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Years back, it used to be that if you wanted an edge while gaming against friends or foes online, you had to have a solid pair of headphones to get the job done right.
Speakers were fine if you planned on some light listening during weekday work, but if you absolutely had to hear every footstep and sniper shot while tumbling around on the virtual battlefield, the only true alternative was a finely tuned pair of headphones built from the ground up with gaming at the forefront of their design. And while speaker technology has certainly evolved over time, the same mantra still rings true: if you want to hear it all, a headset is the only way to go.
But which headphones are right for you? Well, that all depends on what you’re looking for. In the past few years, dozens of well-and-lesser known companies have crawled out of the woodwork with their own gaming-centric offerings, and our guide will help you decide which model is the best pick for your gaming style, your wallet, and the size of your head.
For Comfort: Sennheiser Game One
Many gaming headsets on the market today get a bad wrap for poor quality ear cups or overly tight headbands, which over time can constrain itself on a user’s head and make it nearly impossible to wear during long dungeon raids in WoW or jam sessions in the garage.
As such, manufacturer’s have learned that how comfortable a pair of headphones are can be just as (if not more in certain circumstances) important as how they sound or the way they connect to your computer.
Equipped with the same cup lining as its wildly popular HD 598 headphones, the velour ear pads are soft, supple, and never grate against your eardrum the way leather or rubber might. These are headphones you can wear all day without even breaking a sweat, thanks in part to the open-ear backed design which allows better airflow from the outside of the earpiece in.
Pick up your own sumptuous soundscape creators at Amazon.
For a Competitive Edge: Astro A30
Sure, it’s always nice to have a color-accurate monitor with miniscule response times, but for games like Counter Strike or League of Legends, being able to get an auditory bean on where the opposing team is trotting around can spell the difference between life and death in the clutch.
For anyone who takes their top scores seriously, the Astro A30 headset is a surefire way to make sure you never miss a heartbeat while frantically firing through the multiplayer madness of your next match.
Astro is a company that makes products for gamers, by gamers, and know what they want in a solid pair of cans. The A30 comes with a customized software platform that users can install on their PC or Mac to carefully adjust the levels for nearly every part of their gaming experience.
Whether it’s the voice-to-sound ratio of the headset or the directional mapping of EQ presets through the Astro Audio Mixamp M80, you’ll be able to hear the pin of an incoming grenade drop to the ground before the ordinance has even left your opponent’s grip.
When it comes to the needs of the hardcore gamer, any advantage is a good advantage, and having a supreme layer of sound on your side never hurts when push comes to shoot. Grab your pair of Astro A30’s on Amazon.
For Your Wallet: Turtle Beach Ear Force X12
Enter, the Turtle Beach Ear Force X12. Turtle Beach has always been a company that’s known for its high quality headsets and hardcore dedication to giving gamers what they want, and the Ear Force X12 is no exception.
Retailing for the bargain basement price of just over $40.00 on Amazon, the headset is a solid, comfortable, and fully-fledged entry-level product that can still give you all the information you need while creeping through the streets of Italy on a spy mission or slinking through the corridors of an off-limits military outpost.
The Ear Force X12’s come in two colors, white or black, and are stocked with add-ons like a variable bass boost and their very own in-line amplifier in case your audio source is just a little too quiet to hear the details of what’s going on around you.
Pick up your pair by heading over to Amazon’s portal by clicking the link included here.
For Total Freedom: Corsair H2100 7.1 Wireless Bluetooth Headset
Tried and true gamers might scoff at the idea of using a wireless or Bluetooth headset to frag down your foes. For years, wireless technology has lagged woefully behind the reaction times of most professional gamers, simply because the frequencies weren’t fast enough to send a signal to your headphones within the same span of milliseconds that the action played out on screen.
These days however, thanks to improvements in the technology that both sends and receives audio over the air, a wireless headset can still offer players all the same benefits they’d expect from their wire-tethered cousin, but with a freedom of movement that’s unmatched by any corded cans.
The Corsair H2100 Gaming Headset features a full 7.1-channel, Dolby Surround Sound experience, a unidirectional noise-cancelling microphone, and an onboard battery which can keep up through the paces of any marathon gaming run for upwards of 10+ hours on just a single charge.
The best deal for the Corsair H2100 headset can be found on Amazon.
For Luxury: Audio Technica ATHAG1
Audio Technica is a company that no one seemed to even know about 10 years ago, and these days you can’t turn around twice without seeing a pair of their earbuds dangling from someone’s neck on the train ride home.
Jumping on the revolution in personal audio devices, Audio Technica has covered nearly every end of the audiophile spectrum back to front. Whether it’s studio-quality cans ready to produce Lady Gaga’s next hit album or a reliable pair of closed-back headphones you can use to mix up a few tracks from the home setup, Audio Technica has quickly established a pedigree for making comfortable, responsive, and stylish headgear that rarely fails to impress.
And even though the company is mainly focused on music, they haven’t left gamers behind either. The ATHAG1 headset is a superbly crafted, expertly honed piece of hardware that blows the doors off the rest of the competition…but it doesn’t come cheap for the privilege.
Retailing at nearly $230.00, the ATHAG1 is far and away the most expensive headset on this list, but that’s because it’s also one of the best. This is a headset that doesn’t just look gorgeous with gold-accented lines and premium leather earcups, it also sounds spectacular to boot.
The ATHAG1 is a pair of headphones that feel just as at home in the studio as they do at the local LAN party, with an award-winning M-Class sound tuned by over 200 separate trained audiophile aficionados. As with the rest of the selections touted here, your best bet to find the lowest price comes from none other than the only shopping site we could ever need: Amazon.
For All-Around Use: HyperX Cloud II
There’s no arguing that any headset listed in this best of could qualify as having a solid, all-around listening profile, but whether it’s blasting down baddies in Battlefield 4 or listening to Beethoven’s Fifth, the trumps the competition in offering the best of both worlds in a single unit.
The Cloud II’s fit snugly right in the middle of everything, whether it’s their available features, the mid-tier price point, or microphone quality. Not a PC gamer? Fret not, the Cloud 2 supports universal portability, meaning your Xbox, PS4, or Wii will all work just the same thanks to the included detachable USB 7.1 surround sound card that can hotswap to a standard 3.5mm headphone jack on the fly.
The available array of style choices are just as plentiful, with an all-black matte finish for gamers who mean business, or white and pink for anyone who’s there just to log in and have a little fun for the night.
You can pick up your own pair of HyperX Cloud II headphones from Amazon.
So, whether you’re craning your ear to hear what your enemy is up to on the other side of a wall in Metal Gear Solid, or just want to relax while soaking in the sounds of some slow jazz, these gaming headsets have come a long way from their humble beginnings, and don’t look to be slowing down anytime soon.