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The Best Gaming Headsets


Why you should trust us

Kimber Streams has spent thousands of hours yelling at friends across the Internet while playing games like Overwatch, Team Fortress 2, League of Legends, and World of Warcraft. Kimber has also written or edited all of Wirecutter’s gaming guides since 2014, and they tested more than 50 gaming headsets for this update.

Thorin Klosowski, the previous author of this guide, has written about technology for nearly a decade and handled the bulk of Wirecutter’s gaming-related guides, including those covering laptops, mice, and keyboards.

This guide also benefited greatly from the expertise of Wirecutter senior staff writer Lauren Dragan, who holds a bachelor’s degree in both music performance and audio production from Ithaca College. She has tested more than a thousand pairs of headphones and earbuds while working for Wirecutter, and has been in and out of top recording studios for over a decade, first as a radio producer and on-air talent, then as a professional voice actor.

Who this is for

A gaming headset is the best option if you play a lot of multiplayer games like Overwatch, Fortnite, or Destiny 2 and want to communicate with your teammates. If you don’t play multiplayer games with voice chat, you should buy a good pair of headphones instead; for less money, you’ll get a better-sounding, nicer-looking set.

If you already have a pair of headphones you love, you can add a microphone to it using a Modmic. But we tested all three Modmics, and we found that they’re cumbersome and too expensive for their audio quality, so we don’t recommend them.

If you stream games online or you’re looking for a headset that can also work for the occasional meeting, podcasting, or professional recording, a gaming headset is not the best option. If mic sound quality is important to you, a USB microphone paired with good headphones will give you better clarity and vocal fidelity.

How we picked

Photo: Rozette Rago

There are so, so, so many gaming headsets, and it’s impossible to differentiate between them on specs alone. In our research and testing, we looked at the following criteria:

  • Comfort: A gaming headset should be comfortable to wear for hours. A good headset doesn’t clamp too tight on your head or jaw, but it shouldn’t slip off your head, either. The headband design should distribute the headset’s weight so it doesn’t dig into the top of your head, the cups shouldn’t make your ears too hot, and the headset shouldn’t pinch or let too much sound leak out if you wear glasses. We also looked for headsets that accommodated a wide range of heads and ear sizes.
  • Sound quality: Gaming headsets rarely sound as detailed as comparably priced headphones, but they should still be clear and accurate, with no frequency range overpowering another. One of the most important aspects of sound quality for gaming headsets is a large soundstage, which allows audio that sounds as if it’s coming from a specific location in a three-dimensional space rather than presenting as a single, flat wall of sound. In games, this means being able to tell how far away the person shooting at you from behind your left shoulder is, for example.

The soundstage can be influenced by the drivers, the tuning, the sound profile, whether a headset is open- or closed-back, or even the size, shape, and material of the earpads. The most common problem with gaming headsets is excessive bass. A bit of extra bass doesn’t hurt—and can make explosions sound boomier—but too much tends to drown out other important sounds like footsteps and dialogue.

  • Microphone: Most headset microphones have noise cancellation, which minimizes low-pitched sounds such as a computer’s fans or an air purifier well enough but has trouble with higher pitches like loud typing. Noise cancellation is helpful but tends to affect clarity and make your voice sound as if you’re talking through cupped hands, or stuffy, like you have a cold. So we focused on clarity in a headset’s built-in microphone. Some gaming headset mics rotate, some retract, and others bend. Microphones that rotate often support a convenient flip-to-mute function, but microphones that bend are easier to position in such a way that they pick up your voice but not every single breath.
  • Price: After researching hundreds of headsets, we found that most people should be happy with a wired set that costs around $100. You can find solid budget options for around $50, but when you go even cheaper you lose sound clarity in the headphones and mic, and the comfort and build quality drop considerably. You can get more accurate sound in a wired headset that costs more than $150, but that isn’t worth the investment for most people. For a great-sounding wireless headset, expect to pay between $150 and $200.
  • Build quality: The headset’s band shouldn’t creak when you put the headset on or move around, and the headset should survive being tossed in a bag. In addition to our testing, we looked for reports of broken headsets in owner reviews of our finalists. We prefer headsets with detachable cables and microphones, since they’re easier to replace if they break, as well as replaceable earpads. Most headsets—including all our picks—come with a two-year warranty.
  • Volume controls: Gaming headsets should have volume and microphone mute controls on the earcups or on the cable. We paid attention to how easy these were to use, especially the mic-mute function.
  • Compatibility: Headsets with 3.5 mm connectors, like many headphones with microphones, are compatible with a wider range of gaming devices—PCs, consoles, and mobile devices—than USB headsets, which typically work only with PCs and the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One.
  • Surround sound: If an already good headset offers virtual surround sound, that’s fine, but it’s not worth paying more for. This feature is often listed as “virtual 7.1 surround sound” and meant to simulate a surround-sound setup in stereo speakers. Virtual surround simulates positional audio by artificially adding reverb and distance between channels, an effect that we found makes games and music sound terrible—like throwing a tin can down a concrete hallway. In our testing, in-game surround-sound settings sounded much better and were much more accurate than any headset’s artificial surround sound. And any headphones can gain virtual surround sound on PC with paid software like Razer Surround, Dolby Atmos, or the free Windows Sonic for Headphones (each of which instruct you to disable any headset-specific surround settings).
  • Software: Some companies offer software that can customize equalizer settings, change button behavior, display battery life, or deliver firmware updates. This software should be optional, and a headset should produce excellent sound without extra drivers or downloads.

In addition to the above criteria, for wireless headsets we considered the following:

  • Battery life: A good wireless headset should last at least 15 to 20 hours on a single charge—more battery life is always better—and you should be able to use the headset while it’s charging.
  • Connectivity: With the exception of a small handful of Bluetooth headsets, most wireless headsets include a 2.4 GHz wireless USB dongle. The dongle should be well-built, easy to use, and hard to lose. There shouldn’t be any connectivity issues, noticeable latency, buzzing sounds, or white noise.

How we tested

We started by trying on each of the many, many headsets to rule out those that squeezed too hard, had uncomfortable headbands, had itchy or creaky earpads, or felt uncomfortable with glasses. Any headsets we were uncertain about I forced my very patient partner (whose head is larger than mine) to evaluate.

For every headset that passed the initial comfort test, we tested audio quality by listening to a playlist of songs and other clips selected to evaluate detail, bass, soundstage, and sonically dense material. We eliminated headsets that sounded too inaccurate or unpleasant.

Then, we got to playing games on our budget gaming laptop pick. Sound and microphone quality can be affected by your PC’s motherboard or sound card—or by the sound-processing software that manufacturers install on their laptops, which we turned off. We didn’t use any external DAC or amplifier, unless it came in the box with the headset, because most people don’t have external audio gear for their gaming laptops.

I subjected the most promising contenders to many hours of Overwatch in order to test mic performance in a competitive multiplayer action game, paying close attention to soundstage, directionality, and whether footsteps remained distinct amongst explosions and gunfire. I also played Monster Hunter World for hours over Discord with friends to further evaluate long-term comfort, audio quality, and mic quality.

Next, we passed the best options along to a panel of testers with a variety of head and ear sizes to further evaluate comfort. Finally, I tested the microphones by recording my voice in Audacity with music playing in the background, with an air purifier running nearby, and while typing on a mechanical keyboard with Cherry MX Brown switches. I played all these recordings back to evaluate the audio quality, any noise cancellation, any clipping, and the mic mute function.

Our pick: HyperX Cloud Alpha

Photo: Rozette Rago

Our pick

HyperX Cloud Alpha

The best gaming headset

Comfortable across a wide range of head sizes, this headset provides detailed, spacious sound that’s perfect for games, and it works on every modern platform and device.

Buying Options

*At the time of publishing, the price was $100.

Our testers in 2018 and 2020 consistently rated the HyperX Cloud Alpha as one of the most comfortable headsets in our test group. It adjusts to a wide range of head sizes and shapes, has large earcups to accommodate different-size ears, and feels comfortable for people with and without glasses. The Cloud Alpha sounds great, with a spacious soundstage that gives the impression that sound effects are spread out around you. Plus, the removable 3.5 mm cable means the headset will work with virtually any console or device.

The Cloud Alpha’s earcups are large enough to fit most ears comfortably. Photo: Rozette Rago

The Cloud Alpha is highly adjustable for a wide range of head sizes, and our panel found it comfortable to wear for long gaming sessions. The headset didn’t feel heavy, and the headband didn’t dig into the top of our testers’ heads. The headband’s clamping force wasn’t excessive, even for glasses wearers and our largest-headed testers. The large earpads, made of thick memory foam covered in soft leatherette, accommodate a wide range of ear sizes and shapes. For our panelists, these earpads felt comfortable and formed a good seal even around thick glasses. A couple of our testers found that the leatherette ran hot along their ears, but this was a problem we encountered with almost every closed-back headset we tested.

The HyperX Cloud Alpha is also one of the best-sounding headsets under $100 that we tested. The Cloud Alpha’s soundstage was roomier and provided a more accurate sense of direction in games than that of its closest competition, the Cooler Master MH751, likely thanks to its deeper earcups and better seal. No closed-back, over-ear headset will sound as open and airy as an open-back option, but the Cloud Alpha has much better sound isolation, which can help with immersion.

Some gaming headsets have bad bass, and others have too much. In our tests, the Cloud Alpha’s bass, while boosted, never overwhelmed the other ranges. The Razer Kraken had far too much bass that muddied up the sound, making it hard for us to distinguish between Bastion’s and Sombra’s gunfire in Overwatch. The HyperX Cloud Alpha managed to separate those gun effects much better. Mids on the Cloud Alpha were good, so effects such as footsteps, voices, and other movement effects were clear and distinct. The Cloud Alpha struggled slightly with highs, and some dialogue in Hellblade sounded too sharp in our 2018 tests.

You can either bend the Cloud Alpha mic out of the way or detach it. Video: Kyle Fitzgerald

The HyperX Cloud Alpha’s microphone is passable—we detail its flaws in the section below—and we didn’t have any issues with the mic picking up the headset’s sound at normal listening volumes. The mic’s noise cancellation was very effective in reducing or even eliminating lower-pitched background sounds such as from PC fans or an air purifier, but it could only dampen higher-pitched sounds, and no headset we tested was able to cancel the sound of my mechanical keyboard. We like that the mic is removable and replaceable if something breaks—HyperX sells extras for $10. The mic is also bendable, so you can easily adjust it to prevent it from picking up your every exhale.

The HyperX Cloud Alpha is a solidly constructed headset that has held up well over months of frequent use. One of our staffers has been using the Cloud Alpha for at least 12 hours a week for more than six months without any problems. The flexible aluminum frame is still sturdy, the replaceable earpads don’t show any signs of wear or degradation, the bendy mic still holds its shape, and the braided cable prevents kinking and tangling better than the plain rubber cables on other headsets. The red and black color scheme looks dated, but the quality materials make up for the loud colors.

Our 2018 testers preferred the in-line volume and mute controls on the Cloud Alpha to other options, such as on the earcup or on a big control box on the desk, because they were easy to find in a hurry. Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald

The HyperX Cloud Alpha has a 1.3-meter removable 3.5 mm braided cable with in-line volume and mute controls, and it includes a 2-meter extension cable with a Y-splitter. Our testers liked the controls on the cable but also found that muting the mic properly took some fumbling around. Some other headsets, such as the Sennheiser GSP 300, allow you to flip the microphone up to mute; this is easier to do in a hurry but requires the microphone to be permanently attached and non-replaceable. Other headsets, like the Corsair HS50 Pro and HyperX Cloud Flight S, place the controls on their earcups, and finding those controls without being able to see them can take some practice.

Flaws but not dealbreakers

The leatherette covering on the Cloud Alpha’s earpads can get warm over time, an issue we encountered with nearly all the headsets we tested. If heat is your biggest concern, consider the open-back Audio-Technica ATH-PDG1 headset, which has soft velour earpads that are more breathable.

We did find that the Cloud Alpha’s aggressive noise cancellation occasionally clipped the beginning or end of a phrase, but it didn’t interfere with in-game communication. Although the Cloud Alpha’s mic is clear and effective at canceling out background noise, it does make your voice sound more processed, as if you were congested or speaking through cupped hands. Our budget picks, the Corsair HS50 Pro and HS60 Pro, sounded even more processed in our tests. If accurate reproduction of your voice is your top priority, consider the Cooler Master MH751; it more accurately captured my voice but didn’t block out as much background noise.

The HyperX Cloud Alpha does not have surround sound. We also tested the Cloud Alpha S, which does support hardware surround sound, and found that this feature merely added a messy reverb effect that didn’t actually help us pinpoint the direction of enemies any better in games.

Budget picks: Corsair HS60 Pro and Corsair HS50 Pro

Photo: Rozette Rago

Budget pick

Corsair HS60 Pro

The best cheap headset

Though it can’t compare to more expensive options, this is the most comfortable and best-sounding headset in this price range with a reliable mic. But it has a nonremovable cable and has some issues with sound bleed.

Corsair HS50 Pro

The best cheap headset

The HS50 Pro is mostly identical to the HS60 Pro. But it has a rubber cable that tangles more easily, it comes with a Y-splitter, and it lacks the HS60 Pro’s USB surround-sound dongle.

Buying Options

*At the time of publishing, the price was $85.

If you’re looking for a headset under $50, buy the Corsair HS60 Pro or HS50 Pro. Neither set is quite as comfortable as the HyperX Cloud Alpha, the mics can pick up some in-game sounds at medium volumes, the cable isn’t removable, and the earpads are not replaceable. But these were the most comfortable headsets we tested in this price range, and they’re sturdy and well-built; they also sounded better than the other cheap options we tested, and their mics were clear and reliable. Like the Cloud Alpha, both of these headsets are compatible with PC, Mac, consoles, and mobile devices.

The HS60 Pro and HS50 Pro are essentially the same headset with some minor differences. The HS60 Pro comes with a USB dongle to add surround sound (which we don’t recommend using), and it has a braided cable that’s a bit nicer than the HS50 Pro’s easily tangled rubber cable. The HS50 Pro comes with a Y-splitter if you need that to connect to your PC, while the HS60 Pro does not.

Budget headsets are never as comfy as more expensive options. Although both of these Corsair headsets have firmer headbands and tighter clamping force than the Cloud Alpha, they are highly adjustable and considerably more comfortable to wear for long periods than any other headset under $50.

The earpads of the HS50 Pro and HS60 Pro (left) are comfortable, but they’re not replaceable like the Cloud Alpha’s (right) are. Photo: Rozette Rago

The large, non-replaceable earpads of the HS60 Pro and HS50 Pro are made of memory foam covered in a smooth, soft leatherette, which in our tests provided an excellent seal even over thick glasses. A couple of our testers even noticed a slight vacuum effect pressuring their eardrums when they pushed on the earcups—because the earcups provide such a strong seal, there’s nowhere for the air inside them to go. (The Cloud Alpha, in contrast, mitigates this discomfort with five little holes on top of each earcup to vent air.) Since these models don’t breathe as well, we expect the HS60 Pro and HS50 Pro to get warmer over long gaming sessions than the Cloud Alpha.

The soundstage on the HS60 Pro and HS50 Pro was as spacious as on the Cloud Alpha, but the Corsair models failed to match the HyperX headset in overall audio quality. On the HS60 Pro and HS50 Pro, the bass was boosted too much, reaching into lower vocals and other sounds, and mids and highs sounded harsher and exaggerated. Dialogue and footsteps didn’t get drowned out by bass, but these headsets were not as accurate or pleasant to listen to as the Cloud Alpha.

The HS50 Pro (left) and HS60 Pro have removable, adjustable mics. Photo: Rozette Rago

As on the Cloud Alpha, the mic on the HS60 Pro and HS50 Pro is removable—a rarity in headsets this cheap—and flexible so you can adjust it to the right spot. In our tests, the mic was good at cancelling out the background noise of an air purifier and background music, but it made my voice sound even stuffier and more processed than the Cloud Alpha’s mic. We also encountered some sound bleed, where the microphone picked up in-game sound leaking out through the earcups at normal listening volumes, though the effect didn’t interfere with communication.

These headsets feel cheaper and stiffer than the HyperX Cloud Alpha, which typically costs roughly twice as much. But compared with the army of cheap-feeling, creaky plastic headsets we tested in this price range, the HS60 Pro and HS50 Pro stood out for their sturdy construction. We also like the simple design. There are no angular colored outlines or edgy graphics; the HS50 Pro is plain black, and the HS60 Pro is black with minimal yellow stitching. Both have a 1.8-meter non-removable 3.5 mm cable, which means if the cable breaks, you have to replace the whole headset, not just the cable.

The left earcup has a volume wheel and a mute toggle. Photo: Rozette Rago

The volume and mute controls are on the left earcup, and we had trouble getting used to them. The microphone mute is on a push button that sits mostly flush with the headset when mute is on and sticks out just slightly more when the mic is active. This makes it hard to tell when you’re muted. Our 2018 testers prefered the on-cable controls on the Cloud Alpha.

The HS60 Pro comes with a USB dongle for virtual surround sound; the HS50 Pro does not. Photo: Rozette Rago

The HS60 Pro comes with a short USB dongle that you can plug into the end of the 3.5 mm cable to add virtual surround sound when using the headset with a PC. We don’t recommend using it, since in our tests it made everything sound louder and added an echo, which worsened any sense of directionality. When plugged in via USB, the HS60 Pro supports the Corsair iCUE software, where you can toggle between stereo and virtual surround and tweak the equalizer to your liking.

The best open-back headset: Audio-Technica ATH-PDG1

Photo: Rozette Rago

Also great

Audio-Technica ATH-PDG1

The best open-back headset

All of our panel testers were amazed by this headset that let them hear the room around them, and it’s just as comfortable as the Cloud Alpha.

Buying Options

*At the time of publishing, the price was $94.

If you prefer to hear your surroundings while gaming—whether you’re at a LAN party with friends or sitting at home waiting for a package—or if you need a more breathable headset, get the open-back Audio-Technica ATH-PDG1. Most gaming headsets have a closed-back design, where a seal on the back of each earcup blocks out background noise and prevents sound from leaking out of the headphones. In contrast, open-back headsets’ vented earcups allow more outside sounds in and more inside sounds out, and they stay cooler thanks to the improved air circulation. The ATH-PDG1 sounds good, offers excellent noise cancellation on the mic, and works with all consoles and devices, but in choosing this headset you miss out on the HyperX Cloud Alpha’s enjoyable bass and clearer mic.

The ATH-PDG1’s earcups have a soft, velour cover, but they’re a bit shallow. Photo: Rozette Rago

Weighing just 8.8 ounces with the mic attached, the Audio-Technica ATH-PDG1 is the lightest of our picks, and its headband evenly distributes that weight. It’s highly adjustable, and it fit all our tester’s heads without any uncomfortable clamping force—a complaint recent testers had about our previous pick, the Sennheiser Game One. The ATH-PDG1’s replacable velour earpads are large enough to fit most ears and breathe better than the leatherette earpads of our other picks, so they’re good for people whose ears get warm with other sets. The ATH-PDG1 does have shallower earcups, with only a thin layer of fabric covering the hard plastic grill and housing, which can be uncomfortable at first.

Since the ATH-PDG1 doesn’t isolate sound, you can also hear what’s going on around you. Every tester who tried this headset on was amazed at being able to hear both their music and their surroundings, though a closed-back headset is more immersive. The open-back design also gives the ATH-PDG1 a more open and airier soundstage than that of the Cloud Alpha.

The ATH-PDG1 had less bass—so it was more accurate but less exciting—than the vast majority of headsets we tested, and its mids and highs were excellent, with clarity in vocal ranges and crisp details in subtle sounds like footsteps. Of all the headsets we tested, it sounded closest to the beloved Sony MDR-7506, which we used as reference headphones.

More sound escapes the open-back earcups of the ATH-PDG1 than with the Cloud Alpha, though less than on other open-back headsets like the Sennheiser Game One. We also had less of a problem with the mic picking up the sound bleed on this headset than on our closed-back budget picks, the Corsair HS60 Pro and HS50 Pro.

The ATH-PDG1’s mic is adjustable and removable, though it’s part of the 3.5 mm cable. Photo: Rozette Rago

The ATH-PDG1’s flexible mic is extremely effective at cancelling out background noises, and it was the best of the mics we tested at muffling the sound of typing on a mechanical keyboard. And thanks to the ATH-PDG1’s aggressive noise cancellation, the mic picked up in-game sounds only at very high volumes, similar to the mic on the closed-back Cloud Alpha. It also muffled my voice, and I sounded as if I were talking from beneath a blanket, but the people I conversed with still found me easy to understand, and none of my words were clipped at the beginning or end of phrases.

We don’t love the ATH-PDG1’s red and black aesthetic; we prefer Audio-Technica’s other, less flashy headset designs. This pair’s 1.2-meter rubber cable (with the mic attached at the top) tangles more easily than the Cloud Alpha’s braided cable. And the integrated mic means you’ll have to replace both the cable and mic if one or the other breaks, though the headset comes with an additional 1.2-meter cable that has a smaller in-line mic for smartphones, as well as a 2-meter extension cable with a Y-splitter. But despite the ATH-PDG1’s mostly plastic construction—which makes it feel less durable than the HyperX Cloud Alpha—it doesn’t creak or feel otherwise fragile.

The ATH-PDG1 has a small box on the cable for toggling mute and adjusting volume. Photo: Rozette Rago

Like the Cloud Alpha, the ATH-PDG1 has an inline volume wheel and a mute switch. When we used this switch to toggle the mic on and off, the mic produced an annoying zapping sound. That isn’t a dealbreaker, but we didn’t encounter this issue on our other picks. The ATH-PDG1, like the Cloud Alpha, also lacks virtual surround sound and software.

The best wireless headset: HyperX Cloud Flight S

Photo: Rozette Rago

Upgrade pick

HyperX Cloud Flight S

The best wireless headset

This is a super-comfortable and reliable wireless headset with long battery life, but it’s more expensive, and it doesn’t sound as good as the Cloud Alpha. It’s for PC and PS4 only.

Buying Options

*At the time of publishing, the price was $160.

If you want a wireless headset and don’t mind paying more for the convenience, get the HyperX Cloud Flight S. It’s super comfortable, and it has a decent mic, long battery life, and a reliable connection. The Cloud Flight S also has some useful extra features such as mic monitoring and chat balance, as well as some less useful ones like Qi charging and surround sound. But it costs roughly a third more than the Cloud Alpha, and it doesn’t sound quite as good. It’s also compatible only with PC and PlayStation 4. (If you need a wireless headset for Xbox, we recommend the HyperX CloudX Flight.)

The Cloud Flight S’s earcups rotate 90 degrees, which makes this pair easier to wear around your neck than our other picks. Photo: Rozette Rago

Our testers found the Cloud Flight S to be even more comfortable than the Cloud Alpha, and it’s equally adjustable for a wide range of head sizes. The two headsets weigh about the same and distribute that weight well, and the Cloud Flight S’s headband is a bit softer than the Cloud Alpha’s. The Cloud Flight S produces less clamping pressure than the Cloud Alpha, but in our tests it stayed in place. Though the deep, soft leatherette earpads can get warm during a long session, they have a large opening for ears of different sizes, and they provided a great seal for us. As a glasses wearer, I can say these were my personal favorite earpads among all the headsets I tried on.

The Cloud Flight S sounded better overall than most of the wireless headsets we tested, but it couldn’t match the sound quality of a wired headset. Although its reduced bass compared with the Cloud Alpha isn’t a bad thing, the Cloud Flight S also had weak mids that got overwhelmed by loud highs, which lacked clarity and detail in comparison.

The microphone has a red LED to let you know when you’re muted. Photo: Rozette Rago

The microphone on the Cloud Flight S is about as good as the Cloud Alpha’s. In our tests, it was effective at cancelling background noises, and it dampened the sound of typing on a mechanical keyboard a little better, but it also made my voice sound stuffy and a bit more muffled. Like its sibling, the Cloud Flight S has a problem with clipping the beginning or end of phrases, but it didn’t interfere with our ability to communicate. We encountered more sound spill on the Cloud Flight S than on the Cloud Alpha at medium volumes, but the effect was better than on our budget pick, and we didn’t have any issues with it during hours of Monster Hunter World.

Although the Cloud Flight S is made primarily of plastic, it feels as sturdy as the aluminum-framed Cloud Alpha, and it looks and feels higher quality than the Cloud Flight, our previous wireless pick. We like that the earcups rotate so you can comfortably leave the headset around your neck, a feature we wish more headsets would include. We also appreciate its plain black aesthetic; the Cloud Flight S looks like a normal, classy pair of headphones.

  • The Cloud Flight S has a power button, a toggle for virtual surround sound, and a charging port on the underside of the left earcup, and a volume wheel on the right earcup. Photo: Rozette Rago

  • On the outside of the left earcup, the Cloud Flight S has four more buttons that you can customize using HyperX’s software. Photo: Rozette Rago

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The Cloud Flight S has a ton of buttons to control its myriad features. The underside of the left earcup has a slightly concave power button and a convex surround-sound button that frequently confused me. The outside of the left earcup has four concave buttons: a microphone-mute toggle, a mic-monitoring toggle, and buttons to tweak game and chat balance (this works on PC but not on PS4). Muting the microphone activates a red light at the end of the mic, and mic monitoring—which lets you hear your own voice inside the headphones rather than muffled by the isolating headset—is an uncommon feature I appreciated when playing Monster Hunter World with friends. The right earcup has a volume wheel that’s easy to find and use, but it spins endlessly and indicates you’ve reached maximum volume only by beeping.

The Cloud Flight S supports Qi charging, which can be useful for charging the headset overnight. Photo: HyperX

The Cloud Flight S includes a 2.4 GHz wireless USB dongle and a 1-meter Micro-USB charging cable. It does not work over a 3.5 mm connection, but you can continue to use the headset while it’s charging over Micro-USB. (If you need a longer cable to charge your headset while using it, check out our picks for 6-foot and 10-foot Micro-USB cables.) The Cloud Flight S also supports Qi charging at 3 W, but you can’t use the headset while charging this way; it also charges much slower over Qi, and you have to buy a charging pad separately.

The wireless dongle is large, but we didn’t experience any disconnects or lag in our testing. Photo: HyperX

HyperX estimates the Cloud Flight S’s battery life at about 30 hours at 50 percent volume, about the same as that of the regular Cloud Flight with its LEDs disabled and nearly double the battery life of many other wireless headsets we considered. The Cloud Flight S’s USB dongle seems to have good wireless range, and we didn’t experience any disconnects, hiccups, or lag as long as we were in the same room.

With the HyperX NGenuity software, you can see how much battery the Cloud Flight S has left and customize the buttons on the left earcup. The software doesn’t offer any EQ options, but it is simple and easy to use. We don’t recommend using the virtual surround sound feature since it adds artificial reverb and makes everything sound worse.

Other good gaming headsets

The most comfortable: Most of our panel testers found the Cooler Master MH751 to be the most comfortable headset in our test group, and it’s usually less expensive than the Hyper X Cloud Alpha. But it has a smaller soundstage than the Cloud Alpha, and it’s flimsier. Although it’s lighter and more flexible, and thus able to fit on a wider range of head sizes, we also found a lot more reports of the MH751 breaking in Amazon reviews. The Cooler Master MH752 is identical save for the addition of a USB digital signal processor for surround sound; we don’t recommend paying extra for that.

The cheapest viable option: The HyperX Cloud Stinger sounds harsher and more processed than the Corsair HS50 Pro, and our largest-headed panelist found that the Cloud Stinger clamped uncomfortably on his jawline beneath his ears. But it’s frequently only $35, and it fit our other panelists comfortably. We think the improved comfort and audio quality of the HS50 Pro is worth paying for, but this is a solid, cheaper alternative.

Cheaper wireless options for PC, PS4, and Xbox: The HyperX Cloud Flight was our previous wireless pick for PC and PlayStation 4, and the HyperX CloudX Flight is an Xbox One version of the same headset. Offering audio quality and design similar to that of the Cloud Stinger, the Cloud Flight sounded harsher, failed to handle high-density audio well, and felt uncomfortable for our largest-headed tester. The Cloud Flight lacks mic monitoring and chat balance, and you need to disable the LEDs to get the full 30 hours of battery life. The Cloud Flight S feels more comfortable, sounds better, and has more useful features. But if you want a cheaper wireless headset or if you need an Xbox-compatible wireless headset, the Cloud Flight or CloudX Flight is still a solid option.

The most immersive soundstage: The Razer Nari Essential is a wireless headset with an impressively large soundstage that helped games feel more immersive and made it easier for me to pinpoint the direction of enemies in Overwatch. All of that is thanks to the headset’s comically large earcups—I felt like The Prince from Katamari Damacy while wearing them. And even though they’re huge and on the heavier side at 13.2 ounces with the mic attached, every tester found them comfortable enough for longer gaming sessions due to the headband design. But the Nari Essential has a much worse microphone that picked up more background noise than the Cloud Flight S, gave me a bit of a lisp, and picked up my breathing no matter where I positioned the mic. And a claimed 16 hours of battery life puts it well behind the Cloud Flight S’s 30 hours.

The best PS4 integration: The Sony PlayStation Gold Wireless Headset is the only wireless headset that shows mute status and battery life on the PlayStation 4’s dashboard, and it works with Sony’s headset app, where you can create or download custom EQ profiles. The Gold is not as universally comfortable as the Cloud Alpha or Cloud Flight S, nor does it sound as good, but its deep integration with the PS4 and added features still make it a good fit.

What to look forward to

Gaming headsets using ⅛-inch connectors like our top pick, the HyperX Cloud Alpha, will continue to work if you plug them directly into the PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, or Series S controller as they have for years. And full USB audio support for game sound and chat—as well as chat/game audio balance, for headsets that support it—is now finally available on officially licensed Xbox headsets as well.

The Xbox Series X, Series S, and PlayStation 5 lack the optical audio output that the Xbox One and other previous-generation consoles included, so gaming headsets that use breakout boxes can’t receive optical audio like they could in the past. However, Microsoft has worked with many headset manufacturers to offer firmware updates to enable proper USB support for the Series X and Series S in their existing headsets. Sony has been less clear, but many manufacturers are offering similar compatibility updates for PS5. If you have a headset that uses USB, perform a quick Google search to make sure it’s officially supported.

We’re currently testing a number of new headsets, including the HyperX Cloud II Wireless + 7.1, the Razer Blackshark V2, V2 X, and V2 Pro, the HyperX Cloud Stinger Core Wireless +7.1, the Logitech G733, the HyperX Cloud Stinger Core, and the HyperX Cloud Core + 7.1. We will update this guide with more information once we’ve finished testing.

The competition

Over the past few years, we’ve tested over 100 gaming headsets from a wide variety of companies. We’ve focused on over-ear headsets that cover the entire ear and passively block out background sounds by creating a seal around the ear, though we’ve also tested a couple of open-back headsets that have the same over-ear design but don’t block out background sounds. On-ear headphones rest on the ear, but the style isn’t common among gaming headsets because the sound leaks out too much as a result. And a handful of in-ear gaming headsets exist, but we found them terrible sounding and uncomfortable.

Wired headsets

The HyperX Cloud Alpha S is similar to the Cloud Alpha but has (unnecessary) extras like bass sliders and USB surround sound. In our tests, the Cloud Alpha S produced worse sound—vocals and treble sounded harsh and unpleasant—and weaker bass. On top of that, the Cloud Alpha S is PC compatible only. The included 3.5 mm cable is short, and the volume and mute functions are on the USB DSP, so you can use them only when the headset is plugged in via USB.

The HyperX Cloud II comes close to the Cloud Alpha in performance and build quality. Although the Cloud II’s USB DAC adds surround sound, the control box is cumbersome. The HyperX Cloud Core is less expensive than the Cloud Alpha but doesn’t sound as good. None of our panel found the HyperX Cloud Revolver comfortable.

We discovered during testing that the HyperX Cloud Orbit and Audeze Mobius are nearly identical—they have the same drivers and sound profile, and very similar tuning. (The Mobius has Bluetooth and head tracking and the Orbit S has head tracking but no Bluetooth, while the Orbit has neither.) The Cloud Orbit was comfortable, and it sounded better than any other headset we tested thanks to its planar magnetic drivers. But it cost $300 at the time of our review, its battery lasts only 10 hours at 50 percent volume, and you have to charge it to use it even over a 3.5 mm connection.

The Sennheiser Game One was our previous favorite open-back headset, but our recent panel testers found the clamping force uncomfortable; it also leaked more sound than the Audio-Technica ATH-PDG1, and its microphone had worse noise isolation. Our panel found the Sennheiser GSP 300’s clamping force uncomfortable and didn’t like the split headband design.

Our previous testers liked the Sennheiser GSP 550, but the surround sound doesn’t justify the high price. The GSP 500 is bulkier but sounds similar to the Game One. The Sennheiser Game Zero’s bass was disappointing; we missed the Game One’s spacious, immersive quality. The Sennheiser GSP 350 was quite noisy, and its Dolby Headphone processing is among the worst we’ve heard. Although the Sennheiser GSP 600 sounded amazing, but it didn’t fit well on large heads.

The Astro A40 TR sounded good in our tests, but it’s typically more expensive than our picks. It’s also heavy at 13.1 ounces with the mic attached, and the headband design concentrated that weight in a small band digging into the top of my head.

The Fnatic React was uncomfortable; our panel testers all noted clamping in front of their ears and weren’t able to get a seal behind their ears. It added a lispy quality to vocals, and we expect to see a removable cable on a headset this expensive.

We couldn’t get as good of a seal on the Audio-Technica ATH-PG1 compared with our top picks, so the headset leaked more sound, was less accurate, and had a smaller soundstage.

The Asus ROG Delta Core was loose and uncomfortable, and its cable isn’t detachable. The Cooler Master MH650 was also loose, and the headband dug into the top of my head; its bass reached up into lower vocals, and mids and highs sounded harsh and unpleasant. Corsair’s Void Pro was comically loose on smaller heads.

The Asus ROG Strix Fusion 300 was one of the worst-sounding headsets we tested. Vocals sounded tin-canny, and bass sounded messy, reaching into lower vocals.

Weighing 1 pound 2 ounces with the microphone, the Asus ROG Theta Electret was the heaviest headset we tested. It felt extremely heavy and uncomfortable, and it lacks basic features such as audio controls and a detachable cable.

The Audio-Technica ATH-G1 failed to handle sonically dense material well; two of our panelists described it as sounding “fuzzy” when lots of different sounds were happening at once. The earpads are creaky, and it lacks a removable cable.

The Logitech G Pro (981-000811) and Logitech G Pro X Gaming Headset with Blue Voice both clamped uncomfortably at the cheekbones, and their stiff headbands lacked padding.

Our testers found the Logitech G Pro (981-000719) comfortable, but it felt cheap due to its lighter plastic materials. It wasn’t as comfortable as the Cloud Alpha, and it had worse sound. None of our testers liked the Logitech G433’s fabric shell. The Logitech G533 has shallow earcups, and the weight distribution makes the set feel like it’ll fall off your head. The G633 Artemis Spectrum felt cheap, and we worried about its durability.

The Razer Kraken V2 (2017) was too bass-heavy in our tests, and the headset is bulky. The Kraken V2 TE typically costs more, has a dongle that adds surround sound our testers didn’t like, and still sounds too bass-heavy. The Razer Thresher feels cheap for the price.

The Audio-Technica ATH-ADG1X and ATH-AG1X are expensive and tuned to appeal to audiophiles, with lots of emphasis on high frequencies, which doesn’t play well in games.

The Turtle Beach Elite Atlas Pro wasn’t as comfortable as the Cloud Alpha, and we found that the steel band on top had a tendency to vibrate unpleasantly.

The Razer Nari Ultimate features haptic feedback, essentially a rumble pack for your skull. The headset shakes based on bass response, which feels more distracting than helpful. In Overwatch, footsteps frequently triggered the haptics. In a rhythm game like Thumper, where it should have excelled, it just gave us a nasty headache, especially when we were wearing glasses.

The Rocatt Khan Pro, Khan AIMO, and Cross all felt cheap. The few reviews on Amazon for each model suggest reliability problems.

In our tests, the HP Omen Mindframe produced muddy, chaotic sound that made it difficult for us to distinguish between ranges, especially vocals. The Mindframe includes “active cooling technology” for the earcups, which works but also makes the headset bulky and heavy. It’s particularly uncomfortable if you wear earrings, which act as a conductor.

Budget headsets

Our previous budget pick, the Corsair HS50, has since been replaced by the HS50 Pro. We had issues with sound cutting out on the Corsair HS60, and that pair was not comfortable for long periods.

The Razer Kraken X clamped tightly on our testers’ heads, and its microphone picked up a lot of breath.

The Logitech G332 clamped uncomfortably behind our testers’ ears while the headband dug into the top of each wearer’s head. The stiffer earpad material was particularly uncomfortable for testers with glasses.

The Anker Soundcore Strike 1 and Anker Soundcore Strike 3 were too tall for two of our testers. The headsets stayed in place with sheer, uncomfortable clamping force.

The Razer Kraken 2019 was large and uncomfortably heavy, and it produced overwhelming and messy bass.

While the PuroGamer Volume Limited Gaming Headset clamped excessively at the top of our panel testers’ ears, it didn’t cover their ears at the bottom.

The Corsair HS35 Stereo had itchy, creaky earpads, and the headband dug into the top of my head.

The Turtle Beach Recon Spark and Recon 70 were both almost too small for my 21.5-inch head, and they had small earpads that smushed my ears.

The Astro A10 is uncomfortable and heavy, and all of the headset’s weight sits on a single point on the top of the skull.

In our tests, the Plantronics Rig 600’s mic was tinny and hollow. Our testers found the Rig Flex and Rig 500E uncomfortable.

The Turtle Beach Atlas One sounded good for a $50 headset, but it had worse build quality than the Corsair HS50 Pro.

The SteelSeries Arctis 1 and Arctis 1 Wireless were loose enough for me to shake off; they also had shallow, itchy, creaky earcups that sounded flat and lacked bass.

The PDP LVL50 and LVL50 Wireless felt cheap, and the sliding headband was difficult to keep in place.

Testers with larger heads found the Razer Electra V2 uncomfortable.

Wireless headsets

We like the Cooler Master MH670’s compatibility, and it works as a wired headset via a 3.5 mm plug if the battery dies. But our testers found that the flexible headband concentrated the headset’s weight uncomfortably at a single point, and our largest-headed tester couldn’t get the headset to sit symmetrically.

The Sennheiser GSP 370 sounded great, and the company claims 100 hours of battery life (which we weren’t able to test), but two of our testers found the clamping force and split headband to be uncomfortable.

The HyperX Cloud Stinger Wireless is similar to the Cloud Flight but has about half the battery life.

The Corsair HS70 Pro Wireless adds wireless to our budget pick, but it was too tall and loose for two of our panelists.

The Asus ROG Strix Go 2.4, the only USB-C headset we’ve tested so far, lacked bass and clarity in highs and made vocals sound sibilant and harsh.

The heavy Asus ROG Strix Fusion Wireless dug into the top of our panelists’ heads and had too much clamping force. It produced too much bass and made vocals sound hollow, and the earcup gesture controls were unreliable.

The Turtle Beach Stealth 600 headset had itchy, creaky-sounding earpads and wasn’t comfortable for glasses wearers.

The SteelSeries Arctis 7 (2019 edition) and the more expensive wired Arctis Pro sounded as good as the Cloud Flight, but as with the Arctis 3 (2019 edition) and its wireless counterpart, our testers found the suspension headband uncomfortable.

The HyperX Cloud Mix is basically the same as the Cloud II, with the addition of Bluetooth. Unless you’re looking for a multipurpose headset, we don’t think it’s worth the extra money.

The LucidSound LS31 sounds good, but as with the wired LS25, the earcup controls felt cheap, and the headset was uncomfortable to use.

The Razer Nari lacks the Nari Ultimate’s ridiculous haptics but sounds muddy.

What about ModMics?

Antlion Audio’s ModMics are separate microphones you can attach to a pair of headphones you already own. The ModMic USB was the best of the options we tested, but with that model you’re running two wires from your headphones to your PC. It usually costs $70 to $80; for that price, you could almost buy our top pick.

The ModMic Uni costs around $50 but offers poor quality; our budget-pick headset is usually the same price and has a better microphone. The ModMic Wireless costs around $120, provides only around 12 hours of battery life, and in our tests failed to cancel background noise as well as our picks did.


  1. Phil Iwaniuk, HyperX Cloud Alpha Review, PC Gamer, August 23, 2018

  2. Michael Andronico, HyperX Cloud Alpha Review: An Excellent Sub-$100 Gaming Headset, Tom’s Guide, October 3, 2017

  3. Geoffrey Morrison, Open-Back Vs. Closed-Back Headphones, Forbes, November 2, 2013

  4. Michael Crider, What’s the Difference Between Virtual and “True” Surround Sound Gaming Headsets, How-To Geek, September 10, 2017

  5. Phil Iwaniuk, Corsair HS60 Pro Surround Gaming Headset Review: Mid-Priced Master, Tom’s Hardware, November 28, 2019

  6. Phil Iwaniuk, Audio-Technica ATH-PDG1 Review, PC Gamer, August 3, 2015

  7. Sam Moore, HyperX Cloud Flight S Review, SoundGuys, February 24, 2020

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