Many years ago now, wireless headsets had a reputation for audio dropout and poor battery life. Those issues might have been a turnoff once, but with today’s wireless tech they’re no longer true. There’s simply no downside to ditching the cables in 2018 for one of the best wireless gaming headsets.
The price premium that manufacturers used to slap on their wireless models has now been all but eradicated, which means gamers have options across the full budget gamut, from budget headsets to audiophile-grade models priced up in the stratosphere. But even cheap models from reliable manufacturers have good build quality and solid wireless signals.
Of course, this being PC gaming, there are a lot of headsets out there that offer a lot more than simply the fundamentals. Streaming quality mics, transmitter boxes with built-in EQ controls and, inevitably, RGB lighting are all common features on models across the gamut.
So which one’s right for you? Based on extensive testing and tons of gaming and music time, we’ve picked out our favourite wireless PC gaming headsets.
1. Steelseries Arctis 7
The best overall wireless gaming headset
Drivers: 40mm neodymium | Battery life: Up to 24 hours | Frequency response: 20Hz-20,000Hz | Impedance: 32 Ohm | Features: Retractable noise-cancelling mic, chat mix control, customisable earcup plates and headband
Great battery life
Comfortable floating headband
Headband does slacken over time
Whatever you’re listening to through the Arctis 7s, there’s none of the muddiness or audio artifacts that have historically ruined the party for wireless headsets—it sounds just as good as the best wired models we’ve tested at this same $150 price range. The extraordinary battery life clocks in at over 20 hours out of the box, and after almost a year of heavy use that figure’s hardly dropped off. You can keep playing while you charge, too, simply by connecting the headset to your PC with a USB cable.
The Arctis range’s distinctive ski goggle headband is really effective at keeping the weight of the headset away from your head. After a year of daily usage, the headband does slacken which makes for a looser and slightly less comfortable fit, but the bands themselves are replaceable. We’re big fans of the control placements at the rear of the headset, too: volume wheel and mic mute on the left, chat/game mix and headset on/off on the right. The retractable mic is a little quiet, but it remains perfectly usable.
2. Corsair HS70
The best budget wireless gaming headset
Drivers: 50mm | Battery life: Up to 16 hours | Frequency response: 20Hz-20,000Hz | Impedance: 32 Ohm | Features: Available in black or white finishes, detachable mic
Headband could be comfier
This is seriously impressive work from Corsair, which has channelled all its expertise in higher-end models and somehow kept costs right down without compromising… well, anything detectable. If you’d told us the HS70 was a $150 headset when we first unboxed it, we’d believe it.
Stereo spread and overall sound articulation are the highlights here, the drivers tuned in line with the modern trend for flatter EQs and thus better versatility when you close down PUBG and bring up that doom metal playlist you’ve been working on in Spotify. The build quality is what really baffles us about the HS70’s wonderful budget pricing though—they feel sturdy enough to last years, but light on the head and well-padded. The slightly under-padded headband is the only exception. We’re not wholly onboard with that perforated metallic finish on the earcups either, but that’s literally a small price to pay for nailing everything that counts.
3. Steelseries Arctis Pro Wireless
Best high-end wireless gaming headset
Drivers: 40mm neodymium | Battery life: Up to 10 hours (per battery) | Frequency response: 10Hz-40,000Hz | Impedance: 32 Ohm | Features: USB audio station, virtual surround, swappable batteries, Bluetooth
Brimming with features
Little sound difference to cheaper Arctic models
Old meets new in the Arctis Pro Wireless, in the best possible way. The wireless transmitter station is almost identical to that of the older Steelseries 800 model, acting as a controls menu, wireless receiver via lossless 2.4G and Bluetooth, and battery charging station all at once. Meanwhile, the new Arctis headset design (lavished with a more luxurious finish than the 7 series) delivers on the comfort and sound. Winning combination.
Being able to pull out a depleted battery and switch it for a fully charged one from the transmitter box isn’t just convenient, it’s a game changer in the wireless market. And with battery life times in excess of 9 hours, it’s perfectly viable to make use of that Bluetooth functionality by pairing the headset to a smartphone. Although the excellent sound quality is largely identical to the 7-series, there are sufficient bonuses in the Pro Wireless package to reinforce the extra spend. If you’re looking for the top of the line, this is it.
4. Asus ROG Strix Wireless
A great wireless headset for real surround sound
Drivers: 60mm | Battery life: Up to 10 hours | Frequency response: 20Hz-20,000Hz | Impedance: 32 Ohm | Features: USB audio station, true 7.1 surround, detachable mic, on-headset controls
True 7.1 surround
A bit bass heavy
COnfusing audio station
If you want to stand out while wearing a pair of headphones, these are your dream. An unorthodox design intended to highlight its enormous drivers defines the ROG STRIX. While it might look a bit Angry Birds, there’s no denying the power of its low end or spaciousness of the surround sound.
Front and rear 40mm drivers are joined by a 30mm center and two 20mms at the side and rear. Dolby’s virtual surround gives true surround a real run for its money these days, but the articulation within these earcups is really impressive. And when you want a more precise sound, you can pare it down to a stereo headset—if you can figure out the USB audio station’s controls. One problem, unfortunately: even in this configuration, the bass ends up being a shade too powerful for everyday use, and can muddy music by being overbearing.
5. Astro Gaming A50
An alternative from a wireless mainstay
Drivers: 40mm neodymium | Battery life: Up to 15 hours | Frequency response: 20Hz-20,000Hz | Impedance: 32 Ohm | Features: Charging base station, virtual surround, detachable mic
High class looks
Annoying short cables
Another candidate that missed out by a whisker for our ‘best overall’ pick. Flawless in-game sound and bomb-proof build quality are the headline acts here, as you’d expect of a model bearing the Astro name. The A50 might be geared up for consoles as much as PC, but there’s no real drawback to that when you do get it setup with the latter. As with several other of our picks, the A50 comprises a headset and USB base station which acts as a set of controls as well as a wireless receiver/transmitter. Few do it with quite this much style, though.
The chink in its armor is in the battery charge, however. There have been issues with battery draining while the headset’s off, and with some users unable to properly charge in the first place. It’s hard to gauge how widespread these issues are, but they do tarnish an otherwise exemplary package.
How we test wireless headsets and competitors
Many of the qualities you’re looking for from a wireless headset are the same you’d hope to find in any audio equipment—tone, build quality, and reliability leading the charge. As such we listen to each review model while playing different genres of game, listening to music, and watching movies with bombastic sound effects and surround mixes—think less Werner Herzog, more Chris Nolan. We also run a simple sine wave ‘swoop’ across the stated frequency response range (almost always the full 20Hz-20KHz these days), and in the case of surround headsets we’ll listen to positional audio tests like DTS Headphone-X test. There’s also our old favorite, the Virtual Barber Shop. YouTube’s compression does limit the overall sound quality, but it’s still a great way of separating the wheat from the chaff in surround sound earphones.
There are a few wireless-specific elements we need to test for, too: battery life, charge time, range and latency. The former is pretty self-explanatory, though in addition to an ‘everyday use’ battery life test we also run the headset at full volume to discover how quickly the charge drains under those conditions. To ascertain charge time, we… well, we charge the headsets and note how long it takes.
Range and latency are trickier to test in a scientific manner. However, having a good old walk around the house gives a good indication of range, and latency ultimately comes down to perception. With all that taken into account after several days of use, we’re in a good place to make the call on a headset.
Most of the big players in USB/3.5mm gaming headsets have a wireless option, but usually just one. As such the current market competitors list is a bit slim. The range expands when you look as far as console-specific wireless cans, but in the interest of ensuring full compatibility we’ve stuck to officially supported PC models.
The wireless end of PC gaming audio gear offers less choice than that of wired peripherals, but it’s still a big marketplace—and it’s populated by models with incremental improvements and price hikes from the same manufacturers. We haven’t tested every single model available, but done our best to seek out the cream of the crop. And from that cream, we’ve cherry-picked a) the absolute best options available right now, and b) a really odd, food-themed mixing of metaphors.
It’s also a marketplace that moves fast—so we’ll be keeping our eye on it and updating it as promising new models are released.
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