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Best gaming headphones

Turns out the best headphones also make for the best gaming headphones.

Published onMarch 22, 2024

The Best
SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless
MSRP: $349.99
Check price
Packed with features
Hot-swappable battery
Sound quality
Well built
Plenty of connectivity options, including Bluetooth 5.0
Doesn't support both consoles
Wireless quality dips (rarely)
Best over ears headphones
Audio-Technica ATH-M50x
MSRP: $169.00
Check price
Rotating, swiveling ear cups
Well made, foldable design
Pretty good sound
Three removable cables included
Cable connection is proprietary
Heat build up
Not enough low-end
Not comfortable with glasses
Best comfort
Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO
MSRP: $179.00
Check price
Great sound
250Ω requires an external amp
Can't replace the cable
Best microphone
Razer BlackShark V2 Pro (2023)
MSRP: $199.99
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Battery life
Excellent microphone
Custom audio/mic EQs on the headset itself
New model brings USB-C and Bluetooth 5.2
Razer Synapse not accessible via mobile or Mac
No 3.5mm connection
No Xbox compatibility
Best sound
Sennheiser HD 660S2
MSRP: $599.00
Check price
Good sound
Easy maintenance
Sound not for everyone

Gaming headsets are tailor-made to work with some consoles and PCs, but what if you just want a solid pair of headphones you can also use for gaming? Something you can pair with a mic when you want to play and then take along with you on the bus or the office instead of having to buy a separate pair of wireless gaming headsets. To straddle both these worlds, here are our picks for the best headphones that work great for gaming.

What's new?

  • This article was updated on March 22, 2024, to add new top picks and adjust formatting to our current style.
  • If you are looking for something more compact and portable for gaming, check out our list of the best gaming earbuds.

Top Pick: SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless

The SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless laid flat on a wooden board atop a grey surface.
Although it may be on the pricey side, this headset delivers on everything from features to build quality. It sounds excellent and feels excellent.

The SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless is a versatile, premium gaming headset that excels in comfort, build quality, and sound performance, making it suitable for gaming, commuting, and Zoom meetings. It features hot-swappable batteries, Bluetooth, and a unique wireless base station for easy control, including a 10-band EQ and game/chat mix. However, it’s priced on the higher side and doesn’t support simultaneous console compatibility.

A fantastic gaming headset, and a great all-purpose pair of headphones.

Key strengths include its feature-packed design, excellent build quality, and sound clarity, while drawbacks are limited console support and occasional dips in wireless quality. Ideal for gamers seeking a high-quality, versatile headset and those needing a multipurpose headset for various uses.

SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro WirelessSteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless
SoundGuys Editors Choice
SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless
Full, clear audio • Good microphone • Strong noise cancelation
MSRP: $349.99
Not only a fantastic gaming headset, but also a great all-purpose pair of headphones.
SteelSeries has delivered a headset that works not only for gamers, but for anyone that needs a multipurpose headset on the go, for meetings, and for casual listening. Available for PC/PlayStation, or Xbox.

The Audio-Technica ATH-M50x is a close second place

A close up of the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x shows the connection point of the cable.
The Audio-Technica ATH-M50x isn’t the newest model, but it’s still good after all these years.

The Audio-Technica ATH-M50x remains a solid choice for casual listening and audio recording, offering a good balance of sound quality and durability despite its age. The headphones come with rotating, swiveling ear cups, a foldable design, and three removable cables, but the proprietary cable connection and discomfort with glasses wear are drawbacks. The headphones are built with plastic and metal for durability and designed for easy storage with their foldable and swiveling ear cups. They’re ideal for podcasters, producers, and anyone looking for a reliable, wired over-ear experience without sound leakage. However, the lack of low-end emphasis, potential heat build-up during use, and proprietary cable system might be considerations for some users. Overall, the ATH-M50x offers a good sound profile that appeals to both casual and analytical listeners, making it a worthwhile option if found at the right price.

Audio-Technica ATH-M50xAudio-Technica ATH-M50x
Audio-Technica ATH-M50x
Rotating ear cups • Well-build quality • Studio-style sound
MSRP: $169.00
A great pair of wired headphones for budding audio engineers and veterans.
Once the best in the ATH-M line, the ATH-M50x is still a good choice for casual listening and recording audio. It offers plenty of cable options to fit a studio setup and yields a pleasant sound for casual and analytical listening.

The best wired gaming headphones are the AKG K371

The AKG K371 wired over-ear headphones on an iron bedrame lit by blue and orange lights.
The predominantly plastic build looks spectacular with its matte finish.

The AKG K371 headphones excel in comfort, sound quality, functionality, and portability, making them a standout choice for audio engineers, podcasters, and any music enthusiast. With their excellent frequency response, comfort for glasses wearers, ample accessories, replaceable ear pads, and articulating ear cups, they offer a versatile and enjoyable listening experience across all music genres. However, they have limitations in sound isolation and can leak sound. Despite these minor drawbacks, the K371’s lightweight design, inclusion of three cables and a 1/4-inch adapter, and its ability to compact into a more portable shape make it highly appealing. Its sound quality impresses with a balanced sub-bass to midrange ratio and clear reproduction of a wide range of music. While not perfect, the AKG K371 headphones deliver great value, especially considering their performance against more expensive counterparts.

You can’t use a 3.5mm mic with the K371 since the left headphone houses a mini-XLR connector. Instead, you’ll need to couple it with an external mic.

If you have an audio interface for your computer, you can pick up an XLR microphone or just use a USB mic like the HyperX QuadCast S with your gaming station.

The best open-back gaming headphones are the Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO

The Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO offers great value under $200, with comfort and sound quality that makes it a strong choice for gamers. Its open-back design provides an immersive spatial sound experience, crucial for detecting in-game cues and immersive single-player experiences. However, its 250Ω impedance may require an external amp to reach optimal volume levels, and the non-removable cable could be a drawback. Despite these minor issues, its detailed sound profile, emphasizing lows and highs, is ideal for gaming, offering clarity and depth that enhance gameplay. Just note, its design is best suited for indoor use, and it lacks noise isolation. For gamers looking for an auditory edge without breaking the bank, the DT 990 PRO is a compelling choice.

Beyerdynamic DT 990 PROBeyerdynamic DT 990 PRO
Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO
Comfortable • Great sound • Price
MSRP: $179.00
Like good-sounding pillows for your ears.
For less than $200, it's not hard to understand why the DT 990 PRO is considered to be a classic pair of cans for audio producers and music lovers alike. If you don't want to splurge on Beyerdynamic's updated line of DT PRO X headsets, then this is an absolute steal.
The Philips Fidelio X2 open-back headphones lean against the Shure AONIC 50 Bluetooth headphones with noise canceling.
Lily Katz / SoundGuys
Open-back headphones are really only for at-home use, limiting their functionality compared to closed-back ones.

Open-back headphones let air pass through the ear cups from the rear of the speaker driver. This means the internal reflection of low-frequency sound within each headphone housing is less of an issue compared to closed-back headphones. This allows for a generally “clearer” sound that lets you better perceive high frequencies and panning from one channel to the other.

Closed-back headphones, on the other hand, are completely sealed around the driver and do a better job of blocking sound out (and keeping sound in). The sealed rear chamber means that you can take closed-back headphones out and about during a commute or to class, but you may notice that it’s harder to hear high-frequency detail through closed-back headphones compared to open ones.

Sennheiser HD 560SSennheiser HD 560S
Sennheiser HD 560S
Well priced • Clean and accurate audio • Open-backed design
MSRP: $199.95
Powerful open-back wired headphones for audiophiles
Designed to deliver a natural and accurate reference sound, the Sennheiser HD 560S are light-weight, open-back wired headphones designed for the audiophile experience.

The Razer BlackShark V2 Pro (2023) has a stellar microphone

a hand holding the Razer BlackShark V2 Pro 2023

The 2023 Razer BlackShark V2 Pro is a notable upgrade in the gaming headset category, offering enhanced microphone quality, extended battery life, and the addition of USB-C and Bluetooth 5.2 connectivity. It’s designed for PC, PS5, and Nintendo Switch gamers, as well as remote workers who appreciate high-quality audio for calls and gaming. The headset boasts excellent battery life, superior mic performance, and customizable audio/mic EQs directly on the headset. However, it lacks a 3.5mm connection, Xbox compatibility, and Razer Synapse configuration isn’t available on mobile or Mac. Despite these drawbacks, its comfort, sound quality, and modern features make it a compelling choice for under $200, especially for those who don’t have an Xbox or need a wired connection.

Razer BlackShark V2 Pro (2023)Razer BlackShark V2 Pro (2023)
Razer BlackShark V2 Pro (2023)
Comfortable • Removable boom mic • Great battery life
MSRP: $199.99
Comfortable and versatile gaming headset
The Razer BlackShark V2 Pro (2023) are an update to the 2020 model of these gaming headsets. They are a comfortable, over-ear design with removable boom mic and big battery life.

Sennheiser HD 660S2

A photo showing the open back of the Sennheiser HD 660S2 headphones, over a cyan and pegboard background.
Open backs mean no noise isolation worth mentioning.

The Sennheiser HD 660S2, with its slight bass enhancement and “relaxed” sound profile, offers a nuanced audio experience for gamers in quiet environments. Its open-back design ensures a natural soundstage, beneficial for immersive gaming and pinpointing in-game sound effects and environmental cues. However, the lack of noise isolation and sound leakage may limit its use in private gaming sessions. The comfort and easy maintenance are pluses for long gaming marathons. The proprietary connector allows for easy cable replacement, but the lack of a 3.5mm connection could be inconvenient for gamers with various setups. The HD 660S2’s high impedance might not require an amp, but for those looking to tweak the EQ, an amp could enhance the experience. While its premium sound quality is a draw, the HD 660S2’s price point and specific sound signature may not suit all gamers, especially those who prefer a more pronounced bass or treble for their gaming sessions.

Sennheiser HD 660S2Sennheiser HD 660S2
Sennheiser HD 660S2
Improved bass • Clean neutral sound profile
MSRP: $599.00
With a refined sound, the HD 660S2 were built for comfort
Focusing on refinement, the Sennheiser HD 660S2 are an evolution of their neutral profile, open-back wired headphones. Carefully tuned air ports lead to cleaner bass, without compromising the audiophile experience.

The best gaming headphones: Notable mentions

The Beyerdynamic DT 900 Pro X sits on a wood grain table.
Get yourself a USB gaming mic to use with the DT 900 PRO X, and you’re off to the races.
  • Audio-Technica ATH-M40x ($99 at Amazon): If you want most of the features and comfort of the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x but don’t want to spend that much, the Audio-Technica ATH-M40x is a good pick. It’s not quite as snazzy looking, and its ear pads also retain heat, but otherwise, you get most of the same experience for less cash.
  • Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 ($198 at Amazon): These are the same as the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x, but you can use either wired or wireless listening.
  • Beyerdynamic DT 900 PRO X ($269 at Amazon): The Beyerdynamic DT 900 PRO X is big, bulky, and heavy, but what you get in return is excellent sound from this open-back headset. This pair of open-back headphones might start to weigh you down after a while, though, and it costs around $300, but if you don’t mind those factors, it works quite well as gaming headphones.
  • Drop x Sennheiser HD 6XX ($199 at Manufacturer site): If you’re looking for a set of headphones to stay by the computer, few offer a better price-to-performance ratio than the Drop x Sennheiser HD 6XX. Based on the design of the legendary Sennheiser HD 650, the HD 6XX is a steal at half the price.
  • Sennheiser HD 280 Pro ($87 at Amazon): This is an over-ear option that gives you plenty of features for the price. At the same time, it’s comfortable and doesn’t bump up the bass too much, which makes it good for gaming. You can even use these headphones to mix tracks or edit content, thanks to the relatively neutral frequency response.
  • Shure AONIC 50 ($298 at Amazon): Gamers who value construction and sound quality above all else will like the Shure AONIC 50. This will cost you a pretty penny but in return, you get wired and wireless listening options with aptX, LDAC, AAC, and SBC codec options, removable ear pads, and USB-C charging with fast charge. If you want to spend slightly less and don’t mind less-than-premium materials, there’s the very similar Shure AONIC 40, too.
  • Sony WF-1000XM4 ($278 at Amazon): True wireless earbuds can be tricky to use for gaming, but with LDAC Bluetooth codec support and a comfortable fit, plus great ANC, the Sony WF-1000XM4 makes for a good pick if you prefer buds. If your content supports it, you can even take advantage of their 360 Reality Audio support.
  • V-MODA Crossfade 2 Wireless Codex Edition ($349 at Amazon): V-MODA is known for its sturdy headsets, and this is no exception with its MIL-STD 810G durability certification. You get SBC, AAC, and aptX Bluetooth codec options, and you can connect the headset to your console’s controller via the 3.5mm cable.

Hold up! Something’s different:

Some of our picks’ frequency response and isolation charts were measured with our old testing system. We have since purchased a Bruel & Kjaer 5128 test fixture (and the appropriate support equipment) to update our testing and data collection. It will take a while to update our backlog of old test results, but we will update this article (and many others!) once we’re able with improved sound quality measurements and isolation performance plots. These will be made obvious with our new chart aesthetic (black background instead of white).

Thank you for bearing with us, and we hope to see you again once we’ve sorted everything out.

What to know about the best gaming headphones

Gaming headphones should be comfortable and durable because you’re going to be wearing them for hours on end. But besides the obvious features to look out for, here are some other things you should consider before putting down cash on a pair.

How to turn any pair of headphones into gaming headphones

Beats headphones and V-MODA BoomPro X microphone against a reflective wooden surface.
The V-MODA BoomPro X attaches without much hassle to many models of over-ear headphones.

If you already like your current pair of headphones or just bought one of our recommended pairs, you might be wondering if that’s all it takes. Chances are, however, when gaming, you’ll want a better mic than most headphones include. That way, you can interact with teammates or streaming buddies clearly. A simple way to upgrade your mic is by attaching a boom mic, like the cardioid V-MODA BoomPro X, to your headphones.

V-MODA BoomPro X microphone demo:

That mic isn’t the best one on the planet or anything, but it’s easy to use, relatively cheap, and you can attach or detach it as required without too much trouble. If you want to upgrade to something better, though, there’s a whole world of standalone mics to explore.

We have a guide on the best external microphones for gaming that you can dive into, another on the best podcast mics in case you want to make episodic content, or even USB mics if all your audio ports are full (or if your PC doesn’t have a mic jack).

Whichever option you choose, having a solid and reliable microphone will make your streaming and multiplayer experiences much more enjoyable.

There are plenty of add-on boom mics, and we recommend the following for your gaming endeavors:

How should headphones sound when gaming?

A frequency response chart for the Xbox Wireless Headset, which shows dramatically boosted bass.
An additional boost in the bass is typical of gaming headsets, but the Microsoft Xbox Wireless Headset is a pretty intense example and, ideally, something you want to avoid.

You can quickly google and find plenty of headphones claiming to be suited for gaming, but there’s likely a large (actually, loud) problem with them: way too much bass. Headphone manufacturers do this because it’s an easy way to make headphones sound “impressive,” but it’s quite counterproductive to your needs when gaming. You can compensate for this to an extent by using an equalizer, but that can only get you so far.

Gaming headsets with too much bass are also less useful for chatting with teammates. That’s because their voices will sound “boomy” and “unnatural,” so you might strain to hear other people or have to ask them to repeat themselves. Being the one teammate who keeps asking, “What’d you say?” is never great.

Amping up the bass can make it hard to hear all other frequencies in your music or gaming mix, which means you’ll have a slower reaction time to nearby enemies.  If your headphones keep pumping out way too much bass, you may miss key sounds in the mids and highs, like footsteps, distant voices, and other cues that enemies are nearby, or you’re missing key quest objectives. Passing a power-up because you couldn’t hear the special puzzle noise would be a big bummer.

Should gaming headphones block out noise?

A chart showing the very effective noise canceling performance of the Bose QuietComfort 35 II headphones, and Gaming Headset.
The Bose QuietComfort 35 II and the Bose QuietComfort 35 II Gaming Headset let you use ANC to block out noises and focus on gaming.

Though this might seem obvious, it actually depends on what games you play and the types of environments in which you play them. There’s also the question of active versus passive noise reduction, so you’ve got a few factors to consider here.

If you plan to game in a relatively quiet room, that brings up the opportunity to use open-back headphones. These headphones offer no noise canceling or isolation, but in return, you get a large “soundscape” or “soundstage.” That means your ears can better discern the directional nature of a sound. Basically, the sounds coming from your game will better reflect where they originate from the in-game environment. As a result, you can better pick up where an enemy sniper or call for help is coming from.

However, the downsides to this configuration are, of course, no isolation or ANC. That means any external noises will make it to your ears, which can cause auditory masking or distract you from your play session. Furthermore, the sound will “leak” out of your headphones, and other people in the room with you may hear it, which they could find annoying. If you game in a home with distracting noises or other occupants, then choosing isolating or ANC headphones might work better for you.

You lose out on some of that spatial feeling, but you gain the ability to block out many external distractions and focus. These headphones also tend to have large, plush ear cups, which helps in the comfort department as well as isolation. Some people really dislike the “suction” or “clamping” feeling of strongly isolating or ANC headphones, however.

Ultimately, the choice depends on your budget (fancy open-back headphones tend to cost a lot, but so do many ANC models, so shop around), comfort level, play style, and the type of gaming setup you’ve got.

What type of headphones should you use for gaming?

Beyerdynamic DT 900 Pro X on head
Over-ear headphones often have large, padded ear cups and a soft covering on the band, making them comfortable for marathon gaming sessions.

At SoundGuys, we recommend over-ear headphones for gaming. They tend to have large, padded ear cups, which are more comfortable for long hours than on- or in-ear designs, though the JBL Quantum 50 earbuds are an exception here. They let you wear glasses (contacts are not ideal for staring at the screen) and tend to provide better isolation, sound quality, and ease of use than other options, too—all for a fraction of the cost of most over-ear gaming options.

In-ears may work for you, but keep in mind you’ll be gaming for long durations, so you might need to stop and take breaks to remove the buds. Plus, it is much harder to add a boom mic setup to in-ear headphones, whereas on over-ears, there’s always a handy place to pin one.

Frequently asked questions about gaming headphones

A gaming headset is specifically designed for gaming experiences, often equipped with a built-in microphone for in-game communication. On the other hand, headphones are primarily designed for audio playback and may not have a mic. Gaming headsets might also emphasize certain sound profiles, like boosted bass, to enhance gameplay.

Yes, you can use normal headphones for gaming. In fact, many regular headphones can offer a balanced sound profile suitable for both gaming and everyday music listening.

This is comfortable to wear with glasses. It doesn’t leak sound, so you can use it in a room with another person.

Yes, but it’s not ideal to use computer speakers for gaming at the same time as a mic. Consider the fact that it would be really easy to create a feedback loop and thus cause extreme ringing in the ears of your teammates or stream watchers. Plus, you might lose out on spatial cues within the game. Speakers might work if you’re enjoying a single-player game at home, but otherwise, they may not serve you as efficiently and easily as a pair of headphones.

If your preferred console has a standard wired mic jack (check to make sure), then yes. If you want a wireless option, you’ll have to get a console-specific headset for Xbox One or PlayStation 5. The one exception is the Nintendo Switch, which supports Bluetooth audio, but that also might mean latency issues.

Well, there’s technically nothing stopping you from trying, but we cannot vouch for or recommend any third-party or aftermarket modifications.