A gamer wearing glasses and headset.
Gorodenkoff/Shutterstock.com

Want to take your gaming up a notch? A gaming headset will help give you the competitive advantage you need to come out on top. Here are all the main factors to consider when shopping for a gaming headset.

Sound Quality and Noise Isolation

Can you recall times when you used a headset that made in-game gunshots sound like they were coming from your left when they were in fact behind you? Or how about a time when the enemy team planted the bomb at one bomb site but you thought it was at other?

These are examples of poor sound quality. You need to be able to clearly distinguish what you are hearing and where it’s coming from. Otherwise, you’re at a big disadvantage. Sound quality is important for any type of headset, but especially for gamers. Being able to accurately hear everything that’s going on in the game is crucial, as it allows you to react accordingly.

Look for a headset that focuses on delivering rich audio that not only immerses you in the game but also provides clarity. This includes features like directional and surround sound, which give you a better sense of where things are happening.

Having good noise isolation or active noise cancellation (ANC) is another key feature as it prevents outside noises from interfering with your gaming. You should barely be able to hear a car driving by with your headset on, if at all. While you want to remain safe while wearing headphones, if someone’s calling for you in another room and you can hear them loud and clear, the sound isolation is leaving much to be desired. It’s also worth noting that some people find ANC very uncomfortable.

Adjustable Comfort

Those who don’t regularly wear headsets underestimate how crucial a comfortable fit is. As a gamer, your playing sessions can last for hours. Hardcore gamers may even game for the entire day! If you’re not wearing a comfortable headset, your ears are going to cry in agony. Your head might start hurting after a while.

The problem with trying on headsets is that first impressions can be deceiving, as they’ll usually feel comfortable initially. The discomfort starts kicking in when you keep it on long enough. To accurately judge whether a headset will be comfortable, you’ll need to wear it for at least 30 minutes, but ideally an hour.

This is why it’s important to read reviews from people who have used the headset for a while. Of course, what someone else finds comfortable or uncomfortable might be different for you. For insurance, look for a headset that allows you to make a free return.

A headset with adjustable ear cups and headbands is mandatory. These allow you to find the perfect fit for your head. If you can’t make any adjustments, it’ll most likely be uncomfortable to wear, so move on to the next one. You should also look for a headset with soft and breathable ear cushions. They should feel good against your skin and prevent your ears from getting hot. Remember, the ideal headset will make you forget that you’re wearing one.

A Clear Microphone

Voice communication is key for all team-based games. Good communication allows you to strategize with your team and make coordinated decisions in real-time. That’s why having a clear microphone is a must.

Your friends and teammates should be able to hear you clearly without any problems. No static, muffled sounds, robotic voices, or echo. The microphone should also be able to pick up your voice in a noisy environment, and it should cut out most of your background noise. Most gaming headsets will pick up at least some background sounds, but they should be able to reduce it significantly. You can also adjust it in the settings of your operating system or your voice chat platform.

Another valuable feature is a mute button for your mic. Being able to mute yourself with the press of a button can be very convenient, like when you have to sneeze or receive a phone call.

A quality microphone is also useful for streaming, recording audio with your voice, and for general use outside of gaming. If you frequently use Skype, Discord, or other VoIP applications, then getting a headset with a clear-sounding microphone is key.

HyperX Cloud Alpha S

A comfortable memory foam gaming headset with 7.1 surround sound and a noise-canceling microphone.

Compatibility With Your Devices

Not all gaming headsets are compatible with all devices. For example, a headset designed for a PC might not be compatible with an Xbox or Nintendo console.

So before you make a purchase, double-check to verify whether your headset is compatible with all the devices you plan on using it for. Headsets such as the HyperX Cloud Stinger are cross-platform, which means they’re compatible with both consoles and desktops. A cross-platform headset also saves you from the cost of having to purchase multiple headsets for various devices.

Low Input Lag

Input lag, which is the delay between audio coming through your headphones and when you hear it, is another factor to consider. Reducing input lag, particularly for gaming, puts you at an advantage as it allows you to react faster. Although quality gaming headsets usually have minimal input lag, they’ll be more consistent with wired models.

This is mainly because audio data transfers directly to your headphones through a wired connection. Wireless headphones, however, need to encode the data first and then transmit it wirelessly, usually through a receiver or Bluetooth. Depending on the quality of the build, this process may cause slightly more input lag than wired headsets. Only professional-level gamers may be able to tell the difference, though.

Overall, though, wired is almost always preferable to wireless. Wireless headsets are still subject to signal interference that could distort sound quality or increase latency. You also have to charge them once or twice a day, depending on how much you use them. Wireless headphones’ only real advantage is the convenience of not having to deal with a wire that connects to your system.

The Best Gaming Headsets of 2022

Best Gaming Headset Overall
HyperX Cloud Alpha S
Best Budget Gaming Headset
HyperX Cloud Stinger
Best Wireless Gaming Headset
SteelSeries Arctis Pro Wireless
Best Gaming Headset for PC
Razer BlackShark V2
Best Gaming Headset for PS5
Sony Pulse 3D Wireless Headset
Best Gaming Headset for Xbox Series X|S
Xbox Wireless Headset for Xbox Series X|S
Profile Photo for Andy Nguyen Andy Nguyen
Andy Nguyen has been a professional freelance writer for over three years and has written hundreds of articles. He has loved computers and technology ever since he started gaming as a kid back in the 1990s. He's the person everyone he knows turns to for help with tech, too. Andy also runs a blog where he provides information and guides for students on becoming more productive.
Read Full Bio »