The allure of gaming headsets is undeniable.
Yes, it?s possible to squeeze out extra value and audio quality by purchasing regular headphones and an additional microphone. But that can be ungainly, with cords everywhere. And sometimes you just want one product that does everything.
Yes, gaming headsets are often gaudy things made out of cheap plastic with shiny bits and weird lights and giant parts that don?t need to be there. But things are turning around in that department, with several newer models that look indistinguishable from regular headphones. Microphones now often detach or retract, giving them cleaner lines and more public-friendly appearances.
And yes, many companies still fall into the trap of attaching pro gamer endorsements to their products, thinking that a serious-looking person on the box makes you more likely to buy the product.
In spite of all this, 2016 was a fantastic time for new gaming headsets. HyperX launched the Cloud Revolver, a slightly ugly thing that sounds great. Razer launched the Kraken Pro V2, an excellent update of their old classic with a much sturdier metal build and better pads.
But the best new product? Why, that?s the Steelseries Arctis series.
Steelseries Arctis 3 /5 /7 (Starts at $79)
These come in both black and white. The headband strap and ear pads are easily replaceable, and Steelseries sells a variety of options for both.
This shouldn?t be a surprise if you?ve read my earlier reviews, HERE and HERE. The Arctis is a great product, smartly-designed. The headband and ear pads are super comfy. The internal audio components were originally designed for a much more expensive product. The pricing here, starting at just $79 for the base model, is very competitive for what you?re getting.
Do they sound better than iconic dedicated headphones like the Sennheiser HD 598? Well, perhaps not. But they come quite close, and they offer the full range of headset features: virtual surround sound, a solid microphone, lighting if you want it, and even a wireless model. If you need all of the things in one product and you don?t want to spend a ton and you still want great sound, the Arctis is a great pick.
Runner Up 1: Razer Kraken Pro V2 (Starts at $79)
Razer recently launched additional colors of this, but here?s the standard Black version.
I didn?t expect to like the Kraken Pro V2, and then I really did. It has an aluminum frame, impressive ear pads that work well with glasses, and a fun bass-heavy sound that?s still clear enough for the fine details.
In fact, the only thing that lets it down a little bit is that it has a hilariously wide profile on the head. You probably wouldn?t want to wear this outside the house unless you?re at a gaming tournament, or something.
The ear pads are replaceable, but the stock ones are great.
If there was a wireless version of these, they?d be in more direct competition with the Arctis line. If bass is your thing and you don?t mind the width here, this is a great choice.
Runner Up 2: HyperX Cloud Revolver ($119)
This thing is pretty big. There?s a Gears of War version that?s red and costs more for no reason. Maybe don?t get that one?
HyperX sure knows how to headphone. The HyperX Cloud/Cloud II/CloudX remains one of the best gaming headsets available, even though it?s a few years old at this point.
The Cloud Revolver proudly carries on that tradition?but makes some minor sacrifices in the design department. This thing is big, in a different way than the Kraken V2. The Razer headset only sticks out on the sides, this HyperX model is big all around. It?s made from metal and plastic, and it?s very nicely built.
Its suspension headband system is very comfy. And it sounds like a $300 set of audiophile headphones. Very impressive for the price.
If you just want a lot of sound quality for the money, and don?t care as much about aesthetics, then this is a fantastic choice. Still?of the three, only the Arctis works equally well as a home or a portable use headset, due to its size and svelte appearance.
HyperX is about to launch a $150 USB version of this headset with built-in surround processing. That should be interesting? though USB plugs limit headset functionality to PC/PS4.
Thanks for reading!