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The best gaming headphones – Polygon

I’ll never forget my first pair of dedicated gaming headphones, the venerable Triton AX360. They completely changed my perception of playing games on a console.

At the time, I was hooked on Gears of War. Every Friday I’d get together with some friends for an evening of private multiplayer matches, and the AX360 gave me a distinct advantage. Having true surround sound was like having a kind of superpower. With positional audio, I could actually hear the other players sneaking up behind me, or track their movements around the map. After that, there was no going back.

Since then, I’ve become a bit of a connoisseur of gaming headphones. I’m not an audiophile by any stretch, but I know what I like. That’s why I’ve been tapped to refresh Polygon’s list of the best gaming headphones for PlayStation 4, Windows PC and Xbox One. Our Ben Kuchera is also on hand to talk about options for the Nintendo Switch.

After more than a month of rigorous testing, with samples provided by a dozen leading brands, here are our top picks for each platform.

Winner

Astro A50

The Astro A50 is, hands down, the gold standard for wireless gaming audio. There may be better sounding wired headphones out there, but if your controller is already wireless shouldn’t your headset be as well?


The Astro A50 for PlayStation 4 and PC features metallic blue highlights. It’s available on Amazon.
Astro

The A50 is plug-and-play compatible with the PS4, and features Dolby 7.1 audio. The soundstage is big, and the multiple channels are clear and distinct all across the spectrum. Aside from rock-solid audio quality, the A50 has a number of excellent quality-of-life features. The included base station features wireless charging. Just plunk them down and they’re ready to go the next time you put them on. There’s also a USB port so you can charge them while you play.

The biggest differentiator for the A50 is the game/voice balance toggle, which Astro calls a MixAmp. It’s one, massive toggle switch that occupies the entire right side of the headset. That means no more fumbling for a dial or a dongle when you’re in the middle of a raid or a firefight.

The base station also includes optical passthrough, so this headset works in concert with a dedicated receiver. You can even connect your console and a PC at the same time and switch between the two with a toggle on the side. There’s also an LCD screen that shows the battery’s charge at a glance. A 3.5 mm auxiliary input on the base station means you can blend in sound from another source on top of the game and chat audio, or use the Astro A50 to transmit wireless stereo sound from a docked Nintendo Switch (so long as all other audio inputs are turned down or off).

The A50 is available in two flavors, one for the PS4 and PC and another for the Xbox One and PC. Both retail for $299.99.

Runner Up

Plantronics Rig 800HS

When it comes to audio equipment, there is no brand with more history behind it than Plantronics. In fact, when Neil Armstrong landed on the moon he was wearing a pair of its headphones. Since then, Plantronics has been known mostly for making excellent business products. Think headphones for call center workers. But in the last few years it’s also branched out into gaming audio.


The Plantronics Rig 800HS is a super lightweight design that provides a massive soundstage. It’s available on Amazon.
Plantronics

Its latest offering, the Rig 800HS, is fantastic. Of all the headphones I demo’d, it was by far the lightest. That’s thanks in part to a unique friction-fit headband. Instead of moving components, the Rig series relies on removable earcups. There are three fixed positions — small, medium and large — and an adjustable elastic headband that takes up the slack. It’s an ingenious solution, and also less susceptible to wear and tear.

Where the Rig truly excels is in its audio quality. The soundstage it creates is absolutely massive. It made the games I was playing feel bigger and more epic in scale. The microphone is likewise second to none. If you’re looking to reduce clutter below the television, you’ll be glad to know that the Rig 800HS’s wireless transmitter is smaller than a deck of cards. Add in the fact that it has a 24-hour battery life, and you’re getting a lot of headset for $179.

See below for more on the Xbox One version of the Rig, which also features Dolby Atmos.

Nintendo Switch

Winner

Hori Splat and Chat

The audio situation on the Nintendo Switch is rather unique, to say the least. Nintendo has included a single 3.5 mm audio port on the system, allowing you to connect any headphones you would like. But, to chat with other players you need to install a special iOS or Android app on your phone. It’s a bit of a train wreck, but the good news is that any set of 3.5 mm compatible headphones with a microphone should get the job done.

Of course, you can’t wear two headphones at the same time. So, one option is to pick up the Hori Splat and Chat headset, which is a mediocre set of headphones with a microphone that includes a special adaptor that splits the audio signal between your phone and the Nintendo Switch. It’s an awkward and unnecessarily complicated piece of “technology” that allows you to mix the audio and voice levels in real time.


Hori

While the included headphones are hot garbage, they’re also removable. So you can keep the adaptor and use whatever headphones with a microphone you’d like. The cable alone is worth the $29.99 retail price of the peripheral by itself.

Late last month, Nintendo released a console update that added compatibility with some wireless USB headphones. Oddly enough, some have found a good solution to be the PlayStation Gold and PlayStation Platinum wireless headphones, but both require the use of multiple adapters to connect via USB-C. We have yet to find a more elegant solution, and will update this post when we do.

So our official recommendation is to pick up whichever 3.5 mm compatible headphone you like from the rest of this guide, get the Hori peripheral just for that adaptor, and wait for further instructions.

Windows PC

Winner

Sennheiser PC 373D

The Sennheiser brand of headphones has long been a favorite of audiophiles, but without a proper digital-to-analog converter it was often a chore to get them up and running on a PC with proper positional audio. That’s no longer the case now that Sennheiser has a full line of dedicated PC gaming headphones.


The Sennheiser PC 373D is a USB powered, wired PC headset with Dolby 7.1 surround sound. It’s our pick for the best audio quality in its category. You can find it on Amazon for $196.00.
Sennheiser

The PC 373D is a Dolby 7.1 compatible headset with a clean, easy-to-use software interface. It provided the clearest and most consistent sound of any of the USB compatible headphones that we tested. The soundstage was large — not as large as the Plantronics RIG, but close — and the tonality was crisp and bright across the spectrum. It also features a removable cable, which makes it easily replaceable if you roll over it with your desk chair.

The Sennheiser PC 373D is available on Amazon for $196.00.

Runner Up

Kingston HyperX Cloud Revolver S


Kingston

By far the most comfortable of any of the headphones we tested, the HyperX Cloud Revolver S features leatherette-covered memory foam earcups. It’s also practically bulletproof, featuring a thick, braided cable and a rugged, detachable microphone surmounted by a solid, all-metal frame. The sound quality wasn’t quite up to par with the Sennheisers we tested, but if durability is a selling point for you, this model comes highly recommended.

The Cloud Revolver S is also one of the few true multi-platform devices that we tested. In addition to working with a PC, it allows for Dolby 7.1 surround sound on the PlayStation 4 via USB and analog stereo support for the Xbox One, the Nintendo Switch and most mobile phones.

The Kingston HyperX Cloud Revolver S is available on Amazon for $149.99.

Honorable Mention — Budget Wireless

Corsair Void


The Corsair Void is a value-priced wireless option, with outstanding comfort. It’s available from Amazon for $99.99.
Corsair

Corsair has surprised us on a regular basis with the quality of its mechanical keyboards. The K95 RGB remains our most highly-recommended model to date. But Corsair’s also making a big push into the headset market, and the latest iteration of their Void headset is an excellent choice for those looking for a wireless solution on PC. At $99.99, it’s an excellent choice for those unwilling or unable to spend top-dollar for the Astro A50. They suffer from limited battery life, thanks to their garish lighting. Turn that off for maximum performance.

The Corsair Void Wireless headset is available on Amazon for $99.99, and comes in both black and white versions.

Honorable Mention — Digital-To-Analog Converter

Sennheiser GSX 1000 and

Beyerdynamic MMX 300

When we asked a dozen manufacturers to provide samples, we only requested headphones. But the good folks at Sennheiser decided to throw in something extra — their new digital-to-analog converter, the GSX 1000.


The Sennheiser GSX 1000 allows you to translate 7.1 binaural audio to any set of analog headphones. It’s available from Amazon for $219.99.
Sennheiser

I’m a bit new to DACs, but from what I understand they do the heavy lifting of converting a digital signal into an analog format. The GSX 1000 also acts like a miniature receiver for your PC, featuring multiple outputs for a headset, a microphone and a set of external speakers.

There’s a required software package that you have to install. Once you do, all of the controls are handled right on the device itself. There’s even a handy metal jog wheel as well as an OLED touchscreen, meaning you never have to tab out of your game to make adjustments.


The Beyerdynamic MMX 300 is a closed headset, great for keeping out unwanted noise. It was original designed for commercial pilots. It retails for $349.99 on Amazon.
Beyerdynamic

What the GSX 1000 does is open up PC enthusiasts to the wider world of audiophile-grade headphones. You can plug virtually anything with a 3.5 mm jack into the GSX 1000 and get 7.1 binaural sound out of it.

We paired the GSX 1000 with the Beyerdynamic MMX 300, a set of closed, stereo cans originally designed for private aviation, and were absolutely floored with the results. But buyer beware. Right now we consider the GSX 1000 to be more of a novelty than anything else, as we did not do direct comparisons against competing products.

Xbox One

Winner

Plantronics Rig 800LX

We already showered the Plantronics Rig 800HS with praise above, putting it in second place below the Astro A50 in our section on the PlayStation 4. But when it comes to the Xbox One, the Plantronics Rig 800LX is the top dog. That’s because it’s expansive soundstage makes for a far better application of Dolby Atmos, a defining audio feature of Microsoft’s console.

If you’re going to be playing games and watching movies on this console, you have every reason to try and get the most out of it. That’s why the lower-priced headset wins out here over the more expensive A50.


The Plantronics Rig 800LX is the only wireless headset we tested that’s compatible with Dolby Atmos. It’s built to work with Xbox One, Xbox One S and Xbox One X. It’s currently only available direct from Plantronics, and retails for $149.99.
Plantronics

The Xbox One is the only console that has Atmos, which takes the traditional 5.1 and 7.1 audio formats and adds a height layer. Now, instead of hearing other players to your left or right, you can actually tell if they’re above or below you as well. That’s especially useful in games like Overwatch and Star Wars Battlefront 2, which are among the first games to make use of this new audio format.

The Rig series is already an excellent choice at an excellent price. But its performance with Dolby Atmos makes it our clear winner on Xbox One.

The Plantronics Rig 800LX is currently available directly from the manufacturer for $149.99.

A final note. Dolby Atmos must be activated on Xbox One via a special app which gives you free access to the feature for 30 days. After that, it’s $14.99 extra. Plantronics throws in an activation code for free with each pair of headphones.

Runner Up

Astro A50

Just as with the PS4, the A50 for the Xbox One and PC is plug-and-play compatible with and features Dolby 7.1 surround sound. The soundstage is big, and the multiple channels are clear and distinct all across the spectrum. Aside from rock-solid audio quality, the A50 has a number of excellent quality-of-life features. The included base station features wireless charging. Just plunk them down and they’re ready to go the next time you put them on. There’s also a USB port so you can charge them while you play.


The Astro A50 for Xbox One and PC is available on Amazon for $299.99.
Astro

The biggest differentiator for the A50 is the game/voice balance toggle, which Astro calls a MixAmp. It’s one, massive toggle switch that occupies the entire right side of the headset. That means no more fumbling for a dial or a dongle when you’re in the middle of a raid or a firefight.

The base station also includes optical passthrough, so this headset works in concert with a dedicated receiver. You can even connect your console and a PC at the same time and switch between the two with a toggle switch. There’s also an LCD screen that shows the battery’s charge at a glance. A 3.5 mm auxiliary input on the base station means you can blend in sound from another source on top of the game and chat audio, or use the Astro A50 to transmit wireless stereo sound from a docked Nintendo Switch (so long as all other inputs are turned down or off).

The A50 is available in two varieties, one for the Xbox One and PC and another for PS4 and PC. Both retail for $299.99.

Multiplatform

Winner

Steelseries Siberia 840

If you’ve made it this far in our best-of feature, you’ll have noticed that every single set of headphones mentioned only works with a handful platforms. So what if you’d like a set of digital surround sound headphones that work with both the PS4 and the Xbox One, can also transmit stereo sound from with the Nintendo Switch and are Bluetooth compatible? Let me introduce you to the Steelseries Siberia 840.

The Siberia 840 is completely wireless, and will output true Dolby 7.1 surround sound from your PlayStation 4, Windows PC and Xbox One. The included 3.5 mm cable, when plugged into the wireless transmitter’s auxiliary port, also gives wireless stereo output from the Nintendo Switch (when it’s docked to your TV). Making it even more versatile, the Siberia 840 has a Bluetooth transmitter inside the headset itself. That makes it an excellent solution for your laptop, tablet or smartphone when you’re on the go.


The Steelseries Siberia 840 comes with two removable lithium ion batteries. It’s our recommendation for the best multi-platform, wireless headset. It retails on Amazon for $299.99.
Steelseries

The Siberia 840 is packed with additional bells and whistles. It has optical passthrough and a USB connection, just like the Astro A50. That means you can connect it to a PS4 or an Xbox One, a Nintendo Switch and a PC all at the same time and toggle between them. You can even switch between all three without getting off the couch, thanks to a handy push-button wheel on the headset that mirrors all the functionality of the larger jog wheel on the front of the transmitter.

The Siberia 840 is also the only headset that we tested with an integrated share port, used for daisy chaining another headset with a 3.5 mm connection. It also features a removable lithium ion battery. It even comes with two, one of which lives in a little cubby on the side of the wireless transmitter that also doubles as a charger. That means as long as you have the transmitter plugged into the wall you’ll always have another 20-hour battery ready to go.

It may not have the best sound quality when compared to some of the other high-end models on this list, but being able to play games on every platform, watch movies, listen to podcasts and even take phone calls wirelessly from the same device makes it a solid investment.

The Steelseries Siberio 840 is available on Amazon for $299.99.


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