Best headphones for streaming
Technology is constantly changing and competing for the newest features and novelties. Luckily for us, this means that high-end accessories come down in price quickly. It used to be that getting a best headphones for streaming would put a two hundred dollar hole in your pocket. Now, you can get 7.1 surround sound, full equalization control, clear recording audio, and a sleek design from the most well-known brands in the gaming industry for around $50.
The budget gamer’s options have become glorious, but there are still trade-offs. You can’t get the best of everything for $50 but you can get good equipment for a solid experience.
Breaking Down What Makes a Good Headset
Your headset will be one of the most used tools in your gaming toolbox. It is pivotal to team-based gameplay and for streamers to record audio. You’ll want to make sure that the headset you choose is a product that you can stand using for a long time.
Let’s go over a few different qualities you’ll want to think about.
The audio quality from a headset is one of its two most important functions. There are some features to look out for when narrowing down your headset options that help single out products based on their quality level. Surround sound, positional audio, and a 3.5mm audio connection are a few key ones to look out for.
Most headsets nowadays have some surround sound capabilities, multiple positioned audio sources that simulate different positioned speakers. The fidelity of surround sound is denoted by a number like ‘7.1 Surround Sound’. This number refers to the number of simulated speakers that the headset can emulate. For example, 7.1 would be an array with seven speakers and a sub. This is the same feature that is utilized to create superb positional audio for immersive gameplay under names like DTS, Dolby Digital, or simulated surround sound.
The 3.5mm audio connection is for the audiophiles that prefer to have little to no audio compression and audio loss.
The second thing to look for is a clear quality microphone. Recording, streaming, and team-based gameplay need the ability to clearly and concisely communicate. Your microphone quality is the number one factor that affects how your viewers and teammates perceive you. Video quality doesn’t have to be above 720p for a successful stream but a bad microphone and audio quality will kill viewership.
There isn’t a sure-fire way to know the microphone quality without testing it. You’ll want to check out audio recordings using the headsets to know which mic performs to your liking. There are a few features to look out for as well such as flexibility and background noise-cancellation.
Noise-canceling techniques vary by product but usually make use of omni-, bi-, or uni-directional microphones with proprietary software along with microphone covers and filters.
The fit of the headband and earmuffs to your head will make or break your experience. You’re going to wear your headset for hours a day. It needs to fit comfortably. Otherwise, you’ll spend most of your time focused on adjusting its position and headband length or end up with aching ears from being squished into a small space. Not everyone’s head is the same size, nor their ears the same shape.
Look for a lightweight and solid structure. I would also recommend adjustable or replaceable ear cups. Any headbands with a metal base will last longer. Deeper ear cups are a quick one size fits all solution for making sure your ears are comfortable.
Quality of Life Features
Novelty and functional features are also worth considering. While most novelty features like engraved emblems or RGB lighting are purely aesthetic, there are functional features like the ability to mute your microphone by lifting it. This also includes physical control options on the headset or extra adapters. While headset makers tend to compete against each other with similar features, they also have options that are unique to each manufacturer.
One more common feature for stereo headsets with “surround sound” is a USB DAC that helps mix the audio going to and from your headset. More specialized features are functions like having both wireless and wired options.
In the days when a great set of gaming headphones cost a minimum of $200, it could not be overstressed to look for the best made and most durable set possible. Keeping up with gaming hardware is expensive enough.
When you take off your headset, you most likely pull the earmuffs apart from your head slightly to slide them off. This small action slowly weakens bending points across the headband. For this reason, headbands made using stronger materials like metal instead of cheap plastics are more recommended. If that’s not available in the price range you’re looking at, you want the headband to be thick and well built.
Device compatibility is more of a concern for streamers and console gamers. The good news is that cross-compatible headset are a popular idea. If you’re looking for the best headphones for streaming, you’ll want them to be able to connect to every device you want to stream play from and work with your PC. While you can always opt for a multi-headset solution, using one headset that can switch for multiple purposes clears out the hassle of the interruptions caused by cable management and changing headgear.
I’ve taken care of this part for you in our top picks as every one of the six listed below is cross-platform compatible.
There’s a lot of headphones to pick from out there. From companies with names, you haven’t heard of all the way to the all-stars like Razer and Corsair. I’ve taken the time to put together a list of my picks for the best headphones for streaming on a budget.
Razer Kraken X Gaming Headset
•7.1 surround sound
•Mute and volume controls on the left ear pad
•Cross platform compatible
•Great for consoles
•Flexible free-roam microphone with a wide range of movement
•Noise-canceling microphone does well to remove background noises like keyboard keys and computer fans
•Long and durable audio cord
•Slightly muffled mic audio due to background noise equalization
•7.1 surround sound can only be used on PC through the use of Razer’s proprietary driver software that requires activation code
•Mid-range audio quality that suits gameplay sounds but doesn’t quite do the music justice
•Plastic build materials that can break quickly if handled roughly
•Equalization is limited, there is almost no bass and loud highs
•Mid-range audio volume is static and pitchy
Price: $40 -$50
The Razer Kraken X has achieved one of the lightest and most comfortable headphone designs. The problem is that they achieved such a lightweight build by making the headband and earphone casings with plastic materials. Plastic bands are too flexible. The wearer often twists and pulls the headband wider when they put the headset on or adjust its position on their head. Over a couple of months, this consistent movement can cause the flexibility to wear down and make cracks at the weakest points on the headband.
These headphones shine when they are paired with an Xbox, Nintendo Switch, or mobile. These devices take advantage of the audio drivers in the headset better than a PS4 without additional setup or software installation. It’s worth noting that the simulated surround sound on PC provided by their software is better than just stereo audio.
Logitech G432 Wired Gaming Headest
•7.1 Surround Sound
•DTS Headphone:X 2.0
•50mm sound driver
•Leatherette earpads and headband
•Volume control on the left ear cup
•Microphone turns on and off based on position
•Cross platform compatible
•Metal band to reinforce headband
•Microphone has a playback monitor option
•Logitech G-Hub allows you to control and optimize the headset for PC use
•Decent microphone quality for consoles
•Mostly plastic build. There is a metal band across the headband to help reinforce the structure but swivels used to rotate the ear cups are made of plastic.
•7.1 surround can only be achieved using the included USB DAC
•The ear cups are a tight fit and cause a little pressure after extended use(2-4 hours)
•Logitech drivers. Logitech makes a lot of computer peripherals and they have to manage each one with driver software.
•Microphone recording audio has a slight echo and muffle
•Not enough bass
•Stereo only for consoles
Price: $40-$80 depending on current sales
The g432 headset is a solid budget buy. While the microphone quality isn’t spectacular, the audio drivers are rather good. The bass is lacking but the mid and high ranges are well balanced. With further optimization and by enabling simulated surround sound, they are an excellent headset for PC gaming and team gameplay. The microphone quality is the one aspect that makes it less than sufficient for streamers other than beginners.
As for overall durability, the design of the g432 covered every detail except for the swivel in the ear cups. The swivel joint is a plastic piece. It holds up for a while but heavy use will most likely cause the joint to break after around six months. There isn’t much that can be done to mitigate this besides trying to replace the swivel joint yourself which is not recommended.
Turtle Beach Ear Force Recon 50
•Inline controls for master volume and mic mute
•Removable Omni-Directional microphone
•Aesthetic design for a low price
•Accessible price range
•Decent microphone quality
•Cheap build quality
•Stereo only on every platform
•Speakers fade after slight use
•Everything about this headset is fragile, the microphone fails due to bad wiring that frays quickly
•Needs to be treated like glass and the cords have to be managed properly
Turtle Beach long ago fell off the bandwagon of go-to brands for gaming headsets. This headset made the list due to its popularity by brand recognition and low price. I would not recommend these headphones for any use. The quality is too shabby. If the cord is not stored properly or accidentally bent, the microphone or speakers will begin to malfunction.
The upside to this headset is that despite its lack of durability, the microphone quality is quite nice. With the use of the USB DAC, the recording quality is more than enough for any streaming beginner. It doesn’t echo too much and has just enough background noise removal but not enough to muffle your voice. Be warned that you’ll need to take extra care with the inline connection cable.
Note: There is a proper way to connect the inline cable to the headset to ensure the microphone works.
•Stereo 50mm audio
•Inline wired connection
•Leatherette ear cups
•Ergonomically padded headband
•Pleather earmuffs and headband
•Inline control for volume and mic mute
•One size fits all
•Cable is a thick and braided material
•Muffled microphone quality
•Band frame is a wide large size
•Lower level audio quality
•No equalization or customization
The NUBWO N7 is as basic as it gets in technology with a little throwback to old studio headphone designs with a large aluminum headband frame. Even though it may only shoot to fill the basics, it does it in a solid fashion. The audio quality is comparable to any $20 stereo headset which in 2021 is pretty dang good. Once you throw in the bendable microphone, it’s a great starter headset for any streamer. It’s also so inexpensive you can pick up a backup pair as well, not that you’ll need them.
If you want to start your streams with the clearest audio possible in a budget price range, the N7 falls short of that. It may be adequate to get you started but the muffle in the audio recording is a bit too reminiscent of old-school headset quality.
NUBWO G06 Wireless
•Wireless and Wired connectivity
•Memory foam ear pads
•Aluminum adjustable headband with leather padding
•50mm sound driver
•USB-C charging port
•Volume and mic mute controls on left earcup
•17-hour rechargeable battery
•Wireless connection through USB dongle and wired connection options
•Great microphone clarity and quality
•Great audio range and quality
•Microphone has noise-cancellation but is still sensitive. It may take a little adjustment to get the settings right for your environment
•Wireless connection is through USB dongle only. This means Xbox connections must be wired and PS4 cannot connect through Bluetooth.
•Wireless mode uses an internal battery that will eventual begin to no longer hold a charge.
•Plastic build materials
Price: $58-$80 depending on sales
NUBWO is still an underdog in the gaming peripheral arena. The G06 is one of their quality headset offerings that helped to bring them into the budget headset category as the price has lowered with new headsets releasing. This is only a step below the high-end $200 headset range and if you’re not an audiophile it may feel about the same. The plastic material used is mixed with a type of rubber material that makes it a bit more durable than cheap plastics found in most budget headphones.
Of the headsets in this list, this is the second-best microphone quality available. The rich audio and clear recording quality are great for game streaming. You’ll be able to enjoy your gaming experience and provide better quality for your stream viewers.
Corsair HS60 PRO
•7.1 Virtual Surround Sound with USB DAC
•50mm neodymium audio drivers
•Detachable noise-canceling unidirectional microphone
•Aluminum headband structure
•On-ear volume and mute controls
•Comes with a braided audio cable
•Durable and quality build with aluminum yokes and braided audio cable
•Earcups are deep and wide to fit every ear size
•Tight comfortable fit that doesn’t apply too much pressure
•Fantastic audio quality and directional sound
•Decent lows for bass and immersive sounds
•The audio cable is not detachable
•No lift to mute function for microphone
•USB adapter is necessary for microphone and headset to function together
•Simulated surround sound requires the use of iCUE software
•Whispy microphone quality, almost no bass recording
Price: $48-$70 depending on sales
Corsair has a fantastic lineup of high-end equipment for PC gaming. The HS60 Pro is their mid-tier gapping product that achieves a quality standard in audio and durability. The design is light and comfortable. This headset will last a couple of years without a doubt.
The downside to the HS60 comes from the detachable mic. It’s not quite the same quality as their VOID Pro headset. Audio recordings come out with a higher pitch and almost no bass. However, it’s not the worst sound when it comes to budget microphones. The tone gives streamers a recognizable filter for gaming communication that is used in commercials and gameplay reveals. The overall quality of the headset is good enough that the microphone quality can be ignored until replaced with a standalone mic.
Best of the Bunch
I’ve tried my best to remain objective in the individual product reviews because, quite frankly, the only headset I would recommend NOT to use in this list is the Turtle Beach Recon 50s. For the cheapest option to get started as quickly as possible, the NUBWO N7 has the functions you need.
That being said, the battle for the best comes down to the NUBWO G06 and the Corsair HS60 Pro. The audio quality of these two headsets outmatches the other five by a decent margin. It can’t be a tie though, so let’s talk about what makes the winner.
Corsair HS60 Pro
While both the G06 band HS60 Pro are quality builds with good audio drivers, the HS60 is a tougher more durable design with stronger confidence behind it. Corsair offers a 2-year warranty on their device to show that they are quality headsets. The warranty is valuable but its importance is in Corsair’s confidence to offer repair and replacement because it signals that you won’t need it.
The G06 only wins out in microphone recording volume but it’s not a greater clarity. The G06 has more bass in the mic quality but also sounds more muffled and mixes with gameplay audio in a muddy way. The HS60 Pro’s microphone may have no bass in the voice but the clarity for communication is much better. The focus on the treble and higher pitchers accentuates enunciation. The tone is also a familiar one to stream viewers. It may not seem like much but the familiarity factor does bring viewership.
Corsair has a better design as well. The G06 design is trying too hard to be an edgy gaming device. The HS60 Pro has a clean, smooth design that isn’t distracting to viewers and blends in well with the desktop environment. It can be used for streaming, gaming, and even professional use cases like online interviews and classes.
Overall the HS60 offers the most for a budget gaming headset. It has the audio quality you want to enjoy your gaming and media experience. The design is sleek, comfortable, and durable. It can connect to any of the current gaming devices. The microphone is removable for when you decide to buy a stand-alone microphone. It has the backing of a confident manufacturer and warranty. The customer reviews are top-notch. For under $50, you couldn’t get a better pair of gaming headphones for streaming.