. They're nearly as comfortable as their big brother the A50s. And they offer surprisingly deep bass and impressive detail.
As the least expensive of Astro's wireless headphones, the A20s provide a low barrier of entry to the dynamic sound Astro is known for. PC players can even utilize the Astro Command Center downloadable software to optimize their EQ settings.
There are two versions of the A20s: one designed for PlayStation and the other for Xbox. Both versions work with PC and use a simple low-latency USB wireless transmitter. Just plug in the transmitter and you're good to go.
- 40mm drivers deliver powerful, detailed sound
- earpads and headband are light and soft for maximum comfort during long play sessions
- USB wireless transmitter with with low-latency 2.4 GHz frequency signals
- frequency response: 20-20,000 Hz
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Popular questions customers ask
A lot of gaming headsets support surround sound decoding up to either 5.1 or 7.1 channels. Headsets that can decode 7.1 channels are naturally more immersive.
Communicating intelligibly with your teammates is paramount in an intense game. Some headsets will use a directional boom mic that picks up your voice while rejecting ambient noise, while others have built-in noise filters to keep ambient sounds from coming through your mic.
Regular headphones and earbuds are great, but they’re designed specifically for music reproduction. You can use a pair for gaming, but headsets designed for gaming will provide better performance. Gaming headsets have better microphones and offer features like voice mixing and native surround sound decoding.