Don’t mind the pile of gaming headsets around my desk. I’m just working as one does, but this time I’m looking for the best modern gaming headset you could buy on a budget.
The gaming headsets I’ll be testing all find themselves under $70. The list includes the SteelSeries Arctis Nova 1X ($59), Razer BlackShark V2 X ($59), Turtle Beach Recon ELO 7.1 ($69), and Corsair HS65 SURROUND Wired ($69).
Let’s see if these can be even considered some of the best gaming headsets, and if so, which one comes out on top.
SteelSeries Arctis Nova 1X
The SteelSeries Arctis Nova 1X is a wired gaming headset that features 40mm neodymium audio drivers, a retractable microphone, a ski-goggle headband, mesh memory foam ear cups, and PC software (Sonar) capable of virtual surround sound. Overall sound is impactful but sharp.
“Elden Ring” — The epic soundtrack of Elden Ring sounded more bombastic than full, with the bass drops coming off harsh and hard to listen to. When battling Margit, my sword slashes were sharp, but it sounded more like I was cutting through glass than I was a meaty sack of flesh of a creature. However, the headset was great at catching the ominous laughing in the corner of the next area, so I caught my enemy before they saw me. When the Magma Wyrm Makar unleashed their magma breath, it sounded more like a stiff breeze than the terrifying maelstrom I’ve come to expect.
“The Last of Us Part II” — The tense, low drum beat before combat breaks out was audible albeit not bassy, but I’m glad it was present. I jabbed a knife in some dude’s throat and received a pleasantly sharp stabbing effect followed by a blood spatter. The gunfire was loud but it’s a little sharp, so it was uncomfortable to listen to. Surprisingly, infected screeches sounded fine in that regard, but gunshots were too much.
“Double Denim” by SKYLAR — Crisp vocals kicked in immediately, but it wasn’t harsh. The percussion was more sharp than bassy, while the guitar in the background gets a little lost in the vocals during the chorus. It didn’t sound hollow, but it was closer to that than being well-rounded.
“Take Me to Church” by Hozier — The piano was prominent in the opening, overtaking the vocals, but the latter remained crisp. However, as the guitar kicked in, it sounded a bit noisy and, once again, overtook the vocals. The bass instruments were loud but not very bassy. Despite that, I could distinguish each instrument from one another.
Razer BlackShark V2 X
The Razer BlackShark V2 X is a wired gaming headset that features 50mm audio drivers, a stagnant microphone, a pleather headband, pleather memory foam ear cups, and PC software (Synapse) for virtual surround sound. Overall sound is mellow but low.
“Elden Ring” — The soundtrack was more mellow than I expected despite how wild and loud the tracks can be. However, the cans delivered the exact sweet meaty hacks of my blade that I wanted to hear when jumping back into battle. When going back to magma-breath, their attack was softer but was filled with a more accurate flame-and-burn effect. When dodging one of the many Watchdog bosses, their sword attacks kicked up the water around me, but the splash sounded gentler than it looked.
“The Last of Us Part II” — That drum beat in combat is so soft that it’s easily missable when you’re in the thick of it. However, the slash and hacks of my knife sounded hefty and impactful. Gunshots were a little bassy, but most importantly didn’t feature an unpleasant sharpness. The infected wasn’t scarily loud, but the dialogue was clear.
“Double Denim” by SKYLAR — Sharp vocals and thick guitar open the track, leading into a chorus that’s loud and vibrant. The guitar was a bit noisy, and the background vocals occasionally overtook the main vocals. While the percussion was prominent throughout the song, it wasn’t nearly as loud or present as the vocals due to the lack of bass.
“Take Me to Church” by Hozier — Soft, delicate piano and clear vocals open the track. When the chorus kicked in the vocals resonated. Guitar was mellow and didn’t overreach, which was nice. However, the bassier instruments get occasionally lost due to how gentle the overall sound is. And you could tell there wasn’t much bass to go around with the percussion sounding like a hollow slap.
Turtle Beach Recon ELO 7.1
The Turtle Beach Recon ELO 7.1 is a wired gaming headset with 50mm audio drivers, a detachable microphone, a mesh headband, pleather memory foam ear cups, and onboard virtual surround sound. Overall sound is bassy but compressed.
“Elden Ring” — The soundtrack made me feel like I was at a concert, if I was sitting in the back row, in a different building. Attacking my enemies with a katana produced a quick, slash sound, briefly hitting that meaty hack that’s music to my ears. When a giant knight came for me, its slam attack was bassy but hollow — like it was supposed to rock my world, but it rocked the next planet over.
“The Last of Us Part II” — I barely heard the soundtrack, it was so drowned out by the combat and gunshots, which were too noisy. Knife attacks offered that decent hacking sound. Infected screeches were full enough to scare the shit out of me, but not sharp enough to be uncomfortable. The overall dialogue was clear, if not occasionally hollow.
“Double Denim” by SKYLAR — Bassy guitar and crisp vocals open the track. The guitar carried that energy throughout the song, while the percussion picked up with impactful hits. There wasn’t enough bass to round out the song, but the cymbals were vibrant. I occasionally forgot that I had to write things down because I was so immersed in the song, which gives credit to the audio balance. However, it did get sharp around the treble instruments.
“Take Me to Church” by Hozier — Gentle piano and crisp vocals start the drive, then it’s interrupted by the brassy guitar. The percussion and piano fought to the death during the chorus — it was tough to distinguish them. But whatever bass was there complemented the percussion. I think the biggest issue I noticed is that the overall sound seemed compressed, like it was loud, but muffled.
Corsair HS65 SURROUND Wired
The Corsair HS65 SURROUND Wired is (you guessed it) another wired gaming headset that features 50mm audio drivers, a flip-to-mute microphone, a pleather headband, pleather memory foam ear cups, and onboard virtual surround sound enabled via Dolby Audio app on PC and Mac. Overall sound is present but scattered.
“Elden Ring” — I love a bassy track with epic strings — the soundtrack lacked some bass, but the grandeur of it was captured well. Sword attacks were fleshy and sharp. Magic blasts targeted at me were explosive. Critical attacks sounded heavy and brutal. Even the dialogue was weighty and present. Everything that came at me on screen sounded threatening, and when I struck back, I elicited that same amount of fear in my enemies (presuming they were wearing the same headset).
“The Last of Us Part II” — That drum beat was thick and forward. The gunshots were loud, but not too distorted. Stopping on an infected’s head produces a satisfying squishy sound. The dialogue was clear, but not necessarily crisp. Knife slashes were sharp, but not as substantial as they could have been. Infected screams were loud enough to spook me, but they weren’t shrill.
“Double Denim” by SKYLAR — Crisp percussion and strong guitar kicked us off followed by precise vocals. Background vocals got a little lost in the chorus. Most of the synthetic instruments were on the treble side, so they were easily distinguishable throughout the track. There wasn’t a lot of bass to go around in this mostly bassy track, so it can occasionally come off as flat.
“Take Me to Church” by Hozier — Resonant piano and clear vocals. Guitar is bassy, but not noisy. The percussion was loud, but not as impactful as it would have been with proper bass. I noticed that the piano got lost in the background of the vocals and guitar during the chorus. The high and low notes were pleasant as long as they were separate — combined it was tough to distinguish them apart.
The overall winner is Corsair HS65 SURROUND Wired.
This was a tough decision, but let’s talk about my process of elimination. The SteelSeries Arctis Nova 1X was an immediate out for me because of how shrill some of the sounds were — my ears can’t handle that all day. The Turtle Beach Recon ELO 7.1 fell behind when I realized how compressed all of the audio was — it was like listening with a muffler on.
Then it came down to the Razer BlackShark V2 X and Corsair HS65 SURROUND Wired — I enjoyed both headsets, and I think they both have their pros and cons. With the Razer, I could distinguish each and every sound, whereas the Corsair loses some of its lower instruments. However, the Corsair is present and loud, whereas the Razer is mellow and chill. The last thing I want to hear when playing an epic adventure game is lackluster sound. So the Corsair takes this victory.
The aforementioned headsets all have their pros and cons, and you might want a different audio profile than me, but my favorite headset is Corsair HS65 SURROUND Wired.