How to Choose a Good Computer Gaming Headset (Buying Guide)

(& the best gaming headsets in 2017)

Buying a good computer gaming headset for the amount you wish to spend can be a difficult task with the vast sea of options all with varying styles and features.

Then there's fact that what makes the best comfortable and quality headset for PC gaming is oftentimes subjective and will vary from player to player.

Fear not; in this gaming headset buying guide we're here to help you make sense of the madness and we'll cover what you need to know to choose a good computer gaming headset for your budget and needs.

First we'll cover the important headset features to understand and consider, and then we'll dive into our current top-rated budget and high-end gaming headsets for your money.

What Makes a Good Gaming Headset? Features Explained

Wired vs Wireless Gaming Headsets

PC gaming headsets come in either wired or wireless form, with the wireless models generally being more expensive and requiring charging from time to time. 

As for which to choose for gaming, it firstly comes down to personal preference and whether you're willing to pay extra for the extra freedom and convenience that wireless brings. No need to remove them on your quick bathroom break in-between sessions of Overwatch.

Second, choosing between wireless or wired when picking out a good gaming headset will also come down to how much you care about sound quality and potential interference. These days wireless technology is very fast and you typically will not notice a difference in performance compared to wired for the most part.

However if 100% consistency in audio quality and removing any possibility of interference/lag is important to you (such as when playing competitive multiplayer games where every millisecond counts) then we would recommend sticking to wired for the best possible sound quality and zero chance of encountering interference/audio lag.

Sure, you can find high-quality wireless gaming headsets that pretty much eliminate any possibility of these kinds of problems, but with wired you don't have to worry about these things. As always, do your due diligence.

Open-Back vs Closed-Back Headsets

When choosing a good gaming headset for your PC, be aware there are two main styles: open-back headsets, and closed-back headsets. They're also sometimes referred to as open-ear and closed-ear headsets. This refers to whether the rear of the headset - the sides on the outside of the headset - are either open or closed. 

An open-back (or open-ear) design allows for more airflow around the ears, which can lead to keeping your ears cooler and are in general the generally more comfortable option for most people (however comfort is subjective and some people find closed-back headsets real comfy too). The downside to an open-back headset is that it may allow you to more easily hear outside noises, as well as allowing people around you to possibly hear your headset audio more.

As for closed-back (or closed-ear) gaming headsets, they fit closer to the ears and therefore reduce airflow. Some may find this less comfortable, others may not. The benefits of closed-back is that it blocks out more background noise allowing you to hear more sound detail especially in loud environments, and they prevent sound leakage so others around you won't hear your audio much if at all. Plus, closed-back headsets typically have better bass.

Choosing between closed-back and open-back really comes down to personal preference. 

5.1 and 7.1 Surround Sound

Many gaming headsets that are connected via a USB cable have their own sound driver with either 5.1 or 7.1 "virtual" surround sound which adds more immersion to your games by improving the precision of positional audio. What that basically means is you feel more in the game because your ears can more accurately detect where in-game sounds are coming from compared to standard stereo headsets.

Although to be fair, whether 5.1 or 7.1 virtual surround sound is worth it is a hotly debated topic, with some gamers swearing by surround sound and saying they clearly notice a difference, whilst others saying that it's a marketing gimmick and they don't notice a difference when using a stereo headset. We'll leave that up to you to decide, but personally we do feel it's worth getting 5.1 or 7.1 if you can.

Frequency Response Explained

When shopping for a good computer gaming headset you'll likely see mention of the frequency response, which is technically the speed of vibration of physical material and is measured in Hertz. It's essentially an indicator of the effective range your PC headset can provide clear and uniform sound.

It's just one factor that determines the overall quality of a particular headset, and to be honest you shouldn't really worry about it unless you're an audio engineer or professional who needs to worry about the minor details. Most modern gaming headsets will have a similar frequency response to one another anyway.

Gaming Headset Mic

The ability to communicate and chat during gaming sessions with good, clear quality may be important to you as a gamer. If that's the case, it would be wise to investigate the overall quality of the mic that is attached to the headset you're considering by reading customer reviews and also expert technical reviews. Just don't base your decision off a couple bad reviews from angry customers who may not be reporting accurately.

It can be annoying if your mic crackles too much and too often, or if it picks up sounds from your headset's speakers which can happen with open-back/open-ear headsets. A real good computer gaming headset will be able to differentiate between background noise and your voice, so when you speak it picks that up and when you're not talking it doesn't pick up any background audio and sounds.

You could of course buy a separate mic and just get some headphones instead of a headset, but getting a nice gaming headset with a good mic is more convenient. However, getting a pair of headphones may be worth considering if you A) don't want/need a mic or B) wish to get a separate mic (that could be used for other purposes).

Because headphones aren't typically marketed to gamer's, you can find some great quality models that are sometimes more bang for your buck overall when it comes to pure sound quality. Check out our coverage of the best gaming headphones for more on this. 

Top-Rated Budget, High-End & Wireless Gaming Headsets 

Now we've covered the features you need to be aware of when choosing a good PC gaming headset, let's get into the actual hunt for the best specific models.

As we already mentioned, buying the best gaming headset for your particular budget can be a little tricky because of the abundance of choices, but we're here to make your choice easier.

After extensive research and gathering our personal experiences from over the years, we've rounded up what we believe to be the top bang for your buck headsets for gaming in various categories.

The Best PC Headsets < $50

On a real tight budget but still want a fairly good gaming headset that offers a decent audio experience and doesn't sacrifice too much in quality and comfort? Check out the top recommended budget models which represent excellent value for money.

The Best Cheap Gaming Headsets Under $50

The Best PC Headsets $50 - $100

A budget of between 50 to 100 dollars opens things up quite a bit more and there are many very good gaming headsets in this range that will give you real nice audio, a quality noise canceling mic, excellent comfort and nice features.

The Best Budget Gaming Headsets Under $100

The Best PC Headsets > $100

If you're willing to invest more into a top-tier headset that'll last longer and offer the best quality and comfort, check out our guide to the best high-end PC headsets for hardcore gamers and audiophiles. 

The Top High-End Gaming Headsets Over $100

The Best Wireless PC Headsets

As mentioned above, wireless gaming headsets offer the convenience of being free from cabling, but at a cost: higher prices, worse sound quality when compared to wired models around the same price, and the potential for audio lag.

These are the top-rated wireless headsets that'll avoid the lag issue and offer great quality sound.

The Best Wireless Gaming Headsets

Last Words on Headset Hunting (and what about headphones?)

As with buying any component or peripheral, you should do your own research when choosing a good gaming headset for your exact budget and feature-needs so you don't end up disappointed

Don't just take our word for it as your headset is one of the more personal choices when it comes to gaming accessories, and what one gamer may love the other may hate.

Oh yeah, and whilst most gamer's will want to get a headset, don't forget that headphones can be a great choice too for gamer's if you either don't want a mic, you want to use your gear for a variety of uses, or you wish to get a separate microphone.

Hopefully this guide has helped to steer you in the right direction though, and good luck!