A question that routinely comes up in comments on my reviews and gets asked is “What’s the best gaming headset”. Everyone wants to make sure that before they put their money down on a product, they’re getting the best that they can afford, however being the best is very subjective and based on each individuals needs.
For this post, I’m specifically talking about headsets that are $75US or less (MSRP). I started this post at the $50 range, but in all honesty, I couldn’t find one I’d recommend at that MSRP price. Sure there are sales that come up and some headsets I’ve featured in my reviews are currently on-sale, but with prices in a constant fluctuation, I needed a baseline and used the $75US MSRP. Even at this price and lower, it might surprise you to realize that you can actually find decent headsets in this price range.
It’s also extremely important to note that there are so many cheaply made headsets that range from $15 – $100 that are so full of gimmicks that it’s not funny. One just has to search the Internet for headsets for sale under $50 and they all come up. These are made by companies that you and I have never heard from before. You honestly get what you pay for, so if you’re going to start looking at brand names that do not specialize in the PC or game console market, then you might as well just roll up your cash and throw it on the fire – honestly. These units are so bad and the quality of the construction and workmanship is horrible.
I strongly recommend and encourage you to stick with these reputable brands of headset manufacturers – Corsair, Creative Labs, HyperX, Logitech, Razer, Sennheiser, and SteelSeries. These are “proven” manufacturers in this industry that stand behind their products with substantial warranties and workmanship. While some of these manufacturers don’t develop headsets in this price range, many do and the workmanship compared to the many knock-off units is impressive.
The $75 Price Point
When looking for a relatively cheap headset under $75, know that you’re getting an entry-level headset and not one full of features or quality workmanship. There’s nothing wrong with headsets that are priced less than $75 and in many cases that might be exactly what you’re looking for. For many people, they don’t need all the bells and whistles found in higher end headsets, or perhaps they’re buying it for a child and don’t want to spend a lot of money on a more quality product. The reasons for a $75 or less headset are limitless.
The differences between headsets that range between $75 – $150 USD are few and far between, making it extremely difficult to say which headset is “the best”. For this reason, I’m breaking this down to the best headset for 2018, but under various categories and I hope you understand why. Anyone claiming on their site that one headset is ‘the best’ is just ignorant and steering you to one solution, which is grievously incorrect.
Out of all the headsets I’ve used and reviewed in this price range, it really came down to three solid units. The SteelSeries Siberia 150 offers a plush leatherette material over top of soft memory foam. These are some most comfortable ear cushions and rival those on headsets three times their price range!
The Logitech G230 albeit the ugliest headset ever produced, offers ear cushions made of soft memory foam covered with their mesh sports fabric, designed to wick away moisture (sweat). The Logitech G230 is also the only headset offering an aluminum internal frame for both flexibility and durability.
The Corsair HS50 would have been a solid winner in this category if it wasn’t for the odd speaker drivers that literally push into your years. The memory foam and leatherette material coverings were a nice touch – if not for those speaker drivers.
At the end of the day, I could game for hours on the Siberia 150 and never even knew the headset was there as it was so incredibly comfortable. Although the Siberia 150 is completely made from plastic, it never caused issues pressing into my ears causing ear pain.
Winner: SteelSeries Siberia 150
Sound quality can be measured by the audio frequency, as well as the quality of (bass/treble) sounds.
What interesting here, is all units in this price range have a sound frequency between 20Hz on the low end and 20,000Hz at the high end. On higher end headsets, you’ll see audio frequencies going beyond these levels, which end up producing a 3-dimensial sound realization. For anyone that hasn’t read any of my reviews yet and is just coming to this page, know this – 20hz to 20,000hz is the benchmark. If a headset can’t meet these minimum industry standards, then you honestly need to pass on it.
When it came to actual sound quality and listening to music, the only one headset jumped out with Dolby 7.1 stereo speakers – the SteelSeries Siberia 150. By incorporating Dolby 7.1 stereo speakers, the headset is able to deliver a rich sound through independent left and right channels. This is also the one and only drawback to the Corsair HS50 as it’s doesn’t come with this, however the HS60, which is the identical model, does. If I was Corsair, I think I’d just retire the HS50 and call it what it is – a failed experiment.
Another thing of interest is that all the quality units in this price range, ship with neodymium drivers, thereby creating a smaller, lighter headset speaker which has the capability of producing a deeper bass and high, crisp trebles.
Winner: SteelSeries Siberia 150
Cable Connection & Versatility
This section refers to the type of plug and usefulness of the headset in multiple applications.
The Siberia 150 uses a molded rubber cable that connects directly into the left ear cup and cannot be unplugged / removed. The other end uses a standard USB plug to connect directly to a gaming system like the Xbox One, PS4 or a PC. The Siberia 150 cannot connect to a smartphone, as it has no 3.5mm cable connect, so the only way to connect it to a smartphone and use it outside the house would be by purchasing a USB to 3.5mm adapter.
The Logitech G230 uses two 3.5mm connectors – one for the microphone (pink) and one for the audio channels (green). If you plug the green plug into a PS4 controller, you get audio and no mic. If you plug the pink plug into the PS4 controller, you get a mic with no audio. In order to make the G230 work on gaming systems, you need to buy an adapter. You can use the G230 on a PC providing your PC still has the old analog green and pink channel adapters. Recently manufacturers are ditching these older analog channels to free up space and circuitry and moving to USB controlled audio on single 3.5mm connectors.
The Corsair HS50 uses the single 3.5mm connector but is the only headset that I’ve seen to date, that actually ships an adapter with the unit, unlike Logitech that forces the consumer to buy an add-on product of theirs, which should have come with the product in the first place. For this reason, Corsair hits a home run on this for actually listening to their consumers.
Winner: Corsair HS50
For many consumers, the quality of the microphone is the deciding factor on the purchase. If for instance, you’re planning on doing YouTube videos, then microphone quality is of the utmost importance.
When headset manufacturers list microphone specifications, for the most part, they’re irrelevant unless you have an engineering degree in acoustics. That said, there are a few specs that you should pay attention to on the microphone:
- Frequency Response, just like in audio drivers, indicates the spectrum of sound that the microphone will pick up. We know that the human ear can hear between 20Hz and 20,000Hz, so ideally you want a microphone with a broader spectrum.
- Microphone impedance is a useless specification unless you know the input impedance of your source system (PC, Xbox, PS4, etc.). Last time I checked, nobody knows their input impedance. This is only useful in terms of professional recordings.
- Microphone sensitivity is also known as the Signal-to-Noise ratio. This ratio is used in all sorts of audio equipment, not just headsets. But for our purposes the higher the decibels (dB), the less hiss over the microphone.
In my review of the Logitech G230, it was horrible. Yes it’s a noise cancelling microphone, but the background “hiss” that the unit produced, as well as the nasal sound of my voice over the unit was just awful. This product cannot be used at all for doing any kind of semi-quality recordings as it’s just that bad. This usually indicates a poor sensitivity, as the overall frequency response of this microphone was an impressive 50Hz to 20,000Hz.
The Siberia 150 has a molded microphone which cannot be adjusted, so you can’t move it out in-front of you mouth. The microphone is called an “omnidirectional” mic, meaning that it picks up sounds from all over – not the best in a room with other people, but in isolation of background noise, this microphone produced amazing, real-life quality – I was pleasantly surprised. The frequency response for this microphone was a whopping 50Hz to 16,000Hz.
The HS50 is the only unit in this price range that has a detachable microphone so you can unplug it and then use your headset around town. This is a huge selling feature, so if you’re looking for usability, then this is it. In looking at the frequency response, this microphone covers a spectrum of 100Hz to 10,000Hz.
Construction & Workmanship
If you read my review on the Logitech G230 then you know this won my “Ugly Award” for one of the ugliest lines of headsets I’ve ever seen produced by a top-quality manufacturer. Oh if only I could be the VP of Logitech’s R&D division for a day, as I’d have a lot of fun firing everyone.
The Logitech G230 is an extremely plastic headset, yet it’s also the only manufacturer in this price range to utilize an inner aluminum frame with the electronics embedded into the middle of the frame. This is the type of thing you only see on higher-end headsets. So I guess you could say that every ugly duckling is a swan in disguise. The inner aluminum frame is going to allow for flexibility (bending) of the headset without breaking. It’s just unfortunate that Logitech took a quality “core” and then layered cloth materials all over it on the ear cushions and headband. I’d bet if you picked up one of these units after a gaming convention, the grease would just drip off the cloth headband – gross!
The SteelSeries Siberia 150 is also made entirely of plastic, but it’s not the same cheap plastic found in the Logitech G230. Yes, the plastic is different, but it’s also very inflexible as it uses rigid plastic adjusters that slide in/out of the headband. My family has owned two pairs of these and they’ve both broken at the exact same point. My son’s last pair looks like a franken-headset, all taped up with hockey tape, as both adjusters have broken (I’m sure SteelSeries doesn’t want me posting a picture of this animal).
Corsair’s HS50 is stunningly beautiful. This unit also has a metal frame (although it ends at a critical point where it connects to the ear cups) that slides into a stylish headband made of memory foam and covered in leatherette with breathtaking stitching. Corsair appears to have spared no expense on this unit’s quality workmanship and it really shows.
Winner: Corsair HS50
That sums up the Best-of-the-Best for gaming headsets under $75USD. I encourage you to leave a comment and let me know your thoughts.