When any product category gets popular enough, Amazon is there to undercut the market with its cheap line of AmazonBasics wares. Now, the same brand eating up the “Amazon recommends” shelf space in everything from office supplies to kitchen knives is moving in on gaming headsets too, with the AmazonBasics Gaming Headset.
AmazonBasics is a private label brand, which means its products are made by other companies—it’s like Kirkland at Costco. Stores usually use these to drive prices down, and that’s certainly on display with this budget gaming headset.
But is it any good?
Editor’s note: this AmazonBasics Gaming Headset review was updated on March 7, 2021, to include a contents menu and add context to the sound quality section.
Who is the AmazonBasics Gaming Headset for?
- Gamers on an extreme budget: this isn’t a headset built for anything other than gaming. People who work at home all looking for a decent headset might want to look elsewhere, for reasons I’ll get into as we go.
- Parents of destructive or clumsy kids will enjoy not being out $100 if their young keyboard warrior breaks their AmazonBasics Gaming Headset.
What is the AmazonBasics Gaming Headset like?
The AmazonBasics Gaming Headset is, in short, a bad gaming headset. While it serves its function, the cheap materials, poor performance, and weird fit means you’re getting less than what you pay for. As the branding indicates, the AmazonBasics Gaming Headset covers the basics… and little else. It’s a 3.5mm headset, offering stereo sound and a flexible attached microphone—nothing more, nothing less.
Related: A guide to gaming headset apps
While it’s made primarily of plastic, it doesn’t feel especially cheap—though it’s hardly comfortable. The headband is flexible, but I found it far too tight. Within 20 minutes for first putting the headset on, I felt some pretty noticeable discomfort, which blossomed into a nice little headache a little while later. After a few days of sporadic use, the band loosened a bit—but you shouldn’t have to wait at all for your devices to not give headaches.
The microphone is flexible and its wire is long enough that you can pose it however you like. It’s a little on the quiet side, but nothing too egregious. However, if you’re gaming on a PC with separate 3.5mm headphone and mic ports, you’ll need to get your own splitter. Clearly, this headset was designed for consoles first, though it works just fine on basically every platform. The inline controls work well enough too, with a big volume dial and a mute switch.
Gaming with the AmazonBasics Gaming Headset is a pretty straightforward affair. There aren’t any extra features, or companion apps. In essence, it’s just as mediocre an experience as using the headset for anything else.
How does the AmazonBasics Gaming Headset sound?
In a word: bad.
There are a few things to talk about when it comes to the AmazonBasics gaming headset’s sound. As this frequency response chart shows, the headset de-emphasizes bass and high tones, and boosts sound between 400Hz and 1kHz. Basically, it means music will sound bad, RPGs will be tough to navigate, and FPS games will be torture if you rely on audio cues like gunshots or explosions to tell you when you’re about to die.
Voice chat will sound a little wonky as well. I talked to people over Discord with both higher and lower voices, and in both cases things just didn’t sound quite right. A lot of the variation in sound that naturally occurs during speech sounded almost smoothed over. To make matters worse, a persistent low level crackle became more and more audible as I increased the headset’s volume.
The AmazonBasics Gaming Headset makes just about everything sound bad.
In music, this kind of frequency response means music won’t sound as good you’d likely want. Sounds that occupy the high end, like cymbals and strings, won’t sound as prominent as sounds in the mid range, or even the bass range.
Naima’s Dream by The Mattson 2 is a great example of this. The song’s normally very prominent bass line sounds oddly muted, and the airy strings that back up the lead guitar sound completely indistinct.
The AmazonBasics Gaming Headset features worse isolation than most over-ear gaming headsets. A big part of this seems to be due headphones, which angle slightly out toward the front. This makes it difficult to achieve an adequate seal, and combined the tight headband was a big contributor to the discomfort I mentioned earlier.
However, the headphone pads are thick enough to offer a degree of isolation that should be adequate in home environments. You’ll still hear roommates talking or traffic out the window, but if all you’re worried about is the whirr of the fridge in the other room, this will get the job done.
How does the microphone sound?
Oddly enough, the microphone is perhaps one of this headset’s only relative bright spots. If you’re looking at the wobbly line on the chart above and wondering “that’s a bright spot?” well, now you have a sense for what kind of product this is. The AmazonBasics Gaming Headset’s microphone does a decent job with low and mid range sounds—rather uncommon for attached microphones. This means people with very deep voices won’t have to worry about coming through less clearly or quieter.
However, the mic also struggles in the high range, which means sibilant sounds (“F,” “S,” and “SH” sounds) won’t come through as clearly. This means that speech might not sound quite as natural as it could.
Should you buy the AmazonBasics Gaming Headset?
Probably not, no. For all but the morbidly curious and extremely cash-strapped, I just can’t recommend getting the AmazonBasics Gaming. There are plenty of fantastic options in the budget range—this isn’t one of them.
This headset is uncomfortable, built from cheap materials, and it flat out sounds bad. If you’re gaming on a PC, you’ll probably have to buy an additional 3.5mm splitter, which brings the price closer to far superior headsets like the Razer Kraken X and, if you look a little further up, the HyperX Cloud Alpha.
If you’re in the market for a gaming headset, saving up for something nice will pay dividends. However, even at $26 this is not a good value.