The gaming headset occupies a somewhat odd position in the audio market. Sure, there are all sorts of great products out there, and many come at completely reasonable prices, but price often isn’t a reliable indicator of quality. Plenty of $150-plus headsets advertise best-in-class features and sharp audio, but end up a bass-boosted mess.
Sometimes all you want is something straightforward and affordable. Don’t worry! There are plenty of perfectly decent cheap gaming headsets—here are some of the best.
Editor’s note: This article was updated on May 20, 2020 to reflect changes in price and to include the SteelSeries Arctis 1 Wireless.
You don’t need to break the bank to have a good time
While there’s plenty of crap out there, there’s also plenty of quality options in the affordable gaming headset space. There are just a few things to figure out before buying a new headset.
The first thing to figure out is what you’re actually looking for. If you’re not into multiplayer games, it might be worth asking if you even really need a gaming headset in the first place. A lot of people feel the best gaming headset you can buy will always just be the best headphones you can find. If you just need something decent to keep the sound in, we’ve got plenty of recommendations.
Similarly, if you’ve already got a great pair of headphones, but you lack a microphone, it might be worth just looking for that. If you’re playing on PC, a USB microphone could be great—they’re generally easy to set up, they can reach pretty reasonable prices.
However, plenty of people aren’t interested in mixing and matching different peripherals to cobble together a solution. Getting a cheap gaming headset is ultimately the simplest solution. There are just a few things to keep in mind when shopping around.
What do I need in a cheap gaming headset?
Gaming headsets on the cheaper end of the spectrum tend to have more limited feature sets. It’s hard to find something that really covers every base for under $60—this is also true of more typical headphones, there’s just also a few other things to consider for gaming. There are plenty of great options, but you’re going to need to get a little specific.
What kind of games do you play? If you’re really into multiplayer games like Fortnite or Call of Duty, finding something with surround sound and a microphone is probably a good idea. That’ll be easier if you’re looking of a PC peripheral, as features like surround sound often don’t make the leap to console, even if the rest of the headset works.
Pay attention to whether a gaming headset is designed for a platform, or merely compatible with it. Plenty of gaming headsets use 3.5mm connections, and therefore work with most devices. That doesn’t mean they all work perfectly on those devices. Usually, your best bet is to look for something tailored to the platform you use. Odds are, you’ll have a better time with a gaming headset made specifically for the console you own, rather than one made for PC that also works on the Playstation 4.
Pay attention to whether a gaming headset is designed for a platform, or merely compatible with it.
It’s also important to pay attention to the physical design of the headset. Does it look like a pair of headphones with a mic attached, or does it look like an LED-riddled UFO? The headsets that add a lot of odd angles and edgy designs often do so using cheap plastic—especially at lower prices. Ones with straightforward metal frames are usually more durable.
I’ve always found that simpler designs often indicate higher quality—there’s less to distract from how a headset will sound. Ultimately, it’s probably better to keep the flashing lights and gaudy futuristic-looking tech in your games, rather than on your head.
If you want the best cheap gaming headset, go for the Corsair HS60 Pro Surround
Corsair’s been offering modestly priced gaming headsets for awhile, but the HS60 Pro Surround really nails that balance between price and features. Using the Corsair’s iCue software, the HS60 Pro Surround brings surround sound gaming to PC. It uses a 3.5mm connection, so it’s compatible with just about every platform.
Corsair HS60 Pro SurroundFull Review
This cheap gaming headset comes with 50mm dynamic drivers, and a USB DAC for better sound and quicker plug-and-play. It’s got detachable unidirectional boom mic and on ear controls for muting and adjusting audio levels. The headphones sit on study metal hinges that quietly acommodate a wide range of movement.
In short, this cheap gaming headset is hard to beat at any price.
The Razer Kraken X has features to spare
The Razer Kraken X brings a lot of value to the table, with 3.5mm connectivity and 7.1 surround sound, all for around $50. This option really walks the line between “good value” and downright cheap.
Razer Kraken XFull Review
The headset has a lightweight design, with a headband made of a durable thermoplastic. The headphones’ memory foam pads feature slight gaps to alleviate pressure if you wear glasses. Its attached microphone is flexible and offers clear audio. All in, this is a comfortable headset, and the volume and mic controls on the left headphone add even more convenience.
The 7.1 surround sound only works with Windows 10, but you won’t find a better gaming headset for $49.99
The AmazonBasics Pro Gaming Headset brings decent performance at a dirt-cheap price
Amazon recently stepped into the gaming peripheral market, with a range of products under its AmazonBasics brand. Most of its entries are pretty terrible, but if you’re looking for something, in a word, basic, the somewhat oxymoronically named AmazonBasics Pro Gaming Headset could be a great option.
Amazon Basics Pro Gaming HeadsetFull Review
This stereo 3.5mm headset sports a flexible unidirectional mic and big leatherette headphone pads. Its rigid plastic band feels extremely cheap, but the headset is actually pretty comfortable. There are even inline mic and volume controls to boot. It will work on just about any platform, but if your PC has a separate 3.5mm jack for mic and headphone audio, you’ll need to buy a splitter.
The AmazonBasics Pro Gaming Headset will cover you if you’ve got an absolute rock bottom budget—it launched around $40, but often rests around $9.
The best budget console headset is the HyperX Cloud Stinger Core
The HyperX Cloud Stinger Core is the prolific gaming peripheral maker’s entry level cheap gaming headset made specifically for consoles. For just 39.99, you get a straightforward wired audio experience, with decent sound, a built in microphone, and in-line controls.
HyperX Cloud Stinger Core
There’s not a whole lot more to say about the Cloud Stinger Core—You plug it in, and it works. The microphone is flexible and offers completely workable audio quality.
Sure, this isn’t a real HiFi audio solution for discerning and competitive gamers, but if you’re in the market for something in this price range, you know what to expect. This sits on the higher end of that.
When you want cheap, but not that cheap, consider the SteelSeries Arctis 1 Wireless
Cheap can mean a lot of things, and while $100 is still plenty to spend, it’s downright reasonable compared to a lot of options on the market. The HyperX Cloud Alpha occupied this spot on the list for long time, and it may do so again one day, but right now it’s pretty hard to get one for a decent price, given the state of international shipping and shopping. If you can’t find one for a reasonable price, consider the SteelSeries Arctis 1 Wireless. Like the Cloud Alpha, the Arctis 1 Wireless is only $40 more than the next most expensive entry on this list, and offers comparable audio quality to headphones twice or even three times its price.
SteelSeries Arctis 1 WirelessFull Review
This is the first wireless gaming headset to connect using a USB-C dongle (there’s an adapter for devices with regular USB ports), which means it can connect a PC, smartphone, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch—even when it’s undocked.
Sure, the Arctis 1 Wireless doesn’t offer the breadth of features found in the premium space, but in the no-frills budget arena it hardly seems like a no-frills experience. It offers rock solid audio output, stellar battery life, and it works on almost every platform wirelessly—even an undocked Switch.
The attached microphone is a little wonky, with underemphasized bass that can make deeper voices sound a little tinny. However, it handles voice chat without issue. Like other SteelSeries Arctis headsets, the Arctis 1 Wireless is Discord certified, so it works very well with the service. It won’t be podcast ready any time soon, but voice chat is no problem.
The headset doesn’t feel quite as sturdy as something like the Cloud Alpha, but it’s plenty comfortable. The headband is made of plastic, but clamps down tightly. The ear pads features cushions in the SteelSeries’ Airweave fabric which is really comfortable and manages heat very well. Basically, the SteelSeries Arctis 1 Wireless is as close to a premium wireless experience as you can get for under $100.
Why you should trust Sam
When it comes down to it, I don’t just review gaming headsets because I’m passionate about good audio. Pretty much everything I do here at SoundGuys focuses on gaming content, and that’s because I’ve been a gamer my whole life. You name it, I’ve probably played it. I know what kind of audio features are important for different kinds of games, and maybe more importantly: which ones aren’t.
The gaming headset space, much like many other parts of the audio industry, is rife with exaggerated language and gimmicky sounding features that often don’t add much of anything to your experience. It’s easy to get caught up in the flashy lights and promises of immersive audio and bass so intense it’ll rupture your eardrums (but in a good way), but most of that stuff flat out doesn’t matter. That’s why we review headsets, and why we have lists like this.