In the modern era of console gaming, gaming headsets have become essential items. Nowadays, most of the biggest games around include at least an element of co-operative or competitive online play. If you’re keen to play any game which involves teaming up remotely with others, then it’s quite simple: you’ll need to buy a gaming headset which combines headphones with a microphone.
When buying a headset, it’s worth considering a few factors. One of which is the types of games you play: if, say, you’re predominantly a fan of massively multiplayer online games, comfort should be your number one priority, since you will typically be wearing your headset for long periods. In such a situation a wireless headset, with finite battery life, will be unsuitable.
Meanwhile if you’re a serious fast-twitch ninja with pro-gaming aspirations, you could gain an edge with a high-end headset that boasts surround sound which can, for example, enhance the noise made by the footsteps of approaching rival players.
Your playing environment is important, too: if you want to remain aware of what is going around you while you’re playing, you should opt for an open-backed gaming headset, or if you like to play co-operatively in a noisy environment, a headset with a noise-cancelling microphone is a must.
To help you select the best console gaming headset, we’ve compiled this guide spanning the very best wireless, wired, high-end and budget examples currently on sale. Since it focuses on console rather than PC games, we’ve presumed that you’re more likely to use your headset for playing mainstream co-operative and competitive action games, rather than massively multiplayer games.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 have design quirks which can complicate the process of setting up gaming headsets to work with them. The Xbox One forces you to connect a gaming headset to its controller, and the older Xbox One controllers, annoyingly, don’t have 3.5mm headphone jacks, forcing you to buy an extra Stereo Headset Adapter (which the headset manufacturers rarely bundle with their products). And on the PS4, headsets can initially sound quiet, as the headset output level is set to half its full amount by default, which necessitates delving around in its system settings.
But once you get any of the following gaming headsets set up to your satisfaction, you’ll find that they are great pieces of kit which, when you remove their boom-microphones, also make great headphones for listening to music on the go, or TV and movies when you don’t want to disturb other members of your household.
Best overall PlayStation 4 headset
HyperX has developed a sizeable following among the pro-gaming community over the years, and its newest headset, the Cloud Revolver S, adds Dolby 7.1 Surround Sound to the blueprint offered by the hugely popular Cloud Revolver without requiring you to take out a second mortgage.
Quite simply, the Cloud Revolver S sounds astonishingly good, especially at the price. You will marvel in particular at the dynamics of its sound: deep, rumbling bass and crisp, never shrieky treble that lets you hear every sound effect and totally immerses you in the ambience created by in-game music.
It’s pretty well made, comfortable and classily finished, and Dolby 7.1 Surround Sound is the cherry on top, allowing you to pinpoint incoming enemies in first-person shooters – particularly if you explore the preset equalisation modes into which pro-gamers had lots of input. A truly high-end-sounding headset at a mid-range price.
Best overall Xbox One headset
Turtle Beach is the longest established specialist gaming headset manufacturer, and it has a fanatical following among pro-gamers. When you unbox its top-of-the-range Elite Pro, you can see why. It simply oozes no-expense-spared design, and sports all manner of neat touches born from decades of pro-gaming experience.
But more importantly than that, it sounds spectacular, with huge bass and crystal-clear treble adding up to a sound which will allow you to get deeply immersed into whatever game you’re playing. Comfort-wise, it’s exemplary, with big, thick earpads that eliminate all ambient noise, and can be easily adjusted to fit all head-sizes. A neat feature lets you add spacing to the earpads to accommodate a pair of glasses.
On the Xbox One, we’d recommend teaming it up with piece of kit called the Tactical Audio Adapter, which clips into the Xbox One controller and operates as an amplifier, adding some of the extra sound-control features which come in a separate graphic equaliser-style box called the Tactical Audio Controller (which is pricey but adds Dolby 7.1 Surround Sound).
Those features include Turtle Beach’s Superhuman Hearing, which enhances the sound of incoming players’ footsteps and is great for hardcore first-person shooter fans, and Dynamic Chat Boost, which keeps chat-levels audible even when background noise rises. Plus it lets you independently adjust game and chat volumes.
Add tank-like build-quality to the equation and you have a headset which has become something of a status-symbol for those who take their gaming seriously.
Best wireless Xbox One headset
LucidSound is a newcomer to the world of gaming headsets, but it has certainly made a splash, thanks mainly to its LS40 headset, which has a specification to die for, and build-quality and audio fidelity to match. Not to mention looks: the LS40 is so well finished, with plenty of red stitching, that you would happily wear it in public.
Wireless headsets often suffer from sound-quality which is inferior to that of wired headsets, but the LS40 has no such problems, with a big, bold sound which should satisfy any gamer. Its wireless seems unburstable, too. And it boasts DTS Headphone: X 7.1 surround-sound that offers startlingly precise pinpointing of incoming sounds – a big advantage if you’re a hardcore gamer.
Comfort-wise, it’s spot-on, too, and a USB wireless dongle makes it as easy to set up as any wireless headset (inevitably a trickier process than for a wired headset). 15-hour battery life is as good as you will find. Its chat and overall volume controls, hidden in each earcup, do take a bit of getting used to, though. And as with all wireless headsets, you still have to attach one wire to your Xbox One controller. But the LucidSound LS40 is the headset that has it all.
Best wireless PlayStation 4 headset
The most immediately striking aspect of Turtle Beach’s Elite 800 headset is that its Bluetooth wireless transmitter doubles as a charging cradle, into which you can just plop the headset, rather than having to fiddle around with a USB cable. That’s particularly useful given that it has a battery life of 10 hours, which isn’t the best – although whether you should be gaming for more than 10 hours at a single stretch is questionable.
Otherwise, the Elite 800 contains much to admire. It sounds great: loud and pumping, with DTS Headphone:X 7.1 surround-sound and a welter of graphic-equaliser presets that can enhance rival-player sounds when you’re enjoying a first-person shooter, or are suited to movie-watching and so forth.
Comfort and build-quality are impressive, and you can adjust a vast number of aspects by pressing different areas of the backs of the earcups. This does take some getting used to at first, but at least every button-press triggers an electronic voice telling you what is going on.
As far as adjusting the sound to suit your gaming preferences is concerned, the Elite 800 offers as much as any wireless headset on the market. But to our ears, it sounds damn fine whatever its configuration. It isn’t the cheapest – although you can find it for well below its RRP – but you can certainly see why.
Best budget PlayStation 4 headset
Being strapped for cash doesn’t necessarily mean having to settle for an inferior gaming headset, and Turtle Beach’s EarForce PX24 does a pretty decent job of embarrassing plenty of its more expensive rivals. Sure, it makes more extensive use of plastic than headsets which are twice the price, but it still looks and feels sufficiently robust, and its overall lightness renders it pretty comfortable for prolonged use.
And in the areas that really matter – sound and configurability – the Ear Force PX24 is way better than it has any right to be at the price. While it doesn’t have the bass extension you’ll find in a more premium headset, and its treble is a bit dry in comparison with such pricey beasts, it still sounds remarkably good, and thanks to an amplifier which clips between the headset and the PS4 controller, you can boost the bass, engage Superhuman Hearing mode for first-person shooters and even fiddle around with a virtual surround-sound effect.
Finding such features, and very decent sound indeed, is a revelation for such a cheap headset. You could quibble about the EarForce PX24’s slightly plasticky overall finish, but in our opinion, that’s a small price to pay for a great headset with a small price.
Best budget Xbox One headset
The old stereotype about gamers being geeky, style-blind types is hopelessly outdated now that gaming has fully entered the mainstream, and LucidSound’s LS20 gaming headset is squarely aimed at the style-conscious. It looks fabulous, with a sleek design reminiscent of Beats headphones (although with much better sound at a fraction of the price), and has also been designed for use as a general on-the-go headphone – it comes with a rubber cover for the boom mic-socket.
Sound-wise, it’s great for the price, with clear, well-balanced characteristics across the frequency spectrum, and a bass-boost should you require it. The reason why it punches above its weight in terms of sound-quality is that it contains an amplifier of its own. The downside of that is that even though it’s a wired headset, you still have to charge it and, unsurprisingly given the price, it doesn’t come with a charging cradle. But battery life is an impressive 20 hours, and it still works, albeit with inferior sonic characteristics, when the battery runs out.
If you’re a keen gamer without any pro-gaming aspirations, and seek a gaming headset which will also function as an excellent iPod or phone set of headphones, LucidSound’s LS20 will do the trick with aplomb.
By Steve Boxer
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