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The best gaming headsets for 2024

And the difference between “gaming headsets” and “headphones for gaming.”

Photo by Jeff Dunn / Engadget

Most of the time, the best gaming headset isn’t a “gaming headset” at all. Although these devices are often thought of as a distinct niche within the wider headphone market, they're ultimately still headphones. And while it’s certainly not impossible to find gaming headsets that sound nice, those tend to cost much more than a comparable pair of wired headphones (yes, those still exist).

A good wired headphone remains your best bet if you want the most detailed sound possible at any given price point and don’t need something especially portable, which is usually the case while gaming. If you need to chat with friends, you can always buy an external microphone, whether it’s a USB mic, a cheaper clip-on model or a standalone option like the Antlion ModMic or V-Moda BoomPro. Oftentimes, those'll make your voice sound clearer and fuller than a gaming headset's built-in mic.

But we recognize that many people just want the convenience of an all-in-one combo. So after testing out a few dozen pairs over the past several months, we’ve put together a list of good headphones for gaming and full-on gaming headsets. We recommend you consider the former first, but all of them will make your play time more enjoyable.

Quick Overview
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What to look for in good gaming headphones

A black gaming headset with a built-in boom microphone, the HyperX Cloud Stinger 2, rests on a white table in an outdoors setting.
The HyperX Cloud Stinger 2. (Photo by Jeff Dunn / Engadget)

Evaluating headphones is a particularly subjective exercise, so calling one pair the absolute “best” is something of a fool’s errand. At a certain point, whether you're an audiophile or not, everything becomes a matter of taste. For most, a headphone with a wide soundscape and strong imaging performance — i.e., the ability to position sounds correctly, so you can more precisely tell where footsteps and other game effects are coming from — will provide the most immersive gaming experience, the kind that makes you feel like your head is within a given scene.

For that, you want a high-quality pair of open-back headphones. That is to say, an over-ear pair whose ear cups do not completely seal off the ear from air and outside noise. These are inherently terrible at isolating you from external sound and preventing others from hearing what you’re playing, so if you often play games in a noisy environment, their benefits will be blunted. But in a quiet room, the best open-back pairs sound significantly wider and more precise than more common closed-back models.

More up for debate is how a good gaming headphone should sound. If you want something that’ll help you in competitive multiplayer games, you may prefer a headphone with a flatter sound signature, which'll keep a game’s mix from being overly boosted in one direction and is less likely to mask the smaller details of what’s happening around you. A slightly brighter sound, one that pushes the upper frequencies a tad, may also work. Open-back headphones almost never have huge sub-bass, so you rarely have to worry about low-end sounds muddying up the rest of the signature. In this light, the fact that an overwhelming amount of gaming headsets are closed-back and bass-heavy seems counterintuitive.

Lots of people love bass, though. And if you don't really care about competitive play, some extra low-end can add a touch of excitement to action scenes or rousing soundtracks. You still don’t want a pair that boosts the low-end too hard — as many gaming headsets do — but the point is that what makes a pair “immersive” to one person may sound dull to another.

The Beyerdynamic DT 900 Pro X should please most people willing to pay for a capital-N nice pair of headphones for gaming purposes. It localizes sounds accurately and delivers the kind of spacious soundstage expected from a good open-back model. Bass is a little more present here than on many open-back headphones as well. There still isn’t much in the way of deep sub-bass, unsurprisingly, but there’s enough warmth to give stuff like explosions a bit more juice without muddying up the mids. Details in the midrange get the most emphasis overall, but they’re clear, and their forwardness isn’t a bad thing when you’re trying to listen for enemy players in a competitive FPS like Counter-Strike 2 or Apex Legends. The treble isn’t pushed quite as hard, but it’s neither overly recessed nor harsh.

All of this helps the DT 900 Pro X sound detailed but not boring. It's the kind of sound that plays nice whether you’re trying to win a multiplayer game or take in a more cinematic single-player story. And when you’re not gaming, you get an enjoyable profile for music.

The whole thing is built well, too. The DT 900 Pro X will clamp down slightly harder than average if you have a large head, but it balances its weight well, and its wonderfully soft velour earpads go a long way toward keeping the pair comfortable over hours-long gaming sessions. It comes with two detachable cables, including a three-meter option that’s convenient if you sit far from your PC. It can’t fold up, though.

Like all open-back headphones, the DT 900 Pro X leak game audio and let in lots of noise, so it’s not great on the go. Clearly, if you can afford to upgrade to an ultra-premium pair like Sennheiser’s HD 800 S, you’ll get more space and true-to-life detail. But for a relatively attainable $250 to $300, the DT 900 Pro X should satisfy.

Enclosure: Open-back | Driver: Dynamic | Frequency response: 5 - 40,000Hz | Mic: No | Connectivity: Wired | Weight: 345g (without cable)

Pros
  • Immersive, detailed sound with pleasing bass
  • Well-built with soft ear cushions
Cons
  • Leaks and lets in outside noise, by design
  • Lacking in deep sub-bass, like most open-back headphones
$230 at Amazon
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$269 at Beyerdynamic
Photo by Jeff Dunn / Engadget

If you’d rather not spend as much, the Sennheiser HD 560S is another excellent open-back headphone that’s often available for less than $200. Like the DT 900 Pro X, it has a wide soundstage that makes it easier to feel immersed in a given game. Its signature is slightly more neutral on the whole, so you won’t feel like you’re missing any part of what's happening, and it retrieves a lovely amount of treble and midrange detail. There's less bass power for explosions, though. And the treble, while more present here than on Beyerdynamic's pair, can sound piercing at times. Imaging isn’t quite as nuanced either, though it’s far from poor.

The HD560S' design is plenty comfortable to wear for extended periods. It doesn’t clamp down too hard on those with big heads (like yours truly), and its velour earpads hug the ears softly. The included cable is removable, too. The plastic frame doesn’t feel as sturdy or premium as the DT 900 Pro X, however, so you won’t want to chuck it around haphazardly. It won't isolate much noise either, nor will it prevent others from hearing what you're playing. Nevertheless, the HD 560S is a pleasure, and a great value.

Enclosure: Open-back | Driver: Dynamic | Frequency response: 6 - 38,000Hz | Mic: No | Connectivity: Wired | Weight: 280g

Pros
  • Impressively balanced sound
  • Comfortable
  • Great value for those who prioritize audio quality
Cons
  • Slightly hot in treble range
  • Leaks and lets in outside noise, by design
  • Doesn't have the sturdiest build quality
$180 at Amazon
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$230 at Sennheiser

If you can’t spend more than $50, it’s still hard to top the Koss KSC75. It costs $20, but judging purely on audio quality, it’s better than some headphones priced closer to $100. This pair is very obviously devoid of deep bass, so you won’t get that full-bodied oomph from in-game effects. You also won't hear all the intricate details you'd pick up with the pricier headphones above. But it locates sounds accurately, and its open design delivers a real sense of width. It’s a superb value for competitive play.

The catch is that it’s built like a set of free airline headphones. The KSC75 has an odd clip-on design that is lightweight but won’t be a comfortable fit for everyone. It certainly looks like it costs $20, though Koss backs it with a lifetime warranty that essentially lets you get endless replacements for $9 each. Even if the KSC75 are pushing 20 years old, its relatively balanced sound remains particularly well-suited for gaming.

Enclosure: Open-back (on-ear) | Driver: Dynamic | Frequency response: 15 - 25,000Hz | Mic: No | Connectivity: Wired | Weight: 43g

Pros
  • The best-sounding headphones $20 can buy
  • Lightweight
Cons
  • Clip-on design definitely not for everyone
  • Feels cheap, because it is
$23 at Amazon
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$25 at Koss
Photo by Jeff Dunn / Engadget

If you really want a dedicated gaming headset with a built-in mic, consider the Astro A40 TR. Another open-back pair, it sounds far more spacious than most gaming headsets and generally positions in-game effects in the right place. Its sound signature emphasizes the bass, which gives explosions a smooth and satisfying thump, but it doesn’t overdo the low-end the way many of its peers do.

The A40's audio quality is still a step behind the DT 900 Pro X or HD 560S, especially for online shooters. Next to those headphones, its veiled treble and pushed upper-bass/low-mids can blunt footsteps and other fine details. Its soundstage is narrower by comparison as well. But it's better balanced than most gaming headsets, especially those in its price range. It does well to envelop you in whatever's happening onscreen.

Comfort shouldn’t be an issue, either. The A40 is on the bulkier side, but its weight is evenly distributed, and it doesn’t clamp down overly hard. The fuzzy earpads are soft and breathable, while the ear cups are roomy enough to fit larger ears. The headset has the usual open-back shortcomings, though, as it leaks a bunch of sound and blocks almost zero outside noise. The mostly-plastic design looks “gamer-y" and lacks built-in volume controls, too. Nobody would call it "premium." Still, it's not flimsy.

The A40’s mic, meanwhile, is just OK. It picks up background noises while you chat and makes voices sound somewhat muffled. It’s serviceable, but you’d buy the A40 for its sound quality first. The mic isn’t detachable either, but you can easily flip it up and out of the way.

The A40 has been around for several years now, but its price has come down from $150 to a more reasonable $130 in that time. Astro sells an optional DAC with extra controls for $130, but at that price we’d strongly advise buying a good “normal” headphone and external mic.

Enclosure: Open-back | Driver: Dynamic | Frequency response: 20 - 20,000Hz | Mic: Yes, not detachable | Connectivity: Wired | Weight: 369g (without cable)

Pros
  • More spacious sound than most dedicated gaming headsets
  • Comfortable
  • Solid value
Cons
  • Mic performance is just OK
  • Design is far from premium
  • Treble is underemphasized
$130 at Amazon
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$130 at Astro

You won’t find a good open-back gaming headset for less than $50, so if you’re on a tight budget and need a built-in mic, you’ll have to compromise on sound quality. With that in mind, the HyperX Cloud Stinger 2 is a decent buy for $40 or so. It gets the comfort part right, as its pleather ear cups don’t clamp down hard and have enough soft padding where it counts. Its mic makes voices sound relatively clear and accurate as well. In fact, the mic is a clear step up over the Astro A40's, though it's not detachable.

The Cloud Stinger 2 has a V-shaped sound signature, which is to say it exaggerates the bass and treble while recessing the mids. It’s not bad for what it is, and it’ll definitely give action scenes a heavy dose of boom. But the upper-bass is bumped to the point where it may get tiring over time, and you lose some of the fine details you’d hear on our other picks. Since this is a cheap closed-back headset, the Cloud Stinger 2 doesn’t sound nearly as wide as the pairs above, nor is it as nuanced about positioning sounds accurately. All of that makes it less than ideal for competitive games, though it can still sound “fun” with many other titles.

Beyond that, the plastic design feels cheapish. Its cable isn’t removable, and it doesn’t block much outside noise despite having a closed-back design. Nevertheless, you have to pick your battles in this price range. The Cloud Stinger 2 is flawed, but it does enough well to be a good headset for certain budget-conscious buyers.

Enclosure: Closed-back | Driver: Dynamic | Frequency response: 10 - 28,000Hz | Mic: Yes, not detachable | Connectivity: Wired | Weight: 275g

Pros
  • Strong value
  • Comfortable
  • Solid mic performance
Cons
  • Boomy sound isn't ideal
  • Feels cheapish
  • Poor noise isolation for a closed-back headset
$40 at Amazon
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$50 at HyperX

A quick PSA on wireless gaming headsets

Most people do not need a wireless gaming headset. The PS5 and Xbox Series X/S have a headphone jack built into their controllers, while the Nintendo Switch and most gaming PCs still carry the port as well. The cost of an OK wireless headset is often higher than a comparable wired one, and for the money most wireless models tend to provide worse audio quality and less-clear microphones. You also risk introducing issues with latency. (That’s why non-gaming Bluetooth headphones are a no-go here.) That said, the top end of the wireless headset market has improved noticeably in terms of audio, mic and battery performance over the past couple of years. You’ll still have to pay a significant premium to get one of those options, so they aren’t great values — but if you absolutely must go wireless, you won’t have to make as much of a sacrifice as you used to.

Photo by Jeff Dunn / Engadget

With that stage-setting out of the way, the best wireless gaming headset we’ve tested is the Audeze Maxwell. At $299 for a PS5 model or $329 for an Xbox model, it’s not cheap, but it’s one of the few dedicated gaming headsets we've used whose audio quality holds up next to the better “normal” wireless headphones on the market.

The Maxwell's default signature is like a more refined version of the common “gaming headset” sound. Bass is impactful but well-controlled, while highs are crisp but not sharp. There's a bit of extra energy in the upper-mids, but it's not overwhelming, and the headset's planar-magnetic drivers do well to reproduce smaller intricacies throughout. It still can't provide the immersive width and precise imaging of our open-back picks, but the Maxwell sounds unusually textured, balanced and intimate compared to other wireless gaming headsets. Its cleaner treble makes it much better than the Astro A40 for music, too, though we’d expect as much given the price difference. If you don’t like the out-of-the-box profile, Audeze’s app also includes a number of tasteful EQ presets.

Along those lines, the Maxwell’s detachable boom mic is a standout. It does a phenomenal job of muting background noise, and while your voice will lose some air, it'll sound clearer and fuller here than on most wireless headsets we’ve tested.

The Maxwell is very much on the bulky side, it leaks sound at higher volumes, and its steel headband uses an odd suspension mechanism that's effectively impossible to adjust without taking the headset off. In general, though, its design feels substantial. The squishy, heavily padded ear cups can make your ears feel warm, but they keep the headset comfortable and isolate a fair amount of outside noise. The essential controls are built into the left earcup, and the device can connect over Bluetooth or a 3.5mm cable in addition to a USB-C wireless dongle. You can even connect to two devices at once, one over the dongle and another over Bluetooth, though you can't stream audio from both sources simultaneously. The headset also needs to be powered on in order to play music over a cable.

Audeze rates the Maxwell’s battery life at roughly 80 hours, which is great and has generally held true in our testing. You'll get a bit less if you play at high volumes or use features like Bluetooth or sidetone heavily, though.

Enclosure: Closed-back | Driver: Planar magnetic | Frequency response: 10 - 50,000Hz | Mic: Yes, detachable | Connectivity: 2.4GHz, Bluetooth 5.3 (LDAC, LE Audio, LC3, LC3plus, AAC, SBC), 3.5mm, USB-C digital audio (optional), Xbox Wireless (optional) | Weight: 490g

Pros
  • Wonderfully textured audio quality
  • Good mic performance
  • 80-hour battery life
Cons
  • Pricey
  • Design is bulky
$299 at B&H Photo
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$299 at Audeze

The Astro A50 X costs an eye-watering $380, so we can’t reasonably recommend it to most people. However, if you can stomach the price, this is a uniquely convenient wireless headset for hardcore gamers who own a PS5, Xbox Series X/S and gaming PC. That’s mainly due to its included charging dock, which serves as a unified A/V station for those three platforms. By chaining HDMI and USB cables from a PS5, Xbox and/or PC to the A50 X’s base station, you can connect the headset to all three devices simultaneously. From there, you can swap to your active machine just by pressing a button on the right earcup.

This is a pain to set up: As shown in Logitech’s 12-minute (!) video tutorial, connecting both consoles and a PC requires seven different cables, a few of which aren’t in the box, plus some futzing around in each system’s menus. It’s not totally seamless once everything’s up and running, either: We had to manually change video signals when switching from a PC to a console (though not when doing the inverse) and manually change our PC’s audio output when we wanted to listen through desktop speakers. All of this requires you to keep your gaming hardware in the same area, too.

But for the most part, the A50 X is the most practical wireless headset we’ve tested for multi-console setups. Instead of needing two headsets for Xbox and PS5/PC, or having to reconnect one headset each time you change consoles, all you have to do is take the A50 X off its dock, turn it on and select the platform you want to use. A small LED display on the dock will show the active connection, and the headset will automatically play the correct audio source. With a PS5 and Xbox, it’ll automatically swap video. So long as you use HDMI 2.1 cables, the base station can pass-through 4K 120Hz HDR video to the two consoles, with support for VRR and ALLM. You can also connect the A50 X to a Switch or mobile device via Bluetooth — though you need to be within range of the base station for that to work, and you don’t get the same fast-switching functionality.

All these connectivity tricks wouldn’t mean much if the A50 X was a shoddy headset, but thankfully, it’s not. It’s among the better-sounding wireless headsets we’ve used; it’s not “$380 good,” but it’s dynamic, with rich, relatively nuanced bass and a clean midrange. Explosions and gunshots have a good crunch without sounding overly thick, and it’s generally accurate at locating footsteps and nearby effects. The Audeze Maxwell is still a level above, however; the A50 X has a darker tilt by comparison, so it captures less detail in the treble range and feels more boxed-in. It also can’t match the wider, more enveloping soundstage of our open-back picks. Still, most people will be happy with it, and you can customize its EQ curve to an extent through Logitech’s G Hub software.

The A50 X’s design is like a nicer version of the A40. It’s largely plastic, but it feels sturdy. The fuzzy, fabric-covered foam on its earpads and headband is soft and breathable, and while the headset isn’t super light at 0.8 pounds, it distributes its weight in a way that feels comfortable yet secure. You can also adjust your game-to-chat audio mix right from an earcup. It doesn’t isolate outside noise very well, though, and its boom mic is permanently attached. Its battery life is mediocre as well — Astro rates it at up to 24 hours at moderate volumes — but since the headset is designed to sit on its dock when it’s not in use, that's not a serious issue. The mic, meanwhile, is one of the very best we’ve used any gaming headset, wired or wireless. Voices sound cleaner and more natural than they do with the Maxwell, and background noise is largely kept in check.

Enclosure: Closed-back | Driver: Dynamic | Frequency response: 60 - 20,000Hz | Mic: Yes, not detachable | Connectivity: HDMI audio, USB audio, Bluetooth | Weight: 363g

Pros
  • Closest thing to a truly universal wireless gaming headset
  • Excellent mic performance
  • Good audio quality
Cons
  • Wildly expensive
  • Requires a ton of cables to fully set up
  • No analog audio support
$380 at Logitech
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$380 at Amazon

Honorable mentions

Photo by Jeff Dunn / Engadget

The $200 Corsair Virtuoso Pro is another one of the few dedicated gaming headsets with an open-back design. Like the Astro A40, it sounds wider and more spacious than typical gaming headsets but feels narrower than the “normal” open-back headphones we recommend above. It has a relatively dark sound with mostly underemphasized treble and elevated upper-bass, though the highs are clearer here than they are on the A40. We preferred this signature over Astro’s pair with some games: In a first-person shooter like Halo Infinite, rumbly explosions had more impact and far-off gunshots were a bit easier to pick out. With others, it felt less balanced: The car engines in a racer like Forza Motorsport hummed a bit too loud, while dialogue in an RPG like Baldur’s Gate 3 sounded a little wonkier.

The Virtuoso Pro’s mic is decidedly less muffled than the A40’s but still sounds fairly thin, so it’s merely decent compared to the wider headset market. The design is better-built and looks more refined, though the headband adjustment mechanism feels cheap and you can’t detach the mic without swapping cables out entirely. Its round, breathable ear cups and manageable weight make it easy to wear, and it comes with a sturdy travel case for protection. Ultimately, it’s a good alternative to the A40 if you want a dedicated headset with a clearer mic, but there are richer-sounding headphones available once you get into the $200 range.

$150 at Amazon
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$150 at Best Buy

If you can’t drop $300 or more on a wireless headset, get the HyperX Cloud Alpha Wireless. It can last well over 300 hours at moderate volumes, which is remarkable and by far the best of any wireless model we’ve tested. It’s airy and not too snug on the head, and its powerful bass lends a real sense of excitement to in-game action. But it blunts more detail than the Maxwell and A50 X, and its mic isn’t as good. Several users have also reported latency issues when using the headset with HyperX’s Ngenuity software, and there’s no Xbox, Bluetooth or wired audio support. Still, if you want a wireless pair for PC and PS5 in the $150 range, it should do the trick.

$113 at Amazon
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$180 at Walmart$242 at Staples
Photo by Jeff Dunn / Engadget

The Logitech G535 is an impressively light (0.52 pounds) and comfy wireless headset that’s often available for $100 or less. It has a more neutral sound signature than the Cloud Alpha Wireless: not flat, but less beholden to big, thumping bass. It can make details in the mids sound thin, and if anything it could use a little more sub-bass, but it’s an agreeable listen overall. It can also connect over Bluetooth. However, its mic isn't especially full, and its 35-or-so-hour battery life is a significant drop from our top recommendations. It doesn’t work with Xbox either, and it forces you to crank the volume to reach a listenable level. But if you don’t want to spend a ton on a wireless headset, it’s the best $100-ish pair we've tested.

$89 at Amazon
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$130 at B&H Photo$140 at Adorama

Other gaming headsets we tested

If the Audeze Maxwell is out of stock, the Logitech G Pro X 2 Lightspeed is another quality wireless headset worth considering. It sounds better than the HyperX Cloud Alpha Wireless, with satisfying but more controlled bass and more accurate mids, and it’s lighter on the head than the Maxwell. Logitech rates its battery life at 50 hours, but we found it to last much longer at moderate volumes. However, similar to the Astro A50 X, a dip in the treble makes it sound darker and more veiled than the Maxwell, and it doesn’t have any HDMI-switching tricks to fall back on. Its mic also sounds less natural than those of the Maxwell, A50 X and Cloud Alpha Wireless. Plus, while it can connect over a USB dongle, Bluetooth or a 3.5mm cable, it can’t pair to two devices at once like Audeze’s and Astro’s pairs. Our biggest issue is the price: Value-wise, it’s in something of a no man’s land at its MSRP of $250. It’s a fine choice if it dips below $200, though.

Xbox owners who want a more affordable wireless headset than the Audeze Maxwell could do worse than the SteelSeries Arctis Nova 7X. It’s another bass-forward pair, and its mic is comparable to that of the Cloud Alpha Wireless. It offers multiple connectivity options, including Bluetooth and a 3.5mm cable. While it's marketed for Xbox, it can also connect to PCs and PS5s. Its 30-ish-hour battery life is well short of the Maxwell and Cloud Alpha Wireless, however, and its uneven treble can cause things like in-game dialogue to sound masked in certain titles.

The wired HyperX Cloud Alpha often goes for $80 or less, and at that price it’s a decent middle ground between the Cloud Stinger 2 and Astro A40 if you really want a closed-back gaming headset. It’s old, but its plush earpads and headband are comfy, and its detachable mic, while not superb, is still better than the one on the A40. Its treble is underemphasized, however, and again it sounds more “in your head” than Astro's pair.

The Beyerdynamic MMX 200 and HyperX Cloud III Wireless gaming headsets lay on their sides on top of a brown wooden table.
The Beyerdynamic MMX 200 (left) and HyperX Cloud III Wireless (right). (Photo by Jeff Dunn / Engadget)

The SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro is comfortable and has a noticeably clearer mic than the Astro A40. It also comes with a useful DAC that makes it easy to adjust the headset’s EQ and game-to-chat mix on the fly. However, its closed-back design can’t provide the same enveloping sense of width, and its default sound can sound piercing in the treble. Like the Virtuoso Pro, it’s also a bit too pricey, typically hovering in the $200 to $220 range.

The SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless is largely similar to its wired counterpart but adds a passable level of active noise cancellation. Being able to hot-swap battery packs and connect to multiple devices at once is also nice. It’s not as convenient for multi-console play as the Astro A50 X, though, and it usually costs more than the Audeze Maxwell, which sounds better, has a superior mic and lasts longer on a charge.

The wireless Beyerdynamic MMX 200 locates in-game effects accurately, feels sturdy and has a great boom mic, but it sounds less articulate than the Audeze Maxwell, with heavily exaggerated bass and recessed lower-mids. There's no game-to-chat mix or custom EQ tools, which is tough for a $250 headset, and its 35-hour battery life is unremarkable. We also found its sweat-inducing ear cushions and headband to clamp down too tight for comfort. However, the built-in transparency mode is nice and the tight fit does a good job of isolating outside noise.

The HyperX Cloud III Wireless is comfy and can last up to 120 hours per charge but sounds less dynamic than the older Cloud Alpha Wireless, with weaker bass response. Like that pair, it also lacks a 3.5mm jack, Bluetooth audio support and Xbox compatibility. The Cloud Alpha Wireless still gets nearly three times the battery life, too, so it remains a better buy if you want a wireless headset for PC or PS5 in the $150 range.

The Razer BlackShark V2 is lightweight and easy to wear, plus it doesn’t sound bad for a $100 closed-back headset. But it’s still not as immersive as the Astro A40, its mic makes voices sound thinner than the HyperX Cloud Alpha, and its plastic design feels cheap.

The $60 Xbox Stereo Headset straight up sounds bad, with overblown bass and underemphasized treble that makes finer details feel like they’re underwater.