It wasn’t all that long ago when I refused to use a headset, believing that only a full surround sound speaker system offered the best audio experience for PC gaming. My, how things have changed. Now the market is awash with headset models, from countless different brands, covering every possible budget limit and feature requirement.
A great headset will genuinely raise the level of immersion in games, especially those that have rich soundtracks and good spatial effects. Horror survival becomes that bit more horrific when you can hear the distant sounds of encroaching footsteps, building in intensity; dull thuds becoming pulse-racing booms with every second.
Of course, a cheaply-built or poorly designed headset will do none of this. The sound will be tinny or the bass heavily overdone. Many become very uncomfortable to wear after a short period of time, which only adds to the misery of owning such a pair of cans.
We’ve tested a lot of headphones this year: Many were okay, some were pretty good, but only a few were worthy of being considered for our PC Gamer Hardware award. Below you can see the three nominations for that sweet prize and we’ll announce the winner for the best gaming headset of 2023 on New Year’s Eve.
Best CPU 2023: the nominees
Audio-Technica ATH-M50xSTS StreamSet
At first glance, this headset might seem to be an odd choice to be a contender for the award. It’s wired (and there’s no wireless alternative), there are no sound controls on the headset itself, and it’s somewhat on the pricey side.
Forget about all of that, though, as everything else about them is top notch. Gaming audio and music are both warm and clear, though the bass can be a little heavy.
The ATH-M50xSTS SteamSet’s feature piece is the microphone. Unlike most gaming headsets which sport fairly weak mics, this one is designed for game streaming and podcasts. Don’t want to pay a fortune on a standalone microphone and boom? Get this headset instead.
There’s no getting away from the fact that the Audeze Maxwell is a very expensive headset, especially outside of the US. But there’s a good reason for this: Outstanding build quality, great features, and planar magnetic drivers.
Rather than use the traditional cone-and-coil arrangement to generate sound waves, the Maxwell pulses a flat sheet of material back and forth between two magnetics. The result is a more fulsome and natural sound, and you’d notice the difference immediately.
The cool tech does make the headset a tad on the heavy side but Audeze has done a great job at making them really comfortable to wear for long periods, and given it a long battery life too. Heck, even the microphone is pretty good!
You’ll be paying top dollar for all this, of course, but it really is worth it.
Read our Audeze Maxwell review.
Razer BlackShark V2 Pro (2023)
One of our favourite gaming headsets received a nice update this year; not a comprehensive overhaul but enough to make the BlackShark V2 Pro a contender for a PC Gamer Hardware award.
You’re not getting anything revolutionary in terms of technology. Just a good set of cans, a very good microphone upgrade, a battery update, and a solid wireless system.
The two most significant improvements are the aforementioned microphone and the removal of the need to use Razer’s Synapse software all the time. The latter was always a bit of a sticking point for us, as the app wasn’t (and still isn’t) all that great.
It’s an expensive headset but that’s to be expected coming from Razer. Fortunately, what you’re getting justifies the price tag.
Well, almost. The previous V2 Pro model is still on sale and it’s quite a lot cheaper. If it wasn’t for the much-improved microphone and other quality-of-life tweaks, this Razer headset might not have made the cut for being nominated for our award.
Read our Razer BlackShark V2 Pro (2023) review.